Saturday, November 6, 2010

Leave Her to Heaven (1945)


I'll never let you go. Never, never, never.

Leave Her to Heaven is a story about a psychotically jealous woman who “loves too much” and wants whatever she loves all to herself.
            The film starts off as Dick Harland (Cornell Wilde) arrives back at his home called Back of the Moon. He has been in jail for two years. As Dick rows away to his home, his lawyer is asked what happened to him by a man sitting with him. From here the story of the movie is told as a flashback.
            On a train to New Mexico, Dick Harland meets a beautiful woman. She stares at him and he notices. She apologizes telling him he looks so much like her father. The two get to talking when he comes and sits next to her. He says something to her and she realizes she just read them in her book. He says he was the writer of the book and they introduce each other. Her name is Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) a young socialite.

When the train pulls into the station Ellen says it is her stop, Dick is so taken by her he doesn’t realize the stop is his as well. Once they are off the train they are met by the same people; Ellen’s mother and step sister Ruth and their family friends. Dick is going to their home to start writing his new novel.
            At the house, Dick sees that Ellen is wearing an engagement ring. She’s currently engaged to Russell Quinton who is running for district attorney. A few days later Dick is sitting outside typing up his novel. Ruth is above him hanging some flowers on a walkway and the two start to talk. From the pool next to where Dick is, Ellen swims up. He notices the ring is not longer on her finger. That night Russell comes down to New Mexico to talk to Ellen. The talk does not work and he leaves in silence as everyone in the living room watches him walk out the door. Before Russell had come, Ellen announced to everyone that she and Dick were to be married. This comes a surprise to Dick so after Russell he talks to her. She proposes to him and soon after they are married.
            Dick has a teenage brother named Danny who (for an unknown reason) cannot walk well on his own. Instead of going on a real honeymoon, Dick and Ellen honeymoon in Georgia where Danny has been staying in an outpatient home. Ellen seems to like Danny. She spends a lot of time with him and helping him move around. When Dick suggests they all go home to Back of the Moon Ellen goes to the head doctor pleading with him not to release Danny to tell Dick that Danny is not ready to leave. The doctor said there is no reason why Danny has to stay any longer he can go home for a while. Ellen says that she and Dick have not had any time alone together since they got married they just came to Georgia and they’ve been with Danny. When Dick walks in Ellen goes from being sort of angry to happy for show.
            At Back of the Moon, when Ellen wakes up in the morning she immediately goes over to Dick’s bed and wakes him up to spend some time with him. The walls are paper thin, Danny knocks on the wall and he and Dick start talking. Ellen is at once upset. The next scene is of Ellen in the kitchen with the house helper Thorn who is a long time friend of Dick’s. She tells Thorn that she can make breakfast and set the table herself she did not need any help (this goes back to a talk she and Dick had about once they settle somewhere they can hire a maid. Ellen doesn’t want one because she wants to do everything for him). As she sets the table with Thorn she tells him of a nightmare she had: she was out on a rowboat in the middle of the lake while Dick was in the water, Dick started to drowned but she could not move the boat her arms would not move the paddles she just stood and by the time she realized Dick was in serious trouble he had drowned.
            Later on, Ellen walks over to where Dick has been typing up his story. She does not like that a lot of his time has been spent writing the book and not with her. All the sudden a boat is coming up the lake, in the boat is Ellen’s mother and step-sister Ruth- Dick has surprised her by inviting them over. Ellen is furious and the whole time they are at the house she is on edge and nasty. Dick gets along nicely with Ruth; teasingly he calls her The Girl With the Hoe after he saw her outside gardening one day. A few days later Ellen’s mother tells Dick that she and Ruth are going to be leaving. He asks what’s wrong with Ellen and the mother replies “There’s nothing wrong with Ellen it’s just that she loves too much.” Dick is now beginning to see there is something wrong with his new wife.
            Ellen and Danny sit on a boat in the lake. They talk about going to her family home in Bar Harbor. Danny is going to be attending school in the town. Ellen says that Dick does not want to leave Back of the Moon before his book is finished that Danny can go on before them. He says that he’ll wait for Dick and Ellen so the three of them can go to Bar Harbor together. The look on Ellen’s face is pure hatred and anger. Danny says he is going to swim all the way to the other side of the lake. Ellen follows behind him in the rowboat encouraging him to keep going. Danny starts to get tired and his muscles begin to cramp. Ellen sits and stares in anger and anticipation as Danny drowns in front of him. She hears Dick whistling at the house, she immediately yells Danny’s name, throws off her sunglasses and jacket and jumps into the water. Dick jumps in the water and swims out his brother.

             Dick sits on a beach in Bar Harbor saddened by the loss of Danny. Ellen cannot understand why Dick is out there all alone. She does not realize that killing Danny only made things worse; Danny is all Dick can think about. Ruth suggests to Ellen that maybe they should have a baby to bring some happiness. The wheels in Ellen’s head start turning; she thinks if she does get pregnant that Dick will spend more time with her and she will just be his main focus.
            A few months later Ellen is still unhappy; she can’t go out anywhere, in her mind the baby is making her a prisoner and she feels Dick is not paying any attention to her at all. To top off her jealousy and hatred her father’s former laboratory has been turned into a nursery for the baby and she goes out of her mind. One day she sees Dick and Ruth coming back from town together where it seems like they were having a good time together without her. You can see the jealousy on her face and the wheels turning in her head as she creates a new scheme.

            Ellen is her room with Ruth. She can’t stand the sight of herself and the thought of the baby. She says to Ruth “Look at me, I hate this little thing. I want it to die.” When Ruth leaves Ellen comes up with an idea; she put on a long nightgown and sandals with heels and walks to the stairs. The evil, nasty look on Ellen’s face when she comes to the top of the stairs is heart stopping you cannot believe this woman is going ahead with this awful plan. In the hospital the doctor tells Dick that Ellen is alright but the baby boy did not survive.

            A few weeks later Dick’s book new book comes in the mail. Ellen opens it and she sees the dedication says “To the Girl with the Hoe.” Her jealousy starts up with a fury. Ruth told Dick that he should have dedicated the book to Ellen and all of his books for that matter but he did not listen. Dick comes back and has it out with Ellen. He cannot understand why she is jealous with everything and questions everything he does. During this talk, Ellen confesses to killing Danny and to not wanting the baby and purposely falling down the stairs. Her reasoning is she did not want anything coming in between the two of them. Dick cannot believe what she has just said and tells her he is leaving her.
            The night Dick leaves Ellen goes down the basement where her father’s laboratory equipment has been moved. She takes out his container of arsenic and exchanges it with something from the bathroom. She then sits down and writes a letter.
             Dick is at the train station when he hears his name on the loudspeaker telling him he has a call. It’s Ruth she tells him Ellen is really sick. He goes back to Bar Harbor where Ellen is literally on her death bed. Her mother tells Dick she was fine this morning but all the sudden has gotten very sick. He goes to her, she tells him she loves him and that she wants to be cremated and her ashes scattered like her father’s.
            Ruth is later held for the murder of Ellen. The letter Ellen wrote was to Russell Quinton telling him she believes Ruth is after her and she is afraid of her sister. A bag of full of arsenic was found in the pocket of coat that was owned by Ruth which she had let Ellen borrow. Russell believes what Ellen had to say because he still has feelings for her. The evidence is damning against Ruth: Ellen was the only one who took sugar in her coffee and she had left her Will that she wanted to be buried in the family crypt not have her body cremated. The cremation of the body and her trip she had booked a few days before to Mexico makes Ruth look very guilty for murder. Russell yells and yells at Ruth asking her is she is in love with Dick. Finally she breaks down and confesses that she was in love with him. Dick is asked by on the stand. The first time Russell asked Dick if was in love with Ruth he denied it but now that Ruth had said something he confessed as well. He went on and told the jury that Ellen was crazy she would be the type of woman to kill herself and that out of jealousy had killed Danny and killed their baby as well. Ruth is let off for murder but Dick gets sentenced to two years of jail time as an accessory to murder since he did not call the police right away when Ellen told him about murdering Danny.
            The flashback ends with the end of the lawyer’s story.  The man sitting with the lawyer asks if she will be waiting for him and the lawyer says yes she will. The lawyer says that Ellen had lost, it was the only time she had ever lost anything.
            Dick rows his boat to his house. Ruth sees Dick rowing up to the house and she runs out to the dock and they hug.
            The whole time I was watching this film I could not believe how someone could be so insanely jealous like Ellen. My mouth was open the whole time. The film just took a woman’s obsessive love and jealousy and wove such a great story.
            Gene Tierney was excellent as Ellen Berent.  She did an amazing job throughout the whole film but the scene where Ellen kills Danny was her best. Her facial expressions alone were incredible. You know you are watching a great actor or actress when their facial expressions tell more than words ever could. Gene Tierney was up for Best Actress in a Leading Roll for Leave Her to Heaven… as evil as her character was she should have won. This is why I love acting and seeing actors/actresses play different rolls than what you’re used to seeing. Seeing Gene Tierney as a jealous, evil woman was shocking to see but made the film that much more enjoyable (and shocking) to watch.
            Gene Tierney’s costumes in this film are so pretty. The white coat and sunglasses she wears on the boat when Danny drowns was so pretty (is it weird to say that her character’s anger made her look very pretty?). See her in Technicolor was really cool. She was gorgeous no matter in black and white or color.
            Leave Her to Heaven is what a Film Noir is about; it’s about crime, love, passion, and a deadly Femme Fatale.