Magnificent Obsession

Movies from the 50s: I watch them, so you don’t have to.

“Magnificent Obsession” opens on millionaire Rock Hudson going 180 miles an hour in his speedboat while two guys sit there saying casually, “He’s definitely going to die,” and then of course the boat flips and one of the guys goes, “I knew that would happen,” the way you might way, “I sure like cake,” and we cut to Rock Hudson’s life being saved by the paramedics and a portable respirator.

But oh noes! The police radio proclaims that there’s an emergency and the portable respirator has to be immediately returned to this guy Dr. Phillips’ house. When they arrive the redheaded housekeeper runs to the car and urges them to be quick about it.

We cut to Mrs. Dr. Phillips and Daughter of Dr. Phillips in the car, who are saying things like, “What could be better than being us?” and “This has been the best day of our lives,” and “My favourite thing about Dr. Phillips is how he’s always alive when we get home,” and so of course when they arrive at the house the housekeeper runs out to tell them that Dr. Phillips is dead.

Daughter asks Dr. Phillips’ doctor what happened and he’s like, “Rock Hudson was going 180 in his speedboat so they were reviving him with your dad’s respirator, which is the only one in town,” and I GUESS YOU ONLY GET TO HAVE THE RESPIRATOR IF YOU’RE A MILLIONAIRE OR A DOCTOR and anyway Mrs. Doctor is devastated.

At the hospital, Rock Hudson feels fine and he wanders off into the hallway. He runs into – hey! That’s the redheaded housekeeper in a nurse’s outfit! Rock Hudson asks Nurse-Housekeeper where the hell Dr. Phillips is because “it’s his hospital” like no wonder he kept the respirator at his house, and Nurse-Housekeeper stares at him and says Dr. Phillips died and stomps off.

Meanwhile, a lawyer explains to Daughter and Mrs. Doctor that there’s almost no money left, because Dr. Phillips spent it all. Mrs. Doctor is like, “Okay, well, whatever, I have to go explain to the gardener about what bulbs to plant,” and I’m not sure she was listening, eventually she wanders off in her teal green convertible.

She comes across Rock Hudson trying to escape from the hospital by rolling down a hill and cheerfully offers him a ride and I guess this is how you dealt with life A DAY AFTER BECOMING A WIDOW in the nineteen fifties, good lord, no wonder everyone was chugging Valium like there was no tomorrow.

Rock Hudson is like, “I should have collapsed on this road long ago, hubba hubba, let’s go to dinner,” and Mrs. Doctor’s smile vanishes and she’s like, “I THINK NOT” and introduces herself and Rock Hudson is like, “Er, awkward,” and Mrs. Doctor is like, “If only the police hadn’t taken THE ONLY RESPIRATOR IN TOWN across the lake,” and all I can think of is how come no one’s worried that a, like, TODDLER might need it at the hospital and Rock Hudson’s only escape from the endless awkwardness is to pass out and Mrs. Doctor takes him back to the hospital.

A few days later, Rock Hudson stands at the desk and asks for his bill. When it arrives, he crumples it up and writes a check for $25,000 ($219,887 in today’s dollars) instead. Then, check in hand, he bursts into the hospital office, where Mrs. Doctor is clearing up her husband’s things, and Rock tries to give the check to Mrs. Doctor who hollers, “KILL A MAN AND WRITE A CHECK!” and Rock stomps off.

Rock Hudson gets extremely drunk and then goes driving and he crashes into a bunch of “go slow” road barriers. He wanders up to the nearest house and bangs on the door. Luckily for us, it’s Exposition Man’s house. He invites Rock Hudson in and tenderly puts Rock Hudson to bed and in the morning Rock is like, “I hope I wasn’t too much trouble last night, when I pass out I like to do so in my own bed,” and maybe if you’re passing out that often you should examine how much you’re drinking, and Exposition Man explains that Dr. Phillips was broke because he had an epiphany and started secretly giving away all his money (except not to Nurse-Housekeeper who has to hold down two jobs to make ends meet) and angelic woo-woos start up in the background as he keeps talking blah blah Christian blah blah Jesus blah blah blah Republican Party blah Marriage Bill set yourself on fire blah blah blah.

All inspired, Rock Hudson zooms off in his car and screeches to a halt to say hello to a man who is standing next to a telescope in a uniform. So I guess he’s… maybe he takes a quarter so people can use the telescope? Wow, Coin Operator Man, I hate to tell you but your job security isn’t looking so hot. Anyway, Coin Operator Man is like, “GREAT TO SEE YOU ROCK HUDSON!” laughing and peeing himself a little and Rock is like, “How are you doing?” and Coin Operated Man says cheerily, “Well, Mary lost the baby, she’s still in the hospital, the bills are pretty rough” like I know being a Coin Operator Man is a pretty great job, but maybe you could pretend you were KIND OF SAD about the baby, and Rock starts to leave and then remembers JAYSUS and goes back and offers Coin Operator Man the all the money he needs for the hospital bills as long as he doesn’t tell anybody.

And then Rock Hudson immediately spots Mrs. Doctor, and runs over to her and she’s like, “I’m so sorry, I’m busy BECAUSE MY HUSBAND DIED A WEEK AGO” and Rock flutters bedroom eyes at her, all, “We haven’t decided where we’re going to have dinner tonight,” and she’s like, “WIDOWED! NOT EVEN BEEN BURIED YET!” and Rock’s like, “But – I gave somebody money, now you have to like me!” and she runs and gets into a taxi and Rock Hudson gets in the taxi after her because the first stalking law is 36 years away, and Mrs. Doctor exits the taxi by the other door and immediately is run down by a passing car.

At the hospital, Nurse-Housekeeper is being a nurse today and in the waiting room she informs Daughter and Rock Hudson that Mrs. Doctor has been struck blind. (Because… movies.) Rock Hudson tries and tries to visit Mrs. Doctor but Nurse-Housekeeper tells him Mrs. Doctor never wants to see him again everrr.

Six months later, Mrs. Doctor is on the beach hanging out with a little girl. And who shows up? Rock Hudson, of course! He sits and creepily stares at Mrs. Doctor and then is about to leave when the little girl asks for help launching her boat. He silently helps her, hoping Mrs. Doctor wasn’t listening. But she’s like, “Hi, stranger man I can’t see! Do you come here often?” and Rock Hudson is like, “Whenever I’m looking through my binoculars and I see you on the beach, I sure do, and my name is Mr. Robinson and definitely not Rock Hudson!” and they chat for awhile and agree to meet again.


At home, Rock Hudson meets with the lawyer who’s been giving Mrs. Doctor her “insurance settlement”, which we find out is in fact money coming from Rock Hudson, and he’s like, “Hey, there’s a tiny chance that these doctors in Switzerland can restore Mrs. Doctor’s sight if she goes to Switzerland, sell her on the idea that they want to do it for free, okay?” Then Rock Hudson decides to go back to school to become a doctor, because: JAYSUS.

He spends the entire summer with Mrs. Doctor and the little girl, chatting and laughing and reading racist comics aloud and one day Mrs. Doctor is like, “Some of the best doctors in Switzerland are interested in me. I think I’m going to go there for a consultation.”

The little girl is like, “Switzerland sounds dreamy! You can buy a Swiss watch and learn to yodel!*”

(* sum total of what Amurricans know about Switzerland)

BUT! AND! Daughter is coming down to the beach to meet Mrs. Doctor’s Mystery Man. Da-dum, da-dum, da da dum dum da da dum dum…

Rock tries to flee but is unsucessful and Daughter JUST SAYS HELLO! SHE DOES!


Then Rock does flee and Daughter runs after him and is like, “How are you going to feel when she gets cured and opens her eyes realises YOU’RE the guy she’s in love with?” and Rock stares at her and runs away. OUR HERO.

Mrs. Doctor heads to Switzerland with Daughter and Nurse-Housekeeper in tow.

At Rock Hudson’s house we can see him studying for med school, and in the foreground we can see the framed photo of her on the beach that he TOOK LIKE A STALKER TAKES A PICTURE and in Switzerland Mrs. Doctor is going through procedure after procedure with the very nice experts until finally!

We find out!

That she is… NOT CURED!

Mrs. Doctor has HAD IT. HAD! IT! And she sends Daughter and Nurse-Housekeeper out and goes out and stands on the balcony and heartlessly kills a potted plant by sending it to its death and is about to follow it when – CHORUS OF ANGELIC WOO-WOOS! – Rock Hudson appears!

Mrs. Doctor forgets all about suicide and they go off in his car to celebrate. They end up at a little restaurant and as they’re dancing the clock chimes ten times. Rock Hudson is like, “I won’t tell you what time it is,” and her EYES are impaired not her COUNTING SKILLS and Mrs. Doctor is like, “I’m having the best time everrr,” and Rock Hudson is like, “Would you forgive anything? Even Rock Hudson?” and Mrs. Doctor is like, “OMG I KNEW IT WAS YOU,” and he’s like, “How long did you know?” and she’s like, “I don’t really remember,” and you’d think that moment would be, you know, kind of notable –

“Oh wow, I’m pretty sure this guy I’ve been kissing is the one who caused my husband’s death and blinded me and stalked me and is now dating me under an assumed name,” BECAUSE OF THE SCREAMING

– and Rock Hudson is like, “I lurve you, let’s get married,” and Mrs. Doctor is like, “I can’t, they’d pity you because I’m blind,” which sounds suspiciously like “it’s not you, it’s me” and the next morning Rock Hudson finds out that Mrs. Doctor and Nurse-Housekeeper have very intelligently fled, leaving no forwarding address.

Heartbroken, Rock Hudson throws himself into becoming the best doctor everrr and doing surgeries for free and saving orphans and kissing puppies and not accepting any money (which would be more impressive if he were not a millionaire) when…


Nurse-Housekeeper gets in touch to say that Mrs. Doctor is in a coma! In New Mexico!

Rock Hudson (and Exposition Man for some reason) rush to her side and he immediately asks to see her medical chart and her physician asks Rock Hudson what to do and he’s like, “Uh… fly in a better doctor?” and THERE’S NO TIME and Exposition Man is like, “If you don’t, Jesus will kill a kitten and it will be YOUR FAULT,” and Rock Hudson is like, “Nurse-Housekeeper! Help me do surgery on your friend and employer!” and there is no hospital in the world that would allow this to happen, ever, the lawsuits would be mating and having baby lawsuits, and for no reason at all Rock Hudson has to be shirtless as he scrubs up and 1954 male shirtlessness should… not happen.

And Rock Hudson starts to cut her up then freaks out and tries to back out but looks up at the gallery and Exposition Man is standing there with Jesus who has his hands around a fluffy white kitten’s neck (okay I made some of that up) and Rock Hudson does the surgery and NOT EVEN BEING IN A COMA can get Mrs. Doctor away from this guy and later Mrs. Doctor wakes up and is like, “I think -”


and Rock Hudson is like, “Shhh, and lie still, and be quiet,” and Mrs. Doctor is like, “But – I see some light -” and Rock Hudson is like, “SHHHHH,” and she’s like, “BUT I’M NOT BLIND ANYMORE” and Rock Hudson is like, “LIE STILL AND DON’T GET EXCITED” and she’s like, “Will you be here tomorrow?” and he’s like, “Starting tomorrow we’ll never be apart,” and is that a promise or a threat, and Exposition Man and Jesus wander off hand in hand together as angelic woo-woos blare in the background and the moral of the story, children, is that when a man causes your husband’s death, and makes you blind, and stalks you, and pretends to be a different man, and reads racist comics aloud, and takes secret photos of you, it means he LIKES YOU and you should definitely, definitely marry him because if you’re not married you might as well jump off a balcony to your death.


(Angelic woo-woos.)