This is my contribution to The Best Hitchcock Film That Hitchcock Never Made blogathon, hosted by Tales of the Easily Distracted and ClassicBecky's Brainfood. Click here to check out the rest of the awesome posts! Some people have a great imagination!
A beautiful woman, beautiful locations, gorgeous color and murder. Put them all together and what do you get? A film that wasn't made by Alfred Hitchcock, but could have been. Maybe.
Leave Her To Heaven is the feminine answer to Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. There always seemed to me to be a little psycho link between Uncle Charlie and Ellen Berent. Let's see...
Uncle Charlie: handsome, charming, evil. He fell on his head as a child, presumably the reason for his twisted mentality.
Ellen: Beautiful, selfish, charming, evil. She mourns the loss of the father she loved obsessively and needs a replacement.
Even the supporting players seem similar...
Emma Newton: loving, stupid, so besotted by Charlie.
Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde): loving, stupid, so besotted by Ellen
Ruth Berent: she knows what evil lurks beneath the smooth surface of Ellen's perfection.
Both stories take place in lovely, peaceful locations. Shadow of a Doubt gives us deceptively simple Santa Rosa, California. Leave Her To Heaven gives us gorgeous New Mexico and Maine homes, color and locales more reminiscent of Hitchcock's later films. In both stories, the beauty of place masks an evil unseen.
|Peaceful Santa Rosa|
|The beautiful desert of New Mexico|
|Back of the Moon, Maine - a perfect place for a murder|
Both stories start with a train ride into this peaceful place. Charlie famously arrives and departs on a train to Santa Rosa. Ellen and Richard meet in a charming scene on a train as Ellen is on the way to her father's funeral. Here, a little taste of Bruno from Strangers on a Train creeps (and I do mean creeps) in. Like Guy, Richard unwittingly enters into a tangled pact.
|A train brings Uncle Charlie and also takes him away (for good)|
|A fateful meeting on a train|
|Do you think Ellen and Bruno would have gotten along?|
What Spins this story on its head is that the evil at its heart is the beautiful woman. Sometimes a Hitchcock beauty was bad (Madeline/Judy of Vertigo and Marnie come to mind), but they were usually redeemed or reformed by love (except for Judy's faulty footing at the top of the bell tower). Ellen, so possessive of her man that she kills both his brother and unborn child, is beyond redemption or reform and manages to use her considerable powers for one last punishment from the grave (poor hubby goes to jail as an accomplice for his silence).
|Ellen wins - always|
Directed by John Stahl, Leave Her To Heaven contains one of the most disturbing murders on film. Ellen, jealous of the love her new husband has for his handicapped brother, takes him out in the lake for a swim and coldly watches him drown. Gene Tierney, here so beautiful and so much more than a pretty face, is masterful. This is one cold cookie who could give Bette Davis's Regina Giddens a run for her money.
This is one scene that might even have made Hitchcock a little jealous (but not as jealous as Ellen, I hope). What's wrong with Ellen? She's a beautiful, freakin' psycho, that's what! Beautifully dressed, groomed and photographed, she is the Hitchcock heroine in brightly colored negative.