Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Darryl Hickman, Vincent Price, Jeanne Crain
Written by: Jo Swerling, based on the novel by Ben Ames Williams
Directed by: John M. Stahl
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 110
Date: 12/19/1945

Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Green-Eyed Monster

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Gene Tierney received her only Oscar nomination for her role in Leave Her to Heaven, as a psychotically jealous beauty bent on destroying the men in her life. Directed by John M. Stahl, the film is notable for its exquisite Technicolor cinematography, used in direct contrast to the story's dark, noirish qualities. As Ellen, Tierney makes a striking entrance, gazing with fixed intensity at writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) on a train. They eventually marry, but Ellen becomes jealous of Richard's invalid brother (Darryl Hickman). Vincent Price co-stars -- in a role similar to the one he played in Laura -- as Tierney's jilted former lover.

Best known for his straightforward melodramas, Stahl was able to smoothly blend the noir elements while still remaining true to the story's emotional truth. This was an expensive prestige project, and he managed to turn in a gripping film without offending anyone, which was quite a trick. In recent years, however, Stahl's achievements have been overshadowed by those of Douglas Sirk, who followed in Stahl's footsteps.

Tierney lost the Oscar to Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce and Wilde went on to become a director, churning out such films as Sword of Lancelot (1963), The Naked Prey (1966) and Sharks' Treasure (1975).

Fox's superb DVD handles the Technicolor transfer with glorious clarity and sharpness, and offers a new stereo soundtrack in addition to the original mono track. Richard Schickel provides a commentary track, along with actor Hickman. Other extras include a vintage newsreel item and a stills gallery.

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