Written on the Wind (1956)

Although this tale of a Texas oil family’s twisted passions did well at the box office and won Dorothy Malone a Supporting Actress Oscar, it didn’t get a lot of critical respect at first. Critics in the ‘50s dismissed it as just lowbrow melodrama. But with the growing cult following for director Douglas Sirk, his films—particularly glossy soap operas like this—have improved in estimation. Today, the film is appreciated for Sirk’s subversive storytelling, his use of design, acting and camera movements to subtly undermine the moral characters like innocent wife Lauren Bacall and family friend Rock Hudson. Instead, the camera loves the tortured Hadley siblings, bad girl Malone and her hard-drinking, brother (Robert Stack). Censorship standards only allowed the film to suggest that Stack’s character is gay, but Sirk seemed to be working overtime to create that impression. The film was a huge inspiration on directors like Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Pedro Almodovar, not to mention primetime soap operas like Dallas and Dynasty.

Dir. Douglas Sirk