ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (1955)
Directed by Douglas Sirk
Cinematography by Russell Metty
This week’s movie for The Film Experience’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series is one of my very favorites: All That Heaven Allows. I love Douglas Sirk’s Technicolor melodramas (four of his best ones are currently streaming on the Criterion Channel!), but this is the one I’ve easily seen the most times. Much of that is due to the luscious cinematography by Russell Metty, though I also can just never get enough of Rock Hudson in plaid. Somehow I managed not to pick shots of just Hudson’s dreamy gardener Ron Kirby (but I did go more in-depth on my admiration for the actor and character a few years ago here).
There are a lot of great shots by windows and mirrors and other reflective surfaces featured throughout All That Heaven Allows, as you’ll see in the shots I picked. I love the use of shadows and lighting along with the blue hues in this particular scene early in the film. Here, Cary (Jane Wyman) looks out her bedroom window after returning from a party at the local country club and then turns to her desk to admire a branch of leaves that Ron (Rock Hudson) had given to her earlier that day. It’s a lovely way of showing how he’s still lingering in her mind before their romance blossoms; but with her being in the dark, she’s not quite ready to confront her growing feelings.
I’m a sucker for silhouettes and this scene has some beautifully framed shots of Ron and Cary. Again, I love the use of color in this sequence, which begins with warmer, autumnal tones until the couple reaches disagreements in their conversation, moving toward the window that shows the cold, winter landscape outside as Cary contemplates breaking up with Ron. And then when they reconcile, the orange hues return to their surroundings. But the light from outside still casts a shadow on them, showing how society’s judgment still affects them, especially Cary.
It was really no contest when it came to the best shot of All That Heaven Allows, with Cary staring back at the Christmas gift her son just gave her: a television set to keep her company while her kids are away, especially now that she’s broken off the relationship her family and neighbors disapprove of. The TV frame surrounding Cary’s reflection perfectly encapsulates what she’s feeling at that moment: essentially boxed into what society expects of her, and that’s to mingle with people in her social status, and not to be involved with a younger man like Ron.
Be sure to check out what others have chosen as their best shot from All That Heaven Allows here!