Thursday, December 5, 2013

Douglas Sirks, All That Heaven Allows (1955)

Douglas Sirks, All That Heaven Allows (1955)

Synopsis: All that heaven allows, the Romeo and Juliet of the Douglas Sirks world. This story is about a repressed wealthy widow Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) and her gardener/philosopher lover Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson) who realizes that, their desire to be with one another in a small town full of gossip is impossible due to their different social class. For Cary Scott, it is her isolation and loneliness set forth by her selfish snobbish children who see that for their own happiness and to continue to live a comfortable lifestyle their mother should stay as she was and has been, reserved, at home, and devoted to their (now deceased) father. For Ron Kirby, it’s his inability to fit into her mainstream society. Cary makes the decision that she will sacrifice her own happiness for the happiness of those around her. Ron doesn’t understand her reasons why, he feels that she should focus on her own happiness. This is the misunderstanding that both face. After their breakup and after time has passed, both Cary and Ron’s love is still strong. In the end Cary realizes of what was lost. Cary once sacrificed for her children, but now she will stay by Ron’s side and sacrifice for his love.

Characters Appearances + Mannerisms of (Cary Scott)

In the beginning of the film Cary Scott is introduced. Her physical features are of a mature wealthy woman who is still slender after bearing children. She is also seen as ultra-feminine in her pencil skirt, red lips and pearl necklace. Though, Cary comes off reserved, after just recently losing her husband she seems to be still be in the mourning phase. She is shown as being ‘the picture of matriarchal femininity.' Which was another idealism of femininity which women, married or unmarried were encouraged to attain. A state of such devotion, piety and refinement. It was through this unrealistic feminineness which encouraged women in the 1950s to be ‘good wives.
With each encounter Cary and Ron had, Cary found herself opening up more to Ron and asking, “I was just going to make some fresh coffee would you like some?” The hospitality she wanted to eagerly show to Ron could be seen in her body language, facial expression and the tone of her voice. This suggests that her nature as a woman is  nurturing. This nurturing nature was emphasized in melodramatic film to exaggerate the idealisms of how a woman should offer and offer has much as she could. As the film progresses so did Cary and Ron’s feelings for one another. Ron invites her over to him home to look at his tree garden. Cary’s answer is reserved and distant, her performance of idealized femininity shows that a woman must keep to herself, especially when invited to a person’s home of the opposite sex. She at first hesitates and says, “Well I’m sorry, I can’t today,” but then slowly agrees. Once at Ron’s place she innocently looks around and spots the old mill right next to his home, childlike she says, “What’s in the old mill? As Cary and Ron explore the old mill, Cary looks around in amazement, her facial expressions show that of a woman who is internally redecorating the place and finding the ‘possibilities’ of it becoming a magnificent ‘family place.’  Her facial expressions show the idealized femininity of wanting to be a home-maker, which stimulated women in the 1950s to desire. Being a housewife and fixing the home and thinking of all the possibilities of how it could be a sanctuary for the family was part of the idealized femininity that was advertised in films. It showed the distinct line of a woman’s gender role being limited to only the family, the husband and the home d├ęcor.
As Cary and Ron’s relationship grows, the desire for marriage also grows.   But Cary’s children and social circle object to the matrimony, her children (rich, educated, privileged and snobbish) convince Cary that her loyalty to them and their deceased father was more important than her own happiness. The emphasis on Martyrdom is prevalent in idealized femininity. A woman must sacrifice everything she is, has, and her own happiness for the sake of society to function. Without a woman’s selfless act of sacrifice, society will not function properly according to the social norms set in place. After driving to Ron’s place to try and postpone the wedding, Cary says to Ron, “Ron we’re gonna have to wait to get married." Why? Because like what Cary says, “I can’t ruin my children’s lives, I have a responsibility to them." This notion that Cary has a responsibility over her children even after they have grown up shows how idealized femininity extends throughout a woman’s life. That it is her master role to perform from adolescence all the way through motherhood and so forth, that a woman must master her role as female and adhere to the idealized feminine characteristics, both physical and mental during her life.

In the ending scenes of the film after the children have said that they will be leaving her soon and that she will be left all alone, she also realizes that she sacrificed her happiness for nothing. Ron has an accident during this time that leaves him in a concussion, once Cary hears about this she runs to Ron’s side, as he wakes up from his injury, Cary looks at him and says, Darling, I’ve come home.” At the end of the film Cary’s performance as the good nurturer shows that it is in women’s nature to be a caregiver, through all stages of life. This belief exemplifies how idealized femininity in its natural state is repressive, in that it holds women to the master role of caregiver, a responsibility that is permanent because
women can neither get rid of that position, or are stigmatized if they do so.

Characters Appearances + Mannerisms of (Ron Kirby)

In the beginning of the film when Ron Kirby is introduced, he is pruning Mrs. Scott’s trees. He stands tall, slender with his brownish dirty work suit and worn rough gardening gloves. His face is tan from the sun. Ron’s sentences are short, and he is very straightforward, “yes. Thank you.” His performance of idealized masculinity is when Cary offers him some coffee and biscuits, he politely accepts and motions his body toward her chair in which he pulls out for her. Yes in a sense this is just good behavior (pulling a chair out for a woman), but when you really go deeper into the performance, he is adhering to the idealized masculine role of a gentlemen. Just like women, men were not naturally born as gentlemen, but it is a learned role. In other words, to perform masculinity, one must adhere to the rules that distinguish a woman and a man, and such rules are that, women are fragile and must be treated delicately. Thus, when Ron was pulling out her chair, it wasn’t just because he is polite, but because she is a lady and she is weak.

In the film, Ron life motto was introduced as, “to thy known self be true,” in other words, be selfish. How this act of selfishness adheres to idealized masculinity is that it cautions emotion, sacrifice and martyrdom, which are all feminine characteristics. An example of this is when Cary must tell he children about her and Ron, she is terrified, Ron gives her an example of how Mick (there good friend) was in a similar situation, and he simple says, “Mick learned from his own decisions, that you have to be a man,” Cary responds, “and you want me to be a man?” Ron looks at her with a grin and says, “Only in that way." Ron believes that to be a man is to make your own decisions without the influence or the care for other around you. Basically do what you want, and say what you want, and do what you want based on your ‘own ‘decisions. On another interesting note, when Ron says to Cary, only in that way, he’s reiterating that that’s a masculine characteristic which men do not want in a woman. Why? Because, fragility, virtue and obedience was the ‘ideal’ woman that men wanted during this time.

Near the end of the film Ron in shown hunting wearing a flannel jacket, fur hood and his work gloves and hunting. His friend Mick notices that his shooting is off, Ron makes the comment that it is because Cary isn’t in his life. Yes this could be seen as an example of die hard love, but it also could represent the lack of idealized femininity in a man’s life contributes to his lost of power which is really the meaning of idealized masculinity, to be the patriarchal figure, which through proper performance by women, allows for men to master their gender role. Ron’s friend Mick suggests that Ron goes to Cary and continue with the marriage. Ron says no, his friend makes the comment, she doesn’t want to make up her own mind, no girl does, she wants you to make it up for her,” again with the notion that idealized femininity adheres to childlikeness, Cary’s performance and Mick’s understanding of idealized femininity repeat that women, are not only physically fragile, but that they cannot make decisions like men (because that is not a feminine characteristic, nor is it a woman’s role to make decisions). So therefore, a woman not
only wants, but needs a man to govern over her own mind. 



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