Sunday, August 21, 2022

#2,803. Leave Her to Heaven (1945) - Cornel Wilde Triple Feature


Leave Her to Heaven is a beautiful motion picture. Shot in Technicolor, it won an Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography, and there are images so glorious they will surely take your breath away.

Story-wise, though, this 1945 film is far from exquisite, relating a tale of desire, obsession, even murder in a way that is guaranteed to shake you. Leave Her to Heaven is a motion picture you won’t soon forget.

Following a chance encounter on a train, writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) and rich girl Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) quickly fall in love. Ellen goes so far as to break her engagement to lawyer Russell Quinton (Vincent Price) so that she and Richard can be married.

Living together at Richard’s lakeside lodge (known as “The Back of the Moon”), the lovers are happy for a while. But Ellen’s jealousy soon overcomes her, and she seeks to destroy every other relationship in Richard’s life. Nobody is safe from her wrath, not Richard’s handicapped brother Danny (Darryl Hickman) or Ellen’s own adopted sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain), and even the couple’s unborn child proves a potential threat!

Across the board, the performances in Leave Her to Heaven are adequate at best. Though nominated for an Academy Award, Tierney is merely serviceable as the out-of-control Ellen, while Wilde, Crain, and the rest are satisfactory, though not spectacular (the lone stand-out is Vincent Price as the jilted lover / attorney, whose role is expanded later in the film).

Where Leave Her to Heaven distinguishes itself is in its presentation (there is striking imagery throughout), which is contrasted at all times by the bleak nature of its story. On the surface, Ellen appears to be the perfect wife. She supports Richard in his writing endeavors, and helps take care of his invalid brother Danny. But time and again, Tierney and director John Stahl clue us in on the fact that Ellen is a very selfish person, and does not intend to share her husband with anyone; a scene set on the lake, when Danny is swimming as Ellen looks on in a rowboat, is as dark as they come.

Mixing elements of melodrama and film noir, Leave Her to Heaven feels like the perfect mix of Douglas Sirk (All That Heaven Allows) and Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity), and while the final scenes are borderline ludicrous (the courtroom sequence at the end raises more questions than it answers), the blending of gorgeous visuals and dark themes carries Leave Her to Heaven to an entirely other level.
Rating: 9 out of 10

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