Filmsite Movie Review
Written on the Wind (1956)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Marylee's Taunting of Kyle, Fueling His Insecurities:

On his way to his Dad's place, Mitch drove off with Lucy to drop her off in town - their departure was witnessed by the two jealous siblings Marylee and Kyle who were watching from an upstairs window. (This was a common occurrence in the film - peering views from behind curtains and windows.)

Admitting to her own diseased 'filth,' ("I'm filthy, period"), Marylee slyly taunted her self-hating, problematic brother into a drunken rage and added fuel to the fire by feeding 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

Marylee: That was no lady. That was your wife.
Kyle: Where are they going?
Marylee: I don't know. Where would you take your best friend's wife?
Kyle: You're a real sweet kid.
Marylee: Now be nice to me, brother. One morning we'll wake up, and we'll be all alone together.
Kyle: Go on, sister. Tell me another pretty story.
Marylee: Once upon a time, there was a poor little rich boy.
Kyle: Kyle Hadley by name.
Marylee: Who pickled his tiny brain with gin and bourbon.
Kyle: Not so. Scotch.
Marylee: Till he got so stinking blind, he couldn't see what was going on right under his big red nose.
Kyle: But his charming, righteous little sister did.
Marylee: Yes, she saw the end of a marriage and the beginning of a love affair.
Kyle: You're a filthy liar.
Marylee: I'm filthy - period. But you don't have to take my word for anything. Just try keeping your head clear and your eyes open.
Kyle: Why should you care? You've never cared about me.
Marylee: Or your wife.
Kyle: Why are you putting your two cents in?
Marylee: Only because of Mitch. Because I've never had him, and your wife has.

Kyle slapped her across the face, then turned and reached for a drink glass, and splashed his reflected mirror image with the alcohol.

Lucy's News That She Was Pregnant:

In town, Lucy was dropped off at Dr. Cochrane's office in the Medical Building for an hour-long appointment. Mitch almost told Lucy of his deep feelings for her. When he picked her up after her appointment, he confessed his plans to leave for Iran in the next week, on a tanker from Baltimore, to work for Trans American Oil - and then blurted out how he felt about her:

I can't keep holding back how I feel about you, Lucy. How I've felt ever since the first day we met. I'm in love with you.

They impulsively kissed, but then Lucy broke it off with a confession of her own. She discovered from the doctor the reason for Kyle's heavy drinking - he feared that he might never have children. But this was only the doctor's "medical opinion, not a fact." She divulged that the opposite was true: "I'm going to have a baby." Lucy kissed Mitch - this time "for goodbye." She realized she must stay with Kyle.

The Destabilization of Kyle - His Belief That Mitch Was Cheating with Lucy:

Upon their return to the Hadley mansion, Marylee told them that Kyle "hopped into his kiddie car and flew. And I mean flew...If he wasn't (drunk), he was well on his way." Kyle was seen purchasing a bottle of whiskey at The Cove, being offered unwelcome advice from bartender Dan, and drinking himself into oblivion with the rot-gut poison:

Dan: Can I level with you, Kyle?...Well, it seems to me, Mr. Hadley, if I were one of the richest men in the world, I wouldn't be sitting in a place like this drinking raw corn...I'd be over at the country club, drinking bonded bourbon. Nothing but...
Kyle: I like bootlegged corn better. It's full of memories. Each swig takes me back, far back. You know, good ol' days, when a fellow knew nothing and cared less.

By evening time just as dinner was being served in the cavernous dining room, the sounds of Kyle's roaring car engine and screeching tires announced his return home. Drunk as a skunk, he staggered into the dining room, turned over the chilled shrimp cocktail being served to him by black servant Sam (Roy Glenn), and ordered: "Bring me a cocktail I can drink. And I don't mean tomato juice." Lucy urged him upstairs, as he quipped to her: "You wish to confess?" He had been poisoned by Marylee with the belief that Mitch was having an affair with her.

Upstairs in their bedroom, Kyle begged Lucy to travel with him to places from their past (Acapulco, Palm Beach) "like turning back the clock." He also insinuated her loose living: "Are you sure your husband's out of town?" And then when Lucy began to tell him the 'good news' of her medical condition (that she was pregnant) after her doctor's visit, he expected only bad news and suspected she knew of his infertility. The news of Lucy's pregnancy, coupled with his own self-loathing, drunken haze of understanding, willful blindness, and inability to accept Lucy's love, made him presuppose that Mitch had to be the father:

Lucy: Kyle, I went to see Dr. Cochrane this morning.
Kyle: He told you about me, didn't he?
Lucy: I said the news was good.
Kyle: What's good about it?
Lucy: We're - we're going to have a baby. (Kyle scoffed)
Kyle: You mean adopt one.
Lucy: No. No, our baby. Yours and mine.
Kyle: No, no, no.
Lucy: Kyle, it's true.
Kyle: You shouldn't have done that to me. You shouldn't have.
Lucy: What are you talking about?
Kyle: Mitch. You and the Mitch.
Lucy: Don't say that Kyle. Don't even think it.
Kyle: What did you think? You think I was just a drunken idiot? That I'd believe you? That I'd let you use my name? Take my money? You can rot in hell! You, Mitch, and your little...
Lucy: Kyle, I've had nothing to do with Mitch.
Kyle: (striking out with rage) You dirty tramp!

Lucy's Miscarriage:

He viciously slapped her, causing her to fall onto the side of the bed and onto the floor. Lucy's screams brought Mitch running to her rescue from downstairs. He 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 (a similar line was bellowed by Joan Crawford to her daughter in Mildred Pierce (1945)):

Get out of here. Get out before I kill you!

Kyle retreated to his car and the Cove for some heavy drinking, as Mitch phoned for Dr. Cochrane to treat Lucy. After examining Lucy, the diagnosis was that she had experienced a miscarriage, and would have to be moved to the hospital in the morning. As he departed at the front door, the doctor asked an "impertinent question" of Mitch, who bluntly responded before hearing the question: "Kyle had no cause." When asked where Kyle might have gone, Mitch told the doctor - within hearing of Marylee: "He'd (Kyle) better not come back here tonight. I'll tell you that."

At the Cove, a bloody-faced Kyle, looking like a "bum", ordered another bottle of corn alcohol, thereby scaring away other couples and customers. He also asked to purchase Dan's gun for $100 dollars, but was denied the sale: "No sale...Take your courage and let me be." Kyle told Dan the reason he needed a weapon - to protect himself from Mitch: "Somebody tried to kill me...My best friend."

Kyle raced home - returning the story to the opening sequence.

Deadly Altercation Between Mitch and Kyle - Kyle's Accidental Death:

As Mitch was caring for Lucy in her bedroom, she begged and hugged him to rescue her immediately: "Take me away, Mitch. Take me out of this house...Now. I'm afraid." He promised: "I won't leave you." The drunken Kyle roared into the driveway, his brakes screeching. He shattered his whiskey bottle by heaving it against the brick house, awakening Marylee upstairs and Sam (and his wife) in their basement quarters. Sam's wife feared: "There's gonna be a killin'."

Kyle opened the front door - with the wind sweeping decaying leaves into the Hadley estate. He searched in his father's study-desk for a gun, and then in the dining room drawers and kitchen cabinets, shattering glass and spilling silverware everywhere. Marylee (with her eyes highlighted) listened from upstairs. He then toppled books from his father's shelves looking for the weapon (hidden earlier by Mitch). Mitch entered the downstairs study-office just as the weapon was discovered (where Mitch had hidden it in a bookcase), and found himself at gunpoint.

The pistol-waving Kyle screamed at him about his betrayal, and condemned Mitch for his past wrong-doings - stealing the love of his father, sister, and wife!

You lousy white trash. You no-account, two-faced dog. I'm gonna watch you cringe. Then I'm gonna put a bullet in your best friend. My lifelong pal. What a laugh! You crawlin' snake. You crept in here, sponged off us Hadleys, stole everything I ever wanted, everything I ever had...You made me small in my father's eyes. You made my sister spit at me. Then, you stole my wife.

Mitch denied taking anything from Kyle. In their past, Mitch remembered how he had always "taken the blame" for Kyle's misdeeds, and explained the childhood incident when the two boys were caught stealing, and Mitch took all the blame - and was labeled as "trash":

Mitch: You know who you sound like? Old man Daley. Remember old man Daley and the pop bottles? It was your idea to steal them. I couldn't talk you out of it, so I went along. But when he caught us, he didn't blame you, he blamed me. And he grabbed me and he kicked the tar out of me. I remember him saying, 'This is what Hadley gets for letting his boy play with trash like you.'
Kyle: He had you pegged right. You are trash!
Mitch: I took the blame for stealing those bottles, just like I've always taken the blame for you, but I'm not gonna take it for this.

This time, Mitch refused to be the fall-guy. Mitch stoically denied any sexual involvement with Lucy, but couldn't convince Kyle otherwise. He informed Kyle about his lost child:

Kyle, we've never lied to each other. And I'm tellin' you now, I never touched Lucy, only because she's your wife. 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. Lucy heard the gunshot and fell to the floor. Delirious with pain, Kyle asked: "What are we doing here, Mitch?...Let's go down to the river where we belong."

He struggled to the door and collapsed outside on the driveway, while stuttering about escape and a return to a place of earlier happiness: "I'll be down at the river, waiting, waiting."

A Murder Inquest and Marylee's Exonerating Testimony About Mitch:

The News Herald's Headlines:


During breakfast before the murder inquest, the repeatedly spurned, 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). Mitch refused and labeled her emotional blackmail a sick pathology:

Marylee: I could tell the police that I saw you kill my dear brother.
Mitch: You could.
Marylee: On the other hand, a wife wouldn't and couldn't testify against her own husband.
Mitch: You know, for a beautiful girl, you can look real ugly sometimes. Ask yourself this: Would I ever be enough for you?
Marylee: I can talk you right into the state penitentiary.
Mitch: You're sick, Marylee. Your sickness won't be cured by marrying me. Before it's too late, you'd better face up to yourself. Look how far we've come from the river.

At the inquest presided over by Judge R.J. Courtney (Joseph Granby), 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, who had the opportunity to either indict or incriminate Mitch. 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:

Marylee: 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.
Judge: Miss Hadley, five persons under oath have testified that Mitch Wayne threatened to kill Kyle Hadley.
Marylee: They [the other five witnesses] don't know Mitch Wayne as I know him. Whatever he (Mitch) may have said, means nothing. Except he was worried about Kyle, as a brother for a brother...(Kyle)...was depressed by Father's sudden death and he'd been drinking...My brother always drank too much. He was sad, the saddest of us all. He needed so much and had so little.

The Denouement:

The final scene showed Mitch departing/escaping in a car with Lucy, the two non-Hadleys, from the front of the estate. Marylee, wearing a drab and tame, tailored icy-blue business suit (unlike previous outfits - as a symbol of her reformed ways?), watched them leave and then was left alone in her father's office-study. She sat at the desk under a domineering portrait of Jasper touching one of his lucrative oil derricks. The oil-rich Hadley dynasty, with all the riches in the world, was left corruptible, inadequate, ruined, and impotent, following the death of its patriarch and son, and the exit of its right-hand man.

In one of the film's most striking sexually-phallic images, Marylee mimicked her father's pose at his desk, as she sat all alone in the empty house. She clutched, caressed, and 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.

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