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Film / Written on the Wind

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Written on the Wind is a 1956 American melodrama film directed by Douglas Sirk, starring Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone.

Alcoholic playboy and son of an oil baron Kyle (Stack) is introduced to his father's company's executive secretary Lucy (Bacall) by his childhood friend Mitch (Hudson). The two quickly hit it off and get married. Mitch however also loves Lucy, and is in turn loved by Kyle's promiscuous sister Marylee (Malone).

Provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Kyle drinks so much that Mitch points out when he's more or less sober, for once.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mitch and Lucy overcame their class differences after all, but the price for Marylee's growth was losing her father and brother. Similarly, Kyle's arc was ultra-tragic.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: On the one hand, there's some thematic tie to Mary Lee's dancing and her father's sudden death suggesting that the shame of his kids was too much to bear. At the same time, a straight reading of the narrative can be read as this trope since the old man most plausibly died of natural causes and old age and her volatile dancing is just a strange thing to cut to.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Kyle's father keeps a gun in his desk, and Mitch hides it in a bookcase. Kyle finds it and decides to kill Mitch when he thinks that Mitch and Lucy had an affair.
  • Death by Despair: Kyle and Marylee's father dies after finding out from one of his daughter's sexual partners that she had a habit of instigating such encounters.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Both Hadley siblings.
    • Kyle believes that Mitch and Lucy are having an affair, and decides to kill Mitch for it.
    • Marylee gets rejected by Mitch, and first tries to break up his friendship with Kyle, then tries to get him convicted of murder.
  • Gun Struggle: Kyle holds Mitch at gunpoint when he suspects him of sleeping with his wife. When he tries to shoot Mitch, Marylee tries to stop him, and there's a brief struggle. The gun goes off, killing Kyle.
  • How We Got Here: The movie begins with Kyle entering his family home in a drunken rage. A gunshot is heard, and a man stumbles out and falls to the ground. Then the movie jumps back a little over a year to Mitch and Lucy's first encounter.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Marylee threatens Mitch that if he doesn't marry her, she'll testify that he murdered Kyle. He refuses, but she has a change of heart and tells the truth.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Kyle really wants children, so naturally he has fertility problems. When Lucy eventually gets pregnant, he's unsure whether he's really the father, and when he hits her in a jealous rage, she has a miscarriage.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Mitch views his and Marylee's relationship like this. She doesn't.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Kyle and Lucy love each other, Mitch loves Lucy, and Marylee loves Mitch. Lucy may or may not love Mitch.
  • Missing Mom: Kyle and Marylee's mother died prior to the events of the story.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: When Lucy announces that she's pregnant, Kyle assumes that Mitch is the father due to his own fertility problems.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Kyle beats up a man to keep him from sleeping with Marylee.
  • Really Gets Around: One of Marylee's lovers tells her father that he can go to Main Street and ask somebody there about her modus operandi.
  • Shipper on Deck: Marylee's father thinks she and Mitch should marry, and tells him as much. To Mitch, however, they are Like Brother and Sister.
  • Slut-Shaming: All the characters look down on Marylee for her promiscuity.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Kyle and Marylee both take this approach to winning the affections of Lucy and Mitch, respectively. Kyle is successful, Marylee is not.
  • Stalking is Love: Lucy eventually falls in love with Kyle and marries him despite initially trying to get away from him several times.
  • Video Credits: For the opening credits rather than the closing credits, but the prologue includes shots of the main quartet in billing order. As Kyle tears into the driveway, Mitch looks out of an upstairs window under Rock Hudson's credit; Lucy attempts to climb off the bed but sinks back down again under Lauren Bacall's credit; Kyle downs the last of his whiskey and hurls the empty bottle at the outside of the house under Robert Stack's credit; and Marylee looks out of another window under Dorothy Malone's credit.
  • Woman Scorned: Marylee is not happy about Mitch turning down her advances. First, she successfully convinces Kyle that Mitch and Lucy are having an affair. When that leads to Kyle accidentally killing himself, she refuses to testify that it was an accident to clear Mitch of a murder charge. At least until she has a last-minute change of heart.