This is our first issue dedicated to a single director. Douglas Sirk was the logical choice. While not exactly a household word himself, some of his films were among the most famous of their time: Magnificent Obsession, Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life. Primarily dismissed as “women’s pictures” or “melodramas” — hardly a reasonable approach — these and other Sirk films have withstood the test of time and are finally beginning to receive the attention due them. Some of Sirk’s films are masterpieces of form, but even his worst films have something to recommend them. Perhaps sooner than we think we’ll see TV Guide refer to Imitation of Life not as “a weepy” but as “one of Douglas Sirk’s masterpieces.”
The primary emphasis of this special issue is on Sirk’s Universal films. While the pre-Universal films are certainly of interest, it is his mid- and late-fifties films that we believe constitute his greatest work. The early films can be dealt with at another time.
We wish to acknowledge Robert Smith, Jeff Wise and Michael Geragotelis, formerly of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, for holding the first complete retrospective of Sirk’s American films in 1975. Thanks also to Andrew Sarris who, through articles and classes helped create a climate in which a Sirk retrospective at MOMA could occur. Additional thanks are due Michael Stern and Jeanine Basinger, who are in large part responsible for the appearance of this issue.
Contributors to this issue include: Jean-Loup Bourget, cultural attache at the French Embassy in New York; Robert Smith, responsible (with Jeff Wise) for many director retrospectives during the early 70s at the University of Connecticut at Storrs; Jeanine Basinger, film professor at Wesleyan University, Connecticut, and author of numerous books; Stephen Handzo, professor and editor of The Thousand Eyes magazine in New York; Jane Stern, author of Trucker; and Michael Stern, who is guest-editing this issue and is co-authoring, with his wife, Jane, upcoming books on “road food” and Americana. The Sterns’ interview with Sirk took place during the spring of 1977, in Lugano Switzerland.