or: ‘HEAVEN HELP US‘
“…With your love you wrecked Mother’s life. With your love you pressed Father to death. With your love you’ve made a shadow of Richard. No Ellen, I don’t envy you. I’m sorry for you. You’re the most pitiful creature I’ve ever known.”
I watched “LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN” TCM one afternoon. It’s one of my favorite movies and it’s gloriously filled with a lot of emotion with a great performance by Gene Tierney. ( She wuz robbed, I tell ya! She wuz robbed of an Oscar, IMHO. ) But I wasn’t alone when I watched. I was on FaceBook having a “MovieCHAT” with my friend Wendy Merckel, who was watching this in her OWN home. We had a running commentary about the movie, during the movie. We’re a little irreverent, but having fun WITH the movie and each other…but not AT the movie’s expense ‘cuz it’s a great one.
Here is our “MovieCHAT”:
CINEMAVEN: Here goes Ellen Berent: ‘BUT HE’S A CRIPPLE!!!!’
WENDY MERCKEL: Oh wow, I have too much sympathy for Ellen.
C.M. : Ellen doesn’t have to be mad about the thin walls in the bedroom. There are two beds in their room anyway. What’s the problem? “…and the acoustics are disgustingly perfect.”
W.M. – Oh holy… I’d be pissed off at Cornel for bringing the family on the honeymoon.
C.M. – Chill Wills is EXCELLENT.
W.M. – I love Chill Wills.
C.M. – Oh…and I love plaid shirts from the 40’s. They’re very becoming on Tierney.
W.M. – I was just watching her set the table. Sigh!
C.M. – Yeah…what a spread. She tells Thorne her dreams. Look at his face. So next time someone tells you their dream, just know…they’re going to kill you.
W.M. – I love plaid too, I dressed Alice in it when she was little all the time. Now she hates it.
C.M. – Thanx Mom. Way to go!! Tierney can rival Maureen O’Hara with that pirate blouse she’s wearing. What a beautiful girl.
W.M. – Jesus does ANYONE climb stairs like that? Gorgeous.
C.M. – I missed the stair climbing. But I hope to see her roll DOWN the stairs. When you want to get something done right…
W.M. – It was her entrance in that white blouse. Sheesh, I need some clothes that make me look like that!
C.M. – I need some genes to make me look like that!
W.M. – Nice pun there.
C.M. – I’m a punster.
W.M. – Ellen just needs a job.
C.M. – What could Ellen do? She IS perfect at everything. Uh-oh, there YOU are Wendy, watching your in-laws come in on the motorboat.
W.M. – HAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Cheeze it, the folks! Love his voice, Chill Wills.
C.M. – Nice. Does it remind you of home?
W.M. – A little. He’s actually pretty good looking here.
C.M. – He is. Okla–HOMA as Aunt Patsy says in “The Awful Truth.”
W.M. – Yup. he does sound all Oklahoma! I never thought about it, but that’s probably one of the reasons I like him.
C.M. – I’m just thinking about any voice in the midwest. I doubt I pegged his region correctly. I’m a New Yorker. I love his look when Ellen passes him. Like death just passed his door in “The Ten Commandments.” Hey Dwayne Hickman is so dear and engaging here. He’s a bitter older man. ( Remember him on TCM’s child star Private Screenings? ) He’s mad he didn’t have Elizabeth Taylor’s career.
W.M. – I love how you said that! Death just passed his door. I’ve heard that no one ( likes ) Dwayne much. Too bad. I don’t really care for him here, but he’s super good in “The Human Comedy”, and especially in “Keeper of the Flame.”
C.M.– Ahhh yes, “The Human Comedy.” Ellen is beautiful. But she’s a wet blanket. I…LOVE…ELLEN’s…MOTHER.
W.M. – Ha! Ellen’s mom is so proper.
C.M. – Just check out Tierney / Ellen: nights in pale blue satin. Brushing her hair. Lipstick to bed.
W.M. – Get those black glasses ready, Ellen. Wonder if women and men watch this movie the same way?
C.M. – What’s the two different ways, Wendy?
W.M. – Any woman would understand Ellen.
C.M. – She sets a table, she’s hot on fire worrying about her bedroom’s acoustics and she kills her in-laws. What’s not to understand?
W.M. – Maybe any wife I should say. It’s about women’s power submerged and perverted into something monstrous. She subverts herself to her husband, he’s the be all end all.
C.M. – How do you think a husband sees this? Has Andrew seen this film?
W.M. – No, but I should watch it with him. Give him something to think about.
C.M.– Danny’s going down for the count.
W.M. – Those are the best sunglasses ever.
C.M. – Chilling.
W.M. – I’m shallow.
C.M. – But the water isn’t. Who’s behind those Foster Grants?
W.M. – D’oh!
C.M. – A lot of swimming in this movie. Wonder if that was a casting pre-requisite… NOW check out that Chinese outfit Gene’s wearing. Is there ANYTHING this murderous ***** wouldn’t look good in?
W.M. – Yeah those Pyjamas are great. Helps to have a fashion designer hubby.
C.M. – The pajamas are great. Oleg. Oleg Clams Cassini. The music when some of the manuscript pages go flying makes me think of Jennifer Jones’ “LOVE LETTERS.”
W.M. – The music here after Danny goes down into the water reminds me of “SUNRISE“, the sound of the husband calling out her name – remember in the storm scene?
C.M. – “Sunrise”???? There’s no talking in that movie. Why am I watching? Even though George O’Brien’s a hunk.
W.M. – “Sunrise”, on the soundtrack – he yells out but instead of a voice you hear these horns making this calling sound. It’s brilliant and chilling.
C.M. – I don’t know “Sunrise” well. I’m sorry. Anything before 1927 is a little foggy for me. My dad was born in 1927. He’s a little foggy too.
W.M. – I’m just dying for the house.
C.M. – The cottage’s decor is too flowery for me.
W.M. – No, I probably wouldn’t do chintz or whatever that is, but I love the colors.
C.M. – I say flowers and you say chintz. See…I’ll NEVER be married.
W.M. – Cornel writes, he paints. Ellen doesn’t have anything. No artistic pursuits.
C.M. – Ellen needs a job.
…And therapy. I wonder could Ella Raines have been in Jeanne’s part. Whaddya think?
W.M. – Yeah, Ella could definitely play this, she’d be a little bolder I think.
C.M. – Ella Raines…bolder. Does it require her to be sweeter as a contrast to Gene?
W.M. – Yes, she’d have to be sweeter, but I’ve seen her do that before.
C.M. – Love Jeanne’s outfit here. LOVE IT! The hair, the ascot.
W.M. – Yeah, she looks great. Not too many women can get by with an ascot.
C.M. – Gene’s looking dowdy.
W.M. – I think some women would identify with this scene too, everyone laughing and having fun and you sitting upstairs looking on.
C.M. – Sitting upstairs having a baby. And keeping HERSELF apart from the group.
W.M. – Yes, SHE keeps herself apart. Sometimes though I feel that way in my family. Have you seen ”A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”? Sometimes I feel like Dot McGuire’s character.
C.M. – Awww!
ELLEN: "This baby's making a prisoner of me." DOCTOR: "Then what are you having it for?"
HAAA! I love when outsiders smack down Ellen.”
ELLEN: “I hate the little beast! I wish it would die!”
THAT is rough. She ought to eat pickles and ice cream and get her smiley face on.
Look at Tierney at the top of the stairs. Those blood red lips, her eyes matching the color of her outfit, and the slight smile; like she knows something they don’t.
W.M. – Get beautiful before you fall downstairs.
C.M. – Well hey, you know folks will be looking at you. You’ve got to look your best when you’re in a heap on the floor.
W.M. – She’s depressed because she killed Danny. It’s like losing a child. So she’s on the outside looking in. The lie, the killing keeps her from enjoying her man rather than making her man enjoy her more.
C.M. – Why’d she scream?
W.M. – So they’d pay attention? I love the use of aqua in this movie. Like the sea.
C.M. – You’re sooooo sooooo very smart Wendy. I really like how you express yourself.
W.M. – Hey, Gene Lockhart.
C.M. – Hey…Gene Lockhart.
W.M. – Tee hee.
C.M. – OMG! I’m not ******** you…I was looking at the tv typing “Hey…Gene Lockhart” and when I turned around to the monitor…you wrote the same thing!! THAT voice of Crain’s. Modulated. Seven kids Jeanne had. Whew!
W.M. – Wow. She probably just wanted a regular life, Here we are dreaming of being like her.
C.M. – Jeanne’s quite a good scene partner with Tierney. You have to be strong. And confident.
W.M. – Yes, I like that, you do have to be confident.
C.M. – Hey…laying on the couch looked like Ellen was in a chintz coffin.
W.M. – Love what you wrote, ‘like a chintz coffin.’
C.M. – The coldest look. The look when you realize you don’t know the person you married. Your marriage is now officially over Ellen. Jesus Christ, God help her.
W.M. – I feel sorry for her.
C.M. – Me too. But she has to go. She keeps killing people…or at the very least, chasing them away.
W.M. – Here she’s being honest for the first time, and it’s no good because it’s monstrous.
C.M. – Yes. The truth shall not set her free because it’s monstrous. Richard could draw the line at Thorne, but when your brother is killed you’re supposed to do something about it.
W.M. – Reminds me of Colin Clive in ‘History is Made at Night.’
C.M. – Wait…what?!!! Ahhh yes. He was wacky too. Possessive. Jealous. It consumed him. I didn’t think of that!! To wreck the entire ship to get Jean and Boyer…BRILLIANT!!!
W.M. – Oooh mice use of ”The Maltese Falcon” line. Make that MICE. Oh sheesh give it up Wen, NICE – I can be brilliant but I can’t type.
C.M. – Ha! COLIN CLIVE wrecks an ocean liner. ELLEN BERENT wrecks herself. Hell…even Death doesn’t want her. Her hand. Perfect touch. Wow, that’s good.
W.M. – Forgot Vinnie.
C.M. – Hammy Vinnie: “Are you in love with Richard? Are you in love with RICHARD? ARE YOU IN LOVE WITH RICHARD?!!!!!”
W.M. – Hahahahaha! I hear his voice when I see those words. The courtroom is even aqua.
C.M. – I absolutely am back of the moon about Jeanne Crain’s quiet way she answers the question. Not shrieking at the moon like my girl Ida Lupino in “They Drive By Night.”
W.M. – Gad Jeanne looks good in white. And I thought Gene looked good in white.
C.M. – Jeanne is gorgeous, white, blue, whatever. And like Cathy O’Donnell, she doesn’t swing her arms when she walks.
W.M. – I think the aqua and pink/orange/red motif also looks like the desert sky and sand. I never noticed the arm swing, or lack thereof. But I can see a huge similarity between those two. Very simple straightforward actresses. Both played ‘good’ so well, without adornment. Plainly.
C.M. – Understated. Genuine. Jeanne Crain.
W.M. – Vincent’s a tool, in more ways than one.
C.M. – HA!!!! Why? He’s a man in love. And a good lawyer.
W.M. – He’s Ellen’s tool. AND he’s humorless. Not that the situation really allows humor.
C.M. – I like him humorless. And with Mitchum and Russell, he was good. Those horror pix were a bit over the top. But he’s very good here. Manly. Butch. Vincent Price as Darrell Issa.
W.M. – Ewww, that IS creepy. I mean Issa.
C.M. – HA! Right…
C.M. – Perfect Wendy. Perfectly put!!
W.M. – Love the bullseye window over the witness stand.
C.M. – Good observation!!! Dang! What does it mean do you suppose.
W.M. – Well, I did think of it as a bullseye – you know – the person on the stand is being targeted by Vinnie.
C.M. – When Jeanne says:
"I think I've always loved him.”
It kills me. Here it comes. PINKY’S ON TRIAL!! Get ready for her line; and how her voice drops. One-take Crain. Sounds like she’s talking. NOT acting.
W.M. – Yes, totally.
C.M. – Here we go with Crain’s line reading. Any final thoughts before you go?
W.M. – It’s a triumph not a trap, the way she says it.
C.M. – Beautiful Wendy.
WENDY: In looking back over our discussion of “Leave Her to Heaven“, some things really pop out that I wish I’d said. For instance, when you talked about plaid, I wished I’d mentioned how brilliant it was for TCM to show “Leave Her to Heaven” and “Written on the Wind“ back to back – the movies have more in common than I ever would have thought, including plaid:
Or when you asked about how women and men might see the film differently, I wish I’d said that Ellen is a man’s perfect fantasy, much like Glenn Close would be years later in “Fatal Attraction.“ She’s perfect – she doesn’t want kids, she doesn’t want family. She only wants her husband. Any man would be salivating at the idea of a gorgeous woman with no strings attached. A dream come true, right? But the filmmakers flip that on its ear, make it blacker than black in theme. So the movie appeals to women and men on some really weird levels.
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