Magnificent Obsession (1935 film)

Magnificent Obsession is a 1935 drama film based on the novel of the same name by Lloyd C. Douglas. The film was adapted by Sarah Y. Mason, Victor Heerman, and George O'Neil, directed by John M. Stahl, and stars Irene Dunne, Robert Taylor, Charles Butterworth, and Betty Furness.

Magnificent Obsession
Movie poster
Directed byJohn M. Stahl
Produced byJohn M. Stahl
Screenplay bySarah Y. Mason
Victor Heerman
George O'Neil
Based onMagnificent Obsession
1929 novel
by Lloyd C. Douglas
StarringIrene Dunne
Robert Taylor
Charles Butterworth
Music byFranz Waxman
CinematographyJohn J. Mescall
Edited byMilton Carruth
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 30, 1935 (1935-12-30)[1]
Running time
112 min.
CountryUnited States

Plot summary

The life of spoiled Robert Merrick (Robert Taylor) is saved through the use of a hospital's only pulmotor, but because the medical device cannot be in two places at once, it results in the death of Dr. Hudson, a selfless, brilliant surgeon and generous philanthropist. Merrick falls in love with Hudson's widow, Helen (Irene Dunne), though she holds him responsible for her husband's demise. One day, he insists on driving her home, and makes a pass at her. She gets out, and is struck by another car, losing her sight. Merrick confronts a friend of Helen's husband, wanting to know why a beautiful young woman would marry a middle-aged man. The doctor's friend tells him that her husband had a philosophy - to help people, but never let it be known that you are the one helping them. Only then, he believed, could there be true reward in life.

Merrick watches over Helen, and visits her during her recuperation, concealing his identity and calling himself Dr. Robert. His true identity is known to Helen's sister-in-law, Joyce (Betty Furness), who keeps it a secret. When he finds out that she is nearly penniless, Merrick secretly pays for specialists to try to restore her vision. Finally, she travels to Switzerland, and is told that her eyesight is gone forever. Robert follows her, confesses his true identity, and proposes marriage. She forgives him, but goes away, not wanting to be a burden to him.

Years later, Robert has become a brain surgeon. He learns that Helen urgently needs an operation, which he performs. When she awakens, her sight has miraculously returned.


Production notes

The film, which raised Robert Taylor to stardom, had its New York City premiere at Radio City Music Hall on December 30, 1935, and drew capacity crowds, despite frigid weather.[1]


The film was remade in 1954 by director Douglas Sirk, with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in the leads.

Adaptations in other media

Magnificent Obsession was adapted as a radio play on the April 26, 1937, and November 13, 1944, broadcasts of Lux Radio Theater, the first starring Robert Taylor and Irene Dunne in their original film roles, the second with Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche. It was also adapted on the January 19, 1941, broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater, starring Myrna Loy and Don Ameche, and the February 13, 1949, broadcast of Screen Director's Playhouse, with Irene Dunne and Willard Waterman.


  1. Brown, Gene (1995). Movie Time: A Chronology of Hollywood and the Movie Industry from Its Beginnings to the Present. New York: Macmillan. p. 125. ISBN 0-02-860429-6.
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