Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Letter (1940)

Hey guys, do you know what's coming up on Tuesday? BETTE DAVIS'S BIRTHDAY!!! I shall probably be all jumping around in my room and being happy :-). So just to start the Bette Davis theme off, I'm reviewing one of my favourites, The Letter (1940). I'm going to try and write a few little posts that should be posted from now until Tuesday with the super amazing happy birthday one finishing the run on Tuesday afternoon. If you want to post a link to any Bette Davis reviews you've done, you can do so in comments to the posts.

The Letter (1940) Directed By William Wyler
A copy of this poster is stuck to my mirror :-)

Leslie Crosby and her husband Robert are the owners of a rubber plantation in Malaya. One dark night Leslie runs out of her house on the plantation following a man, shooting him in the chest over and over again. When asked why she did this, she explained that Geoff Hammond, a friend of her and her husband, had visited her and "tried to make love to her," so she shot him. Everyone believes her completely, but she has to be imprisoned in a jail in Singapore until the hearing is over. Everything goes fine with her plan until her lawyer and friend, Howard Joyce discovers a letter to Geoff Hammond from Leslie begging him to come and see her. When confronted with the news she confesses that she had been having an affair with him and when she found out that he had got married to a native woman she was furious.
Leslie Crosby and her lawyer
Howard tells her that the letter is in possession of Geoff's widow. And to get it back (which in itself would be a criminal offense) she has to pay $10,000 and collect the money herself, so Geoff's wife can see the woman who killed her husband. The hearing and trial goes well and she is cleared of all charges. But when she gets home, Robert has plans to move away using the money in his savings. Unknown to Robert, all of his savings had been used to buy the letter. This uncovers the truth about Leslie and Geoff. Still sure they can make everything work out, Robert goes on as planned. But when he comes to see her in her room, he tries to kiss her but she jerks away exclaiming, "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed!" During her celebration party she is kidnapped and murdered by Geoff's widow.


The review:
William Wyler can do nothing wrong in my book. His genius work on films like Mrs. Miniver (1942), Jezebel (1938) and The Little Foxes (1941) tops almost everything I've seen. Bette Davis gives a cold, calculating and manipulative performance as Leslie Crosby. Herbert Marshall (who was also paired with Bette Davis on The Little Foxes) was amazing as well. He was an extremely talented British actor who doesn't get enough credit for his work. This film is surely one of my favourite film noirs. Although the plot is very different, this picture reminds me of Double Indemnity (1940) - and Barbara Stanwyck's  performance is similar to Bette Davis's. The way that William Wyler makes her lace-making such an important part of the story is very clever.

I adore this film, so if you are feeling in a particularly noirey mood it is perfect.



Caroline said...

Great review, Bette! My friends and I are planning to have a birthday party for Ms. Davis and watch some of her films, eat cake, and maybe even visit her grave (if we can find it in the HUGE cemetery).

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