Filmsite Movie Review
Written on the Wind (1956)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

End of October, 1956 (A Year later)

Complicated Relationships Between an Oil Heir, His Wife, His Best Friend, and His Sister:

At a high-society, one-year wedding anniversary party held at the Hadley mansion in October, Marylee (in a strapless black gown, elbow-length gloves, and diamond earrings) looked longingly for Mitch. She found him hiding upstairs from the festivities - he was alone and plucking a ukulele in his darkened, childhood bedroom. She recalled "all those wonderful afternoons" they used to spend together there when it rained and they couldn't visit their "river haunt." When she switched on the light, Mitch played a discordant chord. When complimented on her "real flattering" dress that showed off her sexy bustline, Marylee responded: "I've changed since we last swam in the raw, haven't I?"

She was amazed that her degenerate, self-loathing brother Kyle was "still sober and still faithful" a year after his marriage to Lucy, but she had little hope for permanence: "It can't last much longer...There's only so much a woman [Lucy] can do, and no more." She still flaunted herself at Mitch, cozying up close to him, and speculating, but he saw through her ploys:

Mitch: You've got your axe buried in Kyle's head, and you're grinding it at the same time.
Marylee: I can think of much better things than making small talk.

But Mitch (called an "idiot boy") suggested a pure activity - dancing - rather than the obvious alternative, and they joined the party in progress downstairs.

After a Year of Marriage, Kyle's Insecurities Grew:

As a gift for her one year anniversary, Jasper presented Lucy with a necklace. Kyle was anxious about Lucy's wishes to have a child (a Hadley heir), and during the party asked one of the guests, Dr. Paul Cochrane (Edward Platt) to examine Lucy during a regular office visit. To his shock, he learned that Lucy had been visiting the doctor regularly. His insecurities about his own sperm infertility (and sexual impotence) were heightened after he asked: "Is Lucy all right? What I mean, is, can she have children?" and was firmly told: "There's nothing wrong with Lucy." A meeting was scheduled for the next morning to discuss the matter further. Kyle turned and his fears were refueled when he saw Mitch dancing with his wife at the foot of the staircase, and tensely told them:

Somebody just stole my magic dancing slippers.

The next day as Mitch left work at lunchtime, Marylee (in a tight, bright yellow turtleneck) was sitting in the passenger seat of his company car, stalking his every move. She was delighted when he accepted her invitation to join her for a picnic basket lunch at the river: "Maybe you finally see the light in my eyes." As she set up a blanket, she told him that she slept in his upstairs "old room" after he left the party, but he was more interested in whether Kyle had a "spat" with Lucy. That morning according to Marylee, Kyle had 'bit her head off' when Marylee commented that he looked sick. Changing the subject, Marylee produced a chilled bottle of wine from the river and suggested: "Let's eat, drink and be merry," and grabbed onto Mitch's shoulder: "No one will ever know you as I do."

Kyle kept his appointment with Dr. Cochrane in the local downtown coffee-shop/drugstore to discuss Kyle's recent medical tests. The doctor mentioned the need for further tests to clarify what might be causing a "weakness" in his sperm count:

The tests we took show a, well, let's call it a weakness. Believe me, you're not sterile. And there is hope, real hope, that in time, we'll be able to correct that weakness.

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. The boy's grin mocked the distraught Kyle's pain about his low sperm count and reproductive failure.

Promiscuous Marylee, and Drunken Alcoholic Kyle:

Promiscuous Marylee's room was decorated with bright-red anthuriums (penile-protruding plants), a glass-case filled with exotic bottles of perfumes, and a prominent, framed black and white portrait of Mitch. By phone, she was invited by "brother Mitch" to join Kyle and Lucy for dinner at the country club, but she protested that she was disinterested unless it was going to be "an exciting evening." To symbolize her disapproval, she turned over Mitch's portrait.

Instead, she drove to Bob's Service Station where she recognized ex-football player and gas station attendant Biff Miley (Grant Williams) from her high school days. Their first few words were indicative of her vacuous sexual needs and existence:

Attendant: Fill her up?
Marylee: Yes.

She enticed him after they exchanged familiarities: "Your number's in my program...What do we do now? Break into a chorus of 'Hail, Alma Mater'?" After he was easily persuaded to leave work a half hour early, he advised her to wait and "just keep the motor running."

Meanwhile, Mitch and Lucy found Kyle had returned to drinking after his devastating diagnosis. He was all liquored up at the country club bar before their dinner engagement. He had begun a progressive descent into a drinking binge after the doctor's death knell to his stability. Their cramped positioning and conversation was immediately strained as he made a celebratory toast to the commencement of his drinking habit ("end of a drought"), and to "truth":

Kyle: A toast to - to beauty - and the truth, which is anything but beautiful.
Lucy: Come on. Let's have some dinner.
Kyle: Honey, this is an occasion. We must proceed with, with quiet dignity.
Mitch: What are we celebrating?
Kyle: The end of a drought, a year-long drought.
Mitch: We drank a toast to truth.
Kyle: So?
Mitch: So you ought to let us in on what you're really celebrating - or mourning. (Kyle laughed and requested more "potions")...
Kyle: So you'd like to know my secret. The secret is - not to pour the vermouth, just to pretend you're pouring it.

As Kyle was experiencing an emotional downturn, and collapsed onto the bar, in a brief sequence, police were summoned to the El Paraiso Motel (underneath gigantic, throbbing oil wells) where they found Marylee dallying with Biff.

With Lucy helping, Mitch carried Kyle over his shoulder into the Hadley mansion. Lucy claimed that he was showing signs of personal demons, and becoming abusive, although the unwilling Kyle had not divulged the source of his problems. The two were unable to explain why Kyle had reverted back to his drinking addiction, and had thought that in a dead-drunk condition, he might tell them what was wrong: "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!

Downstairs, after seeing Kyle's degeneracy when he was carried into the mansion, 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 Joe, and to both of his disturbed, blood-inheriting, pleasure-seeking, spoiled children ("I failed them all-- my wife and my brother Joe. Both my children"); Mitch attempted to console Jasper: "I think you're being too hard on yourself."

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 with her evening's pickup. When Jasper questioned Marylee's date Biff, it was clear that trampish Marylee had propositioned him to sleep with her in a motel:

Jasper: Where did you first meet my daughter?
Biff: I never met her before, not till she picked me up tonight.
Jasper: She picked you up?
Biff: Sure. That's how she operates.
Jasper: What do you mean, 'operates'?
Biff: It's just that I've never heard of anybody ever picking her up, that's all. It's always the other way around.
Jasper: How do you know?
Biff: Why don't you just walk up and down Main Street and ask somebody, huh?
Jasper: I'm asking you!
Biff: Look, I don't like to shoot my mouth off. I also don't like being on the carpet. I didn't take her to the motel. She took me. Your daughter's a tramp, mister. If that ain't plain enough for ya...

Jasper was restrained by Mitch from reaching for a revolver in his desk drawer, and charges were dropped against Biff, although Mitch cautioned the gas station attendant to "keep it quiet."

Defeated Jasper's Death:

From upstairs, Marylee watched as Biff was driven away by the police. With the framed picture of Mitch in her arms, Marylee performed a frantic, hip-twisting, masturbatory mambo dance to blaringly loud, chaotic music. She stripped down from her white dress to a black negligee as the music permeated throughout the house. Her orgasmic dance was intercut with her suffering father struggling to ascend the long winding staircase - linking the two and suggesting a cause-and-effect relation. Then, Marylee in a satiny, see-through, jarring orange-sherbert colored, chiffon gown, photographed from waist level, twirled around and kicked her legs out.

At the top of the stairs, Marylee's overt and staggering sexuality overpowered him. Weakened, Jasper grasped the railing, was stricken with a fatal heart attack, and tumbled down the curving stairs. The frenzied scene faded to black.

A black-ribboned wreath hung on the Hadley mansion gates. The ribbon was blown away from the green wreath and up the driveway. 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.

When asked by Lucy whether he loved her, he wrapped his arms around his knees, cringed, buried his head, and lamented, without expressing his true feelings of sexual inadequacy:

Lucy: Do you love me?
Kyle: Love you? I don't even love myself.
Lucy: Kyle, what is it? Is it something I've said or something I've done or should have done?
Kyle: I can't tell you. I'm afraid. It's like I was deep in a mountain pass, snowcaps hanging over my head. If I make a sound, snow might all come tumbling down. Bury me - alive. (He desperately buried his head under the bed covers)

At the end of a long week, Mitch read all of the Western Union telegrams of condolences at Jasper's desk. He told Lucy that he would be leaving soon (to take the job in Iran) to escape from the Hadley's cursed, slutty, masochistic lives:

Mitch: About time for me to clear out.
Lucy: Bored?
Mitch: Disgusted. Mostly with myself.
Lucy: But I - I need you here.
Mitch: That's the only reason I stayed - to help you.
Lucy: Not Kyle?
Mitch: I made a resolution last week. It goes like this - To Hell With The Hadleys.
Lucy: I'm a Hadley.
Mitch: Not to me you're not.
Lucy: I respect my marriage.
Mitch: Haven't I?

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