Leave Her to Heaven (1945) Poster

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10/10
Color Time Travel - A film that must be experienced on the Big Screen
ted-12926 April 2008
No one can watch this without remembering Gene Tierney's searing blue eyes, Jeanne Crain's face of innocence, or Cornel Wilde (lightyears from The Naked Prey) here looking like a photo of Pierre & Gilles come to life. It's 110 minutes of color-time-travel basking in the surreally saturated Technicolor palette of the mid 40's.

For those who have been denied the experience of watching the recently restored version with a rapt audience on a big screen as happened April 26, 2008 at San Francisco's Castro Theatre, I can only hope you'll contact a film preservation-minded theater in your area.

Though I've watched this film on DVD, nothing prepared me for the impact of the big screen. The closeups alone will take your breath away.

Is it melodrama or is it noir?--leave that to Heaven!
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10/10
A Stunning Film
drednm10 August 2008
Based on a novel by Ben Ames Williams, LEAVER HER TO HEAVEN is a stunning 40s film, filled with spectacular set decorations and Oscar-winning color cinematography.

The story is a solid melodrama about beautiful Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney in her Oscar-nominated performance) who marries a naive novelist (Cornel Wilde). He is drawn into her family on the eve of the ceremonial scattering of her father's ashes in New Mexico. From the getgo the family seems full of angst as everyone stays out of Ellen's way. On a whim, she breaks her engagement to a lawyer (Vincent Price) and marries Wilde.

Everything seems OK until they visit his crippled brother (Darryl Hickman) in Georgia. She seems jealous of Wilde's attention to the kid. Somehow, plans are made for the three of them to go to Wilde's "lodge" in Maine, where a faithful servant )Chill Wills) also lives. Tierney seems more and more edgy and starts to openly resent Hickman and Wills. And then her mother a step sister (Mary Philips, Jeanne Crain) arrive from Bar Harbor.

Everything starts to unravel at this point as Tierney becomes convinced that Wilde and falling for Crain. A series of mysterious accidents happen and there is a big (overblown) court case tried by the man (Price) she dumped to marry Wilde and a stunning turn of events.

The movie is gloriously filmed in rich Technicolor that accentuates deep reds, warm golds, and luscious shades of turquoise. The Maine and New Mexico interiors are just great and look like they came out of a contemporary magazine, including the simple little lodge by the lake. Also of note is the driving dramatic score by Alfred E. Newman.

Tierney is superb as the troubled Ellen and has never looked more beautiful. Wilde is suitable perplexed as the the novelist. Crain is solid as the stalwart sister. Price overacts outrageously (but it's fun). Philips, Wills, and Hickman are good. Others in the cast include Ray Collins, Olive Blakeney, Gene Lockhart, Mae Marsh, Grant Mitchell, and Reed Hadley.

LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN ranks among the best melodramas of the 1940s.
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Incest through a third party.
dbdumonteil14 August 2003
The melodrama of which Stahl was one of the masters throughout the thirties had muted,probably because the importance of the film noir in the following decade."Leave her to heaven' is as much a film noir as a melodrama.What's particularly puzzling is the color. Like some Lang ,HItchcock or Tourneur works ("secret beyond the door" "spellbound" or "cat people",for instance) ,this is par excellence a Freudian movie.The heroine has never solved her Oedipus complex :she has always been in love with her father -dig the scene when Gene Tierney rides her horse as she throws her father's ashes away. The love she could not make with her father ,she will make it through a third party: a husband who resembles her dad. This could be fine.She loves her husband to the exclusion of all others .But there are others ,and they are all living threats.So these intruders will be enemies.The scene when Tierney sees her family coming through binoculars can be compared to an attack of Indians or bandits when the hero is alone in a remote fort in an adventure film ,as Bertrand Tavernier pointed out in "50 ans de cinéma américain". Had the heroine preserved her intimacy -and how stupid her husband was not to have understood that!-,maybe nothing would have happened.THe color,which might seem irrelevant in a film noir ,is actually necessary because "back of the moon" ,the island in the middle of the lake is a paradise ,soon to become a lost paradise,then a living hell. A probably never better Gene Tierney outshines every other member of the cast ,which is first-rate though.Little by little,we see her become a monster ,and the actress's performance is so convincing (along with a superb script from which a lot of today's writers could draw inspiration) that it gives her horrible crimes an implacable logic.Like in a Greek tragedy. "Leave her to heaven " is by no means "romantic trash" .It's the crowning of Stahl 's career in which he transcends both melodrama and film noir.
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8/10
Obsession and Destructive Jealousy
claudio_carvalho23 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After two years in prison, the Bostonian writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wild) returns to his cottage "Back of the Moon", in Deer Lake, Maine. His friend and lawyer Glen Robie (Ray Collins) tells the story of Richard to an acquaintance of his.

While traveling to New Mexico by train to spend a couple of days in Glen's Jacinto Rancho, Richard meets the young and beautiful Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) reading his last novel. On the station, he finds that Ellen, her mother Mrs. Berent (Mary Philips) and her stepsister Ruth Berent (Jeanne Crain) are also guests of Glen. Along the days, Ellen calls off her engagement with the politician Russell Quinton (Vincent Price) and marries Richard.

Richard travels to "Back of the Moon" with Ellen and his crippled brother Danny (Darryl Hickman) and Ellen feels jealous of Danny and the caretaker Leick Thome (Chill Wills). After the visit of Mrs. Berent and Ruth, Ellen tries to convince Danny to go to their house. Danny prefers to stay and Ellen plots a scheme and Danny drowns in the lake.

Richard and Ellen move to Mrs. Berent's house and Ellen decides to get pregnant to get more attention from Richard. But later she provokes an accident and has a stillborn baby. When Richard leaves Ellen, the obsessive woman plots her own death to incriminate Ruth.

"Leave Her to Heaven" is a melodrama that tells the story of an obsessive female fatale with a destructive jealousy of her husband and capable to plan her own death to destroy the life of her stepsister. Gene Tierney has a fantastic performance and was nominated in 1946 to the Oscar of best actress in a leading role. Her character has also a non-resolved Oedipus complex and her attraction for Richard is due his resemblance with her beloved father.

I found that the title "Leave Her to Heaven" is a quote from Hamlet in a scene when the Ghost tells Hamlet to not seek revenge against Queen Gertrude, but rather leave her to heaven meaning that Heaven will judge her.

The conclusion is rushed after Richard telling that Ellen was a monster and disappoints a little bit. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Amar Foi Minha Ruína" ("Love Was My Ruin")
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8/10
Rainbow noir...
Lejink17 October 2008
Can a film noir be effective in glorious colour or is that a contradiction in terms? Anyway I found this lesser-known thriller to be as exciting and involving as any other black-and-white-mean-streets scenario that the 40's threw up. Tightly plotted, well acted and above all, beautifully photographed, I was gripped from first to last. My only caveats might have been the "framing" device of Cornel Wilde's lawyer's top-and-tail introduction and epilogue, which just takes away a little of the dramatic tension, an over-intrusive musical score, particularly at Wilde and Tierney's first "strangers on a train" meeting and also the fact that more wasn't made of the conclusion of the otherwise tautly drawn crucial trial scene. The acting is top-rate, with no discernible weak links. Wilde, as the duped author, shows hidden depths to his handsome exterior, Crain, in a sub De-Havilland part modulates her performance winningly as her character's importance to the plot develops and Vincent Price is absolutely excellent as Tierney's abandoned fiancé, a lawyer on the make who convincingly destroys Wilde and Crain in his vengeful piece-de-resistance as the prosecuting counsel. What a shame he was later reduced to his stereotype cackling mad-man persona of seemingly dozens of horror films. He's a revelation here, almost stealing the movie in said trial scene where he's made to recite long pieces of staccato dialogue which he delivers pitch-perfect. Gene Tierney, of course, is enthralling in the pivotal role of the possessed / possessive Ellen, who uses her obvious beauty and sophistication to ensnare Wilde, before taking off into psychopath territory, which sees her effectively kill Wilde's disabled but adored younger brother and devise an almost perfect beyond-the-grave trap for Wilde and Crain to fall into. Great as all these pluses are, I keep coming back to the cinematography which captures like no other film I've ever seen tones of radiant beauty in almost every shot, both interior and exterior. In fact all I can say to finish is that I could find very little to fault this glorious but unheralded example of the golden age of Hollywood.
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9/10
What Shall Be Done With This Jealous Woman? Let Heaven Deal With Her!
Noirdame7922 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Lushly photographed in Oscar-winning Techincolor, this film version of Ben Ames William's novel is an engrossingly watchable portrait of a possessive, jealous woman, a role that earned Gene Tierney an Oscar nomination.

There is an obvious tension between Ellen Berent (Tierney) and her mother (Mary Phillips), especially when it is hinted that Ellen and her late father had a special, close relationship. When the exotically beautiful socialite Ellen meets the handsome, gentle, and rather naive novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde), she is taken with him because of his resemblance to her deceased dad. They gather with Ellen's family at the ranch of a mutual friend, and Ellen has Richard under her spell, discarding her fiancée Russell Quinton (Vincent Price)like last week's garbage. She proposes to Richard, and states breathlessly, "I'll never let you go,", and the poor guy (and the audience) has no idea what he is in for. It also seems that everyone but Richard (and the viewer) is aware of Ellen's demands of attention and possessiveness, as the narrator and family friend Glen Robie states early in the film, "Ellen always wins", and "Nothing ever happens to Ellen".

As soon as they are married, they travel to Georgia to meet Richard's handicapped brother, Danny (Darryl Hickman), and although Ellen helps look after him (and even teaches him to walk with crutches) she is incensed by the intrusion of him into their lives, their home, and basically, of any other person coming between her and her husband. When her mother and sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain) come for a visit, she is all but enraged and her icy reception sucks all the fun out of that party!!! After her family departs, Ellen secretly takes Danny out in the lake for swimming, and deliberately lets the poor boy drown so she can have Richard all to herself. The crestfallen novelist and his manipulative bride then go to stay with Ellen's family, and on the advice of Ruth, she decides to give Richard a baby. However, Ellen is soon disillusioned with the idea, bemoans the fact that she will soon lose her figure (and her husband's attention), she coldly puts on a beautiful blue evening gown, applies red lipstick and deliberately throws herself down a flight of stairs, and succeeds in miscarrying the son that Richard so wanted. She then focuses her obsession on to her gentle sister, seeing the friendship Ruth shares with Richard, and in a self-righteous tirade, berates her long-suffering sibling (actually cousin adopted by the family), unwittingly revealing her dastardly deeds for Richard to overhear. He leaves her, preparing to file for divorce, so Ellen hatches her most evil scheme of all - she writes a letter to Quinton saying that Ruth is planning to kill her, and then poisons herself at a family picnic in order to frame her sister. The truth, however comes out at trial and Harland is forced to serve a prison sentence of two years due to his knowledge of Ellen's crimes, but once he has served his time, he and Ruth, whom had declared her love for him at the trial, unite against a epic sunset . . . . . . . .

Tierney and Crain look fabulous, and could easily pass for sisters. Ellen's "nightmare" is an effective foreshadowing of Danny's death, and her jealousy over Enid Southern, a girl from Harland's past, adds more richness to the movie. Chill Wills is great as handyman Thorne, and Vincent Price is a perfect unwitting accomplice in Ellen's last scheme. There are biblical references that resound in the film, for example, Ellen is portrayed as a serpent emerging from dark waters in one scene, while Ruth is presented as an angelic, nurturing, gardening, animal-loving cherub. Another interesting analogy is that on the way to the ranch, Ellen is anticipating hunting and eating wild turkey, while Ruth can't wait to see the new colts. The theme music is dramatic and adds fuel to the already burning fire of the drama.

It is classified as film noir, and even with the color photography, it makes sense. An interesting presentation of a truly malicious character.
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7/10
"I'll never let you go. Never, never, never"
ackstasis27 September 2008
I don't think I agree with those who have designated 'Leave Her to Heaven (1945)' a film noir. This Technicolor picture – and it's surprising how much the presence of colour can distort the tone of a film – feels much closer to the claustrophobic domestic melodramas of the same period, such as Hitchcock's 'Rebecca (1940)' and 'Suspicion (1941),' and Cukor's 'Gaslight (1944).' But there's one important difference. By reversing the gender roles, and placing the power in the hands of the wife, director John M. Stahl here creates a formidable femme fatale, personified by the lovely and luminous Gene Tierney. The vibrant Technicolor photography is certainly pleasing to the eye, and the saturated colours add a perhaps-unintended touch of the surreal, but the dazzling colour palette distracts from and obstructs the film's darker themes. As much as I wouldn't like to deprive myself of Tierney's sparkling green eyes, I think that, in terms of atmosphere, 'Leave Her to Heaven' would have worked better in black-and-white.

The film starts off in the classic noir style: told in flashback, the story opens with popular author Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde), who meets an alluring woman, Ellen Berent (Tierney), on a train. Ellen quickly charms Richard with her dazzling looks and strong personality; soon, despite her own engagement to a prominent lawyer (Vincent Price), she has proposed their marriage, an offer he finds impossible to refuse. Here, 'Leave Her to Heaven' takes a distinct turn in storytelling approach, abruptly shifting its attention to Ellen's perspective, at which point we begin to recognise that perhaps she isn't as lovely as her new husband has been led to believe. The new couple move to Richard's secluded lakeside lodge, where they must also care for his crippled younger brother, Danny (Darryl Hickman, giving one of those "excited boy scout" child performances that were popular in the 1940s). As the weeks go by, Ellen's near-obsessive love for Richard begins to brood anger, hatred and jealousy, culminating in the cruelest of acts.

Tierney's character initially elicits an amount of sympathy, especially given Richard's apparent inability to recognise his wife's desperate need for privacy and intimacy in their relationship. However, it doesn't take long before her behaviour, fuelled by suspicion and paranoia, becomes entirely contemptible, and there's no longer any trace of the charming enchantress we saw in 'Laura (1944).' Ellen's psychosis is an intriguing one: she was obviously obsessed with love for her own father – what Freud called "feminine Oedipus attitude," or Electra complex – and, following his death, subsequently fell in love with Richard, who bears a remarkable resemblance to him. Such is her passion for her father, through Richard, that she cannot bear to share him with anybody; thus, her mania stems from the simple notion that "she loves too much." Ellen's murders are shocking in their own low-key simplicity, and Tierney, who received her only Oscar nomination for the role, carries out her evils with an icily-impassive face. But, geez, even this chilling portrayal can't make me stop loving her.
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Gene Tierney delivers memorable performance in this technicolor film noir...
Doylenf14 April 2001
While most film noirs conjure up images of terror in black-and-white settings, 'Leave Her To Heaven' manages to fall into the noir category despite its lush technicolor scenery and handsome interiors. It's a visually stunning example of "women's noir" performed to the hilt by a talented cast. Only Cornel Wilde fails to deliver. He seems too weak as the author who impulsively marries a beautiful woman, only to find that beneath the lovely exterior is a warped mind consumed by jealousy. He never quite measures up to Tierney's performance--seemingly sweet and kind but actually cold and cunning. Tierney has never been more beautifully photographed and looks stunning throughout. Jeanne Crain does well enough as the demure half-sister, rising to the occasion when the script demands a spunkier side to her personality. While the plot gets a little "heavy" at times, it's a supremely satisfying melodrama played against some of the most beautiful settings imaginable. Alfred Newman's music suggests the slowly developing tension. All in all, a fascinating example of film noir that succeeds despite technicolor. Another fine example of color noir might be 'Chinatown'. Well worth seeing to watch a fascinating femme fatale at work. Gene Tierney deserved her Oscar nomination--but lost to Joan Crawford of 'Mildred Pierce'.
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7/10
LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (John M. Stahl, 1945) ***
Bunuel197617 February 2009
A Technicolor noir is intrinsically a paradoxical term but this stunningly handsome melodrama – which deservedly copped cinematographer Leon Shamroy a consecutive Academy Award – is probably the most successful example of this anomaly within the prolific genre. Gorgeous Fox starlet Gene Tierney (who also received her sole Oscar-nomination for her efforts here) gives an excellent central performance as the pathologically jealous heroine who ensnares a chance acquaintance on a train (novelist Cornel Wilde) into marriage while summarily dismissing her current fiancée (prospective D.A. Vincent Price) via telegram. Wilde's younger brother (Darryl Hickman) is a cripple and when she finds herself having to take care of him while her hubby writes away in his cabin, she soon takes matters into her own psychotic little hands and lets the boy drown after suffering a cramp brought on by her egging to exercise himself further. The relationship between Tierney and Wilde is never the same again and he finds solace in her kind-hearted, red-headed half-sister (Jeanne Crain) who had earlier suggested that Tierney conceive a child so as to bring Wilde back to her. However, when she realizes their new-found proximity, Tierney deliberately throws herself down a staircase to lose the child. Furthermore, Tierney had had an unhealthy attachment to her late scientist father which turned the relationship with mother into a cool one; taking a trip down the cellar (where father's old mixtures are stored) on the eve of a picnic, she spikes her own food with poison but not before sending off a letter to Price incriminating Crain of her own murder!! Wilde and Crain make a handsome couple but are not overly taxed by their roles; on the other hand, Price makes the most of the juicy opportunity provided by the film's climactic trial sequence in which he grills Crain into declaring her love for Wilde and also contrives to make the latter an accessory to murder (punishable by a short imprisonment) for having withheld Tierney's confessions to him of her own evil deeds! The supporting cast also features a handful of familiar faces: Ray Collins (as Crain's guardian), Chill Wills (as Wilde's manservant) and Gene Lockhart (as the family doctor); director John M. Stahl was the Douglas Sirk of his day and handles the material with consummate skill while composer Alfred Newman lends it a quite remarkable musical backing that was oddly bypassed at the Oscars (although, truth be told, he was already being nominated for two other films that same year)!
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8/10
Color, Contrasts & Deadly Drama
seymourblack-18 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It would be impossible to watch "Leave Her To Heaven" without being struck by some of the stark contrasts which it contains. Its very dark story is depicted in glorious Technicolor, its main character appears to be beautiful and sophisticated but is actually evil hearted and capable of great cruelty. One of the many stunningly beautiful exterior locations is used as the setting for a crime which is both shocking and heinous and similarly an act of extreme wickedness is perpetrated in one of the movie's wonderfully opulent interior scenes.

"Leave Her To Heaven" is a veritable feast of colour, costumes and drama and makes a great visual impact right from the start. Bearing this in mind, it's easy to see why this movie won the 1946 Oscar for "Best Cinematography - Color" and was also Oscar nominated for the "Best Art Direction - Interior Decoration" award.

The story which is recounted in flashback, describes the circumstances which led to successful author Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) being sentenced to a term in prison. Shortly after meeting Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) on a train journey, Richard becomes captivated by her and they gradually become closer until one day she stops wearing her engagement ring. Shortly after this, her ex-fiancé Russell Quinton (Vincent Price) calls to offer his congratulations on her forthcoming marriage. Ellen introduces him to Richard who was unaware of any marriage plans but just passively plays along with what's happening. Later, Ellen proposes to Richard and he accepts.

After their marriage, Ellen gets to know Richard's younger brother Danny (Darryl Hickman) who's recovering from polio. She's very attentive and helps him to start walking again with the use of crutches. This achievement clears the way for Danny to be released from residential care and to go to stay with Ellen and Richard at Richard's lodge called "Back Of The Moon". At the lodge, Ellen starts to become resentful of the time that Richard spends writing and irritated by the constant presence of Danny and Thorne (Chill Wills) who is a woodsman and old family friend. Her discontent worsens when her mother and adopted sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain) arrive for a surprise visit. Ellen's mother and Ruth cut their visit short as it becomes clear to them that Ellen does not welcome their presence. Richard becomes unhappy about how Ellen has treated her family and in a heated conversation she accuses him of being in love with Ruth.

During a later incident at the lake near to the lodge, Danny is drowned and following this, the couple move to Ellen's mother's home and Richard becomes very depressed and abandons his writing. He returns to a more positive frame of mind when Ellen becomes pregnant but another incident leads to her losing the baby.

Some time later, when Richard's new book is published, Ellen is furious when she sees that it has been dedicated to Ruth. Richard and Ellen have an argument during which she admits the roles she played in the deaths of Danny and their unborn baby. Richard then leaves her but is called back to the house when she is suddenly taken ill. Ellen dies and a dramatic court case follows during which Ruth is charged with poisoning Ellen and the prosecutor is Russell Quinton. Ruth is found "not guilty" but Richard is sentenced to imprisonment for withholding knowledge of Ellen's crimes and in so doing, being an accessory.

Ellen's initial attraction to Richard was based on his resemblance to her late father and her subsequent need to constantly have his exclusive attention became a powerfully destructive force.

"Leave Her To Heaven" is a memorable melodrama in which Gene Tierney gives an exceptional (Oscar nominated) performance as a woman whose extreme jealousy and possessiveness propel her into a series of insane acts which ultimately damage the lives of everyone around her. The precise nature of her psychosis gradually becomes clear as the action progresses and the performance of Jeanne Crain is also very praiseworthy.
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What a Movie!
Jalea14 February 2007
This is one of my favorite movies! The mystery was the lead character, Ellen; the cool, lovely and smoldering and so much more. Ellen Berent Hartman is the adult version of Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed (1956). Totally ruthless, unfeeling and riveting. Gene Tierney (Ellen) gave the performance of her career! Cornel Wilde was a good foil for her as her unsuspecting husband, Richard Hartman. This movie is about the rare breed of human who has feelings for no one, consumed by their own selfish desires. The costars almost faded in the background at times in comparison to Tierney's performance. Yet, every character had their moment to shine. Vincent Price does a great job portraying the jilted fiancé whose fierce determination to see justice done is just an expression of loss and unrequited love. Jean Crain was appropriately forlorn and Chil Wills' expression of horrid realization was chilling (no pun intended). With all of the cards seemingly laid on the table for the audience, there is still room for suspense. If you like a suspenseful drama, don't miss this movie. I watch it every chance I get.
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9/10
Clingy is never a good look, even if you have great bone structure
AlsExGal11 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The whole story is being told in flashback as Dick Harland (Cornel Wilde) comes home from prison. You know he is coming home to somebody, but you don't know who, and you know he has spent several years in prison, but you don't know why, so this gets your curiosity up to find out how this mild mannered author got in this fix.

So the flashback shows Richard on his way to the New Mexico desert when he meets a beauty on the train, Ellen (Gene Tierney), who is on her way to New Mexico to spread her recently deceased father's ashes over the land the two used to travel on horseback. In a whirlwind courtship Richard marries Ellen, much to the chagrin of her fiancé back home (Vincent Price), who figures being thrown over like this will make him a laughingstock and hurt his chances at being elected D.A. Such a plea would make you not want to marry the guy whether there was another man or not.

Well, after the marriage, Richard finds out what a suffocating woman he has married. She doesn't want anybody else around the two, including Dick's brother who is recovering from polio and a handyman who has been around the place forever. She can kick the handyman out, but when she cannot get rid of Dick's brother by her normal passive aggressive methods, she turns to a more sinister plan. Slowly Dick sees her for what she is, and also he slowly turns to Ellen's younger plainer sister (Jeanne Craine) for comfort. When Dick decides to leave her, Ellen has one more card up her sleeve to make sure she has the last word.

The Technicolor in this film was gorgeous, and Tierney's Ellen may just be one of the more sinister and subtle femme fatales in all of film noir. Vincent Price, as the jilted lover, is great in what amounts to a minor role that just could not help but have gotten him noticed. As the D.A. in the courtroom scenes, he is electrifying. Cornel Wilde seems so-so, but then Tierney is playing the aggressive one here, so this is hardly a film that calls for someone to play strong opposite of her.

A side note - I read the original novel, written in 1944. Things left out of the film include Dick actually witnessing what Ellen did out on the lake, and her initial false claim of pregnancy to keep Dick quiet. The odd thing was that Ellen, a married woman, did not have the slightest idea if pregnancies could go longer or shorter than the normal nine months. I think I remember her actually going to the library to research the question. How times have changed.
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7/10
Stunningly haunting film
vincentlynch-moonoi23 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There seems to be a debate about whether or not this is film noir. Well, I'm not sure about that, but I am rather sure that this is one of the very few classic films that I have ever seen that I find somewhat disturbing. It is not often that we see the premeditated murder of a child on-screen, so this is very powerful, and I'm almost surprised it was allowed considering the 1945 filming.

It is unfortunate, considering the Sedona location, that much of the outdoor filming there was during a very cloudy day, thus making the striking scenery look full and drab. Added to that the film transfer, it's a downright shame and deserving of much criticism. It would also be interesting to see a restoration from the original nitrate films (impossible now due to their destruction), because in many scenes the faces (in particular) look so very pasty, while other scenes seem not at all sharp. Further, while some of the exterior shots are lush, others are so cheap looking that it's almost laughable.

In terms of acting, I would have to say this is Gene Tierney's finest role. She combines so very well what the role needed -- sugary sweet in some scenes, cruel and psychotic in others.

I am less satisfied with Cornel Wilde here. There are a number of his scenes -- particularly in Sedona -- where his dialog seems very staged and stilted.

I always loved Jeanne Crain, and here you really have to wait until the second half of the film for her role to take on pivotal importance. Ray Collins, as a family friend, was always a welcomed character actor, as was Gene Lockhart, here as the doctor. A standout supporting role here is the one by Darryl Hickman, as the young polio-stricken brother of Cornel Wilde. And Chill Wills is...Chill Wills...but for a change provides an understated performance. The one supporting performance that seems off the beam to me is Vincent Price -- there is a limit as to just how pompous a lawyer should be! The plot is well done, particularly as you approach the end of the film and the surprise occurs when you get to the courtroom. Not at all what you probably thought was going to happen. It's a very good plot twist.

Not a perfect film, but an excellent one overall. Highly recommended.
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8/10
Lurid color and even more lurid story in a lush and strange noir
OldAle117 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It's not surprising that John Stahl, someone who made his name helming lush romantic weepies would direct one of the most romantic and over-the-top of all noirs. Despite being in color, Leave Her to Heaven fits the noir paradigm in many ways – the flashback structure indicating that the seemingly upstanding young man who begins the story taking a boat to his house in the wilds of Maine has a dark, terrible past; the femme fatale whose seductive powers are the root of all the ills suffered by both our hero and most of the other significant characters in the film; the terrible prices paid by the innocent, and the reach of fate beyond the grave.

Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) is the fatal femme in this tale, latching onto Cornel Wilde's somewhat naïve writer Richard Harland when they meet by accident aboard train towards a New Mexico ranch where they are (also by chance) spending a vacation at the same time, he alone and she with her mother and sister. Except it's not entirely a vacation for the Harlands – they are scattering Ellen's father's ashes, and this plot point gives us several opportunities to note the powerful attachment that existed between the two – and that soon develops between Ellen and Richard, who bears a striking resemblance to the late Mr. Berent.

Amazingly soon, Ellen has given up on her ambitious attorney fiancé (Vincent Price) and thrown herself wholly over to the smitten Richard, demanding more and more from him as the film progresses, and her madness and jealousy deepen. To say much more would spoil the fun…this is truly one of the crazier madwoman melodramas from the period, with vivid work from Tierney and Jeanne Crain as her nicer, saner sister and stunning, riotously colorful Technicolor photography from Leon Shamroy. I was less impressed by Wilde, and the coda seems a bit protracted and obvious to me, but still a must-see for noirophiles or fans of romantic excess – after all, Douglas Sirk was soon to remake a couple of Stahl's earlier films, and he must have known this one quite well also.
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Gene Tierney is great in this film noir thriller
bob wolf13 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Photographed in a beautiful technicolor format, Leave Her To Heaven, will be regarded as a film noir that strayed away from the formula of the genre. Heaven strays away from the dark alleys, dimly-lit backrooms and shadowy run-down buildings, opting instead to present a story against the most aesthetically beautiful milieu one is likely to find in any film made in 1945.

Scenic visuals aside, Leave Her To Heaven is the definitive film noir in every other way. Rife with deception, murder and the omnipresent femme fatale. The film opens in a tone reminiscent of Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train, as Richard Harland(Wilde) is introduced to his soon-to-be wife Ellen Berent(Tierney) on a speeding train. Early on in the picture, the audience is made aware of Berent's duplicitous nature. Hiding beneath a thin veil of kindness lurks the heart of a cruel, manipulative and ultimately, evil woman. An insanely jealous female, Berent would rather kill than share her husband's love. She proves this by drowning her brother-in-law and later, by throwing herself down a flight of stairs, thus killing her own unborn child. When Harland finally realizes that he might have married a monster it is just a little too late. Even in death, Berent attempts to ruin the lives of those who loved her. The ending is particularly interesting and a total surprise.

Gene Tierney seems to be having a great time in her role. She uses her unique facial features, a catlike bone structure and narrow gaze to her advantage. Notice the tight, squinty-eyed stare during Danny's death scene. Cornel Wilde might not have been the best choice for the role of Richard Harland. He is stiff and aloof in his performance. It is imperative to the story that the audience feel sympathy for his character, but due to his weak showing, it is hard to feel anything, let alone sympathy. Much has been made of Vincent Price's campy performance as the love-struck attorney. He is completely over the top and delivers his lines with the hastiness of auctioneer on a time limit. I have to admit, I loved it.

Special accolades go to director John M. Stahl who uses the lavish setting and the beautiful colors the way Aldrich might use a dark alley as a device to hide an unknown assassin. This is exemplified best in one specific sequence where the audience watches as blue-colored water undulates savagely as Darryl Hickman's character struggles to catch his breath. It is matched proficiently against the calm icy-blue gaze of Tierney as she watches in an unresponsive pose as Hickman dies a horrible death. The use of colors and the tranquil setting only worked to enhance the sheer direness of the whole moment and the despicable villainess of Tierney's character. It is a testament to Stahl who knew that sometimes change could be a good thing even in such a defined and formulaic genre.

Many have noted that film is, at times, highly unrealistic. Indeed, the plot does have an ample amount of noticeable holes. Some of the situations, including the final courtroom duel between two former acquaintances, tend to be a tad implausible. That aside, Leave Her To Heaven is a great installment in a long-line of trashy, seductive titles in the film noir genre. I highly recommend it despite its various flaws.
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10/10
One of her best roles
Browwn_Shugar3 January 2005
This was ONE of Gene Tierney's best roles, outside of Laura. She plays a woman lost in jealousy and unjustified vengeance. You understand her love for her husband and are not horrified by her murderous acts because she is so lovely and really not a bad person. You also sympathize with her, because you sense her loneliness. She has to be lonely because she's so caught up this web of jealousy. Who can she confide in with it? No one. Cornel Wilde is sort of a dolt to not see how "mad" is wife is. There are questions you can see he wants to ask of his mother-in-law, but doesn't to his detriment. I love, love this movie. Buy it - you'll watch it over and over again.
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5/10
Good and evil with no shades of gray
Turfseer12 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I recommend purchasing the DVD of "Leave her to Heaven" in order to listen to Darryl Hickman's recollections of working on the film as a 14 year old child actor, playing the part of Danny Harland, the crippled brother of the protagonist, Richard Harland (played by Cornel Wilde). Whether you agree or disagree with Hickman's comments, they remain fascinating and will give you insight into the making of this film.

Hickman recalls that director John Stahl treated him very poorly halfway into the making of the film. In the most famous scene in the movie, where Gene Tierney's character Ellen, allows Danny Harland to drown in the lake, Hickman states that he was forced to shoot many takes of the scene, swimming in ice cold water and freezing cold temperature. It was so cold that Hickman's stunt double refused to shoot the scene and Hickman was forced to act in the scene himself. At one point, Hickman got a cramp in his leg and he sensed that he was beginning to drown; Stahl ignored Hickman's pleas but fortunately an assistant on the set realized that the kid might be in serious danger and pulled him out of the water. The scene in the lake took almost three weeks to shoot. Hickman says Tierney was completely cold to him and seemed to support Stahl in his lack of support of the sensitive child actor.

Ironically, Stahl's attitude toward Hickman changed half way through the shooting of the picture. It seems that the producer, Darryl Zanuck, saw the rushes of the drowning scene and told Stahl that it was the most powerful scene he had ever seen in the movies. Stahl started to call Hickman by his first name and no longer referred to him as "son", which Hickman regarded as an insulting epithet. Now Stahl started to refer to Cornel Wilde as "son" and Hickman relates that the director treated Wilde very poorly throughout the rest of the filming of 'Leave her to Heaven'. In fact, Hickman maintains that Wilde told Stahl after filming was completed that he would never forget how Stahl mistreated him. And Hickman also maintains that Tierney treated Cornel Wilde quite coldly, always taking the director's side in his disparagement of Wilde.

Hickman's claims that Tierney didn't think much of Wilde's acting abilities is borne out by Tierney's recollections in her autobiography, "Self-Portrait". Tierney refers to the scene in the library and writes: "The scene was difficult for Cornel, who was meant to be weak and couldn't quite bring it off." She adds that Stahl turned to Wilde at one point and said, "They (referring to gaffers on the set) all seem to understand how the scene should be played, why can't you?" Hickman felt that Tierney's abilities as an actor were limited. He felt she was an emotionally constricted person who couldn't open up to people in general. He's aware that Tierney later had to deal with bouts of mental illness but concedes he knows little of the details of her personal life. Tierney was a troubled person during her career as an actor which she readily admits in her autobiography. One important point that Hickman is apparently unaware of is that Tierney gave birth to a retarded child in 1943 which certainly had a deleterious effect on her mental health in later years.

The conflict between Hickman and Tierney may have been simply due to the fact that Hickman needed more support since he was only 14 years old at the time he was working on the picture. Tierney on the other hand was probably more of a no-nonsense type who didn't believe in socializing while she was on the set.

Leave her to Heaven was sumptuously filmed in the Technicolor of its day. The 2003 digital transfer restores the faded colors of an earlier print to the plush hues we see on the DVD today.

The big problem with Leave her to Heaven is that the first half is all exposition. It's extremely slow-moving and we only get hints that something dramatic is going to happen. Finally, we're rewarded with the machinations of Tierney's evil Ellen Berent Harland in the second half. The high points come in spurts: Ellen sitting in the boat, casually doing nothing as Danny drowns; the shocking scene where she intentionally throws herself down the stairs in order to abort her unborn child and her grand exit where she commits suicide in order to facilitate her half-sister being charged with murder. Even today, those scenes pack an emotional wallop.

Despite Ellen's gripping histrionics, the other principal characters played by Cornel Wilde and Jeanne Crain, the husband and the half-sister, fit the typical victim mold of melodrama and are too beatific and wooden to be considered at all compelling. Speaking of histrionics, Vincent Price is much too over the top as the District Attorney with his one-note (and much too angry) grilling of Cornel Wilde while he's on the stand in the courtroom.

Finally I couldn't understand why Harland gets two years for "withholding evidence". It's inferred that the "withholding of evidence" occurred earlier in Harland's testimony when he fails to inform the court that Ellen stood by and let his brother drown. But where is the proof that Ellen actually did nothing? The court only had Richard's take on what had occurred and certainly that testimony is not backed up by any independent witnesses.

Leave her to Heaven will be remembered for its stunning cinematography as well as its portrait of a demented 'femme fatale'. Aside from a few classic scenes, it's a film that plods along and only manages to capture your attention during its most salacious moments. Leave her to Heaven descends into the morass of victim-hood, suggesting that there is only good and evil in the world and no shades of gray.
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8/10
It's all about Tierney
junemo3 October 2013
She's wonderfully scary in this role, which I view as a sort of precursor to other "crazy chick" flicks like Play Misty for Me and Fatal Attraction. The primary difference is the crazy woman marries the man she's obsessed with--some could argue for no good reason, as Richard is a rather boring chap who happens to remind Ellen of her father. But she has mommy and sister issues in addition to her daddy issues. So the audience knows she's manipulative and obsessive, but it's interesting to see how long it takes for hubby to realize that he actually married a monster. Although the film suggests Ellen is simply evil, she clearly is a sociopath. This film is worth watching primarily because you have these ho-hum dull folks in Ellen's life who all end up being her victim in one way or another, primarily because none of them wanted to accept that this woman was capable of such heinous acts. Tierney deserved an Oscar nomination for the scene on the water alone. She's brilliant in this role.
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8/10
Thoughts in Passing
pamsfriend23 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I liked this film a lot. In four years Gene Tierney went from being Laura to Mrs. Muir with a stopover here to play the disturbed Ellen in "Heaven." Vincent Price lost her in both Laura and Heaven, and in Laura her 'death' almost led to him being arrested for her 'murder.' Her voice always has a rich, creamy sound to it, even when she tries to make it cold in "Heaven." A number have commented on the inadequacies of Cornel Wilde, but to me he is near perfect for this role. Tierney's character is close to Scarlett, with that same obsessive mind that carries the latter through her troubles. Rhett gets wise at the end of GWTW and leaves after fighting her tooth and nail the whole three plus hours. Heaven does not need another Rhett to try to cure Ellen, but rather the story demands a hopeless sap who gets sucked into marriage, and Wilde has just the weak streak in him to do so.

Another parallel that comes to mind is Danny's death and the murder of Mr. Dietrichson in Double Indemnity. Ellen hides her face behind the dark glasses, while Phyllis does not even watch as Walter kills her husband. We watch Danny drown, but only hear Porter Hall's demise.

The trial is a little ridiculous, both in terms of prosecution bullying of witnesses and the fact that Wilde opens his mouth and the case disappears, poof just like that. Had Ruth been convicted, she would have been granted a new trial because of her lousy lawyer.

The film is a lot of fun and well worth watching.
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7/10
No point leaving her there - she never made it
blanche-224 December 2005
Like many post-war films, "Leave Her to Heaven" is a study of a troubled individual. Very troubled. This film was a great setup for Gene Tierney to go on and play the manipulative, selfish Isabel in "The Razor's Edge." She looked like a goddess and projected a certain austerity, both of which made her good for this type of role.

Tierney plays an obsessively possessive woman who lets nothing and no one get in the way of the object of her affections. In this case, it's Cornel Wilde, whose appeal has always been lost on me. Her mother and adoptive sister (Jeanne Crain) suspect that Ellen has a few problems but sublimate their feelings until they can't even look at her anymore. Ellen is still mourning the death of her father and apparently so dominated his attention that it destroyed his relationship with his wife. "Ellen loved him too much," her mother says. And how much did daddy love her, one wonders, thinking with a modern sensibility. And how exactly did he die? After captivating Wilde, Tierney sets to work making sure he never has a minute with anyone else...in any way necessary! The scene in the lake with her crippled brother-in-law is truly frightening.

Though Tierney, in my opinion, was one of the most beautiful women in films, she was never, ever more glorious looking than in this vibrantly photographed production. The most thrilling scene for me is when she scatters her father's ashes - though some may find the music a little strong, I thought it very powerful and atmospheric, particularly in that scene.

Believe it or not, "Leave Her to Heaven" was remade as a TV movie with Loni Anderson, which always prompts a friend of mine to say, when a film is mentioned, "Are you talking about the original or the Loni Anderson version?" There's only one version worth talking about, and it's this one.
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8/10
She was a monster!
hitchcockthelegend15 December 2009
Beautiful Ellen Berent unashamedly jilts her fiancé, Russell Quinton, for writer Richard Harland. Her attraction to Harland being that he reminds her of her deceased father. But soon it becomes evident that Ellen is very possessive and literally will do what it takes to keep all away from her newly obtained beau.

Director John M. Stahl and writer Jo Swerling adapt from the novel written by Ben Ames Williams. Filmed in luscious Technicolor by Leon Shamroy (Oscar winning), Leave Her To Heaven proves two indisputable things. One is that to craft a searing film noir it doesn't have to be filmed in monochrome, the other is that it's proof positive that Gene Tierney (Ellen) was more than just a gorgeously effective face.

Tierney of course needs no introduction to fans of film noir, her appearance and quality of performance in the previous years release of Laura ensures that. While to a lesser degree the mixed Whirlpool four years later also cements her status in the corridors of darkness. But an argument can be made for this being her crowning glory, both in terms of her effervescent beauty and of the performance she gives (Oscar nominated). It's not outrageous to say that the film achieves greater heights because of her portrayal as Ellen, a character that is the epitome of the femme fatale. Tierney has this beguiling knack of shifting from charm personified to outright evil in a heart beat - and amazingly as Ellen grows more warped and jealous, Tierney grows ever more sexy. It's not just Cornel Wilde's duped Richard Harland falling into her disturbed web, it's any watching human being with a pulse! Even as the shockingly cold moments unravel, and there are some truly chilling ones for sure, Ellen draws us in with a lusty fascination that's rather unique.

Credit too must go to Stahl's direction, perhaps a director that unfairly sits in the lounge of the unsung, he weaves his story adroitly, setting up plot roads to keep us intrigued, only to then shift focus back on the dame holding court for characters and viewers alike. Wilde does fine, his mannered approach work works well off of Tierney's show stealing turn while in support we get pretty as a picture Jeanne Crain as the crucial sister character, Ruth Berent, while Vincent Price - elegant as always - does his profession proud in the small but important role of the jilted Quinton.

Leave Her To Heaven is a must for noir fans, a must for Tierney fans, and definitely a production to get the best out of your High Definition TV. 8.5/10
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8/10
Striking melodrama
arturus13 March 2007
This is the kind of film you have to watch understanding the time in which it was made. Talking pictures were only just under twenty years old and people did not realize that film required techniques different from the stage. Two of the leads (Tierney and Price) were both stage actors and were taught to play in the large style that was part of the time and was what audiences expected, as were the grand emotional gestures in the plot of this picture and others, and the ever-present music.

Stage productions at that time mostly all had incidental music, specially written for them (one example is Paul Bowles' score for the Broadway stage production of "The Glass Menagerie"), performed live, in the theater.

This film has a particularly effective score by Alfred Newman, though loud and melodramatic by today's standards, using an ostinato timpani figure, a kind of throbbing heartbeat, and the musical intervallic motive of the descending augmented fourth, the "tritone", which in the middle ages was called the "Devil in Music", to express the darker side of the lead character's motives and persona.

So we should be careful in watching films like this, to understand the context and try to put ourselves in the place of the audiences of that time. If one does, this is a grand experience, with top-notch performances, cinematography, writing and music. Stretch your mind and heart to fit the big emotions and seemingly impossible plot turns, imagine yourself watching this in a huge theater, with hundreds if not thousands of others, on a huge screen, with a very powerful sound system, and suddenly it works.

Of course, this is a vehicle for a "star" actress, and Tierney rises to the occasion admirably, holding your attention in every scene she's in, by her beauty and her sheer magnetism on the screen. On the DVD commentary for it, the actor who appeared opposite Tierney as the young boy Danny belittles her "technical" acting approach (that is, working from the outside in, rather than using the inner-directed "Method" developed around that time in America by Lee Strasberg, taking and often misunderstanding and misinterpreting techniques developed in Russia by Constantin Stanislavsky) and he says that, in scenes, she gave nothing to the actor (himself) playing opposite her.

Well, first, that's the character she's playing, icy cold, with a "flat affect", as written. As a relatively inexperienced film actress, she was possibly one of those actors who cannot get out of character between shots or while resting on a shoot. In retrospect we know of her serious mental problems which manifested later, and perhaps this role was just too close for comfort!

Considering that, watching her playing from this distance, I think she does very well, always present in the scene and listening, with only a very few moments of self-conscious posing. I think Mr Hickman has an ax to grind here; in fact, he does, and he goes as far as to advertise his own teaching practice and book about acting!

Let's face it, when we think of this picture and others like it, after all, we remember Tierney, her beauty, her strong screen presence and her vulnerability as the character, not his performance, good as it is.
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Gene Tierney Had Two Personalities
whpratt126 August 2005
First viewed this film in the 1940's and was captured by the great acting of Gene Tierney,(Ellen Berent Harland),"Black Widow",'54, she was very beautiful and at the same time had a dark side to her appearance and acting in this film. Tierney was perfect in her role as a woman who was very possessive of her husband,(Cornel Wilde) Richard Harland, " Star of India",'53. Richard Harland could hardly breath without his wife watching every move he made and especially when he found time to enjoy her sister, while she was confined to a bed because of being pregnant. Vincent Price,(Russell Quinton),"Madhouse",'74 looked very young and played a lawyer and also great admirer of Ellen Harland. There are veteran actors in this film, Gene Lockhart, as a doctor, who gave a great supporting role. After all these years, I never dreamed this film in the Year 2000 would still be a great success and well commented about. Enjoy Generations to Come.
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6/10
This Depends On What You Expected
ccthemovieman-117 March 2006
How one views this movie probably depends on how they feel about genres. Billed as a "film noir," fans of that genre, expecting the typical hard-edged crime film with tough characters, most likely will be disappointed. Fans of melodramas, however, will be delighted as the movie leans far more in that direction.

For my tastes, the film was way too slow and has too much melodrama, but that may have been because I expected something else. Many classic movie fans love this movie. The film did pick up in the second hour once the drowning scene occurred but in my case, it was too-little, too-late. But, don't misinterpret my remarks: it's still a fine film, a true classic.

One thing everyone should agree on: the cinematography. One would be hard- pressed to find a prettier 1940s film than this one, especially on DVD with a flat screen or plasma set. It's just gorgeous with an astounding color palette. The the two leading ladies are eye-pleasing, too: Gene Tierney and Jeanne Crain, so there is plenty to ogle.
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8/10
Oh Green-Eyed Monster
Hypnotape9 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this movie when I was in grade school. I thought it was great then, and still think so with qualifications. When I saw the movie the first time I thought the Tierney character was a paragon of evil. Now, withmore understanding of human nature (or so I like to think) I see her as a woman in the grip of a mental illness even she didn't understand and probably couldn't control, a person to feel pity for. She was a psychopath in the sense that she didn't understand normal emotions and relationships. Now for the spoilers--if they are spoilers--since most people are familiar with the plot, but here goes. When Ellen learned her husband was leaving her she plotted her suicidal revenge very cleverly, to the extent of writing for help to the man she had jilted to marry her husband. On the stand, Wilde revealed all of his wife's crimes, which the audience was privy to, but as far as the jury, he provided no evidence whatever for his story. Then, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty for Ruth in ten minutes. Whoever heard of a jury returning in ten minutes with any kind of verdict? The next implausible turn of plot was that the hero was sentenced to prison as being an accessory to Ellen's killing of Danny. Since Ellen didn't premeditate letting Danny drown,it would probably have been next to impossible to convict her, much less her husband. Who could prove it wasn't an accident? As a one-time aspiring writer I have this thing about gaping holes in plots and plausible motivation. Gene Tierney and Jeanne Crain were certainly two of the most beautiful women in films at the time and were stunning to look at, as was the scenery. I liked the psychological portrait of an unstable and ultimately tragic woman, whose obsession destroyed not only her own life, but that of everyone around her.
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