Birthday Blogathon: Film #1 Leave Her to Heaven 1945

This is part of the 2nd Annual Birthday mini-blogathon, sharing my favorite movies leading up to my birthday week.

Ellen (Gene Tierney) during the climax of the movie.

 Starring: Gene Tierney as Ellen, Cornel Wilde as Richard, Jeanne Crain as Ellen’s sister Ruth, Vincent Price as Ellen’s jilted lover Russell, Chill Wills as Richard’s handyman Leick, Darryl Hickman as Danny, Richard’s brother.

Brief Plot: Writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) meets Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) on a train to New Mexico. The two fall in love and are quickly engaged. Ellen behaves strangely and possessive, which her mother says is a result of her “loving too much.” Ellen’s love destroys several people around her, including herself.

Why I love it:  Not only does Gene Tierney look her most beautiful in this color film but also gives a powerful performance. Set against a lush backdrop of Bass Lake, California, New Mexico and the Boston sea side, “Leave Her to Heaven” is eye candy with settings as well as Tierney’s fashion. For a first time viewer, this film seems like an innocent romance but twists almost into a suspense film.

Ellen’s reaction when she finds out Danny may live with her and Richard.

Gene Tierney’s performance (SPOILERS): I was shocked Gene Tierney didn’t win the Academy Award for this performance, but when I saw Joan Crawford won the Oscar for “Mildred Pierce,” I understood a little more. Tierney transforms from a seemingly normal woman at the beginning of the movie to possessive and psychotic.

Well dressed and wealthy, Ellen just seems like a spoiled socialite who is used to getting her way, but it is more than that.

The transformation begins after Ellen and Richard get married. Richard mentions getting a cook and Ellen says, “I don’t want anyone else to cook or clean for you but me. “I don’t want anybody in the house but us.”

The couple visit Richard’s brother, Danny, who is in a polio clinic. As Danny’s health improves, Richard wants to take Danny to his lakeside cabin called Back of the Moon.

When Richard says, “Now all three of us can move to the Back of the Moon,” Ellen’s look of alarm and anger about Danny invading their home foreshadows trouble.

After the three move to Back of the Moon, Ellen is angry that she and Richard are never alone and hates the book he’s working on.

We see how insane Ellen’s obsession is at the climax of the film.

Danny practices swimming across the lake at Back of the Moon as Ellen follows him in a row boat. Danny gets cramp and is tired, and Ellen watches him drown. Her cold stare is haunting. Follow the link below to see the the scene, which begins at about 2:38:

Leave Her to Heaven drowning scene

From this moment, Tierney goes into a downward spiral ruining the lives of her sister, husband, mother and unborn child.

Ellen jealous of Richard’s book because it takes up all his time.

Quotes:  If you read between the lines during the film, it foreshadows Ellen’s possessiveness:

-Richard (during a swimming race): “Lynn’s going to win.” Glen Robie (Ray Collins): “No, Ellen will. Ellen always wins.”

-Ellen (as Richard is working on his book): “I hate your chapter. I hate all of your chapters. They take up all of your time.”

-Ellen to Richard: “You can’t have any secrets from me.”

- Richard: “What’s wrong with Ellen?” Ellen’s mother: “There’s nothing wrong with Ellen she just loves too much.”

-Ellen to her sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain) after Danny dies, “I’ll die if I lose Richard.”

-Ellen asking where Richard and Ruth are, “Did Ruth go with him? When did they leave? What time is it?”

-Ellen when she is pregnant: “This baby’s making a prisoner out of me. I can’t do anything. I can’t go any place. I don’t even see my husband.”

- Ruth: “The whole house is filled with hate.” Ellen: “Not hate. Love, Richard’s love.”

 Fashion:  Ellen’s wardrobe is one of my favorite parts of the movie. Her outfits almost seem to reflect her character.

Ellen and Ruth’s outfits show the contrast in their characters.

Several of her outfits at the beginning are white. When we first see her on the train she is in a white dress with gold jewelry with a white fur coat and turban. Her glamorous outfit contrasts with Ruth’s simple brown suit, showing the difference between the two girls.

Ellen’s glamorous, monogrammed white one-piece outfit.

Ellen then wears a white one piece suit with her initials monogrammed on the chest. As the most progresses, we see her dressed in several green outfits. A green bathing suit, a green suit. She is even wearing green maternity clothes, as she is distressed and unhappy with the pregnancy. The green may reflect her jealousy of everyone who is taking up Richard’s time.

  To review: I love this film simply because if you have never seen it, the climax and events to follow are pretty unexpected. It’s rare to see Gene Tierney as a vindictive, ruthless character and she gives her best performance in “Leave Her to Heaven.”

This concludes Day 1 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

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2nd Annual Birthday mini-Blogathon at Comet

Last year, I celebrated my 23rd birthday reviewing one of my favorite films each day leading up to my birthday.

I had so much fun last year, the Comet Over Hollywood Birthday mini-Blogathon is back!

Starting Monday, and leading to my 24th birthday on Sunday, Nov. 18, I will watch and review one of my favorite films as a little birthday treat to myself.

Cary Grant blows out the candles.

Favorite movies reviewed last year are: 

1. Battleground (1949) - World War II film about the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. Film stars Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Riccardo Montalbon and James Whitmore.

2. Shadow of a Doubt (1942) - Hitchcock’s own personal favorite film about a sinister character visiting a small, California town. Starring Theresa Wright and Joseph Cotton

3. State Fair (1945) - Rodger’s and Hammerstein musical about finding love at the Iowa State Fair. Starring Jeanne Crain, Dick Haymes and Dana Andrews.

4. Since You Went Away (1944)- Film about life on the World War II home front for the wives and families of service men. Starring Claudette Colbert, Joseph Cotton, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Monty Wooley and Robert Walker.

Check back through out the week to see what other movies are my favorite. Feel free to share your favorite films as well!

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Birthday Blogathon: Film #2 Shadow of a Doubt

For my second evening of birthday favorite films I chose:

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

From LIFE: Stroboscopic multiple exposure of Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten talking and struggling as characters from Alfred Hitchcock's film "Shadow of a Doubt."

Brief plot: Charlotte “Charlie” Newton is bored with her small town life and feels her family isn’t living to their full potential. She wants a miracle to come along-it does in the form of her namesake- Uncle Charlie Oakley. However, her beloved uncle has a dark secret. The film stars Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotton, Henry Travers, Hume Cronyn,  Patricia Collinge, MacDonald Carey and Edna Mae Wonacott.

 Why I love it:

I’ve seen 40 of Alfred Hitchcock’s 57 films that he directed. I like almost all of them, particularly those from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s but “Shadow of a Doubt” is by far my favorite.

It’s much different than most of his more famous films like “North by Northwest”, “Psycho” or “The Birds.” I feel like the danger of the characters in those films is a little far-fetched. Not many of us steal money from our boss and flee, are chased by an airplane or live in a town inhabited by crazed birds.  The terror of “Shadow of a Doubt” is more realistic and obtainable to the average person.

Most of the cast, receiving gifts from Uncle Charlie.

The Characters: Though Charlie considers her family “average” they are actually pretty quirky. Dad (Travers) and his buddy (Cronyn) get together each night and harmlessly discuss ways to murder people without getting caught. Young Ann (Wonacott) is nosy, intelligent and is reading “Ivanhoe” while her father is reading dime store mysteries. The mother (Collinge) isn’t the grounded, serious type of mother you’d expect from a small town-she’s no Emily Hardy. She’s flighty, clueless and never shuts up. They are not what I would consider your typical small town, 1940s family.  All of the actors in this film are prefect as well. Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton are two of my all time favorite actors-not to mention Cotton is a huge heartthrob of mine.  Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn are adorable and Edna Mae Wonacott is hilarious.  Edna Mae hadn’t had any acting experience prior to this film, Hitchcock discovered her in her hometown of Santa Monica where the film was shot. You can read more in an excellent post The Lady Eve wrote about Edna Mae.

Location: It’s fun to see small town America in 1930s and 1940s films. I don’t know what Santa Monica looks like now, but I think it looks so beautiful in this movie. It’s also different than the locations we see in lots of other Hitchcock films.  “Rear Window” is in the city, “To Catch a Thief” is on the Rivera, “Foreign Correspondent” is in London,  “Lifeboat” is in the middle of the ocean.  Several of these film settings aren’t where your average American is going to be, but small town Santa Monica looks like the sort of place most Americans were familiar with during the 1940s.

Teresa Wright at the bottom of the stairs while Joseph Cotton looks down.

Camera Shots: This movie has some shots that are competitors with one of my all-time favorite shots-the strangling scene in “Strangers on a Train.”  Scene I love in “Shadow of a Doubt” include Joseph Cotton pacing back and forth and Hitchcock shoots up from the floor.  During another scene, Cotton is giving a rather powerful speech at the dinner table and we are looking at Cotton’s profile. Throughout the speech the camera gets closer and closer to his face until he looks straight into the camera and says the last word. So haunting and perfect. Another shot  interesting  is so simple but excellent. Joseph Cotton is walking up the stairs and turns around half way. We look down the stairs at Teresa Wright who is standing on the front porch with the door open looking back up at him. The angle along with the light coming in from outside and her shadow hitting the entry way floor is perfect.

Here is the scene with the speech I discussed-also my favorite part of the movie: 

Script: For a thriller, there are several funny, clever little lines in the film. One part that always makes me giggle is when Ann Newton (Edna Mae) is saying her prayers, “God bless mama, papa, Captain Midnight, Veronica Lake and the President of the United States.”

Another Ann Newton/Edna Mae line to Teresa Wright who is humming the Merry Widow Waltz: “Sing at the table and you’ll marry a crazy husband.” Younger brother Roger Newton says, “Supersticions have been proven 100% wrong.”

I also giggle when the father/Travers finds out they got a telegram: “I knew there’d be trouble if your Aunt Sarah got her license.”

But aside from the goofy little lines, there are some very powerful lines as well, such as the speech Cotton gives at the table about fat old widows and their money and later when he tells Wright that she is a silly, ordinary, small town girl.

Simple yet appropriate gown for Wright's character.

Fashion: This might seem silly, but I’ve always loved the clothes in this movie. The scene where Charlie is walking quickly, almost running away from her Uncle Charlie in downtown Santa Monica always sticks out for one main reason-Teresa Wright’s spectator pumps. While re-watching this, I thought about Wright’s clothes in this film and other movies she’s in like Mrs. Miniver. They dress her in very similar outfits: tailored suits and wide shoulders with white accents on the jacket or dress.  Even the evening gown she wears at the end is great. It’s not very glamorous, but it suits Wright’s personality and is appropriate for a small town high school girl. Joseph Cotton also looks severely handsome in every suit he wears. The only thing that bothers me in MacDonald Carey’s hair. What’s with that?

To Review: This has always been my number one favorite Hitchcock film-”Sabatuer”, “Foreign Correspondent” and “Strangers on a Train” following close behind. It pleased me very much that this was also Hitchcock’s personal favorite film. I think I like it so much because it’s simple and not very flashy. It gets overlooked by Hitchcock fans for this very reason but it has more meaning than most of his films-not to mention some of the best performances from all of these actors.

Here is the second speech I discussed about “ordinary girl in a small town”: 

 This concludes Night 2 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

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Birthday Blogathon: Film #1 Battleground 1949

For my first evening of birthday favorite films I chose:

Battleground (1949)

Van Johnson and John Hodiak listening to a Christmas Eve sermon in "Battleground"

Brief plot: The film depiction of the 101st Airborne Division when they are trapped in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. The division is surrounded by Germans and unable to get any air support due to heavy fog that lasts for days. The World War 2 film has a star-studded cast with Van Johnson, John Hodiak, James Whitmore, Marshall Thompson, Riccardo Montalbon, George Murphy, Don Taylor and Leon Ames.

Why I love it:

I originally saw this film when I was in high school-the sole reason I wanted to see it was because of my insane crush on Van Johnson.  But as I watched it, I feel in love with the script, the way it is shot, all of the characters and the tone of the film.

James Whitmore discovering the sun finally breaks through the fog, shouts "It's shinin'!"

Accuracy: World War 2 is my favorite period in history-the way the whole United States bonded together in a way that we will most likely never see again. I really like war films made during war time, but there is a certain amount of patriotic propaganda mixed in that makes war time battle films not as credible-I’m not saying I like them less for this, they just generally aren’t as historically accurate.

I also enjoy several war films made in the 1950s and 1960s, but they also have their own historical inaccuracies. The hairstyles and dresses are usually 1950s or 1960s styles, rather than 1940s styles. An example of this is Gina Lollabridgda in “Never So Few.” Her outfits are all wrong for wartime-let alone for a woman living in war torn Asia.

“Battleground” is made just soon enough after the war to be patriotic, but also very accurate. I’ve heard that it is one of the most accurate war films of the Golden Era- depicting conditions and sentiments of the soldiers. I would like to clarify that I say its the most accurate WW2 depiction of the Golden Era, because I realize that in recent years, films like “Sands of Iwo Jima” and “Band of Brothers” have given a better historic account of the events.

George Murphy as "Pop"

Filming: I love the way this film is shot. The darkness of their uniforms against the snow and fog that lead the soldiers to be trapped in Bastgone is perfect. There is almost a grittiness to it too. Though the snow is pure and white, it is ugly and dangerous because the reason why they are surrounded and with no help from air support. William “Wild Bill” Wellman directed the film, and this might have alot to do with the gritty feel of the film.

Cast: Look at the actors I listed above. Could you ask for a better cast? Sure, none of them were ever as big as Clark Gable or Spencer Tracy, but they were all amazing actors. I really think this film helped both John Hodiak and Van Johnson flex their acting muscles better than fluff films they were in before.  I also love Marshall Thompson’s performance. He starts off as a young kid, eager and excited to fight, but as the situation in Bastogne gets more serious, he becomes bitter.

Script: I enjoyed the story line, but I also liked the little Army jokes or lingo they used. For example, whenever they were talking about the Army, they had an ongoing joke of “I found a home in the Army.” Or how they called bombs “In-coming mail.”  Though the film is only 2 hours and doesn’t give us enough time to really get to know the characters, we learn their personalities enough by things they say or sing. The country character, Abner always says “That’s for sure, that’s for dang sure” and butchers the name of Bastogne calling Baaast-oog-nee.” Another example is John Hodiak’s character is well spoken, educated and was a newspaper man.  Douglas Fowley, who plays Private Kippton, always clicks his false teeth in the film-something he really knew how to do in real life and it added a bit of his personality to the script.

Another thing I like about the film is that the screenwriter actually fought in the Battle of the Bulge, so he had some knowledge of the events. Things like Ricardo Montalbon’s character never seeing snow before and getting excited, isn’t just hokey Hollywood glitter-it actually happened.

Marching back to Bastonge

To Review: This film was made at a time that MGM was switching from L. B. Mayer to Dore Schary as studio head, so it’s a little different from the frothy MGM movies we are used to.

Though I realize there are several World War 2 movies, more realistic than this one, “Battleground” is my favorite war movie. I think this film was made at the right time, giving the U.S. a few years to recover from the war but also before the downward spiral of the communist scare began.

Before I leave, I’d like to share with you my favorite scene:

This concludes Night 1 of Birthday Blogathon Week. Please stop by again tomorrow for another favorite film of mine!

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Birthday on “Radio Waves” Nov. 18 show

Shirley Temple's 9th birthday in 1938

“Radio  Waves Over Hollywood” will be streaming live this Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m (Eastern time).

But this Thursday is a special edition of “Radio Waves.”

November 18 is the birthday of some very important people: Mickey Mouse, Johnny Mercer and Jessica Pickens (me)! I’ll be turning 22 so on my show I will be lighting candles, wearing black and playing sad songs…Not really.

This week is a special show. Since it is my birthday a few guests from off campus are dropping in to discuss their favorite movies.  My mom and others are calling in, so feel free to call in at 803-323-2122 to talk about your favorite movies!

Listen in!

Topics for Nov. 18:
 -Actors who you never expect to sing
-Songs and scenes from my favorite movies
-Movies with Thanksgiving in them
-And more…

And remember, non-Winthrop students can listen and call in too!

So be sure to listen at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  live stream on www.winrfm.com (go to Listen Live) or  the old WINR website.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page and Radio Waves Over Hollywood Facebook page.