Leave Her to Heaven (1946)

110 mins | Film noir | January 1946

Director:

John M. Stahl

Writer:

Jo Swerling

Producer:

William A. Bacher

Cinematographer:

Leon Shamroy

Editor:

James B. Clark

Production Designers:

Lyle Wheeler, Maurice Ransford

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

On 22 May 1944, after Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the screen rights to Ben Ames Williams' novel, a HR news item speculated that the studio would cast Tallulah Bankhead and Ida Lupino in the film. An 18 Jan 1945 HR news item noted that Faye Marlowe had been "pencilled in for the role of the good sister," and on 6 Apr 1945, a studio press release announced that Thomas Mitchell would play "Glen Robie." Subsequent HR news items include Margo Woode and George Cleveland in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA approved a 29 Nov 1944 draft of the film's screenplay, while strongly cautioning the studio about the depiction of Ellen's forced miscarriage: "It will be absolutely essential to remove any flavor...that Ellen plans to murder the unborn child merely because she is misshapen. It should be definitely established that her reason for murdering the child is that she thinks that the newborn will replace her in her husband's affections. This is important in order to avoid any of the flavor that is normally connected with what could be termed 'abortion.'" A 7 Feb 1945 script draft was disapproved because of an inference that "Ellen" and "Richard" had "an illicit sex affair" before their marriage. The studio was again cautioned about the miscarriage, and the PCA approved a later screenplay.
       Although a press release and a Mar 1945 HR news item indicated that some sequences would be shot in Washington, Oregon and other portions of the Northwest, ... More Less

On 22 May 1944, after Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the screen rights to Ben Ames Williams' novel, a HR news item speculated that the studio would cast Tallulah Bankhead and Ida Lupino in the film. An 18 Jan 1945 HR news item noted that Faye Marlowe had been "pencilled in for the role of the good sister," and on 6 Apr 1945, a studio press release announced that Thomas Mitchell would play "Glen Robie." Subsequent HR news items include Margo Woode and George Cleveland in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA approved a 29 Nov 1944 draft of the film's screenplay, while strongly cautioning the studio about the depiction of Ellen's forced miscarriage: "It will be absolutely essential to remove any flavor...that Ellen plans to murder the unborn child merely because she is misshapen. It should be definitely established that her reason for murdering the child is that she thinks that the newborn will replace her in her husband's affections. This is important in order to avoid any of the flavor that is normally connected with what could be termed 'abortion.'" A 7 Feb 1945 script draft was disapproved because of an inference that "Ellen" and "Richard" had "an illicit sex affair" before their marriage. The studio was again cautioned about the miscarriage, and the PCA approved a later screenplay.
       Although a press release and a Mar 1945 HR news item indicated that some sequences would be shot in Washington, Oregon and other portions of the Northwest, those locations were not utilized. Instead, HR news items and a 4 Sep 1945 publicity release list the following California location sites: Bass Lake in the High Sierras, Monterey and Busch Gardens in Pasadena. Arizona locations included Sedona, near Flagstaff, and Granite Dells, near Prescott. The Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, reveal that while the sequences set at the Warm Springs Foundation in Georgia were filmed at Busch Gardens, long shots and process plates were shot on location at the real Warm Springs Foundation.
       The film, which was named one of the year's ten best by FD , received an Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography and nominations for Best Color Art Direction and Best Sound Recording. For her portrayal of "Ellen," Tierney received her only Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, but she lost to Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce . On 17 Mar 1947, Tierney and Wilde recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast, which also starred Kay Christopher. Lux made another broadcast of the story on 10 Aug 1953, which starred Joan Fontaine, John Dehner and Sammie Hill. In 1988, a television remake of the film, entitled Too Good to Be True , aired on NBC. The remake was directed by Christian Nyby and starred Loni Anderson, Patrick Duffy and Glynnis O'Connor. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
29 Dec 1945.
---
Daily Variety
20 Dec 45
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 Dec 45
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 1944.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 45
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 45
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 45
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 45
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 45
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 45
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 45
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 45
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Dec 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Dec 45
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jan 46
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jan 46
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 46
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
29 Dec 1945.
---
Motion Picture Daily
20 Dec 45
p. 1, 6
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Jul 45
p. 2499.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Dec 45
p. 2778.
New York Times
26 Dec 45
p. 15.
Variety
2 Jan 46
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Transparency projection shots
Transparency projection shots
Transparency projection shots
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Research dir
Research asst
Unit mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Leave Her to Heaven by Ben Ames Williams (Boston, 1944).
SONGS
"Deedle Deedle Dum Dum," music and lyrics by Chill Wills
"Treat My Daughter Kindly," folk song.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1946
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 25 December 1945
Los Angeles opening: 28 December 1945
Production Date:
late May--mid August 1945
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
5 January 1946
Copyright Number:
LP579
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
110
Length(in feet):
9,945
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11042
SYNOPSIS

When author Richard Harland is released from prison after serving a two-year sentence, he goes to Deer Lake, Maine, and is met by his attorney, Glen Robie. Glen sends Richard off in a waiting canoe to Richard's lodge, "Back of the Moon," then relates his story to a companion: A few years earlier, while Richard is working on a new novel, he accepts an invitation from Glen to vacation at his ranch in Jacinto, New Mexico. During the train ride, Richard is left breathless by the striking beauty of a woman who comments on his close resemblance to her late father. Richard is then greeted at the station by Glen, who reveals that the beautiful woman, Ellen Berent, is also visiting the Robie family with her mother Margaret and adopted sister Ruth. During dinner, Ellen tells Richard that they have come to scatter her father's ashes at his favorite spot in the mountains, which he used to describe as "the front lawn of heaven." Richard follows the Berents when they depart in the morning and is fascinated by Ellen's demeanor as she scatters the ashes. The next day, when Richard confesses to Ellen that he questioned Glen about her fiancé, attorney Russell Quinton, she coolly declares that she has taken off her engagement ring. The next night, Russell comes to the ranch, having received a telegram from Ellen breaking their engagement, and Richard is astonished when Ellen announces that she is going to marry him. Despite his misgivings, Richard cannot resist Ellen and the couple are married. After a brief honeymoon, the newlyweds travel to Warm Springs, Georgia, where Richard's beloved, teenaged ... +


When author Richard Harland is released from prison after serving a two-year sentence, he goes to Deer Lake, Maine, and is met by his attorney, Glen Robie. Glen sends Richard off in a waiting canoe to Richard's lodge, "Back of the Moon," then relates his story to a companion: A few years earlier, while Richard is working on a new novel, he accepts an invitation from Glen to vacation at his ranch in Jacinto, New Mexico. During the train ride, Richard is left breathless by the striking beauty of a woman who comments on his close resemblance to her late father. Richard is then greeted at the station by Glen, who reveals that the beautiful woman, Ellen Berent, is also visiting the Robie family with her mother Margaret and adopted sister Ruth. During dinner, Ellen tells Richard that they have come to scatter her father's ashes at his favorite spot in the mountains, which he used to describe as "the front lawn of heaven." Richard follows the Berents when they depart in the morning and is fascinated by Ellen's demeanor as she scatters the ashes. The next day, when Richard confesses to Ellen that he questioned Glen about her fiancé, attorney Russell Quinton, she coolly declares that she has taken off her engagement ring. The next night, Russell comes to the ranch, having received a telegram from Ellen breaking their engagement, and Richard is astonished when Ellen announces that she is going to marry him. Despite his misgivings, Richard cannot resist Ellen and the couple are married. After a brief honeymoon, the newlyweds travel to Warm Springs, Georgia, where Richard's beloved, teenaged brother Danny is recovering from polio. Ellen's fanatical devotion to Richard begins to surface when she refuses to hire servants, stating that she wants to do everything for him, but Richard is touched by her attentions to Danny. Ellen's coaxing prompts Danny to walk with crutches, and soon the boy is accompanying Ellen and Richard to Back of the Moon, even though Ellen had asked Danny's doctor to order him to remain in Georgia. At the lodge, Ellen is frustrated by the presence of Danny and Leicke Thorne, an old family friend, and resents the time that Richard spends writing. Ellen is infuriated when Margaret and Ruth show up at the lodge, and Richard is appalled by his wife's hostility toward her mother and sister. Ellen even accuses Richard of being in love with Ruth, then tearfully begs for his forgiveness by telling him that she cannot bear to share him with anyone else. Margaret and Ruth leave soon after, and one afternoon, Ellen accompanies Danny on his daily swim in the lake. Ellen follows in a rowboat behind Danny and urges him on, but when a cramp hits the exhausted boy and he cries for help, she watches impassively as he drowns. Richard seems to accept Ellen's explanation that Danny's death was an accident, but as time passes, he becomes mired in a deep depression. Hoping to rejuvenate Richard's love, Ellen becomes pregnant, and Richard eagerly anticipates the birth of their child. The couple have moved to the Berent home in Bar Harbor, and as her pregnancy progresses, Ellen comes to loathe the baby and fears that it will come between her and Richard. After telling Ruth that she longs for "the little beast" to die, Ellen throws herself down a flight of stairs and causes the death of her unborn baby. Upon Ellen's return from the hospital, Ruth is unable to bear her sister's malevolence any longer and prepares to leave for Mexico, which is the setting of Richard's just-published novel. Furious that the book is dedicated to Ruth and not to her, Ellen confronts Richard and confesses that she murdered Danny and their baby. When Richard leaves her, Ellen concocts an elaborate scheme to frame Ruth for her "murder," then kills herself with arsenic. Ruth is brought to trial by Russell, who is now the State District Attorney, and Ellen's careful plans, including asking Richard to scatter her ashes with her father's, stack the evidence against Ruth. While she is being questioned, Ruth admits to being in love with Richard but maintains her innocence. Unable to let Ruth suffer, Richard takes the stand and reveals the depths of Ellen's jealous depravity. The story almost completed, Glen tells his friend at the lake that while Ruth was acquitted, Richard was sentenced to two years in prison for being an after-the-fact accessory to Ellen's unreported crimes. As Glen finishes the tale, Richard paddles up to the cabin, where Ruth welcomes him with a loving embrace. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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