Magnificent Obsessions: The Films of Ross Hunter, programmed by Seán McGovern.
Imitation of Life (dir. Douglas Sirk, USA, 1959)
I would have made the picture just for the title — Douglas Sirk.
Ross Hunter, at one time, was a force in Hollywood. He was an “above
the title” producer at a time when not even directors, today considered
the visionaries behind a picture, were afforded the same luxury. Hunter
was an anomaly in Hollywood. Openly gay (to whom it mattered),
flamboyant, with an eye for finery and – most importantly – he knew how
to make money. He knew how to turn B-movie material into something that
masqueraded as prestige. He had an eye for actresses like Jane Wyman and
Barbara Stanwyck, big stars who were on their way down, and gave them
roles that would once again enamour them with the public. Hunter was in
many ways a proto-Ryan Murphy: the ubiquitous television producer behind
such emphatic fanboy productions as Feud: Bette & Joan (2017).
“A Ross Hunter Production” has certain hallmarks: a campy, sometimes
manic sensibility, overwrought emotion and high-octane melodrama. But
Ross Hunter has largely been forgotten. Not enough is known about his
life, or his impact in Hollywood at studios like Universal, considered
to be the bargain-bin of the major studios. Magnificent Obsessions: The Films of Ross Hunter
is a programme to reconnect audiences to his films, and to rehabilitate
his body of work. And like all obsessives, there’s an uncompromising
style to his work. Sometimes hit, sometimes miss. But all of them
magnificent in their own way.
Some of Hunter’s best collaborations were with much-revered German
director Douglas Sirk, a master of the melodrama and a deeply
intelligent man, who worked within the Hollywood machine. There is no
better way to start this programme of his work than with Imitation of Life
(1959), their last collaboration, and Sirk’s final film. A remake of
the 1934 Claudette Colbert film of the same name, Sirk spun the story of
a down-and-out actress’s ascent to stardom, and turned it into the
story of her black maid and daughter who passes for white, stealing the
picture entirely from Lana Turner. But she was too covered in diamonds
to notice. No amount of frocks can dampen the spectacular climax of the
film, an emotional powerhouse that will be felt by anyone who ever had a
Doors open at 19.00, for a 19.30 start.
Refreshments will be available in our licensed cafe/bar.