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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Mommies Dearest: Stage mothers, Mother’s Day Style

Happy mother’s day to all of our wonderful parents. Today’s blog post is highlighting parents that sacrificed all, sometimes even the well-being of the child, to make some of our favorite actor and actresses movie stars. Happy mother’s day!

Jackie Coogan and his parents

Jackie Coogan-Jackie Coogan started his career as a baby in vaudeville with his acting family. A age seven he was starring with Charlie Chaplin in “The Kid” (1921). All his success brought a lot of money, which his parents spent. Coogan earned roughly $3 million during his career as a child actor and his mother and stepfather spent it all.  In 1935, Coogan asked for the money he had made and his parents refused to give it to him. This resulted in the Coogan Bill which puts 15% of what a child actor earns into a trust fund. Coogan later told his young co-stars in “The Adams Family” that they were able to keep their earnings because of him.

Linda Darnell- Darnell’s alcoholic mother, Pearl Brown, had her modeling at the age of 11. In her first movie “Hotel for Women,” she was made up to look like she was in her 20’s and was only 16.  Starting out so young and marrying the young men caused Darnell to follow the same path of alcoholism like her mother. Linda Darnell once said, “”Mother really shoved me along, spotting me in one contest after another. I had no great talent, and I didn’t want to be a movie star particularly. But Mother had always wanted it for herself, and I guess she attained it through me.” Pearl was unpopular and overbearing in Hollywood, and gave Linda a lot of bad publicity.

Peggy Ann Garner and mother, Virginia

 Peggy Ann Garner- Garner’s mother, Virginia, started Peggy’s career as a model when she was a child and was in her first movie in 1938. Garner had a successful career throughout the 1940s in movies like “Jane Eyre” (1944) and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” but was unable to make a transition into adult films. She was in movies like “Black Widow” and several TV performances, but they were all forgettable.

Darryl Hickman- In the child star edition of the Turner Classic Movie Private Screenings, Hickman recalled asking his mother how he got into movies. She told him, “Because you wanted it so much.” Hickman asked, “I wanted to be an actor at aged 3?” I’m not sure if Hickman was pushed in to it, but this is an example of what so many parents told their children. That they wanted to be an actor but they could barely even walk or talk, let alone make decisions.

Gypsy Lee Rose/June Havoc-The famous Rose Thompson Hovick was the mother of June Havoc and Gypsy Lee Rose. Mama Rose did anything to further her daughter’s careers, particularly June. Both daughters had to wait until their mother died to write memoirs because they worried about a lawsuit.

 

Shirley Temple and her parents, George and Gertrude

Shirely Temple- Dickie Moore was once quoted as saying that Shirley Temple wasn’t the problem, it was her mother. Shirley’s parents encouraged her singing and dancing when she was three and she was discovered at a dance studio. Shirley’s mother, Gertrude, styled Temple’s hair with exactly 56 pin curls to look like Mary Pickford’s hair, and before every scene she would tell Shirley to, “Sparkle!” Shirley Temple faced the same fate of Jackie Coogan. Temple lived like a little princess, with a bowling alley and a life-sized play house in her backyard. However, when her career dwindled, so had the money.  After marrying Charles Black, they decided to look into her finances and it showed that much of her money had been spent to support her family-what was left belonged to her parents. There should have been $356,000 in her account, but her father, George, disobeyed court orders and kept the money, according to BBC.

Natalie Wood-After reading Suzanne Finstad’s biography “Natasha,” I’m convinced Wood’s mother Maria Gurdin was crazy. Maria wasn’t able to have a be the actress so she started to groom her daughter to do what she had always wanted to do.  Crazy things Woods’ mother did:

•To make Natalie cry in scenes, her mother pulled the wings off of butterfly wings.

•Wood famously broke her wrist in the movie “The Green Promise” and always wore a bracelet over the broken wrist. Her mother didn’t let her daughter get her wrist set with a cast because it might not let her get movie roles, therefore, she always had a lump on her wrist.

•Maria had Natalie wearing the famous pigtails until she was in her early teens so she could still get child roles. Natalie finally chopped them off out of rebellion.

•Natalie started dating a boy she met in high school, and her mother forced Natalie to break up with him. The boy had some emotional issues to begin with, but tried to kill himself (I can’t remember if he succeeded) out of depression from the break up.

•Mother encouraged Natalie to date men twice her age like Frank Sinatra and Raymond Burr because she thought it would help her career.

I know I didn’t mention Jean Harlow and Ginger Rogers, who both had famous interfering mothers.  Jean Harlow has been covered a lot in the last few months due to her birthday and new book. Ginger and her mother got along, it was just other’s who didn’t like Lela Rogers, so I left her out. Happy mothers day!

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