[Great Villain Blogathon] Sometimes the Truth is Wicked: Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven

This is my contribution to the Great Villain Blogathon. Disclaimer: I’ve been disgustingly sick for a week, and this is the best I could do. Oh, and spoilers! There are [a few] slight spoilers!

“Sometimes the truth is wicked.”

The world would be an easier place to navigate if all toxic substances were marked with a skull and crossbones. Unfortunately, some poisons shimmy through the cracks and enter polite society unnoticed or unheeded. There are few things deadlier or more intriguing to citizens at large, than evil wrapped in a pleasing package. From real life to pop culture: Oh, how we love good-looking villains!

Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney is at her finest as Ellen.

The film universe of the 1940s is full of swanky dames and femmes fatales, duplicitous creatures out for revenge or a fast buck. They seem to inhabit one vast, inescapable hellscape: smoky, urban, gritty, and ruthlessly relentless. There are no winners, only: comers, takers, makers. Leave Her to Heaven’s Ellen Berent Harland (Gene Tierney) is a rule-breaker, a curious abstainer from the decade’s expected bad-girl protocol. She is neither noir cookie nor hard-hearted moll, but something infinitely more frightening: charming, civilized, and unstoppably obsessed. Her love, bleeding out, cannot be stanched.

Ellen’s milieu, too, is different. She carves a path of cunning and destruction through some of the loveliest natural backdrops on film this side of Westerns. It’s a Technicolor world, full of towering pines, deeply blue lakes, and handsome mountains surrounded by sunshine and clean air. Beauty kills as well as the beast. Continue reading