Leave Her to Heaven (John Stahl, 1945): USA

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed at the TCM Film Festival in Hollywood, CA.

  From 1943-1947  Gene Tierney starred in a handful of her greatest screen roles.  Leave Her to Heaven was produced on the heels of the sensational Laura, and was arguably Tierney’s greatest screen achievement.

Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) meets author Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) on a train and quickly falls in love, despite the fact that she is already engaged to up and coming D. A. Russell Quinton (Vincent Price). 

After a quick Dear John letter and a sudden proposal, Ellen and Richard become newlyweds and are celebrating.  Full of love for her new husband (maybe a little too much), Ellen insists that the two live close to Richard’s disabled kid brother Danny (Darryl Hickman), in order to be more helpful.

Fresh from their honeymoon and Richard makes the mistake of inviting too many guests to their mountain retreat Back ‘O the Moon.  The walls begin to close in on Ellen due to too many guests, too much work, and not enough attention from her husband.

First there’s a drowning, then a miscarriage, and finally an untimely death, and then things really begin to go south.

Stahl chose brilliant technicolor for this noir-melodrama, leaving the audience easily entranced by the lovely Tierney, just as Richard Harland is with Ellen.  Gene Tierney received her single Oscar Nomination as Best Actress for this role.

What a superb choice TCM made in screening this forgotten gem, which has been often overshadowed by the magnificent Laura.  Darryl Hickman was in attendance for a Q & A with our marvelous host Robert Osborne.  When asked about working with the highly accomplished Tierney (who suffered from heartbreak and bouts of mental illness), Hickman retracted a previous negative remark he had made about the actress.  He agreed with Mr. Osborne that Tierney’s performance was outstanding, and that she had to have been in a certain frame of mind in order to carry out her role so successfully.

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