Magnificent Obsession (1954)

107 mins | Melodrama, Romance | August 1954

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HISTORY

Although Barbara Rush is billed before Agnes Moorehead and Otto Kruger in the opening credits, she is listed after them in the closing credits. According to a contemporary interview with director Douglas Sirk, Jane Wyman approached him with the idea of adapting the Lloyd C. Douglas novel Magnificent Obsession , which Universal had previously made into a film in 1936, directed by John M. Stahl and starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). Sirk stated that although he found the novel "abstract" and "confused," an outline by producer Ross Hunter, based on the 1936 picture, convinced him that the story was filmable.
       A Dec 1952 LAEx news item announced that Joan Crawford and Olivia De Havilland were being considered for the role of "Helen Phillips," and a Mar 1953 HR "Rambling Reporter" column listed Eleanor Parker as a casting choice. According to a Feb 1935 LAT article, Jeff Chandler was considered for the role of "Bob Merrick." In addition, HR announced in Jun 1953 that Charles Bickford was to play "Edward Randolph," a role subsequently assigned to Otto Kruger. Universal borrowed Wyman from Warner Bros. for this film.
       Studio press materials and HR news items add Emmy Lou Kelley and Guy Doleman to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to press materials, some scenes were shot at Lake Arrowhead in San Bernardino County, CA, while a Sep HR news item identifies the Phillipses home as the Chatsworth Mansion in Chatsworth, CA. Wyman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best ... More Less

Although Barbara Rush is billed before Agnes Moorehead and Otto Kruger in the opening credits, she is listed after them in the closing credits. According to a contemporary interview with director Douglas Sirk, Jane Wyman approached him with the idea of adapting the Lloyd C. Douglas novel Magnificent Obsession , which Universal had previously made into a film in 1936, directed by John M. Stahl and starring Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). Sirk stated that although he found the novel "abstract" and "confused," an outline by producer Ross Hunter, based on the 1936 picture, convinced him that the story was filmable.
       A Dec 1952 LAEx news item announced that Joan Crawford and Olivia De Havilland were being considered for the role of "Helen Phillips," and a Mar 1953 HR "Rambling Reporter" column listed Eleanor Parker as a casting choice. According to a Feb 1935 LAT article, Jeff Chandler was considered for the role of "Bob Merrick." In addition, HR announced in Jun 1953 that Charles Bickford was to play "Edward Randolph," a role subsequently assigned to Otto Kruger. Universal borrowed Wyman from Warner Bros. for this film.
       Studio press materials and HR news items add Emmy Lou Kelley and Guy Doleman to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to press materials, some scenes were shot at Lake Arrowhead in San Bernardino County, CA, while a Sep HR news item identifies the Phillipses home as the Chatsworth Mansion in Chatsworth, CA. Wyman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, but lost to Grace Kelly for her performance in The Country Girl (see above). Magnificent Obsession was the first of two films to star Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson; the second was 1955's All That Heaven Allows , also directed by Douglas Sirk. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 May 54
p. 26.
Box Office
22 May 1954.
---
Daily Variety
11 May 54
p. 3.
Film Daily
11 May 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 53
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Sep 53
p. 27.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 53
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 54
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 54
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
26 Dec 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 May 54
p. 2293.
New York Times
5 Aug 54
p. 18.
Variety
12 May 54
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Adpt
Based upon the scr by
Based upon the scr by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas (Chicago, 1932).
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1954
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 20 April 1954
New York opening: week of 2 August 1954
Production Date:
late September--late October 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
26 April 1954
Copyright Number:
LP3781
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
2:1
Duration(in mins):
107
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16853
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the small town of Brightwood, millionaire playboy Bob Merrick recklessly crashes his speedboat, and after the town's only resuscitator is requisitioned to save his life, hospital head Dr. Wayne Phillips suffers a heart attack and dies without the machine. Hours later, Wayne's wife of six months, Helen Phillips, and his daughter Joyce are horrified to learn that the notoriously rude and heedless Bob has been saved instead of Wayne. Over the next few days, while Bob offends the entire hospital staff with his disrespect and insistence that he be released, a heartbroken Helen and Joyce examine Wayne's office papers, and are baffled at the preponderance of letters thanking Wayne for his selfless help. Just then, Mrs. Eden visits and tries to repay a four-thousand dollar debt to Wayne, explaining that he refused any kind of compensation for his invaluable services with the words "I've already used it all up." Although she still does not understand, Helen refuses the money, but is then dismayed to hear from her lawyer and Joyce's boyfriend, Tom Masterson, that Wayne's estate is penniless. At the same time that Helen leaves for home, Bob sneaks out of the hospital, and she finds him standing, dazed and weak, at the side of the road. Not knowing his identity, Helen drives him into town, and he flirts with her relentlessly until she informs him that she is Wayne's widow. Bob, disturbed to learn that his accident inadvertently caused Wayne's death, tries to leave the car but collapses in the road, and Helen returns him to the hospital, only then discovering his name. The following week, before checking out of the hospital, Bob visits Helen in Wayne's ... +


In the small town of Brightwood, millionaire playboy Bob Merrick recklessly crashes his speedboat, and after the town's only resuscitator is requisitioned to save his life, hospital head Dr. Wayne Phillips suffers a heart attack and dies without the machine. Hours later, Wayne's wife of six months, Helen Phillips, and his daughter Joyce are horrified to learn that the notoriously rude and heedless Bob has been saved instead of Wayne. Over the next few days, while Bob offends the entire hospital staff with his disrespect and insistence that he be released, a heartbroken Helen and Joyce examine Wayne's office papers, and are baffled at the preponderance of letters thanking Wayne for his selfless help. Just then, Mrs. Eden visits and tries to repay a four-thousand dollar debt to Wayne, explaining that he refused any kind of compensation for his invaluable services with the words "I've already used it all up." Although she still does not understand, Helen refuses the money, but is then dismayed to hear from her lawyer and Joyce's boyfriend, Tom Masterson, that Wayne's estate is penniless. At the same time that Helen leaves for home, Bob sneaks out of the hospital, and she finds him standing, dazed and weak, at the side of the road. Not knowing his identity, Helen drives him into town, and he flirts with her relentlessly until she informs him that she is Wayne's widow. Bob, disturbed to learn that his accident inadvertently caused Wayne's death, tries to leave the car but collapses in the road, and Helen returns him to the hospital, only then discovering his name. The following week, before checking out of the hospital, Bob visits Helen in Wayne's office and offers a $25,000 check, which she disdains as guilt money. That night, a drunken Bob crashes his car outside the home of Wayne's friend, artist Edward Randolph. He passes out on the couch, and the next morning learns from Ed that Wayne's philosophy of life decreed that people can access their source of power, and thus live out their true destinies, only by performing works of great generosity in private and without compensation. Interested, Bob, who desperately wants to earn Helen's forgiveness, practices the theory on an acquaintance who needs money to pay a hospital bill, and is gratified to bump into Helen only moments later. After he announces to her that giving away money will solve all his worries, Helen once again spurns him. While trying to elude him, she exits a taxi into the street and is struck by a car. Hours later, family doctor Derwin Dodge announces that Helen has lost her sight due to a blood clot in the brain. When Bob asks to see her, Joyce tells him he has done enough harm. In the months that follow, Helen adjusts to her blindness, refusing all visits from Bob. Unknown to her, however, he watches her as she reads by the lake with her young friend Judy. One day, Judy inadvertently alerts Helen to Bob's presence, and he introduces himself as Robbie Robinson. While Bob begins to live his life in accordance with Wayne's philosophy, he continues to visit Helen, and the two fall in love. With Tom's help, Bob secretly funnels funds into the hospital account, buys Helen's house to provide her with an income, and then gathers top European neurosurgeons in Switzerland to discern if Helen's sight can be restored. On his next visit, just as a thrilled and unsuspecting Helen informs him that she is going to Switzerland for tests, Joyce arrives and, recognizing Bob, privately urges him to leave Helen alone. Over the next month, Helen sends optimistic letters to Bob, who does not respond but tracks her progress eagerly. When the surgeons finally conclude that there is no hope, a dispirited Helen returns to her hotel room with Joyce and her best friend, Nancy Ashford. That night, Helen's despair keeps her awake, and with Joyce and Nancy out of the room, she breaks down into tears, which are interrupted by a knock at the door. Bob bursts in, and when Joyce returns moments later, she sees Helen's great joy and realizes that she is buoyed by Bob's love. That night, after a whirlwind tour of the city, Bob and Helen dance until dawn, and Bob, encouraged by Helen's clear love for him, reveals his true name. Although Helen admits that she instinctively knew his identity and loves him anyway, she fears that he is acting out of pity when he proposes, and refuses to answer until the following day. Bob is sure that they will now be together forever, but the next morning discovers that Helen and Nancy have disappeared. For weeks, he searches for her to no avail, and when he returns to America, finds inspiration in Ed's description of the magnificent obsession that grows from doing good deeds. Years later, Bob is a successful neurosurgeon who helps his patients both in and out of the hospital, informing them that he "has already used up" any repayment. After delivering Joyce and Tom's baby, Bob returns home to find Ed, who tells him that Helen is in a coma in New Mexico. They rush to her hospital, where Bob discerns from her medical charts that her old blood clot must be operated on in order to save her life. Upon discovering that no one can perform the operation, an inexperienced Bob agrees to do it, but panics just before the procedure begins. He almost backs out when Ed, who is watching from an overhead observation room, catches his eye, and Bob suddenly realizes that this is his chance to redeem his past sins and prove his love. The grueling procedure lasts hours, after which they wait through the night for Helen to recover. When she awakens, she is thrilled first to discover that Bob is beside her, and then to see a glimmer of light, proof that her sight will soon be restored. As Bob informs Helen that now they truly will be together forever, Ed's words about a magnificent obsession resound in his mind. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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