on July 7, 2001
This has got to be the most beautifully photographed film I have ever seen. "Leave Her to Heaven" won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, and never was that award so richly deserved. There's a scene in a railroad car between Cornel Wilde and Gene Tierney that looks 3-D, and that's no jive.
However, the movie itself is what we used to call in grade school, nasty. Gene Tierney plays an amoral woman who will stop at nothing--and it just gets worse and worse--to keep Cornel Wilde all to herself. The other reviewers have characterized her as psychopathic, and she must be, to be so obsessed with Cornel Wilde of all people! He doesn't really do anything to deserve all this attention from her, except for a tell-tale detail: he resembles her late father, whose ashes Gene spreads all over New Mexico while bouncing somewhat suggestively on her horse. So there's this ever-so-slight suggestion of incest at the beginning of the movie, although we never really go much more into it.
Still, campy cult film that it is, I enjoyed this movie until she went out on the lake with Corne's crippled brother--that's the nasty part, I'm afraid. She encourages him to swim beyond his endurance and lets him drown in front of her. Now, although she goes on to do some other awful things throughout the movie, this one scene was too upsetting for me, reminding me of the scene in the original "Frankenstein" between the monster and the little girl he kills. It's too discordant, frankly; while the rest of the movie is kind of absurd in its campiness, this is something very different, very sadistic. In fact, because of that one scene, I can never really recommend this movie to my friends, although I wistfully mention the wonderful photography. So, if you are beyond being disturbed by mistreatment of the vulnerable, you'll be able to enjoy this movie quite thoroughly; if not, be prepared to fast-forward when they hit that lake.
on November 21, 2002
"Leave Her To Heaven" is in many ways quite a disturbing and unsettling film while never failing to intrigue me with its story based on a well known book by Ben Ames Williams of a beautiful but quite disturbed young woman who must have everything she desires entirely to herself no matter what the cost. We have probably all experienced moments of possessiveness in our lives but in this story it is taken to the extreme with ultimately tragic results.
The stunning Gene Tierney, probably one of the most beautiful actresses ever to grace the screen was reaching her peak in early 1945 when this film went into production having already filmed the classic "Laura" two years earlier. With "Leave Her To Heaven" she got her one Academy Award nomination playing the disturbed and manipulative Ellen Berent a priveledged young lady who sets her sight on something and never lets up until she has obtained it. In this instance the object of her affection is Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde)a successful writer who she meets on a train and later marries. The film chronicles her slow descent into an obsessive need to keep Richard to herself at the expense of family, friends and even human life. Her psychopathic need to keep her husband to herself finds her jilting her current fiance (Vincent Price) without so much as an explanation, alienating Richard's friend Leick (Chill Wills), deliberatly loosing her unborn baby, and in the most disturbing and indeed most famous scene in the film, allowing Richard's younger brother to drown in a lake. This last scene never fails to upset me when viewed and Gene Tierney is chillingly scary in the scene hidden as she is behind dark glasses while the boy is drowning in front of her.
"Leave Her To Heaven" benefits from some of the most lush cinematography of the mid 1940's and the beautiful colour used here adds greatly to the overrall look and feel of the production. Tierney is just right for the villianess role she plays here and her icy beauty, which is emphasised with the colour photography, along with her cold demeanour are just right for the role.
In major supporting roles the earlier mentioned Vincent Price who was in "laura" with Tierney scores as the disgruntled ex-fiance and Jeanne Crain as Ellen's sister, and the object of her intense jealousy over her good relationship with Richard is also right on track. Mary Philips as Ellen's mother is also effective and gets to say probably the most famous line in the film when she states that "There's nothing wrong with Ellen, she just happens to love too much". Indeed loving too much is the basis for this whole story and is what brings the story to its tragic conclusion which finds Ellen killing herself when she realises that she has lost Richard for ever because of her actions.
"Leave Her To Heaven" is an absorbing melodrama of the first order and captures Gene Tierney at her most stunning and in this role at her most sinister. If you enjoy stories about people who are less than perfect "Leave Her To Heaven" will be a film that you will enjoy. Disturbing it certainly is but done with alot of professionalism and fine performances to make it very absorbing viewing.
on May 26, 2002
Deliciously colorful, this movie brings our cinematography alongside the wonderful Achers productions from England (BLACK NARCISSUS, RED SHOES, STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN.)
If deficient from point of view of original story richness, we can still enjoy this film. And dig that gorgeous stoney lakeside house filling the screen!
I'm surprised there isn't a larger cult following for this brilliantly colored, yet strange movie. Its romantic plot would appeal to the grandma/auntie/housewife/lovestruck set; and its more noirish themes are dark enough to appeal to cult film fans and film noir fans alike.
I love this film. I have seen it three or four times. If your taste is for visually compelling American film, you should surely own this gem. The only people I might suggest steer clear, are Schwarzenegger fans and lovers of obtuse special effects. There is another kind of compelling beauty here.
on March 5, 2005
By its very definition, "film noir" (meaning, dark film) does not encompass Technicolor productions. A shame, since Darryl F. Zanuck's "Leave Her To Heaven" (1945) is as thrilling, disturbing and evocative of the noir style as anything shot in black and white. At best then, let's just say that "Leave Her to Heaven" is a rich, finely wrought tapestry of sinaster thoughts and destructive ambition. The film, based on a novel by Ben Ames Williams, is concerned with the seemingly congenial romance that blossoms between famous writer, Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde, looking quite stylish and very handsome) and statuesque beauty, Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney, as smoldering, sultry and radiant as ever). Richard and Ellen meet as strangers on a train - a chance pairing that leads to an idyllic first summer retreat in the mountains with Ellen's family; mother, (Mary Philips), father (Ray Collins) and younger sister (fresh faced Jeanne Crain - clearly being groomed on this occasion as the odds on favorite for Richard's affections). A slight hickup in Ellen's plans happens when her former beaux, Russell Quinton (Vincent Price) deliberately turns out to pitch a little rice on the side of her pending nuptuals. Later, Quinton's own desires for Ellen will culminate in his prosecution of Richard for murder. But for now, Ellen isn't about to let anything or anyone come between her and the man of her passions.
By the time Tierney made "Leave Her To Heaven" she had developed a reputation as Fox's good girl. The culmination of this role and her formidable zest to make the transformation from congenial maiden to cold-hearted vixen believable, forever altered that perception of her in Hollywood.As her younger sister, Jeanne Crain is an excellent foil and runner up for Richard's affections. Even Vincent Price is exceptionally convincing as Ellen's former and very jealous lover. The one disappointment, in terms of acting, is Cornel Wilde. Undeniably eye candy, Wilde's performance comes off rather stiff and unconvincing once the character of Richard awakens from his love struck stupor and realizes what sort of monster he's actually married. Nevertheless, the material given to all is indestructible, and directed with slick and sinaster panache by the gifted John M. Stahl, "Leave Her To Heaven" emerges as sensational sure fire entertainment.
Fox Home Entertainment has done a simply outstanding job in remastering this film for DVD. From its opening title sequence, so clear and finely rendered that one can make out the texture of paper on which the actor's names have been printed, to the deep focus photography which is luminous, there is absolutely no finer example of a Technicolor film to video transfer of this vintage available on the home video market today. Colors are rich and fully saturated. Shadow and contrast levels are superbly rendered. Clarity and fine detail throughout is outstanding. Blacks are solid and deep. Whites are pristine. The exterior photography is absolutely eye-popping. The audio has been remixed to stereo. But there is very little to distinguish it from the original Mono mix that has also been included. Extras include a stills gallery, audio commentary track, restoration comparison and theatrical trailer. Highly recommended for anyone who loves classic films.
on September 30, 2002
This is an effective noir. Yes it is kind of slow at times, but Gene Tierney more than makes up for it. This is her movie! She finally gets the chance to play a rich character. She is a manipulative and jealous villian. Jeanne Crain and Cornell Wilde play such boring characters I couldn't help but route for her. I've always been against techincolor, but this is one of the few movies where I didn't find anything wrong with it. The only thing I would really change would be the ending.
on May 10, 2002
Although a few "prestige" actresses (Bette Davis among them) continued to play "vixen" roles, during WWII most of Hollywood's leading ladies were presented as the sort of woman a solider could dream about: whether bouncy like Betty Hutton or glamorous like Joan Crawford, they were good-hearted, dependable, and waiting for the boys to come home. Then in 1945 one of Hollywood's most beautiful leading ladies played a role that undercut the girl next door with an ax, and after that nothing would be quite the same.
Seen within the context of its times, it is easy to understand why LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN was one of the great shockers of its day. Based on a popular novel by Ben Ames Williams, the film tells the story of Ellen Berent, a woman who seems absolutely flawless in every way imaginable: she is beautiful, intelligent, and of good social background. But she is also a psychopath who marries novelist Richard Harland (Corniel Wilde) because he looks a bit like her dead father, to whom she had an obsessive attachment--and once married she determines to have him completely to herself, even if that means destroying any one with the slightest claim on his affections.
Seen today, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN has a clunky feel to it: the script has all the nuance of a wrecking ball in full swing. But the film still fascinates by virtue of the visual beauty (it won an Oscar for color cinematography) that overlays its very direct story of darkest evil, with Gene Tierney's performance as Ellen the pivotal point. Tierney was never more breath-takingly beautiful, and although her performance lacks nuance it is surprisingly powerful in its simplicity. While we might dismiss the film in comparison to such recent and similar shockers as FATAL ATTRACTION, it is impossible to dismiss the vision of such physical loveliness as a mask for darkest evil; the scene in which she allows a child to drown, for example, is justly famous, simply filmed in a beautiful setting in full day light, with Tierney's beautiful face suddenly mask-like, implacable. The film is dated, yes, and greatly flawed--but it remains memorable to this day.
on July 15, 2001
I watched the video expecting much, and was deeply disappointed. The film has attracted sophisticated academic attention and has excited the enthusiasm of many friends, but I can hardly see why. The script is incoherent, as if about half an hour had been cut. The acting is poor: Cornel Wilde is simply following instructions, sticking out his jaw and saying nothing (this is how he shows he is thinking). Jeanne Crain doesn't act at all, and Darryl Hickman, when he drowns, does everyone a favour. Gene Tierney comes out with credit, though is nowhere close to her performance in Preminger's Laura (1945). The problem is the direction: Stahl gets nothing out of his actors, and in the editing closes almost every scene with a fade to black, attempting to convey the same moody fatality as Alfred Newman's one-dimensional score. The whole is thing is crude, charmless and lacking in the pychological coherence that, one hopes, made the book so popular. Even the Oscar-winning cinematography is bland, managing only to demonstrate how much more effective Douglas Sirk was with the same kind of material. A few good points: Mary Phillips as Ellen's mother is excellent, and the piano playing of whoever doubles for Jeanne Crain superb. And one good line: 'sometimes the truth is wicked'.
on May 23, 2001
Gene Tierney, with her beautiful cheekbones, creamy skin, icy blue eyes, delicious overbite, and chestnut hair, was a vision of loveliness-one of the great beauties of the screen. She was also an underrated actress, who played "good" girls in films such as "Heaven Can Wait", "Laura", "The Ghost and Mrs Muir", and "Dragonwyck",and bitches in films such as "The Razor's Edge", "The Egyptian", and, of course, "Leave Her to Heaven" a technicolor "film noir". In this, her Oscar-nominated role, she plays Ellen Berent, a woman whose insane jealousy and possessiveness causes misery and death to those around her. She sets her eyes on writer Richard Harland, (Cornel Wilde) who reminds her of her late father. Ellen had an unusual, almost incestuous relationship with her father-one even suspects that she drove him to his death. Having jilted her district attorney fiancee Russell Quentin, played by Vincent Price, she sets out to hook Harland. It seems that Ellen doesn't want to share her husband's affections with anyone, including his crippled kid brother, whom she lets drown when he attempts to swim across a lake, and her unborn child, when she deliberately throws herself down a flight of stairs to induce a miscarriage. When Ellen's jealousy of her sister's relationship and budding affection for her husband, along with his discovery of the truth of his brother's and unborn child's deaths force him to leave her in disgust, she plots the ultimate act of vindictiveness-she fatally poisons herself, and sends a letter implicating her sister and husband to her ex-fiancee Quentin. This doll didn't play! Miss Tierney, who had suffered a nervous breakdown in the 1950s after a series of unfortunate incidents in her personal life, wrote in her book "Self Portrait", that the character she played in this film was insane-and that she tried very hard,and convincingly, to make others think that she was not. Miss Tierney's performance is very believable, restrained, and positively chilling. The Technicolor photography, while beautiful, has a certain "chilliness" which actually heightens the film's drama-a rather unusual twist, as this type of fare was usually filmed in black and white. Add to this a powerful, chilling score by Alfred Newman, good performances by Wilde, Price, the lovely Jeanne Crain, and Darryl Hickman, and you have an entertaining, slickly produced melodrama. Yes, jealousy is one of the seven deadly sins-and in this film, it is "deadlier than the male"!
on July 17, 2000
A soap opera, to be sure, but what a soap opera! I agree with the preceding reviews, and want to add a few things that weren't mentioned. First, Cornel Wilde is fabulous in the role. I know this is a controversial statement, but his underacting was exactly right. He hasn't gotten enough credit over the years, in my opinion. In a way, his performance in this movie is a lot like Montgomery Clift's in "The Heiress"; understated, exactly right for the movie. Clift, like Wilde, hasn't gotten anything like the credit he deserves. Also, no one has mentioned Vincent Price's role as the district attorney. I wondered at first what he was doing in this movie, as a competitor to Wilde for Gene Tierney's affections. But when we get to the courtroom scene at the end, Socko! His timing as a cross-examiner should be required viewing for law students (and I think I know what I'm saying, being a law professor and a litigator). As for the "breathtaking" scenery in the movie, well, I don't go to the movies to whistle the scenery. It was a tad distracting, but not overly so. John M. Stahl did a spectacular job directing; you can tell when you don't notice the direction at all. I think this has a lot to do with the editing and cutting; there were great editors back in those days, people who cared about continuity and didn't call attention to themselves. If "Leave Her to Heaven" were made with today's directors and editors, it would by-pass the theatres and be released as silently as possible to the video rental stores.
on May 16, 2000
The real star of this fascinating little movie is the breath-taking Technicolor photography of Maine and New Mexico; even the architecture is great to look at (as is the gorgeous Gene Tierney!). Tierney's role of Ellen Berent has received almost cult status over the years since her character is that of an obsessive and cruel, selfish and evil woman; her relationship with Cornel Wilde indeed makes for an unusual and strange love story! Ben Ames William's novel of the same name was released in 1944 and was read by over a million people; the public was obviously captivated by this lurid little tale of a psychopathic wife. While being more than a little melodramatic, the story's believability is quite implausible at times, however the film lingers in the psyche nevertheless (the scene where Ellen lets Wilde's crippled little brother Hickman drown out of sheer jealousy is genuinely disturbing). Classic line: Ellen's mother: "There's nothing wrong with Ellen. She just loves too much!" Rarely has such a wicked woman looked as beautiful as Tierney does in this unusual story of obsessive "love".