River Of Grass
Cozy and Lee go on the lam after an accidental shooting in Kelly Reichardt's debut feature
On Film4: 4 Sep 1:00AM
A young couple are slowly torn apart by jealousy. Noir thriller starring Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde
With a name like Leave Her To Heaven, John Stahl's movie could only be a film noir. Adapted from the book by top thriller writer Ben Ames Williams, the picture is in fact a fine example of the form with top performances from genre stalwarts Gene Tierney (Night And The City) and Cornel Wilde (The Big Combo).
Tierney and Wilde are Richard and Ellen, a young couple who marry after a chance meeting on a train. For a while all is wonderful, but then Richard's family fall victim to a string of tragedies. At first it seems as if fate alone is responsible for the misfortune. Richard, though, fears that the death of his brother and his unborn child might have less to do with destiny than Ellen's insane jealousy.
With the criminally insane woman now a cliche, it's tough to remember that Gene Tierney was taking a real chance when she accepted the role of Ellen Berent Harland. She's exceptional in the part, and far better than the legions of actresses who've subsequently set down the rolling pin and bouquet in favour of the ice pick.
Cornel Wilde is also superb, his work here rivaling his career-best performance in The Big Combo. A polyglot with a medical degree and impressive abilities as a journalist, salesman and athlete, Wilde could have done a lot of things with his life had he wished. That he plumped for performing seems surprising given that he once spoke of wishing to "accomplish in my life something of value and to do it with self-respect and integrity." Watch him here, however, and you'll be glad that the charismatic New Yorker decided to act when many others would have opted for the operating theatre.
Aside from eye-catching leads, Leave Her To Heaven boasts Academy Award-winning cinematography courtesy of DP Leon Shamroy and a typically eccentric turn from Vincent Price. As for the secondary artistes, they include Ray Collins, late of Citizen Kane and Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre, and Chill Wills, the beefy western favourite who tarnished his good name when he begged his fellow professionals to award him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in The Alamo.
An excellent example of the genre.
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