LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN
Review by Ed Nguyen
Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman
Director: John Stahl
Audio: English stereo and mono, Spanish mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Video: Color, full-frame 1.33:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: Commentary, news footage, restoration comparison, still gallery, trailer
Length: 110 minutes
Release Date: February 22, 2005
love you so. I can't bear to share you with anybody."
of the classic beauties of the 1940's Hollywood studio era was Gene Tierney.
A protégé of the Fox studio, she is best-remembered today for her
alluring roles in Laura and The Ghost and Mrs.
Muir. Even so, Tierney in her
day was considered something of an acting light-weight, not on the level, say,
of a Katherine Hepburn or a Bette Davis. So,
Tierney's surprising Oscar-nominated dramatic performance in Leave
Her to Heaven (1945) must have turned many heads and remains today a
memorable highlight in Tierney's Hollywood career.
Her to Heaven,
based on a best-selling novel by Ben Ames Williams, is a haunting tale of the
consequences of a love grown too intense. Gene
Tierney plays Ellen, a young socialite who initially attracts the attention of
writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde). The
film is told in flashback, chronicling Richard's courtship of the mysterious but
beautiful Ellen starting from their first encounter as strangers on a train.
The courtship continues at a New Mexico ranch, the Rancho Jacinto, where
Richard and Ellen are both conveniently lodged.
They are guests of the ranch owner, Richard having come for some
leisurely time off from his writing and Ellen having arrived with her family to
fulfill her father's dying wish - to have his cremated ashes scattered into the
final rite is one of the film's many haunting and beautifully photographed
images. It also suggests Ellen's
strong devotion to her deceased father, a familial love that will resonate not
only in Richard's courtship of her but later in their relationship, too.
In fact, Richard's uncanny resemblance to Ellen's father in his youth
initially hypnotizes her on their train voyage, and her eventual transference of
her strong feelings to Richard foreshadow the possessiveness and jealousy that
will arise later in the film.
film's flashback structure alludes to these problems, too.
Richard is seen at the beginning of the film returning to his lake
cottage, Back of the Moon, in Deer Lake, Maine.
He has just completed a two year stint in jail and has now returned to
meet his lady love at the cottage. The
circumstances surrounding Richard's incarceration are not immediately evident
but will become elucidated as the film progresses in its flashback.
However, we the audience are from the very start provided with the
knowledge that Richard's dream marriage to Ellen will somehow go awry.
actuality, Ellen is engaged to another man when she first encounters Richard.
Vincent Price, who formerly portrayed Tierney's hapless lover in Laura,
has another luckless role as Ellen's now-jilted fiancé, Russell.
Price is reliably solid in his supporting role, and his limited screen
time provides some of the most emotionally tense scenes in the film.
Russell first shows up just in time to be bluntly dismissed by Ellen
before her marriage to Richard. However,
Russell will return much later in the film for a particularly powerful and
pivotal courtroom scene that, even by today's standards, is unrelentingly
vicious and raw.
then, the marriage between Ellen and Richard is initially happy and ideal.
They are a young couple in love, although the disappointment of never
having enough time alone with Richard slowly begins to tell upon Ellen.
When Richard is not busy writing, he is spending time with his
debilitated younger brother, Danny (Darryl Hickman).
Ellen tries to maintain a pleasant home at Back of the Moon but begins to
resent Danny's continual presence, which she considers an intrusion upon the
married couple's happiness. A
surprise visit from Ellen's own mother and pretty cousin, Ruth (Jeanne Crain),
is likewise viewed as further undesired company rather than as a happy family
possessiveness is her central character flaw.
Her own mother and cousin, in their conversations with an
increasingly-worried Richard, suggest that Ellen loves too intensely and that
such love, insufficiently reciprocated, suffocates those people to whom Ellen is
most deeply attached, even close friends and family.
The seeming disintegration of Ellen's supposedly perfect marriage is
merely one consequence of her progressively compulsive behavior.
Leave Her to Heaven may start
out as a typical Hollywood romance, but its gradual descent into more disturbing
and sinister themes marks this film as an atypically dark production for the
studio era of the 1940's.
or not, Gene Tierney's most memorable films have always featured psychological
(and occasionally supernatural) elements. Leave
Her to Heaven is no exception and furthermore presents a rare opportunity to
watch this classic Hollywood actress in a Technicolor film from the prime of her
career. While the film's thespian
tendencies veer towards the pre-Method acting style, its evocative
cinematography, pensive storyline, and thriller aspects make Leave
Her to Heaven as dramatically effective today as sixty years ago.
Gene Tierney in glorious Technicolor! Leave
Her to Heaven is presented in its original full-frame, color format.
The film's image has been restored and looks quite breath-taking, a fine
tribute to the Academy Award-winning cinematography.
However, the picture quality is not entirely perfect and does contain
some mild emulsion fluctuation and bare traces of film stock damage with an
occasional softness of the picture quality.
Still, overall Leave Her to Heaven
looks mostly sharp with all the gorgeous hues and vibrant colors common to
Her to Heaven
was originally recorded in monophonic sound.
An optional English stereo audio track as well as a Spanish mono track
are also available. The musical
score by Alfred Newman, one of Hollywood's greatest film composers, is quite
wonderful, too. It truly evokes an
ominous ambiance to the film and contributes significantly to many of the film's
more tense or suspenseful moments.
DVD's most prominent bonus feature is a commentary track by actor Darryl Hickman
and film critic Richard Schickel. Hickman
speaks mostly about his personal memories of being a child actor and of working
on the Leave Her to Heaven production.
Hickman also reminisces fondly over personal experiences with other child
stars of his day (Elizabeth Taylor, Roddy McDowall, and Shirley Temple, for
instance). Schickel mainly
discusses the film's production and offers brief biographies about the film's
main stars as well as director John Stahl.
of Gene Tierney can check out the still gallery containing twenty-two production
stills of the photogenic actress as well as her co-stars and film's crew.
restoration comparison (2 min.) is included as an effective way of comparing the
1994 film transfer to the current restoration done for this DVD's transfer.
news clips (2 min.) offer footage covering the film's premiere and the Oscar
presentations, including the awarding of the Best Cinematography (Color).
Lastly, trailers for Leave Her to Heaven, In Old
Chicago, The Prime of Jean Brodie,
The Snake Pit, and The
Three Faces of Eve round out the bonus features on this disc.
These films are all selections from Fox's on-going "Studio
Classics" DVD series. The Snake Pit and The Three
Faces of Eve in particular touch upon similarly dark themes as in Leave
Her to Heaven.