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. Continue reading