Leave Her to Heaven

Leave Her to Heaven

Although it received only mixed reviews when first released, contemporary critics now view Leave Her to Heaven as one of the most subversive movies from Hollywood's golden age. What starts as a romance turns into a murderous melodrama and the beautiful female star, Gene Tierney, reveals violent undercurrents. The dream of domesticity she shares with leading man Cornel Wilde, a dream shared by many men and women as World War II came to an end, becomes a nightmare as her neurotic possessiveness leads her to kill her husband's brother and induce a miscarriage of her unborn baby. In addition, John Stahl's direction and Tierney's performance have aged extremely well and are now considered among the best work in Hollywood history.

Leave Her to Heaven was 20th Century-Fox's top-grossing film of the '40s, a testament to a high level of artistry achieved by all involved and a reflection of changing audience tastes after the war's end.

Leon Shamroy's heavily saturated Technicolor photography, which seems to represent the murderous passions blazing beneath the leading lady's icy exterior, is considered one of the most innovate uses of the process in its day and has been a heavy influence on the use of color in the films of Douglas Sirk, Martin Scorsese and Todd Haynes.

Tierney's Ellen Berent is often hailed as her best performance. As her first film in Technicolor it also was the first to capture the beauty that would make her a major Hollywood star in the '40s.

Tierney's induced miscarriage in the movie marks the first on-screen abortion passed under the Production Code since stricter Code enforcement was established in 1934. Bette Davis' character in Beyond the Forest (1949) would do the same to her unborn child, but the screen handling would be more circumspect. Although later films would hint at abortion, the Production Code would not pass a film depicting abortion as a medical alternative to pregnancy until 1966, when it allowed Alfie to present a woman undergoing the procedure.

— Frank Miller,

Leave Her to Heaven

Sun March 8, 2020, 4:00 PM, Muenzinger Auditorium


Director: John M. Stahl, Screenplay: Jo Swerling, Novel: Ben Ames Williams, Cast: Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, Vincent Price, Mary Philips



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