Small town America is the focus of the Movie for Last Evening, “All I Desire” with Barbara
Stanwyck. Naomi Murdoch abandoned her home town and family to pursue a stage career. She is drawn back by the souring of her dreams and a letter contrived by her youngest daughter. Also, there are secrets that contributed to her departure which are explored in this Douglas Sirk film.
The movies theme, and a main stay of Sirk, explores the social dynamics as catalyst for the character’s actions. Small town America at the turn of the 20th century, communities of immigrants, where experiencing the draw of a wider, and more exciting, world. Cars were replacing carriages and roads would be built that would provide passage through or from these isolated communities. These factors were pulling at the rural roots, a force at work to this day.
“All I Desire”, though a period piece set long ago, is remarkable on several points. I mentioned one, addressing a contemporary problem, and, as well, the nuanced approach to small town prejudice. In it’s character study it excels, too. The Stanwyck portrayal is balanced and believable. Maureen O’Sullivan plays a proper school teacher out-shined for the affection of Stanwyck’s betrayed husband.
This is not Sirk’s best effort, but still a good film.