The idea of Geezer Cinema is that my wife and I would enjoy our retirement by going to the movies on Tuesday afternoons. This was great until the virus moved everyone indoors. Our first in-home Geezer Cinema was Contagion, for obvious reasons. After that, while we were stuck at home, we still managed to watch recent films, three from 2019 and one from 2020.
Well, those days are gone. This week, I chose a movie from 1945.
Leave Her to Heaven has several interesting facets. While it is nominally a noir, the movie is in ripe Technicolor that looks great in the new Criterion edition. The movie is simply beautiful, with cinematographer Leon Shamroy winning the film's only Oscar. (There were four total nominations, including Gene Tierney for Best Actress.) There are quite a few scenes that seem to walk close to the edge of 1945 censorship. This is a case where you are best left unspoiled, so I won't say more, but Tierney's femme fatale, Ellen, goes to some remarkable extremes in her attempt to get what she wants.
It has the feel of a Douglas Sirk movie, and Stahl is known as a precursor of the kinds of movies Sirk specialized in. Tierney lost the Oscar to Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, and it's an apt comparison. Mildred is more vibrantly awful than Ellen, Crawford is more locked into her role than Tierney, and while it is no shame to be not as good as Mildred Pierce, perhaps the comparison is why I thought a little less of Leave Her to Heaven than some critics. Tierney has been praised, but I found her lacking, although the fact that Ellen does a good job of disguising her emotions may mean Tierney understood her character only too well. Cornel Wilde was OK, but he's not the most dynamic performer in any event.
Scorsese loves Leave Her to Heaven, and there is no denying the shocking impact of its best scenes. But I think it's less than a masterpiece.
A couple of caveats about this clip. For one, it's got a big spoiler. For another, the quality isn't the best ... it doesn't show off the brilliance of Shamroy's work. Nonetheless, here it is: