John M. Stahl

John M. Stahl – The Walls of Jericho (1948)

After County Attorney Dave Connors helps Julian Norman with her shiftless father, Jefferson Norman, she leaves Jericho, Kansas to college to study for a law degree.A few years later, Algeria Wedge, the new bride of Dave’s best friend, Tucker Wedge, makes overtures and plays for Dave, much to the displeasure of Dave’s hard-drinking wife Belle. Angered by Dave’s rebuffs, Algeria induces the state political boss to back Tucker for a Congress race against Dave. Meanwhile, Julia has returned to Jericho, with her law degree, and she and Dave fall in love. Read More »

John M. Stahl – Leave Her to Heaven [+Commentary] (1945)

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A fevered yet clinical study of jealousy, Leave Her to Heaven is probably John M. Stahl’s best-known film. In many ways, it is far removed from the sober, intense concentration of Stahl’s major and underseen ’30s soap operas; his early movies were deliberately plain and spare, while Leave Her to Heaven is overpoweringly artificial and rococo, with intimations of neurotic fantasies churning away underneath its lacquered, rotogravure images. Immediately pulsing with the thumping drums of Alfred Newman’s stormy score, the film proceeds very slowly at first, as Stahl builds a dreamlike Technicolor atmosphere around his three leads, Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, and Jeanne Crain. These actors are eerily one-dimensional, and Stahl uses their limitations as performers to his advantage, making them look like sleepwalkers in a sort of Life magazine nightmare. Read More »