Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

25 March 2006

Leave Her to Heaven

The title of this 1945 melodrama is not really apparent until the end of the film (it's rather a bad title, in fact) but, then, there isn't much that makes sense in Leave Her to Heaven. It stars Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain and Vincent Price and was directed John M. Stahl.

Centering around a romance between a novelist and a socialite, Leave Her to Heaven is really a sort of psychological thriller about the nutso female half of the relationship. Gene Tierney always played cold, difficult women (see the film noir Laura or epic romance The Razor's Edge if you have any doubt), but her role in Leave Her to Heaven is an über-bitch, doing things at which many of the great bitches of cinema would have balked. But the film doesn't really get into her (truly psychotic) machinations as much as it focuses on the harm she causes.

It's also burdened with a lot of really ludicrous situations and some ridiculous filmmaking. Tierney, at one point, wakes up in full makeup even though the setting is a fishing lodge and though the woman is obviously psychotic, no one bothers to tell Cornel Wilde that he ought to be careful of her. The directing is occasionally silly, too. I mean, do I really need a title card telling me I'm in Warm Springs, Georgia if the next shot I'm going to see is a sign saying "Welcome to Georgia's Warm Springs"?

I think the main problem, though, is that director Stahl doesn't much like Tierney's wicked Ellen Berendt. The plot is rather weak, anyway, but for me the saving grace is Tierney herself. She's never quite likable—that's not really the intended appeal—but she is a force to be reckoned with and her performance in this film is high diva stuff. Leave Her to Heaven won her her only Oscar nomination and though the film, as I say, isn't really much more than a soapy, socialite melodrama (in color, no less), her performance is really excellent.