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LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN
1945 - John M. Stahl
United States
77
Opening Shot

The setting is Deer Lake Maine and the film begins with a shot of a boat approaching a lake dock where a man gets out and leaves on his own row boat. "Of all the deadly sins, jealousy is the most deadly", The story is set in to place through flashback...

The Film

Here is a rarity, a film noir in Technicolor. John M. Stahl's Leave Her To Heaven is gloriously shot (by Leon Shamroy) in rich and vibrant colors but within this background lies a darkness- that of Ellen Berent played by Gene Tierney. Much like the films cinematography, Ellen is beautiful and loving yet her heart and soul evil. She is determined, and will destroy anyone who comes between her and her husband (Richard played by Cornel Wilde): be it her husband's younger brother, or even the child she is pregnant with. Through all the beauty of the landscapes and the colors lies a deeply unsettling emotion. Tierney, who is easily among my favorite actresses of all-time, gives a brilliant performance as the women who is absolutely gorgeous on the outside yet dark and evil within. There are some truly remarkable sequences (dumping the ashes, swimming in the lake, falling down the stairs, etc) which are heightened by Tierney's impact and presence on screen (which remains a lingering presence through Stahl's camerawork and visual design in the courtroom sequence- using a circular-shaped window to act as a symbolic eye upon the courtroom). Leave Her To Heaven is a film of several layers and depths that are buried among the luscious visuals, colors, and landscapes of the film. This is an underrated work of art that combines noir, melodrama, and Technicolor as few films have.

The Filmmaker

Born in New York John M. Stahl began directing his own silent short films. In 1920 he signed with Louis B. Mayer Pictures which by 1924 became MGM Studios. During this time, Stahl also produced many films. His first real acclaim came with the 1934 release of Imitation of Life, starring Claudette Colbert. The film was nominated for 3 Oscars, including Best Picture. Known for his soap-opera social melodramas, Stahl's films stand out for his visual style, which did change as his career progressed from the silent era to the Technicolor of the 1940s. In 1927 Stahl became one of the 26 founding members of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His films are often forgotten today but many have been remade including two by Douglas Sirk- Magnificent Obsession and Imitation of Life). Stahl did experience some acclaim late in his career, notably with 1944's The Keys of the Kingdom and 1945's Leave Her to Heaven, both of which received 4 Academy Award nominations. Whether socially or stylistic centered, Stahl's films always had a carefully composed visual depth and beauty. To them all there is a rare combination of serious melodrama and artificially layered imagery. Stahl directed nearly forty studio films and I've only seen a hand full of them, with Leave Her To Heaven particularly standing out as a masterful achievement of filmmaking.

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Resources
trailer (youtube)      
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