The original Magnificent Obsession on TCM

Douglas Sirk made his career with a delirious version of Lloyd C. Douglas’ 1929 novel, but it was in fact the second screen version of  the book and Sirk’s film was actually based on John Stahl’s 1935 hit. I write about the original Magnificent Obsession for the Turner Classic Movies website.

Robert Taylor and Irene Dunne

Robert Taylor was a handsome young leading man at MGM with a handful of screen appearances and a bright future in 1935, but it was a film he made on loan to Universal Studios that made him a star.

The 1929 novel Magnificent Obsession by former minister Lloyd C. Douglas had been a best-seller and something of a phenomenon for its message of enriching one’s own life through philanthropy and acts of compassion done in secret. The story of redemption and romance was a natural for a big screen incarnation. Universal Studios stalwart John Stahl, a rare director/producer in the 1930s, was given the assignment and it was a good fit for Universal Studio’s man of melodrama, who had made hits of Back Street (1932) and Imitation of Life (1934). He would downplay the religious aspect of Douglas’ spiritual message and transform the story into a heart-tugging romantic melodrama of personal redemption through selflessness.

Read the complete feature here. The film plays on April 6 on TCM, and is available as a supplement on the Criterion DVD release of the Douglas Sirk remake.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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