I saw this movie as a kid and always remembered it but didn't understand why until I caught it, when an adult, on t.v. Even then I wasn't well versed in the movies of Douglas Sirk.
I now know that I saw many of his movies years ago,(but didn't connect them), and each one left an impression that still lingers. This film was probably his most intimate and, whilst understated: b&w photography, (not box office at that time...yet an example of superb cinematography - comparable to Sweet Smell of Success), about 'little' people - their regrets and dreams; it is actually an incisive analysis of the emasculation of the, (american/universal?), middle-aged male, taken for granted by his family - loved - yes but not known/understood/noticed by his children or busy wife.
This film could have been corny in lesser hands but wasn't and remains, 50+ years later, pretty relevant in it's theme and still isn't dated. Admittedly the opening credits are typical '50s melodrama and, when viewing it, it's not until about 10 minutes in you realise that this is not what you expected from what has just gone before.
This is undoubtably Sirk's masterpiece, (but you can argue over that), however it is the players that elevate Sirk's work to perfection.
Can anyone identify a performance of Fred MacMurray's that equals this? (His 'Double Indemnity' was brilliant admittedly; yet here he hits many more layers of humam emotion).
Barbara Stanwyck: probably the most versatile of american Hollywood actresses, gives us a masterclass performance here; she underplays, to absolute perfection, (saving the sparks until they really, really matter).
With 'The Lady Eve' & 'Double Indemnity' this is her finest performance.