Friday, January 29, 2010
Film #8 Leave Her to Heaven
This was not the first time I've seen the film Leave Her to Heaven, but it is a film that stands up to multiple viewings. Starring Gene Tierney as Ellen Berent Harland, a woman with (putting it mildly) a few screws loose and an Electra complex with her late father, who meets and quickly marries Richard (Cornel Wilde), a writer who resembles her father. In order to have Richard all to herself, she blocks out (some, permanently) members of her family and his; scheming to keep Richard's love, at all costs. Leave Her to Heaven also co-stars Jeanne Crain as Tierney's adopted sister Ruth, whom Ellen views as a threat.
I've always considered Leave Her to Heaven to be a somewhat hidden gem, because so much Gene Tierney love goes to the film Laura (another great film). Tierney is really convincing as a seriously mentally ill person (I understand she struggled with mental illness in her "real" life later on) and the lengths she goes to are astounding and really creepy. Tierney is a beautiful actress, and though I think that she coasts on her presence in a few of her other films, she really shows some chops in this film. I've never understood the appeal of Cornel Wilde; he has a face that looks like he's perpetually whining, and it's really hard to get past that. Crain is really good; she has the ability to express strength and vulnerability at the same time, and was able to showcase her talents despite the tour de force performance by Tierney.
Filmed in vivid technicolor that always reminds me of a Douglas Sirk film, Leave Her to Heaven could have just as easily been filmed in black and white and labeled film noir, but I think it would have gotten further lost in film history had it not broken out of noir label and forged its own identity as a suspense-melodrama. Truthfully, when I watched this film, I was sick in bed and only put it on because I'd seen it before and thought I could probably just fall asleep to it. Instead, I found that I not only stayed up and watched the entire movie, but was completely riveted: in my opinion, the sign of a great film.
4 out of 5 stars