Leave Her to Heaven John M Stahl

Gene Tierney plays Ellen, a competitive and coolly manipulative woman. Her mother claims she "loves too much" but that appears to be a euphemism for obsessive, murderous and psychotic. She has an intense and fanatical attachment to her recently deceased father and a distant relationship with her mother and younger sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain). Ellen finds a new focus for her attention when she meets Richard (Cornel Wilde). As you might expect, he doesn't notice anything strange, or that she is doing everything possible to have him all to herself. This is a melodrama without the melodramatics. It has film noir acting in a Technicolor world. The performances are even and almost emotionless, and may be considered flat (film critic Richard Schickel claims as much in his commentary track) but not in my mind. Personally, I always found the distant acting styles the creepy part. Tierney was so cool, collected and capable of such awful things. Darryl Hickman, who played Wilde's younger brother, provides one of the commentary tracks. He spends too much time focusing on his theories of acting (perhaps not so coincidentally his book on the subject will be published soon). There are some interesting moments though: stories of the cinematographer's obsessive attention to detail are enlightening and hearing about Gene Tierney's condescending attitude towards everyone else on set satisfies the desire for gossip. However, listening to long passages about method acting or Hickman's years as a television executive really can't compare. Schickel, who is normally so reliable and verbose, is barely present. I wonder if this is because he doesn't seem to like the film very much. He spends more time pointing out its flaws than praising it, which is unfortunate. Leave Her to Heaven is not a horror film or even much of a mystery. It does, however, have resonance. Ignore the commentary and watch the movie. You'll soon understand why it's hard to forget Gene Tierney's calm, cool stare. (Fox)