After her husband dies in a fire, a woman (Susan Hayward) is left to tend for her young son and the family farm on her own. Soon, she takes in a drifting handyman, they fall in love, and a resentment begins to build between the son and his new "step-father" who treats the boy harshly on purpose to prepare him for life on the frontier.
Widescreen Aspect Ratio: 2.35:.1
16 x 9
Running time: 102 Minutes
Special Features: Original Theatrical Trailer - Isolated Score Track
DVD notes excerpts by Julie Kirgo:
With her angel face, voice that could effortlessly rev from purr to growl, and luxuriant mane of red hair that seemed, somehow, the sign and symbol of a fiery, deeply sensual temperament, Susan Hayward was, by all appearances, born to be a movie star. She had the attitude, too, embedded like gravel in a skinned knee during a rough childhood tussling on the mean streets of Brooklyn. “I learned at a very early age that life is a battle,” she would say—and it was this pugnacious spirit, fearlessly revealed on the big screen in tough role after tough role, that earned her legions of fans, plenty of gongs (including an Oscar® for playing condemned killer Barbara Graham in Robert Wise’s I Want to Live!), and a reputation that has only grown since her 1975 death after one final battle, with cancer.
Just a glance at the titles of books about Hayward that have appeared since her passing is instructive. Whether they are poetic (Susan Hayward: Fire in the Wind), straightforward (Susan Hayward: Portrait of a Survivor), adamant (A Star, Is a Star, Is a Star!), lurid (Red: The Tempestuous Life of Susan Hayward), or catty (Susan Hayward: The Divine Bitch), they all insist on the put-up-your-dukes persona that made the actress a mythic figure in the 1950s, when, in the words of critic David Thomson, “she came gradually into her own kingdom.” In the same way, Woman Obsessed seems an echt-Queen Susan title, suggesting the egocentric, tormented ultra-intensity that was her stock in trade.
But while Hayward is, as always, full of fight and loaded for bear in this 1959 melodrama, the title may be a bit misleading. For Woman Obsessed—unlike such signature Hayward films as With a Song in My Heart or I’ll Cry Tomorrow—is not a solo star turn. Here she has to share—and she winds up making quite a nice job of it. Rather oddly cast out of her usual urban comfort zone, she plays a hard-working farm wife and mother in the rugged Saskatchewan wilderness. After she loses her husband to a forest fire—merely the first in a series of natural disasters that could make permanent city-dwellers of us all—the widow woman finds plowing and planting to be tough sledding (Hayward has one indelible moment where she looks at an unruly horse as if he’s a nightclub fresh guy she’d like to deck). And then there are the lonely nights; this is one actress who can lie in a conspicuously half-empty bed, say a line like, “Please, dear God—teach me how to live without him,” and make us know exactly what it is she’s missing.
Salvation appears in the heavily muscled form of a taciturn hired man (Stephen Boyd), a deft hand at wielding an axe while looking good in a tighty-whitey t-shirt. Boyd gives a fascinating performance as an inarticulate yet earnest creature horribly damaged by life but nevertheless longing for love. He’s as skittish as a wild thing yearning to be tamed: wanting to be petted but all too ready to bite any outstretched hand. And he’s very nearly Hayward’s match in the tempestuousness department: a moody, suffering wretch who, like her, has lost a spouse, rather more mysteriously, to fire (one can’t help imagining these two, with their smoldering gazes, inciting spontaneous combustion in their respective mates).
For the complete notes see the DVD booklet!