On the surface, Leave Her To Heaven is a glossy technicolor melodrama. But you don’t have to dig far to discover the film’s dark underbelly. It was made in 1945 in the early days of what Eddie Muller calls the film noir movement. I’ll let Eddie answer the big question:
The answer is an emphatic yes because the lead character played by Gene Tierney is a selfish psychopath who destroys everything that gets in her way. Sounds like noir to me, y’all.
Gene Tierney had the face of an angel, so it was hard for audiences to fathom that her character could be a selfish monster. She had to have her own way regardless of the cost, which led her to do monstrous things.
Tierney and co-star Cornel Wilde have a memorable meet cute on a train. Wilde is a writer and Tierney is reading one of his books but doesn’t realize it at first. Then the rule of the two best looking people in a movie kicks in to complete the meet cute. Nobody in circa 1945 Hollywood was prettier than Tierney and Wilde although Jeanne Crain who plays Tierney’s sister gives her a run for her money. Wilde falls for both over the course of the story thereby vindicating the rule.
Leave Her To Heaven could also be called A Tale Of Three Fabulous Houses. The residences in this movie are so impressive that they become characters, especially Wilde’s cottage in Maine. FYI, Eddie Muller has said that it’s the movie house he’d most like to live in. If it’s good enough for the Noir Czar, it’s good enough for me.
Viewers start the movie wanting to root for Tierney, but she makes that impossible with her pathological jealousy of everyone who might distract Wilde’s attention from her. I told you she was a selfish psychopath.
The story ends up in court with Vincent Price as the prosecutor. He’s Tierney’s ex-fiancée. There are many exs in Tierney’s life. She brought it on herself. That’s all the story I’m willing to share since this feature is called pulp fiction, not pulp spoilers.
I am willing, however, to share a picture of Vinnie and Cornel in court:
Leave Her To Heaven was directed by journeyman John M. Stahl with cinematography by Leon Shamroy who made it the ultimate “movie movie” of its time. Its style inspired the work of later filmmakers such as Douglas Sirk and Todd Haynes. In fact, Haynes’ 2002 movie Far From Heaven is a sly tribute to this week’s film.
The movie is based on the best-selling novel by Ben Ames Williams.
That’s a helluva tag line. It applies to Jo Swerling’s script as well.
Grading Time: I give Leave Her To Heaven 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A. It’s one of the best movies I’ve written about since rebooting the feature formerly known as Pulp Fiction Thursday.
It’s time get all arty and shit with the posters. Another day, another swell tagline.
Are you thirsty from eating too much salty popcorn? Let’s all go to the lobby:
Now that our thirst is slaked, let’s take a gander at the lobby cards.
Given his many villainous roles, it’s easy to forget that Vincent Price was almost as handsome as Cornel Wilde.
Now that we’ve pondered comparative movie star looks, let’s check out the trailer.
The last word goes to TCM host Alicia Malone: