MIDGET

Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind is a soaked mop of booze and tiresome self-pity. As camp, you wouldn’t want it to be wrung of its juicy lows—that is, if it really had its share. Dorothy Malone popped 50s viewers’ eyes out with her theatrics, but the fun of her messiness only occasionally splatters to entertain. She’s all poses and mambo-swaying (to a stereophonic blast of “Temptation”), amusingly obsessed with having Rock Hudson put it to her, and in the big courtroom scene, only a hat away from being cuffed for conspicuous flagrante delicto. In lieu of being arrested, she won an Oscar as best supporting actress. The “heaviness” of the scandal’s melodramatics, supposedly based on a tragedy visited upon the tobacco-growing Family Reynolds and torch singer-actress Libby Holman, has been reduced of its slime so there’s not much for us to get gleefully worked up over. (Though The Four Aces singing the title song certainly did.) Like who cares if Robert Stack’s a drunk who thinks he can’t get his sperm count up to father a baby with dragon puss Lauren Bacall and accuses Rock of all people of being the impregnator when she does become preggers? Stack is one actor who engenders boredom very fast. There’s never been a second-tier actor with so rich used it to such unsparingly bad effect. Despite Roger Ebert listing Written on the Wind as one of the greats, when Humphrey Bogart read the reviews, he turned to Bacall and said, “I wouldn’t do too many of these.” Stephen Rebello and Ed Margulies call this one the Giant of Bad Movies We Love. Midget is more like it.

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