Leave Her to Heaven is the story of Richard Harlan (Cornel Wilde) and his whirlwind love affair with Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney). But you know what they say about whirlwinds, you reap what you sow. The first clue that Ellen is zebra-in-a-tree crazy is that she introduces herself to Richard by telling him that he reminds her of her dead father. And by "dead," I'm not talking about dead and buried, I'm talking about dead last Tuesday. Ellen comes on strong, and since she is (in the parlance of the times) va-va-vroom and hamina-hamina, Richard goes with it. Also a plus: she absolutely dotes on him, lavishes him with attention and affection. She even takes him home and introduces Richard to her family, which consists of her sister, Ruth (Jeanne Crain), and her mother. Ruth and mom are nice to Richard, but keep giving each other sideways glances. I wonder why? Perhaps it is because Ellen is already engaged to Russell (Vincent Price)? Well, that can be fixed easily; Russell comes to visit and Ellen breaks up with him and announces her impending marriage to Richard. And Richard is kind of like, "Whoa, that's news to me, but I'll go with it because you're crazy hot." And just plain crazy. At first, their marriage goes well. Ellen insists on doing all the housework because she doesn't want anyone else cooking, cleaning, or anything for Richard. But before he can high five all his friends, Richard starts to notice that Ellen has a pathological jealousy of anything or anyone that splits his attention from her. That becomes a dangerous quality as Richard's handicapped little brother comes to live with them, and Richard's growing affection for Ruth can't be healthy either...
What a performance by Gene Tierney! If you think Fatal Attraction is scary, then
|Crazy Tierney...I shudder to think what happened to her other leg.|
I watched this movie because I'm a big fan of noir films (at least, I haven't seen a bad one yet --- probably because I start with the famous ones), and this was described as a noir. I would disagree with that description, and not because it was filmed in Technicolor. There is way too much talk about love and feelings in this movie to be noir, in my opinion; emotions are something to be bottled up and alluded to with violent or mechanical imagery in noir, not laid out in the open. Tierney is a great femme fatale, though, so I understand the confusion. The years have been generally pretty kind to this movie. In some ways, it is very old-fashioned, but Tierney's performance is one for the ages. It's not perfect, but that mainly due to production values --- a nearly invalid pregnant woman doesn't have a baby bump, "late" in the mountains is still in daylight, things like that --- but some of the problems were definitely due to unimaginative direction. For instance, there is absolutely no reason for this film to have a framing device, which makes the entire story a flashback. There are a lot of vintage details that show this film's age, like twin beds in a honeymoon suite, but I find that sort of thing charming in movies. At its core, this is a well-shot movie with mostly decent cast and one excellent performance.