The Films of Douglas Sirk

SIFF Film Center | Tuesdays!
After leaving Germany in 1937 and working erratically throughout Europe, theater and film director Detlief Sierck landed in Hollywood in 1942 and changed his name to the fittingly American-sounding Douglas Sirk. Directing more than 30 films before his retirement in 1960, he developed a characteristic style all his own, focusing on love, death, social constraints, and the strictures of upper-middle class families.

The body of work Douglas Sirk left behind peaked in the 1950s with a series of films that portrayed the dark realities of American society, using popular melodrama to offer veiled, moving critiques that never once stopped being entertaining and went on to influence filmmakers as diverse as Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Todd Haynes. Highlighting the deliberate style of filmmaking Sirk embodied, these four films demonstrate his ability to create sympathetic characters and powerful stories through carefully manipulated performances from such icons as Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, Lauren Bacall, and Lana Turner.

Lori Donnelly, Cinema Programming Manager

Magnificent Obsession

April 4, 2017

USA | 1954 | 108 Minutes | Douglas Sirk

SIFF Film Center | The Films of Douglas Sirk
After almost dying in a boating accident, playboy Bob Merrick (a young Rock Hudson) is miraculously saved by his town’s only resuscitator – yet as a result, the kindly Dr. Phillips dies from a heart attack while waiting across town for the machine. When his recklessness affects the Phillips family a second time, Bob becomes inextricably entangled with the newly widowed Helen (Academy Award nominated Jane Wyman) and looks for redemption through altruism and love. Filmed in Technicolor, Magnificent Obsession exhibits the style Sirk would come to refine and perfect throughout the latter park of his career.

All That Heaven Allows

April 11, 2017

USA | 1955 | 89 Minutes | Douglas Sirk

SIFF Film Center | The Films of Douglas Sirk
Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson team up again in their second film for Sirk. When aging, well-to-do widow Cary Scott falls in love with her much younger gardener, Ron Kirby, the couple faces pressures from their friends and families to end their relationship. Following his proposal, Cary becomes torn between the unhappy but comfortable of her status-obsessed family and her loving connection with the passionate, intelligent Ron. Sirk’s condemnation of small town America is one of his most unique and moving statements.

Written on the Wind

April 18, 2017

USA | 1956 | 99 Minutes | Douglas Sirk

SIFF Film Center | The Films of Douglas Sirk
The spoiled, impulsive heirs of a wealthy oil baron, Kyle (Rock Hudson) and Marylee (Lauren Bacall), live carefree lives bent on their self-destructive tendencies. Unable to escape from their personal demons brought on by a lifetime of luxury, the tragedy that is their destiny spirals out of control when Kyle becomes suspicious of his wife (Dorothy Malone) and best friend (Robert Stack) – whom Marylee pines for endlessly. Beautifully illustrating the creative potential of Technicolor and Widescreen, this carefully crafted melodramatic powerhouse is packed with a delirious combination of theatrics and style.

Imitation of Life

April 25, 2017

USA | 1959 | 125 Minutes | Douglas Sirk

SIFF Film Center | The Films of Douglas Sirk
In hopes of establishing a career, aspiring actress Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) moves to New York City with her daughter Susie. While visiting Coney Island, chance brings them together with Annie Johnson and her daughter Sarah. Taking on the African-American Annie as her maid, Lora forges a “family” of sorts in a cramped New York apartment. As Lora’s success mounts, her relationships begin to suffer, and Annie’s daughter becomes resentful of her mother’s subservient position. Based on the 1933 Fannie Hurst novel, Sirk’s notorious final feature is unique in its depiction of family strife and racial issues in 1950s America.