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Leave Her To Heaven

Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven

John M. Stahl’s Technicolor noir Leave Her To Heaven (1945), based on the then-popular novel by Ben Ames Williams, is one of the most unnerving films of the post World World II era, presenting the obsessive love of Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) for novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde), whom Ellen reuses to share with anyone, even Richard’s younger brother Danny (Darryl Hickman), with tragic consequences. Tierney dominates the film entirely; all the other characters are merely pawns for her, not human beings, but rather objects to be possessed or eliminated if they cause too much trouble. One of the most disturbing of all noirs, Leave Her to Heaven is best experienced on the big screen, where the vivid “punch” of three-strip Technicolor can really be appreciated; it’s also a film that reflects the unease, even the desperation, of America in the late 1940s. It was also incredibly popular with audiences, becoming — somewhat improbably, given its relentlessly downbeat narrative trajectory —  20th Century Fox’s biggest hit of the era.

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About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of thirty books and more than 100 articles on film, and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu. Visit him at his website wheelerwinstondixon.com.

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