Sirk excoriates small-town pettiness and provincialism in this slashing, incisive melodrama. A marvelous Barbara Stanwyck stars as washed-up vaudeville actress Naomi Murdoch, who travels back to the Wisconsin town where the husband and three children she abandoned 10 years earlier still reside. Her sudden reappearance sends shock waves through the community and pits her against her oh-so-scandalized eldest daughter. At every turn, Sirk undercuts the outraged moralizing of the townsfolk, abetted mightily by Stanwyck’s defiant performance. As the world-wise Naomi, she conveys a toughness of spirit that can’t be crushed.