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Leave Her to Heaven: Fox Studio Classics

A lesson to unsuspecting bachelors: It's probably a good idea to wait more than a week before marrying pretty girls with daddy issues. Otherwise you could end up like author Richard "Dick" Harland (Cornel Wilde), the hero of director John M. Stahl's Leave Her to Heaven (1945). Seduced by the beautiful face and impetuous nature of Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) — who's drawn to the writer by his marked resemblance to her deceased father — Dick can't help agreeing when she impulsively proposes to him after abruptly throwing over her current fiancé (a young, lanky Vincent Price). But what seems like a fairytale marriage quickly goes south when Ellen's darker side starts to surface. She can't stand anything that takes Dick's attention from her, whether it's his invalid younger brother Danny (a gee-whiz Darryl Hickman), his writing, or her own sister, Ruth (Jeanne Crain). Her paranoid jealousy leads to tragedy, and Dick gradually begins to realize what kind of mess he's gotten himself into. Based on the best-selling novel by then-popular writer Ben Ames Williams, Leave Her to Heaven is unapologetically melodramatic and pulpy, which would be fine, except that most of the time we can see where it's headed a mile away. The lovely Tierney (who received an Oscar nomination for the role) is charismatic as the dangerously obsessed Ellen, but her character's over-the-top personality makes it hard to sympathize with her even a little bit. Meanwhile, Wilde's Dick is a bit of a blank slate; he's handsome and charming enough, but he never really feels three-dimensional, so it's hard to feel that strongly about him, either. And as the tumultuous Ellen's foil, Crain's Ruth is left little to do but be earnest and sweet. Ultimately, Leave Her to Heaven is the kind of story that works better as a novel than a movie; it's diverting enough, but it never feels like more than a guilty pleasure. Nevertheless, the film's sweeping cinematography earned an Oscar for Leon Shamroy; Movietone newsreel footage from the 1946 ceremony (as well as the premiere) is included on Fox's "Studio Classics" DVD as one of the special features. Other extras include commentary by Hickman and film critic Richard Schickel (their tracks, recorded separately, are edited together), a restoration comparison, a still gallery, and the trailer. The film is presented in a strong full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) with English mono and stereo audio tracks (Spanish mono is also available, as are English and Spanish subtitles). Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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