10 Things I Learned: Leave Her to Heaven

10 Things I Learned: <em>Leave Her to Heaven</em>


In 1944, after an intense bidding war, Twentieth Century-Fox studio head Darryl Zanuck acquired the film rights to Ben Ames Williams’s Leave Her to Heaven for $100,000, then an exorbitant price for an unpublished work. Later that year, Williams’s mystery novel, about one woman’s obsessive love for her husband, became one of the best-selling author’s greatest successes, and by December 1945 Fox had released its film adaptation.


The title of the book and the film is taken from act 1, scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In the scene, the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to him, urging his son to avenge his murder, though without acting against Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother: “Leave her to heaven / And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge / To prick and sting her.”

Laurence Olivier’s version of Hamlet


Director John M. Stahl—who was born Jacob Morris Strelitsky in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1886, and who made his first film in Hollywood in 1914—was one of the thirty-six founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Today he is perhaps best known for the fact that three of his films—Imitation of Life, 1934; Magnificent Obsession, 1935; and When Tomorrow Comes, 1939—were remade by melodrama master Douglas Sirk in the 1950s.)

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