Despite some fervent proselytizing from no less than Martin Scorsese, 1945’s Leave Her to Heaven still lacks the cult following the film so richly deserves. Impossible to describe without using the word lurid, John Stahl’s film features more perverse activity than any number of more celebrated cult faves—including Nicholas Ray’s infamous Johnny Guitar.
To watch Leave Her to Heaven, even today, is to be left astounded that such a subversive movie could have been made in the ‘40s. Gene Tierney may be better known as the girl in the portrait in Laura, but she was never as good before or after as she is here, playing the literally insane-with-jealousy Ellen, a woman so possessive that her love for her father derails her parents’ marriage, who would rather watch her crippled young brother-in-law drown than share her new husband.
That scene has been widely acclaimed, with Tierney sitting absolutely motionless in a boat, eyes hidden behind sunglasses, watching as Danny sinks again and again into the water. But the whole film is filled with similar jaw-dropping scenes. Continue reading