Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

Leave Her to Heaven (1945), directed by John M. Stahl.

The setup is like a "women's romance drama" kicked up to 11: Gene Tierney's exotic, almost unearthly beauty (those cheekbones, that overbite!), Cornel Wilde with so much makeup he looks like he's made of plastic. The luxurious, finely decorated vacation homes and "cabins", with everyone dressed so formally. The lush Technicolor and exquisite lighting and set decoration.

Were they intentionally pushing this too far for a fantasy effect, or is it just what audiences expected from a Technicolor drama at the time?

But wait: immediately, the plot goes off-kilter. Tierney's thousand-yard stare is just too unsettling. Her obvious Daddy issues, and the way her family is so cautious around her, the things they won't say to outsiders. We find her jealous and possessive to a psychotic degree -- murder comes easily. She resents even her unborn child and stages a miscarriage (bold plotting for that era). In the final act we move into a quick murder mystery and courtroom drama.

Another strange dimension: the emotions are so understated, the characters all so reserved. Douglas Sirk, who remade a couple of Stahl's "weepies" in the 1950s, would have pushed it harder, but this is in some ways more weird.


Twilight Time limited edition Blu-ray. Richard Schickel and Darryl Hickman provide a light, interleaved commentary track. Isolated score.