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Film / Leave Her to Heaven

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Leave Her To Heaven is a 1945 Psychological Thriller directed by John M. Stahl, starring Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain, and Vincent Price.

Richard Harland (Wilde) is a writer who meets socialite Ellen Berent (Tierney) on a train to New Mexico. As it happens, they're both going to the same person's house; Richard to take a break from his forthcoming novel, and Ellen, who's with her mother (Mary Philips) and cousin Ruth (Crain), to scatter the ashes of her late father. They fall in love, and despite the fact Ellen is engaged to Russell (Price), a prosecutor, she breaks off the engagement with him and marries Richard. However, it turns out she doesn't want to share him with anyone else, including her mother, Ruth, or Richard's brother Danny (Darryl Hickman), a cripple. And Richard eventually grows to realize just how obsessive she is.


Was remade as the 1988 Made-for-TV Movie Too Good to Be True, with Patrick Duffy as Richard and Loni Anderson as Ellen.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Danny is Richard's son in the Made-for-TV Movie remake, making Ellen's actions even more monstrous.
  • Artistic License – Law: Ellen's ex-fiance, who she dumped for Richard, is the lead prosecutor in the case against Ruth. There's no way someone with that level of personal involvement with a victim would be allowed to handle the case.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Driven home in the remake, where the evil Ellen is gorgeous, while good-hearted Ruth is genuinely plainer by comparison.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted to hell and back with Ellen.
    • Played straight with Ruth.
  • Betty and Veronica: Ruth (Betty) and Ellen (Veronica) for Richard.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Ellen.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Danny is dead, as is Richard and Ellen's unborn child, and Ellen is essentially a Karma Houdini. Plus, Richard is forced to serve jail time for being an accessory after the fact (he didn't turn her in upon learning that she killed Danny). But he's finally free and Ruth and Richard can begin a life together.
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  • Bury Your Disabled: Crippled Danny drowns when his arms give out and Ellen refuses to help him because she feels he takes Richard's attention away from her.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Ellen. What's particularly disturbing is that she isn't even just jealous of potential love interests, but of anybody or anything that might take Richard's attention away from her—his brother, his writing, their child.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Subverted; Ellen deliberately causes one because while she thought having Richard's baby would get him to love her again, she doesn't really want a child, she thinks Richard and Ruth are spending too much time together, and she's tired of being stuck indoors because she's pregnant.
    • In the remake, Richard certainly finds it so, admitting to Ruth that as awful as it sounds, he's relieved that it happened as he no longer loves Ellen and wants out of the marriage.
  • Daylight Horror: The most terrifying portion of the film takes place in an idyllic lakeside cabin in summertime, with sunlight streaming through the trees. Even scenes set at night are warmly lit, giving the false impression that nothing bad could happen here...
  • Death of a Child: Danny and Richard and Ellen's unborn child.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Ellen lets Danny drown so that he won't take any more of Richard's attention away from her. It doesn't occur to her that Richard would be so despondent afterwards that he'd want nothing to do with her.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first clue that something is a little odd with Ellen is when she beats a couple of children at a swimming race; most adults would just let the kids win.
  • Femme Fatale: Ellen Berent is one of the darkest and scariest examples of this trope, also among the most beautiful.
  • Film Noir: One of the few Technicolor films, set largely in daylight at that, to be considered a classic Film Noir.
  • Foreshadowing: Ellen tells Thorne about a dream she had when she was rowing behind Richard while he was swimming in the lake, and then he sank, and she finds she's can't bring herself to jump in and save him. That's pretty much what she does with Danny later, causing him to drown, though in that case, it was intentional.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: After spending just a few days with the Berents, Richard finds himself engaged to Ellen without even really knowing how it happened. Deconstructed a bit in that even Ellen later admits that Richard loved her but never really liked her.
  • Framing Device: The movie is told in an extended flashback.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Ellen.
    • Also, Russell.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard/Irony: Ellen's despicable actions are meant to eliminate any competition for Richard's affection or attention and have him all to herself. They instead end up driving him away and making him hate her.
    • In the remake, the fact that Ellen is an excellent swimmer makes Richard suspicious of her failure to save Danny.
    • Also in the remake, Ellen poisons Ruth's tea in an attempt to kill her. When Richard hits her and walks out on her after getting her to admit that she let Danny drown, she drinks it in order to calm herself.
    • And when she becomes ill, thanks to her history of Crying Wolf, Ruth dismisses her pleas for help and leaves her to die.
  • Hollywood Law: The trial at the end.
  • Hysterical Woman: In the remake, Ellen bursts into tears and flings herself on the floor every time Richard walks out on her. It finally bites her in the ass when she's legitimately ill and Ruth dismisses her, thinking she's just Crying Wolf.
  • Incest Subtext: It's implied that Ellen and her father may have been a little closer than they should have been. To the point where part of the reason she pursues Richard is because of his resemblance to the man
  • Indy Ploy: A villainous example; when Richard confronts Ellen about Danny's death, she says that she never intended to kill him, but when the opportunity arose to remove someone that would demand some of his time, she took it.
  • Light Is Not Good: In The Remake, the evil Ellen wears white throughout most of her scenes, especially when she lets Danny drown and later deliberately throws herself down the stairs to cause a miscarriage.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I'll never let you go, Richard. Never, never, never."
  • Murder by Inaction: Ellen sits and watches as Danny flounders and sinks beneath the surface.
    • It's even worse in the remake, when she actually finds him underwater and therefore could have saved him, but lets him go and lets him drown.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: There's no music in the scene when Ellen lets Danny drown.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Ruth gives one of these to Ellen when the latter tries to blame her for her failing marriage, pointing out that it's her and her actions that have driven Richard away.
  • The Remake: A Made-for-TV Movie titled Too Good To Be True.
  • Saying Too Much: When Ellen is trying to get the doctor to convince Richard not to bring Danny along to their cottage, at first, she's trying to be reasonable about all the difficulties he'll have up there (no doctor around for miles, no phone), but then, she blurts out, "After all, Danny's a cripple!" She immediately sees her mistake, telling the doctor she didn't mean to say it, and the doctor agrees, but he doesn't look convinced.
  • Scenery Porn: It was shot on location in New Mexico, Arizona, and Maine, and looks gorgeous.
  • Sherlock Can Read: Ellen tells Richard that she knows about him after reading his novel because every book is a "confession." She then rattles off a bunch of facts about his life, to which he bewilderingly responds, "Shades of Sherlock." But then she admits she just got all that from the bio on the book's dust jacket.
  • Sinister Shades: Ellen sports these during the scene where she lets Danny drown.
  • Sleeping Single: Ellen and Richard are shown in separate beds when they wake up at the resort.
  • The Sociopath: Ellen Berent is noted to have been this since her childhood, with many characters noting that there was always something off about her and a lack of deep feelings. Her love for Richard seems to stem mostly from Narcissism and need to be a Control Freak more than anything else.
  • Staircase Tumble: Ellen deliberately invokes this in order to miscarry.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: In revenge for Richard rejecting her, Ellen poisons herself in such a way that it will look as if Ruth is the only one who can be blamed. It works, and Ruth is tried for murder.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Ellen frames Ruth for her death as punishment for Richard discovering Ellen's true nature.
  • The Unfettered: Ellen will stop at nothing to ensure that Richard belongs to her and her alone.
  • Yandere: Three guesses.