This is part of the 2nd Annual Birthday mini-blogathon, sharing my favorite movies leading up to my birthday week.
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.
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.
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.
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 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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Happy Birthday, Jessica! What a great idea, celebrating your birthday countdown with great movies! Once I finallyl saw LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, I was not only wowed by Gene Tierney’s brilliantly unnerving performance of a devious psychotic, but by her versatility. On a personal note, I’ve also had the dubious “honor” of having known clingy, dangerously possessive people like Ellen…BRR!!! Here’s hoping you and yours will only encounter such people in movies and never in real life! Great review!
Oh no! I hope you go rid of them quick, especially if they were anything like Ellen!
I agree – Gene Tierney is fantastic in this film. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but now that I’ve read your terrific review, I see that it’s time to watch it again!
It is really great! Probably one of her best!
It ranks very near LAURA as my favorite Gene Tierney movie. The drowning scene is truly chilling, especially in the matter-of-fact manner exhibited by Ellen. Sadly, my only problem with LHTH is this: Ellen is so stunning and dedicated to her man that I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Richard wasn’t worthy of her.
I will agree, he does sort of ignore Ellen a bit-but she is also nutty. Laura is a great movie too! I need to rewatch that one, it’s been awhile.
Great review and pictures! I love Laura too but because her Leave Her To Heaven character is so much more complex, I think it is Gene’s best role.