LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945) C 110m dir: John M. Stahl
w/Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Mary Philips, Ray Collins
Compulsively watchable melodrama about a neurotic bride (Tierney) who goes to tragic ends to hold on to her husband (Wilde). Get set for a wild ride. This film is almost as outrageous as DUEL IN THE SUN.
LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN straddles genres, in that it is part women's film and part film noir (despite --- or perhaps because of --- its garish color). Women in film noir fall into one of two extreme categories: the Madonna or the whore. In noir films, the classic fallen woman is given a pathological spin, and here Tierney's character (Ellen) appears to be possessed. As the "evil" woman, she is defined by her father; concerned with death; and associated with water, depths, and, ironically, the color white. She is an assertive, controlling woman who is always either alone or with a man --- and she's fascinating. Balanced against this, we have Ruth (Crain), who is as good as Ellen is bad: she is associated with the mother and life, family-oriented, adept at growing things, and passive --- and boring. While this film does not display top-notch acting from the cast, Tierney's mask-like face (her make up and sunglasses signifying her pathology) is used well by Stahl. She ably depicts a character caught up in obsession. The men in the film are passive: Wilde's only act in the film is to tell Ellen's story at the end, while Price is often positioned to the side of the frame with strong lighting on Ellen; only after Ellen is out of the picture (quite literally) does Price become more assertive, both dramatically and visually. All told, the spell that this film casts is mesmerizing.
Well-deserved Oscar for Best Color Cinematography (Leon Shamroy).