“Sometimes the truth is wicked.”
In the film Leave Her to Heaven, writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) travels to New Mexico for a holiday. On the train, he meets a woman, Ellen (Gene Tierney) who happens to be reading his book. They strike up a conversation, and once in New Mexico, Richard finds himself in a relationship with Ellen. A whirlwind romance leads to marriage, and soon the newlyweds are heading back to Harland’s home on the East Coast.
It doesn’t take long before Harland realizes that there’s something not quite right with his beautiful bride. She’s insanely jealous, but she’s also hideously rude to lifelong friends. Ellen, however, is quite practiced at hiding her ugly side. At first, she welcomes Richard’s crippled brother, Danny, but within a few weeks, she’s eager to rid of him–she tries to get rid of Danny gracefully at first, and when that doesn’t work, she takes matters into her own evil hands….
The role of Ellen is considered one of the all-time great Evil Women in cinema, and Gene Tierney was very well cast. She has a sort of restless grace that convincingly conveys the sense of a mind that is not quite in control. Tierney’s performance as the seriously disturbed beauty is flawless. She shifts from false sweetness to absolute psychotic evil with the blink of her eyelashes. Even the other characters in the scene seem amazed by her performance. Jeanne Crain is cast as Ellen’s adopted sister, and the two actresses look incredibly alike. Vincent Price has a relatively small (and tame) role as Ellen’s ex-fiance-the man has no idea what a narrow escape he had. Directed by John M. Stahl, Leave Her to Heaven is classed as film noir, but it has the feel of a soap opera at heart–an excellent one, I’ll admit.