Monday, November 23, 2015

Leave Her to Heaven

John M. Stahl's Leave Her to Heaven appears to be your usual run of the mill melodrama from Hollywood's Golden Age, complete with Technicolor-drenched cinematography from Leon Shamroy. (Eat your heart out, Douglas Sirk.) But as the viewer gets to know Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) more, it's clear that something's not right about her.

How so? When she first lays eyes on Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde), she remarks how much he resembles her recently deceased father. (For several scenes afterwards, she talks about her father in an almost obsessive manner.) They get married soon afterwards but Richard soon finds out that his wife's obsessions have shifted to him.

By this time, Hollywood was regularly churning out film noirs. But Leave Her to Heaven was one of the first noirs to be shot in Technicolor, and the results can be stunning. (No surprise how Shamroy got an Oscar for his work.) From Tierney's wardrobe to the sky at dusk, it adds a sort of dissonance to the film's story.

And as is the case with film noir, the performances are solid. The main draw is clearly Tierney, who earned her only Oscar nomination for her work in this. Her porcelain features are mystifying, distracting enough make one not notice her unbalanced behavior.

Leave Her to Heaven is frequently among the ranks of the greats though certain elements make the film show its age. That said, Tierney's performance and Shamroy's cinematography are stunning and timeless. (In all honesty, these are the main and only draws for Leave Her to Heaven.)

My Rating: ****

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