on July 9, 2005
Movie: ***** DVD Transfer: ***** Extras: *****
20th Century-Fox's highest-grossing film of the 1940's showcases exquisite leading lady Gene Tierney in a mesmerizing, Oscar-nominated performance as a femme fatale whose placid beauty masks a murderously possessive heart. Based on the best-selling novel by Ben Ames Williams, the astonishingly perverse screenplay by Jo Swerling touches on such then-taboo (and still-shocking) subjects as incestuous obsession, the victimization of the disabled, self-induced abortion, and suicide disguised as homicide! Pretty potent stuff for its time, and it's all presented in lush candy-box Technicolor by Oscar-winner Leon Shamroy, whose masterful cinematography skillfully emphasizes a central theme of the film: that a beautiful surface can sometimes hide a thoroughly rotten core.
By design and through her acting skills, Miss Tierney's tour de force performance dominates the film; she especially shines in two challenging sequences, one involving a rowboat and another which takes place on a staircase. Among the supporting cast, solid work is turned in by Cornel Wilde as the object of Tierney's intensity; Jeanne Crain as her sweet-natured cousin and adopted sister; and Mary Philips as her alienated mother; but it is Vincent Price who stands out in a bravura performance as Tierney's former suitor. Price's character takes center stage throughout the final twenty minutes of the movie, and he plays some very long and difficult scenes with aplomb.
Fox Home Video's DVD presentation of this classic drama is truly impeccable, featuring a gorgeous, digitally restored print and remastered soundtrack. I've seen this movie dozens times over the past thirty years - in theatres, on video, and on cable - and it's never looked or sounded so magnificent. The bonus features include the film's 1952 Theatrical Re-release Trailer; Fox Movietone News segments featuring footage of the film's Los Angeles premiere and the 1945 Academy Awards; a fascinating stills gallery featuring photos taken during the film's location shooting at Bass Lake; and a restoration comparison demonstrating how the film was remastered for DVD. The disc also features an audio commentary by film critic Richard Schickel, who clearly was unprepared for the job: he refers to Price's character by the wrong name; mistakenly identifies two child players as boys (one, played by Betty Hannon, is obviously a girl); and vacillates back and forth in his opinions regarding the film's qualities. Additional commentary is also offered by actor Darryl Hickman, who played Cornel Wilde's brother in the film. Hickman clearly loathed making the movie, and snipes ungraciously about Tierney as an actress and as a human being, ignoring the fact that she was struggling with the devastating prospect of institutionalizing her mentally enfeebled 18-month-old daughter during the course of the film's production. Hickman also takes potshots at Jeanne Crain (appearing in her fifth film role of any size), director John M. Stahl, and the personality of cameraman Leon Shamroy (although he is clearly an admirer of the latter's work). The sour and ineffective commentary aside, the DVD presentation of "Leave Her to Heaven" is a superb example of 1940's Hollywood moviemaking and the DVD format at their very best, and is most highly recommended for your viewing pleasure.
on May 16, 2000
The real star of this fascinating little movie is the breath-taking Technicolor photography of Maine and New Mexico; even the architecture is great to look at (as is the gorgeous Gene Tierney!). Tierney's role of Ellen Berent has received almost cult status over the years since her character is that of an obsessive and cruel, selfish and evil woman; her relationship with Cornel Wilde indeed makes for an unusual and strange love story! Ben Ames William's novel of the same name was released in 1944 and was read by over a million people; the public was obviously captivated by this lurid little tale of a psychopathic wife. While being more than a little melodramatic, the story's believability is quite implausible at times, however the film lingers in the psyche nevertheless (the scene where Ellen lets Wilde's crippled little brother Hickman drown out of sheer jealousy is genuinely disturbing). Classic line: Ellen's mother: "There's nothing wrong with Ellen. She just loves too much!" Rarely has such a wicked woman looked as beautiful as Tierney does in this unusual story of obsessive "love".
on May 23, 2001
Gene Tierney, with her beautiful cheekbones, creamy skin, icy blue eyes, delicious overbite, and chestnut hair, was a vision of loveliness-one of the great beauties of the screen. She was also an underrated actress, who played "good" girls in films such as "Heaven Can Wait", "Laura", "The Ghost and Mrs Muir", and "Dragonwyck",and bitches in films such as "The Razor's Edge", "The Egyptian", and, of course, "Leave Her to Heaven" a technicolor "film noir". In this, her Oscar-nominated role, she plays Ellen Berent, a woman whose insane jealousy and possessiveness causes misery and death to those around her. She sets her eyes on writer Richard Harland, (Cornel Wilde) who reminds her of her late father. Ellen had an unusual, almost incestuous relationship with her father-one even suspects that she drove him to his death. Having jilted her district attorney fiancee Russell Quentin, played by Vincent Price, she sets out to hook Harland. It seems that Ellen doesn't want to share her husband's affections with anyone, including his crippled kid brother, whom she lets drown when he attempts to swim across a lake, and her unborn child, when she deliberately throws herself down a flight of stairs to induce a miscarriage. When Ellen's jealousy of her sister's relationship and budding affection for her husband, along with his discovery of the truth of his brother's and unborn child's deaths force him to leave her in disgust, she plots the ultimate act of vindictiveness-she fatally poisons herself, and sends a letter implicating her sister and husband to her ex-fiancee Quentin. This doll didn't play! Miss Tierney, who had suffered a nervous breakdown in the 1950s after a series of unfortunate incidents in her personal life, wrote in her book "Self Portrait", that the character she played in this film was insane-and that she tried very hard,and convincingly, to make others think that she was not. Miss Tierney's performance is very believable, restrained, and positively chilling. The Technicolor photography, while beautiful, has a certain "chilliness" which actually heightens the film's drama-a rather unusual twist, as this type of fare was usually filmed in black and white. Add to this a powerful, chilling score by Alfred Newman, good performances by Wilde, Price, the lovely Jeanne Crain, and Darryl Hickman, and you have an entertaining, slickly produced melodrama. Yes, jealousy is one of the seven deadly sins-and in this film, it is "deadlier than the male"!
"Leave Her to Heaven " is often considered to be the only color film noir of the classic era. Its bright, oversaturated Technicolor does belie the film's themes, but "Leave Her to Heaven" is more dark melodrama than film noir. The story is grounded in emotions, not ambition; love, not sex; culpability, not cynicism. The film is based on the novel by Ben Ames Williams and directed by John M. Stahl. Cinematographer Leon Shamroy won an Oscar in 1946 for his wonderful work. In fact, "Leave Her to Heaven"'s most striking aspect may be its predominant oranges and blues and intricate shadow play. This early Technicolor film stock produced downright garish colors and little texture, but the production design and cinematography are so masterful as to outshine the film stock's limitations.
The tale is told in flashback by Glen Robie (Ray Collins), an attorney whose friend and client Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) has just regained his freedom after spending 2 years in prison. Robie relates the story of Harland's troubles, which started when Harland, a novelist by profession, met his wife: On a train en route to New Mexico, Harland meets a beautiful young woman of privilege named Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney). Immediately taken with Ellen, Harland is elated to find that they will be staying at the same ranch, along with Ellen's family. Ellen is engaged to be married to an ambitious hometown politician, but she favors Richard, so breaks her engagement. They are married after a whirlwind romance and move to Harland's lakeside lodge in Maine, along with Richard's crippled young brother Danny (Darryl Hickman). But Ellen has an all-consuming need to be with her husband and is insanely jealous of any attention he gives anyone or anything else -a need that threatens to consume everyone she touches.
Gene Tierney's character is a femme fatale, but not the sort normally associated with film noir. She's sinister and scheming, but driven by impulse and intense emotions, not by ambition. Ellen is the housewife from hell. As her mother says, somewhat optimistically, "There's nothing wrong with Ellen. She just loves too much." Ellen is a strong character in spite of the oppressive domestic love that consumes her, smothers every man she attaches herself to, and torments everyone around her. For all of this, Ellen hates children and is rather athletic, so she isn't simply an over-the-top cliché. She's unbalanced, but she's single-minded to a fault. I don't know if this film will appeal to fans of film noir, because it is simply about the destruction wreaked by one emotionally ill woman. But "Leave Her to Heaven" is quite a good film in its own right thanks to a strong script, Gene Tierney's star power, brilliant cinematography, and notable supporting performances by Mary Phillips as Ellen's mother and Vincent Price as her ex-fiancé.
The DVD (20th Century Fox 2005 release): Bonus features include a "Still Gallery" of on-set photos, 2 "Hollywood Spotlight" featurettes of old new reels, a restoration comparison, a theatrical trailer, and an audio commentary. "Galaxy of Stars Attend World Movie Premiere" (1 minute) is newsreel footage of the red carpet at the film's 1945 premiere. "Motion Picture Awards 'Oscar' for Film Achievements" (1 minute) is footage of Leon Shamroy receiving his Oscar for cinematography at the 1946 Academy Awards. There are newsreels or trailers for 4 other films. "Restoration Comparison" (2 minutes) shows side-by-side comparisons of the 1994 film transfer, the 2003 film restoration, and the 2003 DVD for several scenes. The audio commentary is by film critic Richard Schickel and Darryl Hickman, who played Danny in the film when he was 13 years old. These 2 commentaries were recorded separately and put on the same track, which is a little awkward in this case. Schickel talks about actors, story, characters, and a little bit about style. Hickman, who now teaches acting, talks about his career as a child actor, his experiences shooting the film, and the interrelationships between people on the set. He gets gossipy at times, but his commentary includes some interesting observations. Subtitles are available for the film in English and Spanish. Dubbing is available in Spanish.
on July 5, 2012
I just watched LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN again. I remember when I was a kid, very young, and everybody was reading Ben Ames Williams' novel and discussing the shocking movie, especially the lake/swim scene and Gene Tierney.
The movie is great but the commentary is outrageously bad and out of place! Hickman, although I respect him for the extremely difficult and dangerous swimming scene, seems unaware, ignorant of Gene Tierney, the actress nor Gene's horrific personal life. And 20th Century Fox really should have hired somebody much better than the stupid, arrogant Richard Shiskel for the commentary. Martin Scorsese would have been terrific for LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN commentary, since this film is one of Martin's favorite films ever and has influenced his own multiple films.
Gene Tierney gives a wonderful performance as does the entire cast. The direction and editing is right on. And the sets are unbelievable--the Taos, New Mexico sprawling home; Back of the Moon, gorgeous, lake side home. And the colors are beautiful.
It is surprising that such shocking, disturbing subject matter could be dealt with in the ultra conservative 1940's. However, when LHTH was being made we and the world were in the brutal mid of World War II, so I figure nothing was shocking after the realities of the day. Still, few movies of that time, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, MILDRED PIERCE, and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE only begin to come close, match the horror and shock of HEAVE HER TO HEAVEN. The later PSYCHO and DIOBLIQUE come to mind.
And the LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN soundtrack is outstanding. One of the best, most succesful movie music ever alongside VERTIGO and PSYCHO, to showcase and impress the psychological movement and mental state of the lead character.
Viewer, take this movie for what it is and watch it with insight, background, and intellligence. LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN is a true classic masterpiece and should be on every top movies of all time list.
on November 21, 2002
"Leave Her To Heaven" is in many ways quite a disturbing and unsettling film while never failing to intrigue me with its story based on a well known book by Ben Ames Williams of a beautiful but quite disturbed young woman who must have everything she desires entirely to herself no matter what the cost. We have probably all experienced moments of possessiveness in our lives but in this story it is taken to the extreme with ultimately tragic results.
The stunning Gene Tierney, probably one of the most beautiful actresses ever to grace the screen was reaching her peak in early 1945 when this film went into production having already filmed the classic "Laura" two years earlier. With "Leave Her To Heaven" she got her one Academy Award nomination playing the disturbed and manipulative Ellen Berent a priveledged young lady who sets her sight on something and never lets up until she has obtained it. In this instance the object of her affection is Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde)a successful writer who she meets on a train and later marries. The film chronicles her slow descent into an obsessive need to keep Richard to herself at the expense of family, friends and even human life. Her psychopathic need to keep her husband to herself finds her jilting her current fiance (Vincent Price) without so much as an explanation, alienating Richard's friend Leick (Chill Wills), deliberatly loosing her unborn baby, and in the most disturbing and indeed most famous scene in the film, allowing Richard's younger brother to drown in a lake. This last scene never fails to upset me when viewed and Gene Tierney is chillingly scary in the scene hidden as she is behind dark glasses while the boy is drowning in front of her.
"Leave Her To Heaven" benefits from some of the most lush cinematography of the mid 1940's and the beautiful colour used here adds greatly to the overrall look and feel of the production. Tierney is just right for the villianess role she plays here and her icy beauty, which is emphasised with the colour photography, along with her cold demeanour are just right for the role.
In major supporting roles the earlier mentioned Vincent Price who was in "laura" with Tierney scores as the disgruntled ex-fiance and Jeanne Crain as Ellen's sister, and the object of her intense jealousy over her good relationship with Richard is also right on track. Mary Philips as Ellen's mother is also effective and gets to say probably the most famous line in the film when she states that "There's nothing wrong with Ellen, she just happens to love too much". Indeed loving too much is the basis for this whole story and is what brings the story to its tragic conclusion which finds Ellen killing herself when she realises that she has lost Richard for ever because of her actions.
"Leave Her To Heaven" is an absorbing melodrama of the first order and captures Gene Tierney at her most stunning and in this role at her most sinister. If you enjoy stories about people who are less than perfect "Leave Her To Heaven" will be a film that you will enjoy. Disturbing it certainly is but done with alot of professionalism and fine performances to make it very absorbing viewing.
on February 25, 2001
Gene Tierney stars as Ellen, a woman incapable of anything except obsessive love. She goes to extreme lengths to keep her new husband (Cornel Wilde) all to herself. And I do mean extreme! She leaves her family in ruins. I'm not sure why Leave Her To Heaven works so well. The acting is either dull (Wilde, Jeanne Crain) or over the top (Vincent Price). The script is full of bad lines and unbelievable situations. But somehow it works! Give credit to Gene Tierney, who manages to make one of the most unbelievable and unlikeable characters in movie history so watchable by more than just her incredible beauty. Also give credit to the amazing technicolor photography that really must be seen. The musical score is very dramatic and over the top, which makes it a perfect fit for this movie. You may be shaking your head throughout most of the film, but I guarantee you'll watch it to the end to see what happens.
on March 1, 2005
I have enjoyed this film for years and was very eager to have it come out on dvd. A smashing little thriller and a fine portrait of a woman who is a complete sociopath. Imagine my suprise that in all the world, Fox couldn't find two people who actually like the film to do the commentary track! Most of the track is taken up by the non-stop whinings of Darryl Hickman, the then teen aged actor who played Danny. He is currently a drama teacher who has discovered (I kid you not) "the definitive acting style for the new millenium", about which he is writing a book. And apparently everyone comes up short against his high standards. Gene Tierney was a lovely, troubled, cold stand-offish society woman of no discernible talent who telegraphs her technique. Both Cornel Wilde and Jeanne Crain were lovely people of limited abilities. Chill Wills was a personality and not an actor at all. The actress who plays Gene and Jeanne's mother was a stage actress and far too mannered and "internal" (?), not "in the moment". Only Vincent Price escapes his wrath, and even then he unfavorably compares his looks to Cornell Wilde's. The director treated him abominably, constantly referring to him as, gasp, "son". In fact, he doesn't think there should be child actors at all since it's so abusive. It seems this guy thinks every bit of film acting prior to "the method" was irredeemable garbage and the only admirable thing about the film is the cinematography. The film obviously interrupted his high times with Liz and Roddy and Shirley and other heavily dropped names of the period. Sad sad bitter man. You and Jay North need to form a club. I hope you are enjoying putting your impeccable technique to work in the many fine community theatre productions that you feel superior while doing.
Richard Schickel is better if repetitive with his discussion of Women's pictures other than the one he's reviewing. He too does not seem overly enamored of the actors or their performances. But, Oh, that cinematography!
They should've let Scorsese do the track! He would've had some superlatives.
on June 24, 2005
This review is for the 2004 DVD release by 20th Century Fox.
I enjoyed this film overall. Color films from early post-WWII era are rarely found, so it was a great pleasure to just enjoy the outdoor scenes and elaborate interior shots. Each of the four outdoor locations selected for the movie are stunning.
The story is about a nationally known fiction author (played by Cornel Wilde) who meets a woman (played by Gene Tierney) on a train, both on their way to the same resort in rural New Mexico. They have a whirlwind romance, get married, and then serious problems surface. Without giving away too many details of what happens next, it becomes obvious that one of the characters is psychologically unstable as a series of tragic events occur. The script itself is overall very good, but it loses a little momentum towards the very end, but I still give it a strong recommendation. To me it seemed more like a melodrama than a noir film.
The DVD transfer approaches superb. The color is vivid and the picture quality seems adequately sharp for a color film from that era. The added documentary by actor Darryl Hickman and film critic Richard Schickel is a nice bonus feature and provides a lot of interesting insight to the making of this film and the characters who played in the film.
DVD Quality: A
An example of 1940s romantic melodrama at its best, "Leave Her To Heaven" may seem like an outlandish story but it is a memorable one and certainly one of the most gorgeously photographed Technicolor films ever made (the visual style of the film is similar to Douglas Sirk's 1950s melodramas). The photography by Leon Shamroy (who won a well deserved Oscar for this) features beautiful location settings in New Mexico, Arizona and Bass Lake, California. Gene Tierney, fresh from her most famous role in "Laura" is outrageously gorgeous as the cold and insanely jealous heroine. Jeanne Crain, in one of her first roles, is a tad plastic as the sympathetic half sister and Cornel Wilde is fine as the hapless fly drawn into Tierney's web.
DVD extras include a photo gallery, two Movietone features (one on the Academy Awards and the other on the premiere) and an audio commentary by TIME critic Richard Schickel and actor Darryl Hickman, who played Danny in the film. Schnickel's comments are not particularly interesting but Hickman's recollections of being a child actor and working on the set of "LHTH" are often fascinating. Hickman recalls friendships with fellow child stars Shirley Temple and Roddy McDowell and talks about what difficult lives child actors endured. His comments about the actors he worked with are particularly interesting - Gene Tierney was remote and unkind to both him and co-star Cornel Wilde and director John Stahl doesn't recieve kind remarks either. On the other hand, Hickman remembers Cornel Wilde and Jeanne Crain as kind and easy to work with. Hickman has since become an acting teacher and coach and his comments are often concerned with acting techniques (he is especially unimpressed with Tierney's acting abilities).