Leave Her to Heaven (X2)

May 23, 2010 at 11:41 pm (Classics, Geekery, Movies, PBS, TV) (, , , , , , , )

Yep, it was just Reel 13 time again … Because I didn’t watch all of Gigi last week, and didn’t get around to looking it up, I didn’t know what they would be showing last night.  It was Leave Her to Heaven, starring Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde – and Jeanne Crain and Vincent Price.  I admit it, without thinking about it I was expecting the later Vincent Price; instead there was a young and leading-man-quality Vincent Price. 

The facts are these: Cornel Wilde plays a writer, Richard Harland, who runs into the stunning Gene Tierney, playing Ellen Berent.  Turns out they’re both headed for the same ranch, where she and her family (including Jeanne Crain as Ruth, her cousin/adopted sister) are joining other kin to scatter her father’s ashes, and he is taking a break from writing at the invitation of a friend.  Naturally, they fall in love – although he is quite shocked when her fiancé shows up (Vincent Price, playing Russell Quinton).  Ex-fiancé, that is; he took off to meet her as soon as he received the wire she sent him breaking it off.  Richard is even more shocked when she tells Quinton that she had to break off the engagement, because she and Richard are getting married.  It was kind of nice that we the viewers weren’t the only ones who were flabbergasted – did we miss something??  Nope – she’s a bit impulsive, it seems. 

So married, very shortly, they are – although I would think that when one of the first things a woman says to a man is how very strongly he reminds her of her recently deceased father with whom she had an intense bond, this would not bode well for a healthy romance.  Although she was a bit intense about the memorial service (dumping the ashes on a ridge they both loved – and all over the horse she was riding, but I wasn’t supposed to notice that), with the sudden wedding and a few comments made by the family (“she always wins”) she seems just very determined.  Instead of a proper honeymoon they head off to Warm Springs where his brother is trying to recover from an unnamed ailment I’m assuming was polio.  At first all is lovely; Danny, the little brother, loves her and she appears to get along very well with him.  However, my first reaction on seeing him for the first time, lying young and vulnerable in his wheelchair, was “He’ll be dead in 20 minutes”.  However, I didn’t keep track of the time.  As he is doing better, Richard plans on taking wife and brother off to the secluded cabin he owns called “Back of the Moon” … but secluded as it is, Ellen feels that as long as anyone is there besides herself and Richard it’s not isolated enough.  Trying to convince the boy’s doctor that it wouldn’t be safe for Danny, she lets slip with, “But after all, he’s a cripple!”  Oops. 

She’s a masterful actress, though, and hides it all from Richard – until the kinfolk come to call, and that’s just far too many people.  Even his writing takes him away from her too much, and after all, she has plenty of money and could keep him in comfort.  He thinks she’s joking.  She’s not.  Good thing that handyman moved out of the house and stayed out of her way. 

Gene Tierney was a stunningly gorgeous woman.  It’s funny – one of the main things I remembered about her was a scene in M*A*S*H when they were showing a movie of hers, and Hawkeye yelled at the leading man as he kissed her that he’s better not straighten out that overbite.  And all of a sudden there was the scene.  I love that.  She was very good, very intense, still sympathetic almost up to the end as her madness spiralled inward.  “I love you so I can’t bear to share you with anybody!”  Uh oh.  The word most used about Ellen was “jealous” – but it was played more as pure, unthinking, unreasoning selfishness.  Hey, I think she was a sociopath.  Cornel Wilde was … not as good; he embodied the sort of stiff, stilted, handsome leading man of the 40’s I’m not that fond of.  It was a serviceable performance, but it seemed like he had one reaction for all occasions.  There was very little depth to the performance.  Jeanne Crain, on the other hand, was the very picture of still waters running deep – fresh-faced and sweet, but with the occasional expression that showed she wasn’t just an ingenue, and her character wasn’t the wishy-washy goody-goody.  (“I don’t envy you – I’m sorry for you.  You’re the most pitiful creature I’ve ever known.”)  And Vincent Price was lovely.  Darryl Hickman as Danny was a cute, doomed little Mousketeer (“Gosh!”) and Chill Wills had an interesting small role as the handyman Thorne, but in the supporting cast it was Mary Philips as Mrs. Berent – Ellen’s mother, Ruth’s adopted mother – who was outstanding. 

I thought for some reason the title came from Much Ado About Nothing – I kept trying to play a line in Emma Thompson’s voice through my head, but the words wouldn’t come.  It is from Shakespeare, but Hamlet, not Ado:  the Ghost urges Hamlet not to seek vengeance against Queen Gertrude, but rather to leave her to heaven, and to those thorns that in her bosom lodge to prick and sting her.  Well, now it makes sense.  (The line from Ado is Get thee to heaven, Beatrice, get thee to heaven. Hell’s no place for maids.) 

The movie wasn’t bad, but I doubt I’ll ever seek it out again.  I cordially despise a movie that uses the storytelling gimmick of a couple of people starting off the film by saying “Yep, it was here that it all happened – I remember it like it was yesterday” – following which the rest of the movie takes place as one long flashback (or a bunch interspersed with comments from the person who introduced it, which is deadlier) until it catches up with the beginning.  That’s what happened here.  I think the film would have been better served if it had just started at the beginning and reached the ending at the end. 

To me it looked colorized – somewhat well colorized, for a change, but still not In Color – but no, it was Technicolor.  It looked very muted and pastel, and there was no hue to the shadows.  Odd.  Otherwise, it looked great – pretty stars, pretty horses (though I’m guessing from the one mount we saw Gene Tierney wasn’t much of a rider), beautiful landscapes in Taos – loved the ranch – and the New England locations (though I had a feeling someone would be going down that very long staircase the first time I saw it.  Didn’t see the who coming, though).  I do wish the costumes had matched up with the scenery a bit better for the main players, though; Wilde just looked a little foolish in a suit and tie most of the time he was in Taos, although I suppose he was dressed for dinner some of that time – and, God help me, Ellen wore jodphurs riding.  I didn’t notice whether she used an English or Western saddle (and I’m ashamed) – but jodphurs??  The writing was okay – nothing to really take away as a memorable quote – except that they failed a bit on the whole Richard’s-nicknames thing.  This was one of the major sparks to Ellen’s jealousy, and I didn’t see it.  “He used to call me Patchouli.”  He did?  Was she just saying that, did I miss it, or did they not put it in?  The direction was very good – the other characters’ reactions to Ellen were very well done.  The ending, though … It just seemed completely absurd that on the one hand there would be no question about the verdict, and on the the other hand Richard would be held accountable for some of what happened.  Please.  So, not the greatest of endings – not the greatest of movies – but I’m glad I’ve seen Gene Tierney in the movie where Hawkeye yelled at Cornel Wilde.

The X2 of the post title refers to a British series we’ve been watching for a while, Ballykissangel.  A new priest, Peter Clifford, comes to the village of Ballyk, an English priest to this Irish conclave.  One of the first people he meets is the publican, Assumpta Fitzgerald, who hates religion.  Catholicism, at least, and all those who represent it.  And yet sparks fly between them … She constantly picks at him and at his faith, and he stands against it with solid conviction and good humor.  Until he starts to crumble.  Once the stones started to fall Assumpta starts to feel uneasy about helping to cause it, although he probably would have had a crisis at some point anyway … We just watched the last of the third season, and … wow.  Didn’t see that coming. 

This has not been a cheery weekend in media.  Remedial Glee-quote from the episode I’m catching up on now: “I’m pretty sure my cat’s been reading my diary.”  (And I need to say, I love Kurt’s dad to pieces.)  That’s better.


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