In Noirvember we celebrate the dark and mysterious crime melodramas of the 1940s and 50s, now known as film noirs. Stylish, suspenseful and menacing, they made for one of the greatest and most influential eras in film history.
Technicolor has never been so frightening as in John M. Stahl’s 1945 film adaption of Ben Ames Williams’ novel Leave Her to Heaven. A haunting tale of love, obsession and murder, this is one of the greatest and most chilling films to come out of Hollywood.
Gene Tierney plays Ellen, a beautiful but merciless young socialite who is mesmerised by Cornel Wilde’s Richard because of his striking resemblance to her late father. They soon marry but Richard begins to see that Ellen’s love is growing into a dark obsession, her jealously becoming a threat not only to herself but to everyone around her. Vincent Price appears as a Russell who, having been previously engaged to Ellen, is not fooled by her seemingly angelic exterior.
Tierney gives a spine-chilling performance as a quietly sinister woman capable of much more than one would think upon seeing her innocent and doll-like features. Wilde’s performance doesn’t match the intensity of Tierney’s but he successfully conveys the naivety and oblivion of Richard. The two make for a powerful on-screen couple, their love a perplexing but passionate affair.
The Technicolor contrasts with the dark intensity of the film, giving it a surreal quality and, paired with the menacing undertones of Alfred Newman’s score, it reflects Ellen’s ambiguous personality. The chilling close-ups, disturbed dialogue and eerie setting fuel the already burning fire of this sophisticated drama.