Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Written on the Wind (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Written on the Wind (1956)

In acclaimed Douglas Sirk's best film - a tempestuous, sordid and soap-opera-ish Technicolored melodrama about an unhappy, declining, and self-destructive rich oil family in 1950s Texas - it was a lush, psychosexual, trashy tale adapted from Robert Wilder's novel about wealth, greed and lust:

  • under the title credits, weak, alcoholic, gun-loving Texas millionaire and oil heir Kyle Hadley (Oscar-nominated Robert Stack) was driving in an open sports-car while opening a bottle of alcohol with his teeth and swigging from it, as he drove past oil drilling wells; when he returned to the Hadley mansion home, he smashed the liquor bottle against the side of the brick house; then, he entered and brandished a pistol (off-screen) and from outside, a gunshot was heard from inside the mansion; an unidentified figure (Kyle) staggered out and collapsed dead onto the estate's driveway
  • the film was told by flashback, moving from 1956 to 1955, signified by pages of a desk calendar blowing backward in time in the wind to a year earlier
  • the ne'er-do-well, playboyish son of Texas dynasty magnate Jasper Hadley (Robert Keith), Kyle was impulsively and persistently romancing a beautiful, level-headed NY ad agency executive secretary Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall), who was working on a publicity campaign for the Hadley Oil Company; Lucy was escorted by Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), the company's stable, talented, educated, and responsible geologist and foreman, to a NYC restaurant to meet up with Kyle; Mitch's early interest in Lucy was hinted at with his statement as they rode in a taxi to the restaurant: "Maybe we're two of a kind"
  • Kyle's father Jasper had introduced him to Mitch when they were first-grade chums - and there was a striking contrast between the two boys; according to Kyle, only Mitch could fulfill his magnate father's aspirations for a son. He honestly told Lucy about his own personal failings as the number one troublemaker and black sheep of the family - he had a reputation for being a misbehaving misfit; as one of three black sheep in the Hadley family, Kyle was extremely envious of Mitch, who was also romantically interested in Lucy

Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson) with Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall) in NYC

Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack)

Kyle Romancing Lucy Moore
  • the threesome flew to Miami Beach, where Kyle had arranged hotel rooms for the evening's stay; he showered Lucy with extravagant purchases and a fully-equipped bedroom suite; Lucy was truly charmed mostly by the oil baron's whirlwind, "hooky-playing" ways, his lavish gifts and his millions, and even admitted that she actually liked him; Mitch was astonished that he "had Lucy figured wrong...I figured she'd be different than all the rest...If she were, she'd have spit right in your eye"
  • but then an hour later after being overwhelmed by the abundance of wealth, Lucy fled from the hotel in a cab back to the airport, where Kyle sheepishly admitted his manipulative ploy to buy her love; he sincerely apologized ("I'm...sorrier than I've ever been in my whole sorry life"). He proposed starting all over again with her, reversing the day's clock, and showing greater respect for her conservative values and domestic wishes; the two eloped and abandoned Mitch, who was left with the sad revelation that his playboy friend had married such "a beautiful lady"
  • five weeks later in Hadley, Texas, when Kyle and Lucy finally arrived after vacationing in Acapulco during a whirlwind honeymoon, Kyle had sobered up since being married, but he still had many feelings of inferiority and inadequacy, brought on by constant comparisons to Mitch; Lucy definitely had had a reforming and calming influence on him, and in addition to giving up drinking, Kyle had also discarded his gun

Flirtatious Marylee in A Dive Bar

Marylee Cozying Up to Roy Carter

Marylee Offering Herself to Mitch Wayne During Drive Home
  • Mitch received a tip-off phone call from Dan Willis (Robert J. Wilke), the proprietor/bartender of The Cove, a dive bar on the other side of town, about Kyle's 'black-sheep' sister Marylee (Oscar-winning Dorothy Malone), who was wearing a tawdry, garish reddish-pink dress with the front zippered open, and pink gloves, and sharing a booth and drinks with a lower-class gentleman Roy Carter (John Larch); she was a bored, spoiled nymphomaniac with a reputation, who frequently propositioned men
  • after Kyle and Mitch rescued her from degrading herself once again, Marylee offered herself to her unattainable savior Mitch while driving him back to the Hadley mansion in her red sportscar: "Do you love me, Mitch?... I don't want you as a brother...I'll wait, and I'll have you, marriage or no marriage"; Kyle's additional 'black-sheep' sister Marylee was overly-infatuated with Kyle's best friend - the handsome and successful Mitch; however, he was a confirmed bachelor, and had no sexual interest in Kyle's sister Marylee, and he refused her attentions: "Please don't waste your life waiting for me"
  • after Kyle's marriage to Lucy, Mitch became brooding: (according to his father, he "got a bellyfull of the Hadleys"); he was upset about his concealed attraction to Lucy - now snatched away and married; he was contemplating quitting Hadley Oil, and moving away from Texas to Iran to work for Trans American Oil, because of his conflicted feelings about being in love with Kyle's wife
  • in a flashbacked sequence (with audio only), Marylee revisited the river - barefooted, and she became nostalgically-tormented about a vow of undying love from Mitch as a child; in her mind, she heard a childhood conversation between Kyle, Mitch, and herself, when Mitch told her that she was his girl; she collapsed against a tree trunk and a carved heart with the initials MH and MW
  • one year into Kyle's and Lucy's marriage, Marylee was still expressing her love to Mitch, by showing off her sexy bustline to him and quipping: "I've changed since we last swam in the raw, haven't I?"
  • meanwhile, Kyle was anxious about Lucy's wishes to have a child (a Hadley heir); already insecure about his own sperm infertility (and sexual impotence), his insecurities were heightened when he met with Dr. Paul Cochrane (Edward Platt) and asked: "Can she have children?" and was told: "There's nothing wrong with Lucy"

Kyle's Stunned Reaction to News of a "Weakness" In His Sperm Count

Kyle Viewing Young Boy on Rocking Horse, With a Mocking Grin
  • the next day, Kyle learned more from the doctor in a coffee-shop/drugstore about the need for further tests, due to a "weakness" in his sperm count; the word 'weakness' sent fright into Kyle's masculine psyche, as he feared being childless without an heir due to his own crippling lack of virility; standing up before "DRUGS here" advertising signs, he lamely walked to the front door. In contrast to his own wounded sexual condition, he passed a young boy happily bouncing astride a mechanical, coin-operated rocking horse
  • Kyle had returned to drinking after his devastating diagnosis. He was all liquored up at a country club bar, illustrating his progressive descent into a drinking binge after the doctor's death knell to his stability
  • Lucy expressed her concerns about her husband Kyle's heavy drinking to elder patriarch Jasper Hadley; she claimed that he was showing signs of personal demons, and becoming abusive, although Kyle was unwilling to divulge the source of his torment: "We let him drink, hoping he'd talk and tell us what was on his mind. But we learned nothing, except that he's terribly tormented"
  • in the next scene, the delirious Kyle was heard talking in his sleep by Lucy, obsessing about Mitch: "Kid stuff, Mitch. I want to buy a new car, the first flashy car. To hell with college. I wanna have fun with some girls. Nice over in Dallas. To hell with college. Wanna make some money, Mitch? Over at the bottling plant. Old man Daley's place. No, I haven't got any bottles. Old man Daley has. Don't touch me. Touch me, I'll tell my father. That's what I'll do. My father. We weren't stealing, were we, Mitch? We were just stacking some bottles up for you. That's all we were doing, wasn't it, Mitch? Mitch? Mitch. Wait for me. Wait for me!"
  • knowing of his son Kyle's degeneracy, Jasper told Mitch how he blamed himself for his children's short-comings; he viewed his patriarchy as a ruinous, complete failure - to his wife, his brother, and to both of his disturbed, blood-inheriting, pleasure-seeking, spoiled children (Kyle and Marylee) - and then on top of everything else, he witnessed the arrival of another mixed-up offspring - the scandalous Marylee was brought to the mansion in a Hadley police car after she had propositioned a gas station attendant to join her in a motel
  • upstairs after returning home, the lustful Marylee performed a provocative and very sexual mambo 'death' dance (first in a low-cut white dress, then in her black negligee, and then in a full-length, orchid pink gown) in her bedroom (with a picture of Mitch in her arms) -- symbolically intercut with Jasper Hadley having a heart attack and toppling down the full length of the Hadley mansion's spiral-curved staircase to his death
Marylee's Mambo 'Death' Dance - While Jasper Suffered Heart Attack on the Staircase
  • during funeral arrangements for his father, Kyle remained delirious and clutched onto his whiskey bottle, and attributed the death to the failure of the second generation of tarnished Hadleys ("Me and my darling sister - we pushed Dad down the stairs"); he felt that everything was tumbling down around him, and buried his head under his bed covers; Mitch was contemplating leaving the Hadley household once and for all; as Kyle drove Lucy to town, the two jealous siblings Marylee and Kyle observed them from an upstairs window
  • admitting to her own diseased 'filth,' ("I'm filthy, period"), Marylee slyly taunted her self-hating, problematic brother into a drunken rage by adding fuel to the fire; she fed his own crippling, unbalanced insecurities, anxious jealousies, and suspicions of his own sterility; she lied about Lucy and her alleged affair with his best friend Mitch, causing Mitch to return to the bottle; Kyle began to suspect that Mitch, who had affection for Lucy, was cheating with her
  • in town with Mitch after a doctor's appointment, Lucy listened as Mitch declared that he had always loved her, but was leaving for Iran in a week ("How I've felt ever since the first day we met. I'm in love with you"); she surprised him with news that she was pregnant with Kyle's baby (he wasn't sterile after all); Lucy kissed Mitch - this time "for goodbye." She realized she must stay with Kyle
  • however, the self-hating, dead-drunk and suicidal Kyle manufactured mad and insane suspicions about an alleged affair, and made a vicious attack upon Lucy when she told him the good news: ("We're going to have a baby...our baby, yours and mine...Kyle, it's true") - he wrongly assumed that she had been impregnated by Mitch: ("You and Mitch!...What did you think? Do you think I was just a drunken idiot? Did I believe you? That I let you use my name, take my money. You can rot in hell! - You, Mitch, and your little...(he viciously slapped her) You dirty tramp!") - in the unfortunate altercation, Lucy miscarried
  • Mitch ran to Lucy's rescue from downstairs, and visited his pent-up wrath upon Kyle, punching him and throwing him out of the bedroom, and threatening with loudly-yelled words that would return to haunt him: "Get out before I kill you!"

Stand-off Between Mitch and Kyle in Downstairs Study
  • after visiting the local bar to get more booze, Kyle returned home searching for his father's weapon; the roaring drunk, gun-wielding Kyle felt threatened by Mitch and felt he needed to protect himself from the fearsome Mitch, who had shouted loudly about killing him: "Somebody tried to kill me...My best friend"
  • Kyle located his father's hidden gun and held Mitch at gunpoint while screaming at him about his betrayal; Kyle condemned Mitch for his past wrong-doings - stealing the love of his father, sister, and wife!; Mitch stoically denied any sexual involvement with Lucy, but couldn't convince Kyle otherwise ("I never touched Lucy, only because she's your wife"); he then informed Kyle about his lost child: ("Get this straight. The child would have been yours. Not mine. Yours")
  • incensed, the abject Kyle again screamed "lousy white trash" and aimed the gun at Mitch to murder him, as Marylee lunged forward and struggled with him for the weapon; the gun accidentally fired and struck Kyle in his midsection
  • at breakfast before the concluding scene of the courtroom murder inquest into Kyle's death (and the question of Mitch's guilt or innocence), the scheming, spiteful and conniving Marylee hinted that she could easily implicate Mitch in Kyle's death - unless he would choose to marry her (and therefore she couldn't testify against him)
  • on the stand, five witnesses testified to the fact that they heard Mitch Wayne's threats against Kyle Hadley to kill him: Dr. Cochrane, servant Sam and his wife, Dan, and even Lucy; the final witness was Marylee Hadley - her testimony held Mitch's life in the balance
  • she first answered that Mitch Wayne had killed her brother, but then she redeemed herself and reversed her version of what happened - with a decent and honest answer that brought tears to her eyes. She claimed that Mitch was innocent of murder: ("Mitch Wayne was there in the study with my brother. Kyle had a gun in his hand. He was raving mad -- raving about things that weren't so. Mitch tried to talk to him, to make him understand how wrong he was, to stop him from using the gun. Afraid he might even use it on himself, I made a grab for the gun. Kyle and I struggled. The gun went off") - she told the truth about Mitch's pure intentions for Kyle: "...he was worried about Kyle - as a brother for a brother"; she concluded (the film's final line of dialogue) with words about her brother: "He was sad -- the saddest of us all. He needed so much and had so little"
Marylee's Exonerating Courtroom Testimony
  • in the film's ending, Mitch and Lucy departed from the mansion; left alone in her father's office-study, Marylee (wearing a business suit) mimicked her father's pose (in front of his painted portrait) at her father's desk, as she clutched, caressed/fondled (with both hands) and smiled at the miniature bronze model of an oil rig derrick - a small, erect symbol of power, wealth, and comfort; it was a very striking, final sexually-phallic image

Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) - Drinking While Driving to the Hadley Mansion

Unidentified Male Staggered and Collapsed Dead Outside the House

Flashback from 1956 to 1955

In Miami Beach Hotel (l to r): Lucy, Mitch, Kyle

Lucy - Stunned by the Abundance of Wealth Showered Upon Her

Kyle to Lucy: "I want to marry you"

Mitch with Oil Magnate Jasper Hadley

Marylee's Childhood Audio Memories - at the River - of Her Unrequited Love for Mitch

Flirting with Mitch: "I've changed since we last swam in the raw, haven't I?"

Kyle's Return to Drinking at the Country Club

Kyle Talking in His Sleep - Obsessed by Mitch

Kyle Blamed Himself For His Father's Death

Jealous Siblings Watching Mitch and Lucy Drive Off

Marylee Stoking Kyle's Jealousy and Feeding His Insecurities, While Proclaiming: "I'm filthy, period"

Kyle's Vicious Return to Drinking

After Revealing to Mitch That She Was Pregnant With Kyle's Baby, The Two Kissed "Goodbye"

Kyle's Abusive Attack on Pregnant Lucy - "You can rot in hell"

Kyle's Vicious Slap of Lucy - Suspicious That She Had Been Impregnated by Mitch ("You dirty tramp!)

Mitch to Kyle: "Get Out Before I Kill You"

Kyle Shot in Mid-Section After a Struggle For Gun

Marylee Sitting With Oil Rig Derrick


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