Guest Author - Amber Grey
This is my review of the classic film noir “Leave Her To Heaven” (1945) starring Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde and Vincent Price.
The film, based on the novel by Ben Ames, is about the coupling between a novelist, “Richard Harland” (played by Cornel Wilde) and “Ellen Berent” (played by Gene Tierney) and their striking dramatic marital tragedies, involving a strange pattern of deaths to those closest to them, including a miscarriage by Ellen. To an outsider, these tragedies may look natural enough, but soon Ellen’s jealousy and possession over her husband becomes the focus and the motive to these deaths.
Gene Tierney’s performance can be summed up in one climactic scene when Ellen rows behind Harkland’s handicapped brother as he swims across the lake. Without wanting to give too much away, it is the cool, steady poise Tierney utilizes in this scene that makes it both unsettling as well as too irresistible not to watch it. In the year 1946, Tierney garnered her only Oscar-nominated performance for “Ellen Berent” along a list of two competitors including Ingrid Bergman for “The Bells of St. Mary’s” (1945) and the winner, Joan Crawford for “Mildred Pierce” (1945). Although she did not win the Oscar, Tierney’s performance won her respect amongst Hollywood as a seriously talented and skilled actress. The costuming done by Kay Nelson also deserves a mention as a contribution to Tierney’s performance. I do not think a femme fatale has ever been dressed so stylishly as Gene Tierney in “Leave Her To Heaven.” Frankly, she has a wardrobe that make any woman jealous enough to kill for. As for the other performances in the picture, Cornel Wilde and Vincent Price, who plays a lawyer, “Russell Quinton”, and one of Ellen’s rejected lovers, show that they can be just as strong as their performances as Tierney was in hers.
At the time of promoting the film, Vincent Price clarified, “This one is in Technicolor. That means that audiences will also get the full force of those Tierney eyes. Now maybe they’ll understand why scriptwriters have me go off the deep end every time I’m in the same picture with her.” And Price is right. The Oscar-winning cinematography by Leon Shamroy is gorgeous. Shamroy cleverly uses orange-tinted colors in scenes where Ellen’s conflicts with the supporting characters about to come to a boil. Meanwhile, in the other scenes, Shamroy uses a beautiful blend of colors and captures the unassuming environment of the film. And in another climactic scene where Ellen lies in bed, the lighting makes Tierney’s green eyes glint with the final hint of obsession over her husband which makes it both beautiful and haunting at the same time.
Recently, Tierney’s performance is revered as a Oscar-nominated performance that every classic film fan should see and I agree with that notion. “Leave Her To Heaven” (1945) is recommended to see if not just for Tierney’s performance but for an under appreciated film noir.