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.