I just got my copy of the Criterion Collection’s two DVD set of Magnificent Obsession, containing both the 1935 and 1954 versions. I had watched the Taylor version previously on the internet and the picture and sound quality were awful. There were obvious gaps, as in when a person reacts to something that hasn’t happened. So it was with some trepidation that I inserted my new disc into my laptop. It is unbelievably good. The picture is startlingly clear and detailed. The sound is still not perfect but is worlds better than the other version. Some themes were clear that hadn’t been before, for instance that Bobby Merrick is suicidal before his meeting with Randolph. I say this based on his comments when he and Masterson are parked outside the cemetery. Bobby says something about lying down under a blanket of grass and being at peace. He is later shown at Randolph’s studio posed as an effigy on a bier. Randolph’s intervention, I believe, literally saves his life.
I love Arthur Treacher as Horace the Butler. Arthur Treacher later went on to run a school for butlers and I wonder if this is where his buttling career started.
Granted, some of the plot devices of this film are pretty hard to swallow, especially the timeline, but the fine acting, beautiful photography and top notch production values make it a pleasure. I haven’t watched the 1954 version but the stills of people in bathing suits in living color against a beautiful lake make me think it’s pretty different.