Leave Her to Heaven (1945) - Thriller with Gene Tierney

What a movie to review on Valentine's Day! 

A woman becomes outrageously possessive of her husband to the point of murder. Yes, the wife (Gene Tierney) cannot stand guests or relatives taking up her husband's (Cornel Wilde) time, so she makes them feel unwelcome. If someone does not take the hint, death is next. 

It's a gruesome film made all the more disturbing by setting up the story as something that could happen in your neighborhood to seemingly well-adjusted people.

At the time, the Ben Ames Williams novel upon which the movie is based was often advertised as "the story that makes jealous women blush for shame." But is this story really an indictment of over-possessive females or a journey into the life of an unexpected psychopath?

Gene Tierney is calm and cool throughout. It makes me shiver to think of her stoicism as she destroys her victims. But it has you thinking, what would cause this antisocial behavior in the first place? She's devoted to her late father, then she meets a man who resembles him. Right away, like a tick on a hound dog, she makes her move and transfers whatever possessiveness of dad onto this new man.

They made some hair-raising films back then, didn't they?

  • Imitations of Life: A Reader on Film & Television Melodrama by Marcia Landy, particularly the chapter on Leave Her To Heaven and post-war females getting mixed messages about thier identity, leading to schizophrenic behaviors.
  • The Bad Seed (1956) - Another movie about a psychotic female murderer in suburbia, this time she's a child.


  1. Java, perhaps it is not such a strange choice for Valentine's Day -- the real story of St. Valentine is pretty gruesome and disturbing too! No candy or chocolates there - LOL! And let's face it -- love can be a dangerous thing! I think Leave Her To Heaven is one of Hollywood's best, and Gene Tierney was just chilling in it. Wonderful performance. I also liked Jeanne Crain very much in her role. The only fly in the ointment for me was Cornell Wilde, but then I've never been a fan of his. He is too stiff for me -- a more charismatic actor would have made more sense in the role.

    I enjoyed this look at a Valentine's choice that may seen strange to many, but not to me -- of course, I'm pretty strange myself!

  2. How right you are, ClassicBecky! This holiday does have a not-so-fluffy origin. Maybe I should include a list of disturbing romances in my Valentine's Day movie list next year.


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"Java's Journey: A really fun, informative well-written blog that explores all of the things - and I mean all - I love about classic films."-- Flick Chick of A Person In The Dark Email: java-rush@hotmail.com


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