First Look: Leave Her to Heaven (1945) and The King and I (1956)

Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

I have been on this classical movies chase lately (all thanks to their ready availability on Youtube) and to be honest, I don’t think they are as bad as some say. As a matter of fact, I do think that some of them are brilliantly made and worthy of their iconic statuses. I’m not ashamed to admit that I actually enjoy them heheh :p

Leave Her to Heaven is basically a crazy-girlfriend movie from the 40s. I used to think that Fatal Attraction was THE crazy-girlfriend movie of all time until I came across this one. I have to admit though, I do have a soft spot for these wacky movies. Yeah, they’re pretty insane at times (to put it mildly), but I find them so damn entertaining that i am willing to just overlook their flaws. I mean, won’t you be like “Hell yeah!” when the girl gets her revenge? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, the actors are usually great as well, especially the actresses playing the crazy girlfriends.

And this movie is no exception by itself. Hell, I was surprised when I discovered that this was one of Martin Scorsese’s favourites. Some people have passed if off as being incredibly silly, which may be true, but I wouldn’t be so quick as to say that the movie is totally unrealistic. Is it entirely impossible for someone to love too much? Is excessive love, to the point that it becomes a dangerous obsession, a concept too far off from reality? Are we really unfamiliar with the stories of murderous lovers and their determination to wreck everything that stands in their way? It’s up to you to decide. I found the story gripping and entertaining, even at the unlikely parts. Yes, there are flaws but it didn’t bother me too much because I found the whole thing slightly campy but engaging. The acting was decent and there was little to fault but it’s kinda obvious who got the best part.

The ridiculously beautiful Gene Tierney plays Ellen Berent, a psycho socialite who simply “loves too much!”. I feel that Tierney’s beauty did help her make the most out of this part, even though one can argue that this has little to do with acting. But honestly speaking, when I look at her cold and beautiful face, I have no qualms in believing that this woman is capable of commiting those cruel crimes just purely out of love. In fact, Tierney’s performance is actually very subtle and natural, something that is rare among actresses from that era. I can go on and on about how chilling her “Afterall, he’s a cripple!”, “I hate the little beast” and “What are you running away from?” lines were delivered. You can imagine someone like, say Ingrid Bergman, announcing these lines in a super dramatic way, but Tierney managed to avoid these traps and spoke them as though they were already a part of the character’s subconscious. She said them in such a natural manner that I felt as if the darker side to this woman was bursting out of her minute by minute in a very insidious manner, so much so that it made the character’s actions understandable and believable. At some points you might even feel for her. Magnificent. Some may find it stiff but the performance worked for me on a whole.

The King and I (1956)

Oh boy. I’m not going to lie, but I did not like The King and I (1956). I don’t care if some people are going to consider this as an indication of my ignorance towards movies, especially seeing as to how this movie is widely considered a classic, but if I’m being perfectly honest, the whole thing just feels dated and too shallow for me. And it’s not as if I hate musical films like some people do , because I’m actually quite an admirer of the true classics like A Star is Born. Heck, even The Sound of Music (1965) worked brilliantly for me because I felt that the story actually had depth and meaning to it, and despite the excessive sugar-coating, it actually managed to sufficiently deal with the more serious issues such as the terrors of escaping the war. I also greatly enjoyed My Fair Lady (1964) too by the way.

And yet, despite my partiality towards film musicals,  I found The King and I’s plot was way too ridiculous to take seriously. I don’t wish to offend the fans, but the ending especially bugged me for some reason. It also addressed the theme about the clash/exchange of cultures in a rather shallow and superficial way, although I’ll admit that the “Getting to know you” song was nice. And yes, I felt that the whole romance portion featuring Rita Moreno (who looks nothing like a burmese) was really bad and out of place. I mean, they were supposed to be this pair of clandestine lovers, and yet there they were, SINGING to each other at the top of their voices in the garden. Not to mention that the acting was pretty bad and the two lacked chemistry. I guess the fact that this movie is supposed to be a musical meant that I was supposed to suspend logic but even this one was too much for me to swallow. Well, maybe the palace guards didn’t patrol the gardens? I don’t know. The whole part was just to show the darker side of the king towards the ending and yet I felt that the ending itself lacking in intensity because everyone jumped into some melodrama mood.

The set isn’t that fantastic too, by the way. Maybe it was considered great back then, but right now I found that it looked rather fake and cheap. I do admit that there was probably a lot of effort being put into building and decorating it but I just didn’t believe that the place was a palace. The fountains in the garden were too much for me also.

And the acting! I already talked about Rita Moreno, so right now I’ll go to Yul Brynner. Yes, I found out that he won the Oscar for his performance, and this was his most famous role as an actor, but the whole thing was just way too comical for me to take seriously. My sister actually liked his performance, as she kept making comments like “haha, so funny/cute” when he displayed his extremely bizarre mannerisms and his weird way of talking (“eat! eat! eat”). I would say that he was extremely entertaining and I guess to a certain extent likeable but that was pretty much it. His performance basically suffered because the character was written as a caricature and I think that really affected the credibility of his performance. I just didn’t even believe that he was a king for one second. Hell, it’s not as though the issues that he had to deal with were really serious. The Buddha praying scene was kinda dumb as well. Was it meant to be funny? I don’t know. And I honestly did not believe that he was dying in the end. I SERIOUSLY expected him to jump up from the bed and declared that he was just pretending to die so that he could get her to stay. Yeah, maybe I am being ridiculous, but when you watch the movie, you’ll find the character written in such a ridiculous manner that my suggested ending may not be too much of a surprise anyway. And what was he dying from? Huh? He was still fine and jumping around and being silly when he suddenly decided to fall ill and die just because of his fall out with Anna? Wtf??

Of course, I’ll acknowledge that there were some good things about the film, so that I won’t be labelled as a mere hater. In my opinion, the movie’s shining light was Deborah Kerr. I felt that she was the best part of the whole mess, which isn’t saying much. Yes her character suffers at times because of some weirdly written scenes, but I think she did the best that she could out of a thinly written part and even added a whole touch of realism to it. You could see that this character was not just some mere goody two shoes, but she was a woman who is willing to fight for what she wants. Thanks to Kerr’s portrayal, we got to see that Anna was a loving mother, a caring teacher and also a brave woman who is willing to challenge the norms. She was easily the best part of the weird (and abrupt) scene where Tuptim was about to get whipped. The fierce way she insisted that she was going to stay and watch, as well as her “You have NO HEART!” declaration was very well done. So yes, I can understand the overwhelming praise for Kerr, who is not one of my favourite actresses, but at the same time I wouldn’t call her performance here the greatest ever by an actress.  I just think that this role fitted Kerr’s subtle and dignified acting style very well, so the whole thing worked, although she was affected by the melodrama and rather unfunny humour of the script at times. 

So yes, I apologise to the fans of this movie. It was entertaining though…

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