Re: RARA-AVIS: Leave Her to Heaven

From: Mark R. Harris (
Date: 26 Mar 2008

Sorry to say that I disagree with most of your points (although I haven't had the benefit of reading the book yet). I think that there are clearly color noirs; I think that Leave Her to Heaven, although anomalous in some ways, clearly qualifies (and is more "noir" than some black and white noirs, including Laura); I think the acting is fine and, in the case of Tierney, brilliant; I think the film as a whole has style to burn and is actually superior to Laura as a directorial achievement.

I think that covers it!


On 3/26/08, Jeff Vorzimmer <> wrote:
> I just finished reading Leave Her to Heaven by Ben Ames Williams, which
> I
> mentioned having picked up at City Lights in SF. I bought it thinking it
> would be kind of a cross between Laura and Bedelia. In fact it came out in
> 1944, the year between those two books and was the 7th best-selling novel
> of
> that year and although it shares a lot of the same plot elements as the
> Vera
> Caspary novels, I thought it superior to both. But I think it's more
> melodrama than noir. The only crime in the book could be called
> manslaughter
> at best and there was a lot of the Freudian psychology in it that was
> popular at the time. Though the femme fatale was a cold-hearted bitch very
> reminiscent of Caspary's Bedelia and as ruthless as any in hardboiled
> crime
> fiction.
> Then I saw the movie. It would be had to classify it as noir. It's been
> argued here, I believe by Jim among others, that just the simple fact of
> it
> being in color disqualifies it from being noir and I tend to agree with
> that. If you do a search on IMDB for films tagged (albeit loosely) with
> "noir" you come up with 465 movies, of those only 14 are in color. That
> means that 97% of the films tagged "noir" are black & white. When you
> start
> looking over the list of color films you realize that films like Leave Her
> to Heaven and A Kiss Before Dying really aren't noir, so the percentage is
> even higher. I've not actually seen a color film pre-1958 that I think
> stylistically fits in the genre.
> Not being color is the least of the disqualifying aspects of the movie
> though. It's not urban. It's shot mostly in the daylight outdoors and, the
> most disqualifying point of all--it's not really a crime film. The
> screenwriter seemed to overlook the fact that the crime for which one of
> the
> characters goes to jail for at the end was actually written out of the
> story
> leaving many a viewer, I'm sure, scratching his head at the end.
> The movie was also badly miscast with Cornel Wilde and Gene Tierney and
> badly acted as well. It was if they were trying to cash in on the success
> of
> Laura, but didn't emulate any of its style. It certainly could have been
> made into a film noir, but ends up not even coming close.
> Jeff

Mark R. Harris
2122 W. Russet Court #8
Appleton WI 54914
(920) 470-9855

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