Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 26, 2020)
Being in love sure is great, isnít it? And itís especially wonderful when somebody loves you right back. However, things arenít quite so rosy when that other person loves you just a wee bit too much, a subject at the heart of 1946ís Leave Her to Heaven.
The movie starts with a quick and intriguing set up, as we see Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) return home to Deer Lake, Maine after two years in prison. From there, we launch into a flashback and see Richard meet gorgeous Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) on a train.
Both of them end up in New Mexico at Rancho Jacinto along with Glen Robie (Ray Collins) and Ellenís family: mother Margaret (Mary Philips) and cousin/adopted sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain). The Berents are there to scatter the ashes of their dead patriarch.
Though Richard sees an engagement ring on Ellenís finger, they get to know each other better and clearly fall for each other. Eventually she tells Richard that sheís taken off her engagement ring ďforeverĒ, which leads to some tension when Ellenís ex-fiancť Russell Quinton (Vincent Prince) comes to see her.
Nonetheless, Richard and Ellen get married and go to Warm Springs to visit Dickís sick brother Danny (Darryl Hickman). Dick and Danny want to go back to their Maine home called Back of the Moon, but Ellen resists the notion. They all head back to Maine anyway, as Ellen wonít mention her reticence to Dick.
As time progresses, Ellen demonstrates increased signs of instability. She feels jealous over Richardís relationships with others and wants him all to herself. This creates more and more problems and leads Ellen to some extreme measures as the film moves toward its climax.
While I enjoyed Heaven and think itís a worthwhile experience, I canít claim to feel bowled over by it. On the positive side, the movie opens with a moderately intriguing set-up, as we know the flashback story will go down a negative path.
This keeps us involved since we may have suspicions about where itíll go, but the film keeps us off-balance enough to make things tense. The structure acts as a taut ďticking bomb under the seatĒ, as we wait for an explosion to eventually occur.
Unfortunately, the story moves awfully slowly, as it doles out plot points parsimoniously and only occasionally grants us real moments of intrigue. For example, tidbits related to Ellenís father or her engagement remain vague enough to pique our interest.
It just takes the movie an awfully long time to get where its going, and the filmís final act really drags. The movie doesnít end with a bang, as it instead whimpers along after the flickís major dramatic twist occurs.
That zinger is a doozy and demonstrates Ellenís pathology well. I really like the performance from Tierney, as I think sheís the best thing about the movie.
Yes, she acts in a broad manner much of the time, but she brings a nicely coy and mysterious air to Ellen. We see something odd beneath the surface but she waits to let out the truth. This leaves us curious to figure out if Ellenís simply just a little jealous or if thereís something more serious at work.
Unfortunately, the other characters are consistently less interesting. Richard is something of a cipher, as he presents very little personality. He lacks depth or intrigue, so we empathize with his predicament to a degree but donít much care what happens to him.
Despite some lackluster characters and slow pacing, Leave Her to Heaven creates enough twists and turns to maintain our attention. The film takes some unanticipated paths and benefits from a coldly alluring performance from its lead. Heaven doesnít qualify as a classic, but itís an entertaining diversion.