Filmsite Movie Review
Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

As they became more acquainted, Richard explained that he had chosen a life of affluence rather than following his real passion - painting. He had given up art when he discovered he was color-blind, and realized that he didn't want to live his whole existence on the Left Bank in "squalid garrets" being "miserably under-nourished." He explained why his summer lodge in Maine (he called it a cabin or "shack") was named 'Back of the Moon': "There's a lake up there, shaped like a crescent," and he then expressed his deep love for his teenaged brother Danny. She asked if he was a bachelor due to his care-giving for Danny: "Is that why you've never married, because you've had to take care of him?" Richard answered that his life wasn't totally planned out, and that he always followed his instincts regarding marriage. He gave an example of a girl he once randomly met on the Boston Wharf - hinting that he was interested in Ellen in the same way:

She looked good to me and she smelled good to me. I didn't even know where she was going, but I knew I was going with her. And I did.

She asked: "Why did you come for me tonight?" - and he realized that she was anticipating his arrival on the ridge: "You knew I was coming up there tonight. You were waiting for me, weren't you?" She concurred: "And you came, didn't you?"

The next morning, as Richard was typing at a table outdoors under a rose arbor, he saw Ruth above him pruning and tying up the roses. He asked about her adoption, and she explained that it was Mrs. Berent's idea - because she was "alone so much of the time." When Ellen swam up in the large pool like a goddess next to Richard, he revealed he had been thinking about her all morning - and her fiancee Russell Quinton (Richard had questioned Glen about her fiancee). He was already jealous and detested Quinton, but hadn't even met him (a reversal of Ellen's future jealousy about him!):

Ellen: Why do you hate him?
Richard: Because you knew him.
Ellen: (chuckling) That's nice. You're gonna hate everybody I know?

He noticed the engagement ring was missing from her finger - she cooly explained that she had been removed it an hour earlier and had broken her engagement - adding the word: "Forever." The two Robie children were challenged by Ellen to a swimming race across the length of the pool. Nearby, Glen declared that Ellen would win - because she could never accept defeat: "Ellen always wins." Predictably, Ellen was heard declaring herself "The Winner!" at the other end of the pool.

The next evening during a rainstorm, Boston attorney Russell Quinton (Vincent Price) unexpectedly arrived at the ranch. Concern crossed his face when he heard laughter and glimpsed Richard and Ellen holding hands. He had come by plane as soon as he could after receiving her telegram the previous day, and to Richard's stunned and awe-struck shock, Quinton was there to congratulate Ellen on her upcoming marriage to a new fiancee:

Russell: I wanted to be among the first to congratulate you on your forthcoming marriage.
Ellen: Well, we hadn't planned to announce it for a while, but since you've let the cat out of the bag. Darling, this is Russell Quinton. My fiancee, Richard Harland.

Russell requested some private time with Ellen in the library, where he confronted her about being jilted so suddenly. It was bad timing for him, since he was in the middle of a political campaign and it might generate bad press. He requested postponement of her immediate marriage until the fall (after the election). He also expressed his regretful and "downcast" hurt about the end of their engagement - he felt "jilted and thrown aside like an old shoe." She refused to reconsider, possibly realizing that a life as a politician's wife would leave her unfulfilled, ignored, and not in the spotlight. He questioned her sudden intentions: "I don't understand it, Ellen. I always knew you'd never marry me while your father was alive. But after he died, I thought - well, I thought there might be a chance." She claimed she was "in love" with someone else and her marriage was imminent - "tomorrow." She snidely added: "I'll still be able to vote for you." Russell was dismayed by her sudden break-up with him and vowed his love for her:

Russell: Perhaps you don't think I'm good enough for you or romantic enough. I know people thought I was marrying into the Berent family for reasons, but that's not true. I want you to know that I had only one reason. I want you to know that I was in love with you. I'm not a man who loves often, Ellen. I love once.
Ellen: That's quite a concession.
Russell: I loved you. And I'm still in love with you.
Ellen: That's a tribute.
Russell: And I always will be. Remember that.
Ellen: Russ, is that a threat?

After Russell's departure, Richard (with obvious misgivings) rushed to Ellen's side to question her impulsive desire to immediately marry him, but she interrupted with irresistible attraction, claiming that she wanted him all to herself. Now, she would stop at nothing to make the man she loved her exclusive possession:

Ellen: Darling, will you marry me?
Richard: Why, you unpredictable little... (She forcefully kissed and embraced him)
Ellen: And I'll never let you go. Never, never, never.

[The marriage ceremony was held off-screen, in New Mexico.]

Warm Springs, Georgia

The two fashionably-dressed newlyweds drove into the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, to visit Richard's only living and beloved relative - his admiring teenaged brother Danny Harland (Darryl Hickman), who was found sleeping on the outside lawn - confined to a wheelchair. The couple had come by way of Chicago and the train to the southern state, after celebrating a brief honeymoon in Taos, New Mexico. Their living arrangement plan was to rent a cottage in Warm Springs to be near Richard's brother, to visit him daily and help in his recovery.

The couple were happily getting used to living together domestically, and Ellen prepared an elaborate lunch for them to prove she was the perfect wife. Completely sublimating herself as a bourgeois housewife, she revealed her extreme, almost-pathological and fanatical devotedness to her new husband and her ideal view of insular wedded life - without any hired household help:

I have no intention of hiring a cook or a housekeeper or any other servants....Ever...I don't want anybody else but me to do anything for you. I want to keep your house and wash your clothes and cook your food....And besides, I don't want anybody else in the house but us....Ever.

He jokingly called her an "idiot" and "a born slavey," referring to her extreme commitment and clinging jealousy, but she insisted. She was becoming entirely focused on pleasing Richard and gaining his attention, as she had with her father.

Under Ellen's positive encouragement and interest in Danny, he began to slowly but remarkably recover from his affliction (crippling polio?). Her "secret" was that she was coaxing Danny to walk with crutches. Meanwhile, Dick was so involved in writing his newest book that he was surprised to find Danny walking one day toward him on crutches. Danny was expectant about the prospects of joining them at the lodge in Maine: "Now we can, all three of us, go to Back of the Moon." Ellen listened with a concerned look - knowing that this would cause competition for Dick's attention.

In Dr. Mason's (Reed Hadley) office at the Foundation, Ellen pleaded with the doctor to disallow Danny from moving from Warm Springs to the remote Maine cabin, because she felt it unwise due to his condition:

It's way up north, miles from nowhere....Well, it's so remote up there. Wild and rugged and miles from the nearest town. The facilities are rather primitive. There isn't a telephone just in case we need a doctor for Danny....But don't you see, doctor? My husband will be busy a good deaI of the time writing, and with nobody else around...

Dr. Mason dismissed all of Ellen's misgivings, and mentioned that he knew of the cabin's family friend and caretaker, named Thorne, who might help. Ellen slightly backtracked to stress her self-sacrificing concern and devoted work with Danny, although she was disguising her selfish disdain of the boy whom she detestedly called a 'cripple':

I assure you, I don't want to shirk any responsibility. I'm thinking only of Danny, and I - no, that isn't true. I'm thinking a little about myself, too. I know you'll understand, Dr. Mason. I gave up my honeymoon to come here so that my husband could be with his brother. But he's been working, and the burden's been on me. I've spent hours here every day. I was glad to do it. It was no sacrifice at all. I love Danny as much as he does and I'm just as happy as he is that Danny's doing so well. But after all, he's a cripple. (pause) I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that...I didn't mean it.

The doctor was taken aback by the way she negatively spit out the word "cripple." She apologized, then claimed that she was suffering herself: "I'm afraid I haven't been too well myself lately." The doctor wasn't convinced that Danny should remain in Warm Springs, and he stated: "It would be much better for him to go to Back of the Moon." Ellen disagreed: "But surely it could do no harm for him to stay here or perhaps go back to schooI, and if you'll only tell my husband..." Dr. Mason could now see through her manipulations, and suggested she directly speak to her husband about her feelings. When Richard fortuitously entered the office, Ellen immediately changed course - she expressed her agreement with the doctor's recommendations:

Oh, Richard, I've got such wonderfuI news. Dr. Mason has just consented to let Danny come with us to Back of the Moon....I want to be the first to tell him. (She immediately phoned Danny with the happy news that the threesome would be going to the cabin the next day.)

Back of the Moon

[The cabin sequences were filmed at Bass Lake in Madera, CA, located in the high Sierras.]

It was now late summer in New England. Sleeping in separate beds, Ellen and Richard awoke to the singing of the cabin's outdoor worker Leick Thome (Chill Wills), a long-time close family friend of the Harlands. She cozied over to Richard and gazed longingly into his closed, sleepy eyes. She blew air onto his face before giving him a "good morning" kiss - worshipfully happy about another day with him: "Twenty-four hours with you." But their private time was suddenly interrupted by Danny's knocking on the adjoining bedroom wall. While Danny and Richard had a morning dip in the lake before breakfast, Ellen insisted to Thorne that she was the household's cook: "That's my job."

A detail about Richard's earlier life that had been barely mentioned by Danny at Warm Springs was brought up. He spoke about a college yearbook picture of one of Richard's earlier flames, Enid Southern ("the one they voted the best-looking girI"). According to Danny, Richard was reluctant to show one picture with her in particular: "Only, there's one he doesn't like to show to anybody." Ellen asked Thorne about Enid, but he responded that he had no recollection of her - she was "nobody in particular." As she set the breakfast table, Ellen described her "awful nightmare" - a foreshadowing of a drowning that she was already orchestrating in her demented mind - she revealed some projected hatred toward her uninvolved and distant husband:

We were out in the skiff, my husband and I, and he jumped in for a swim. But I was too lazy, so I just rowed after him. Somehow I was afraid, and when we got to the middle of the lake, I thought it was time for him to get back into the boat. So I decided to call out to him, but I had no voice. Suddenly, Richard went under, not diving, but the way seals do, just sort of settling in the water. Then he came up again, and one of his arms flung out to me as if he were trying to call to me. I tried to row to him, but the lake was like glue. The boat wouldn't move. My arms were paralyzed. Then he went down again. And this time he stayed down.

Thorne replied, with homespun wisdom, that she probably saved her husband's life by 'waking up.'

Later after breakfast, Ellen was sitting alone reading on the cabin's outdoor deck, as the keys of Richard's work typewriter clattered noisily nearby. She rose and walked down a path toward Richard's location on the deck of the adjoining boathouse - where she looked over his shoulder as he was typing the words: "Will you marry me?" She complained about the veracity of the common phrase - and asserted that females were the ones who more commonly initiated marriage proposals - and then, she found a way to open a conversation with him about Enid Southern:

In the first place, men never propose. They may think they do, but it's really the woman...And if men do propose, they never say, 'Will you marry me?'...Did you ever propose to a woman?...When you proposed to Enid Southern... did you say, 'Will you marry me?'

Aggravated and annoyed by her persistent "gadfly" questions, and after denying that he had ever proposed to Enid, he told her to "beat it." But cloyingly, she wouldn't drop the subject. She asked: "How did you propose to me?" - knowing in advance what his answer would be: "You didn't. I proposed to you. Like this. (She kissed him to reenact their proposal.) Remember?" He replayed the scene along with her by assenting: "OK, I'll marry you - right after I finish my chapter." She was becoming increasingly grumpy and feeling ignored by competition from his writing profession, and "crowded" with Thorne and Danny around all the time:

I hate your chapter. I hate all your chapters. They take up too much of your time...After all, it isn't as if you had to write for a living. I've got more than enough for both of us, and darling, it's the dearest wish of my heart to support you....Oh darling, I didn't know it could be so wonderfuI here, Back of the Moon....Every minute. If only it weren't so crowded.

Richard couldn't believe that she would call the remote location "crowded" - "Why this is the most remote, uninhabited place east of the Mojave." She specified that she was referring to feeling resentful, frustrated and overwhelmed in the cabin by Danny's and Thorne's presence, whom she called "chaperones":

Not that I mind chaperones, not in the least. But there's Danny's room on one side of us and Thorne's room on the other side. And the wall's as thin as paper, and the acoustics disgustingly perfect....Do you know ever since we've been married, we've never been alone, not for a single day?

She was partially relieved to hear that Thorne, on his own impulse, had moved his cot and things to the boathouse that morning. But then, she turned at the sound of the outboard motor signaling a boat's approach. She grabbed a pair of binoculars and was visibly upset to view the untimely arrival of Ellen's mother and her cousin Ruth. Richard claimed it was a "surprise" secret planned for her.

That evening, as Ellen cleared the dinner table, she was coldly isolated and not participating with the others in the living room, where everyone was being entertained in front of a warm fire by Thorne's guitar playing and singing. Mrs. Berent told her daughter Ellen that her ex-fiancee Russell Quinton had been elected District Attorney, and already had "his mind set on the governorship." Ellen's cold reception for her family members didn't go unrecognized, and later in their room, Ruth and Mrs. Berent spoke about leaving soon to return to their home in Bar Harbor, Maine:

Ruth: After all, Mother, you must remember Ellen didn't expect us.
Mrs. Berent: We shouldn't have come, Ruth. We shouldn't have come.

Richard was infuriated and appalled with Ellen for her obviously inhospitable and "rotten" behavior toward her relatives: "What happened tonight? Since Ruth and your mother arrived, you've been acting like a shrew. At the landing you were cold, at dinner, aloof and sullen, and after dinner, you were beastly....They're your own people. I thought you'd be pleased....You were insulting to your mother and mean to Thorne, treated him like a servant." Without an apology, Ellen became accusatory, and jealously and delusionally complained about Richard's interest in Ruth: "All night long, you devoted yourself to her!...Maybe you're in love with her....Maybe that's why you invited her up here." When they began to raise their voices, Ellen also complained about the paper-thin walls:

I keep forgetting you can't draw a deep breath in this room without being heard all over the house. Let's change the name of the place from Back of the Moon to Goldfish Manor.

He became worried about her cool rigidity and hostile attitude toward everyone except himself, and was increasingly disillusioned about his marriage to her: "What's happened to you? You're deliberately whipping yourself into a fit of hysterics....Ellen, what's got into you?" After his concern, she began sobbing, tearfully knelt before him with her face in his lap, and begged for forgiveness. She apologized for her single-mindedness about possessing him all for herself:

Oh, darling, forgive me. I'm sorry. I can't help it. It's only because I love you so. I love you so, I can't bear to share you with anybody.

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