On Seeking the Works of Douglas Sirk and Finding Jerry Hopper’s ‘Never Say Goodbye’

Even though he removed himself from the project, Never Say Goodbye has Sirk's theme of the tyranny of children who dominate their parents.

My determination to watch all the films of ace melodramatist Douglas Sirk leads me to track down films he didn’t make but almost did. According to Wikipedia, Sirk worked on the pre-production of Never Say Goodbye (1956), and was responsible for casting the Ingrid Bergman-esque German actress Cornell Borchers, who’s pretty good.

And here it is from Universal Vault’s on-demand series: a lush ’50s Technicolor melodrama starring Rock Hudson and George Sanders, scored by Frank Skinner and directed by… Jerry Hopper? He’s no Sirk, and the producer isn’t Sirk’s regular collaborator Ross Hunter, so the enervating mix of the far-fetched and ill-advised that constitutes a story doesn’t soar as it might. Still, it’s not entirely without interest. Supposedly based on a Pirandello play, it’s a remake of an earlier Universal item called This Love of Ours (1945) from William Dieterle, which means now I’ve gotta track that down.

Rock plays Dr. Michael Parker, a prominent specialist living in a wonderful two-story house in a golden suburbia on Universal’s backlot. He’s being raised by his pert little daughter Suzy (Shelley Fabares), whom a family friend and fellow doctor declares has “an advanced Electra complex”. She runs his life as efficiently as a majordomo, making sure he keeps his appointments, packs his suitcases, and wears his rubbers in the rain.

Okay, she never says that, but it’s only an accidental oversight that she doesn’t. The “special relationship” between them, in which the girl identifies herself effectively as his wife, isn’t meant to be creepy so much as to suggest that perhaps he’s more comfortable in a sexually undemanding “marriage”. In an early scene, she says “Last one to the car is a sissy!”

Parker goes to Chicago for a conference and we’re introduced to a tavern sketch artist (Sanders) and the latter’s weary pianist (Borchers). She’s called Dorian in what may be a reference to Dorian Gray, but she’s really Lisa from Vienna and is Parker’s dead wife who promptly gets car-struck and must be operated on by him much like in Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession, which most of the audience would have watched two years earlier. Then there’s a long explanatory flashback full of foolish behavior, and then the present day triangle asks the burning question of whether the girl will ever believe or respect her idiotic parents again.

Dr. Michael Parker (Rock Hudson) and Lisa Gosting (Cornell Borchers )

Even though he removed himself from the project, it’s got Sirk’s theme of the tyranny of children who dominate their parents, so it would naturally have attracted his interest for one of his many Hudson vehicles. He supposedly reshot some scenes with Sanders, not that you’d notice.

Unbilled Clint Eastwood wears a white coat and squints at X-rays like he’s seen them somewhere before. John Banner, considerably slimmer than we know him from Hogan’s Heroes, tries to be as adorable as possible with his funny strudel accent. David Janssen, later TV’s The Fugitive, is a virtually unrecognizable army buddy, while one of the doctors is Ray Collins from TV’s Perry Mason. Hopper would direct episodes of The Fugitive and Perry Mason, among many other shows, and his direction is efficient without being transcendent.

The DVD image looks and sounds good but comes with zero extras.

RATING 5 / 10