Falling for Rock Hudson in All That Heaven Allows (1955)

Melodramas are a tricky genre to invest in, as it’s often filled with ridiculous conventions to heighten emotions between characters. Douglas Sirk was one director who excelled in melodramas, infusing the genre’s absurdities with a more artistic approach. With All That Heaven Allows, he created a profound film that one could easily immerse themselves in, which studies the struggle between one’s happiness and society’s expectations. And at the center of the drama is the handsome Rock Hudson portraying Ron Kirby, one of my ultimate cinematic crushes. Seeing him alongside Jane Wyman against some gorgeous autumn and winter scenery (filmed in luscious Technicolor!), it’d be difficult not to conjure up romantic feelings while watching this movie.

All That Heaven Allows follows a romance between wealthy widow Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) and her easygoing gardener Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson). Soon their small town is gossiping about their relationship with disdain, and her two college-age children are embarrassed by their mother’s decision to pursue a relationship with a younger man. Ron doesn’t care what society thinks about them, but it’s harder for Cary to ignore what’s being said, so she must choose whether she wants to live by others’ approval or follow her own happiness.

Although I had seen Rock Hudson in three other movies prior to this one (Written on the Wind, Giant, and Pillow Talk), and loved him in each of them, it wasn’t until I saw All That Heaven Allows that I was truly affected by his screen presence. As Ron Kirby, he’s practically my ideal man, the only kind you’d find in the movies as he’s just too perfect to be a real person. When we meet him in the film’s first scene, he’s tending to some trees in Cary’s front yard but stops what he’s doing to carry a big box of dishes for her. A moment later, Cary offers him coffee and lunch, and he pulls out her chair for her before sitting down (you can watch the whole scene here). He’s a perfect gentleman throughout the film and loves Cary so simply and yet so deeply. Even when Cary thinks of ending their relationship, he helps her put on her boots before she faces the snow outside, despite being upset with her decision (you can watch the scene here, which also features some of the film’s most exquisite shots).

Aside from being an obviously handsome man, Cary is attracted to Ron because he looks past her age and social status and treats her as her own person, which is something she’s not often accustomed to when socializing at the country club. Everyone around her seems to make a point of her age, including her own children, while Ron doesn’t take any notice of it (in reality, Jane Wyman was only eight years older than Rock Hudson). While many of the townspeople assume Ron is with Cary for her money, he truly doesn’t care much for material things and prefers to lead a simple life on the land growing his trees. Of course, he’d love to share this life with Cary, and even refurnishes a cozy, old mill for them to live in, as she has no need to stay in her large, desolate house. Being with Ron fills the empty void in Cary’s life, and he gives her the unconditional attention she’s been missing.

This film was the fourth one Rock Hudson made with director Douglas Sirk, and they eventually went on to make nine films together. And it’s thanks to Sirk that Hudson became a major heartthrob and matinee idol during the 1950s and 1960s. For the 1954 film Magnificent Obsession, Sirk cast Hudson in his first leading role, opposite Jane Wyman. After the success of that film, the three teamed up the following year for All That Heaven Allows. It’s in this movie that I think Hudson reaches his peak as a romantic leading man, at least as far as his dramas are concerned. His romantic comedies are in their own league, especially the ones he did with Doris Day, but Ron Kirby remains my favorite of all the characters I’ve seen him play.

I probably wouldn’t love Ron Kirby as a character so much if Rock Hudson wasn’t playing him, and he’s a big reason why I’m so drawn to the character, the relationship between him and Cary, and the movie as a whole. He and Jane Wyman proved to have excellent chemistry in their previous film, Magnificent Obsession, but here you can really feel the passion between them, and they’re just sizzling on-screen whenever they’re together. Hudson perfectly embodies this role, playing the romantic “tall, dark, and handsome” type that audiences often swooned over. And just like Cary, we can’t resist Ron’s charms, and it’s hard not to fall in love with him. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a “perfect man”, but Ron Kirby comes very close to it.

I wrote this as a part of the Reel Infatuation Blogathon, where bloggers are writing about their character crushes. Click the banner below to read more fantastic posts!

13 thoughts on “Falling for Rock Hudson in All That Heaven Allows (1955)

  1. Whatever do you mean, melodramas are never ridiculous, haha.

    His FACE…why…practically made for technicolor.

    “Seeing him alongside Jane Wyman against some gorgeous autumn and winter scenery (filmed in luscious Technicolor!), it’d be difficult not to conjure up romantic feelings while watching this movie.” Ugh it definitely looks gorgeous from the shots you’ve posted.

    Both the Sirk dramas with these two are on my watchlist. I may have to get to this one sooner rather than later! Your post reminded me so much of “Just Imagine” from Good News. The ideal man who’s not real because he’s in a movie or dead. SIGH.

    I loved reading this, it was so sweet.

    • There are moments in this film when I honestly wanna cry because of Rock Hudson’s face, partly because of what he’s reacting to (the scene with the Christmas lights and trees breaks my heart), but mostly because he was just so beautiful. We were so blessed to have him in these romantic movies.

      “Just Imagine” is the perfect song to describe my dilemma with watching old movies! So many lovely faces that don’t exist in my reality, sigh.

      Thank you for commenting Simoa, and I hope you’re able to watch both films soon! I didn’t express it a lot here but Jane Wyman is amazing in both of them.

  2. For some reason, I’ve only seen about 20 minutes of the middle of this film and haven’t bothered to watch the whole thing. Well, now that I’ve read your review (and watched the clips you linked to), I see this is possibly Rock Hudson’s finest role and that I’m really missing out on something! Kind? Romantic? Handsome? He does sound Movie Perfect!

    Jane Wyman looks good, too. Has she ever given a bad performance, I wonder? She always gives an audience their money’s worth.

    Thanks for joining the blogathon, and for bringing Rock Hudson to the party!

    • He really is Movie Perfect in this, it’s definitely one of his best roles! And you’re right, it seems Jane Wyman never gave a bad performance and that’s no different here, and I think it’s one of her finest roles.

      Thank you for co-hosting the event, I’m happy to honor Rock Hudson for this occasion!

  3. Pingback: #ReelInfatuation Blogathon: Day 5 – Silver Screenings

  4. I adore both of those movies and I’m the perfect Sirk viewer – I’m bawling every time! Rock was just… golly, gee whiz!! 🙂 Impossible to not just stare at that man!

    • Sirk’s movies were just in a league of their own when it comes to melodramas. So beautifully filmed, and the actors always looked so gorgeous in them, especially Rock Hudson! 🙂

  5. Beautiful Critique!! I watched this movie ages ago!! Of course, by then I was already a fan of Rock Hudson!! But I get, why, this was the movie that made you really like him!!

  6. Ron Kirby is such a dreamy character! I also think Rock’s chemistry with Jane is better in this film than in Magnificent Obsession.
    I have no words to tell how good the film is. I could only appreciate it in full after repeated viewings, and I still think there are stuff to discover.
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂

  7. Pingback: Hit Me With Your Best Shot – All That Heaven Allows | cinema cities

  8. ATHA is far and away superior to MO in every respect. Which is odd given that the cast and crew are virtually the same on both films. The writing for ATHA is better, the acting is about on par, the direction is definitely better, and the cinematography and art direction is infinitely superior. I never tire of rewatching ATHA and I am not a melodrama fan by any stretch. It’s a film that continues to grow on you with each subsequent rewatching.

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