The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters.

"THE LETTER" (1940)

Moderators: Sue Sue Applegate, movieman1957, moira finnie, Lzcutter

User avatar
CineMaven
Posts: 3818
Joined: September 24th, 2007, 9:54 am
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Contact:

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby CineMaven » May 4th, 2009, 4:21 pm

LynnZ., I think all weapons are checked at the door once you reach the Great Beyond. Those metal detectors are pretty sensitive at that level. ;-)
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com

User avatar
knitwit45
Posts: 4720
Joined: May 4th, 2007, 9:33 pm
Location: Gardner, KS

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby knitwit45 » May 4th, 2009, 7:55 pm

I think all weapons are checked at the door once you reach the Great Beyond.




I think, CM, it depends on which direction you end up! :twisted: :shock: :twisted: :shock:

User avatar
CineMaven
Posts: 3818
Joined: September 24th, 2007, 9:54 am
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Contact:

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby CineMaven » May 5th, 2009, 8:56 pm

"I think, CM, it depends on which direction you end up! - knitwit.

Why you little Devil! ;-)
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com

Hollis
Posts: 695
Joined: April 15th, 2007, 4:38 pm

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby Hollis » June 15th, 2009, 8:19 pm

Dear Ms Maven,

If only the people holding onto their positions as "film critics" wrote as lucidly as you do about "The Letter", I might pay a little more heed to what they have to say. I've rarely read a better review and analysis of a film than what you've proffered here. Congratulations on it being so well received. You certainly deserved it!

As always,

Hollis

User avatar
CineMaven
Posts: 3818
Joined: September 24th, 2007, 9:54 am
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Contact:

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby CineMaven » June 16th, 2009, 8:48 pm

I don't remember sending you a check for that glowing commendation Hollis...but your check is in the mail. Thanxx very much for the compliment. Appreciate it. :D
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com

User avatar
charliechaplinfan
Posts: 9087
Joined: January 15th, 2008, 9:49 am

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 20th, 2009, 3:13 pm

I've never been taken by Bette Davis, I've seen a few of her movies but unlike others from the '30s and '40s I can't warm to her. The Letter was one movie I'd never seen and I knew it was held in high esteem here so I searched it out. I can honestly say I thought it was a beautiful film, scenery, costume and atomosphere. I watched it engrossed, Bette has never been so well costumed in anything I've seen before. I had no problem disliking Bette's Lesley and sympathising with Mrs Hammond.

I must say I enjoyed the whole film but I didn't believe in Lesley, how she could keep so in control of her emotions only to weep after the court case that she had loved him, was she just trying to push her husband away at that moment? I just can't believe that someone who loved someone so deeply could be so controlled. I can only believe that she was declaring her love for some other motive, did she know they were outside the door, was that utterance for his widow? Why would she walk knowingly walk to her death. Did I get distracted somewhere? (which happens a lot here) and I've missed something however small.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

User avatar
knitwit45
Posts: 4720
Joined: May 4th, 2007, 9:33 pm
Location: Gardner, KS

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby knitwit45 » June 20th, 2009, 4:42 pm

I think, once the court case was over, she just unraveled. Didn't you feel like she was a spider, weaving a web of lies, as that tablecloth grew? Maybe it's because I am a knitter/crocheter, but the last scene, of her ball of crochet thread on the floor was telling. I thought the reason she went outside was because of the spell the moon had over her. It was the only witness to her crime, after all.

User avatar
silentscreen
Posts: 715
Joined: March 9th, 2008, 3:47 pm

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby silentscreen » June 20th, 2009, 7:09 pm

I think Bette is an acquired taste-she could come across as rather hard in real life as well as on film. But she is one of my favorite classic actresses. She could and did play anything-she was a total professional, and I admire that about her. Plus she was very honest in real life, and always good for an interview. There was the real Bette-Ruth Elizabeth, who was somewhat vulnerable and unsure of herself, especially in her youth, and the actress Bette who was hard as nails. But if she hadn't been that way, she wouldn't have gotten all those great parts. By the way, the director of "The Letter", William Wyler, was the love of her life, but she didn't get him either. She was too high strung for him, but they made three great films together, and remained friends all their lives. Here's a youtube of Bette Davis with Olivia de Havilland. "I was probably jealous of you, you were so damned good looking." Now Joan Crawford, sorry, she creeped me out. I always felt like she rehearsed her interviews.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pddO_PS0 ... L&index=35

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmdpEuuD ... xt_from=PL
"Humor is nothing less than a sense of the fitness of things." Carole Lombard

User avatar
charliechaplinfan
Posts: 9087
Joined: January 15th, 2008, 9:49 am

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby charliechaplinfan » June 21st, 2009, 7:21 am

knitwit45 wrote:I think, once the court case was over, she just unraveled. Didn't you feel like she was a spider, weaving a web of lies, as that tablecloth grew? Maybe it's because I am a knitter/crocheter, but the last scene, of her ball of crochet thread on the floor was telling. I thought the reason she went outside was because of the spell the moon had over her. It was the only witness to her crime, after all.


Perhaps she unravelled because her husband had found out, as long as he didn't know she could go on with her deception but once he knew, even though he would forgive her, it wasn't enough.

I actually thought how theraputic her lacemaking must be, I was watching her hands, trying to work out if she actually knew how to make lace, it wouldn't surprise me if she did. I love to knit but crochetting has always been way beyond me, I wish you could show me Nancy, I follow books and I get completely lost.

Those are interesting segments Brenda, I've watched them both on youtube. They must have such fascinating tales to tell.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8175
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby moira finnie » September 2nd, 2010, 8:38 am

After watching--heaven help me, for the fourth time over the years--the Jeff Chandler-Kim Novak version of Jeanne Eagels (1957), I discovered a bit more about the actress/legend and thought that I'd share here.

For more factual information about Jeanne Eagels, here is a website devoted to her:

http://www.jeanneeagels.com/

Thanks to Mr. 6666's "eagel-eye," below are links to two scenes from Jeanne Eagels 1929 version of Maugham's The Letter, found on youtube.

It is fascinating to see how much more direct this movie is than the classic 1939 Wyler version with Betty Davis. Even in these fragments, Eagels is quite compelling. The Eagels version was directed by the French filmmaker Jean de Limur, who also worked with her on her second and last film, *Jealousy* (1929)--a movie that is believed lost, though other reports seem to indicate some fragments of the film may exist.

The fist scene features *Herbert Marshall* as the leading lady's callous lover rather than her husband in this version, and the frankness of the dialogue is remarkable.

It is a bit startling to hear Marshall and Eagels' clipped, stiff upper lip delivery and that almost makes the emotionality of their exchange more stark. I think that by comparison, Mr. Marshall became a more relaxed screen performer as time went on, though it would have been interesting to see Eagels in more roles. Eagels definitely had an interesting, and deep voice, and was quite pretty in an ethereal way, with a strong suggestion of sensuality here.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leYCSvjhLfg&feature=related[/youtube]

In the second scene, a youngish Reginald Owen, as Leslie Crosbie's cuckolded husband, ferrets out the truth from his wife. This version seems a bit closer to Maugham's original story, which emphasized that the woman's punishment was not as tidy as having Gale Sondergaard mete out some Asian justice, granting Bette Davis release from her existence. Instead Robert Crosbie (Reginald Owen) has some degree of revenge by perpetuating their hollow marriage.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIlzS6wRY9E&feature=related[/youtube]


(I must admit that I had a few giggles over the way that Marshall says, mock casually, "I say, is anything the matter? That note of yours was rather hectic..." in the first clip. The other line that made me smile despite my willingness to be swept away in the artistry, was the way that Eagels spat out the line about "rubber, Rubber, RUBBER!" in the second scene. Could The Letter have been a drawing room comedy if played a different way??)
Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby JackFavell » September 2nd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Forgive me for making comparisons here.... I just can't help it.

Eagels had that same tension, the same edgy, combustible clockwork timer inside that Bette had....but she is less controlled - or is that Wyler's doing in the other picture? This was more like Bette in Elizabeth and Essex.... the constant rhythm playing out in the gestures. Eagels was fascinating!It was like watching a composite of Bette and Gladys Cooper rolled into one person. I wonder if Bette ever saw Eagels perform?

I wish I could compare other Eagels performances to this.... to really understand her talent.

You are right to point out the things that Wyler did not say, did not show.... for that is where the other film's greatness lies. Everything is hidden..... only brought out by the moonlight.

User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8175
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby moira finnie » September 2nd, 2010, 12:10 pm

Forgive you? For what...thinking? Comparisons R Us today, I guess. Look what happened when I started to mull over CineMaven's comment about this over on TCM.

Hopelessly lost in trying to understand all that is going on under the surface of this story--that's me.
Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby JackFavell » September 2nd, 2010, 1:01 pm

I didn't want to make anyone who was a big fan of Eagels to get mad at me for saying she was like Bette and Gladys ---- she was herself, but I do see a certain resemblance in the way they all might have played the role.

Maven helped me to really enjoy The Letter - (1940) - a film that I admit was not a favorite, due to it's cryptic nature. I don't think she was dissing you, just making a point that goes to her original post about the film.

I remember reading Benito Cerino in English class, and having the same problem trying to understand it that I did with this film. The teacher was not as successful as CineMaven at explaining the "short" story. He said something like "What Melville was trying to say was that racism was bad, even though it seems like he is saying the opposite....". That didn't really cut it. His words fell away.... and we were left thinking that Melville was not only a racist but cruel and inhuman for writing such long short stories. :D

But I digress.

Maven's description of the 1940 film was brilliant and opened my eyes to the corruption mercilessly examined and laid out for all to see in the movie. I think my problems understanding The Letter stemmed from watching too many films in which the white British colonialists were seen as heroes and benign saviors to the native populations they lorded it over. I actually incorporated some of that inherent prejudice into my own outlook when watching The Letter, namely, I viewed the Asians as evil. I think, considering the time it was made, most whites would do the same. "Poor Leslie! That awful woman made her kneel in front of her!I feel sorry for her".... except that you can't. This was my dilemma with the whole film. ...When you are a part of the prejudice, as I was, or it's a part of you, it is difficult to take the role of Sondergaard as inherently just.

Now, thanks to Maven's OP on the subject, it's obvious to me that Wyler and the writers were saying that racism was bad, even though the film deals with the gentry and Leslie looks like the heroine at first glance. It is meant to make you uncomfortable... to make you squirm in your own hypocrisy.

User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8175
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby moira finnie » September 2nd, 2010, 1:51 pm

I didn't want to make anyone who was a big fan of Eagels to get mad at me for saying she was like Bette and Gladys ---- she was herself, but I do see a certain resemblance in the way they all might have played the role.


It's kind of hard to be a big fan of Eagels, isn't it? Most living people never saw her in anything, except that Kim Novak movie (a real guilty pleasure). But I was keen to see these clips of The Letter.

Maven helped me to really enjoy The Letter - (1940) - a film that I admit was not a favorite, due to it's cryptic nature. I don't think she was dissing you, just making a point that goes to her original post about the film.

I loved Maven's analysis of The Letter, and just hoped she didn't think I was dissing her--cause I wasn't at all in any way. Thinking about the Jeanne Eagels clips in a pre-code version of The Letter (1929) sent me back to the short story and made me appreciate how differently this story could be interpreted by others. I really wasn't trying to criticize the Wyler version, but was just trying to look at it in a different context, based on the perspective gained after seeing those clips and re-reading the story.

I think my problems understanding The Letter stemmed from watching too many films in which the white British colonialists were seen as heroes and benign saviors to the native populations they lorded it over. I actually incorporated some of that inherent prejudice into my own outlook when watching The Letter, namely, I viewed the Asians as evil. I think, considering the time it was made, most whites would do the same. "Poor Leslie! That awful woman made her kneel in front of her!I feel sorry for her".... except that you can't. This was my dilemma with the whole film. ...When you are a part of the prejudice, as I was, or it's a part of you, it is difficult to take the role of Sondergaard as inherently just.

Now, thanks to Maven's OP on the subject, it's obvious to me that Wyler and the writers were saying that racism was bad, even though the film deals with the gentry and Leslie looks like the heroine at first glance. It is meant to make you uncomfortable... to make you squirm in your own hypocrisy.


The racism is more openly alluded to in the short story too, and eventually, Joyce, who was a liberal man who treated "his" (Maugham's word) Malaysians and Chinese in what he thought was a fair and rational way, came to understand on a deeper level his role in keeping that doomed system in place and, since he is the easiest character to identify with, the reader's role as well. I think that the 1940 film was critiquing the society, marriage, and the inherent racism, but was also glamorizing the fraught atmosphere of that world, in part to sell tickets and to tell an engrossing story to a mass audience that could take the tale as straight entertainment.

I don't think that Wyler just wanted to make viewer's uncomfortable, but, as Maugham did so well originally, Sondergaard's mysterious and malevolent behavior is behaving justly, even if others do not understand her motives or standards clearly--especially those who would regard her as less than a fully human person. I believe her character represented the inevitable bitter fruit of injustice and the loss of dignity felt by those raised in such a world--which Mrs. Hammond is attempting to correct in her own way.

No matter how you look at it, there is so much to this story it is fascinating in the way that it explores the limitations of our perception of one another.

Benito Cerino

Oh, no, now I have to read Melville again? I had enough problems with Bartleby the Scrivener! :shock:

Come to think of it, maybe ol' Bart would be more coherent to me after this recent Great Recession.
Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks

User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: "THE LETTER" (1940)

Postby JackFavell » September 2nd, 2010, 2:57 pm

Bartleby is the only Melville I could ever get through, thanks to Masterpiece Theatre. I really like it. Amazing, since Melville is my least favorite author aside from Norman Mailer.

The racism is more openly alluded to in the short story too, and eventually, Joyce, who was a liberal man who treated "his" (Maugham's word) Malaysians and Chinese in what he thought was a fair and rational way, came to understand on a deeper level his role in keeping that doomed system in place and, since he is the easiest character to identify with, the reader's role as well. I think that the 1940 film was critiquing the society, marriage, and the inherent racism, but was also glamorizing the fraught atmosphere of that world, in part to sell tickets and to tell an engrossing story to a mass audience that could take the tale as straight entertainment.


I am quite sure that I read The Letter, because at a youngish age I was a HUGE Maugham fan, reading everything I could get my hands on - and that included all the short stories. Whew! It's amazing to me now that I ever had such a brain...... Anyway, What you wrote about Joyce's character and "his" workers made me vaguely remember the story a bit better. It also makes me realize that once you've read something, it doesn't necessarily stick with you for life, especially with someone like Maugham whose writing is ...well, I don't know, he's..... kind of chilly, emotionally speaking. The emotion is there, just very subliminal and British. I must admit, I probably did not understand it well.

I don't think that Wyler just wanted to make viewer's uncomfortable, but, as Maugham did so well originally, Sondergaard's mysterious and malevolent behavior is behaving justly, even if others do not understand her motives or standards clearly--especially those who would regard her as less than a fully human person. I believe her character represented the inevitable bitter fruit of injustice and the loss of dignity felt by those raised in such a world--which Mrs. Hammond is attempting to correct in her own way.


That is quite brilliant. Perhaps that is the problem in the end for me with The Letter - I can see the underside equally now, but I don't want to have to work that hard mentally and especially spiritually. I like having my little dream world, where I am exactly like Joyce - I think I am the least prejudiced of people. I dislike having my own prejudice handed to me on a silver tray. Wyler walks a fine line, and he does it masterfully, allowing people to see what they want to, but slipping the lines a little here and there. Now that I understand the film better, I can't go back and watch with naivete. This is a good thing, but I sure do have to be in the mood for it before I watch.

That being said, while watching The Heiress recently, I realized that Wyler is at his best when prolonging the discomfort level of his audience. If he weren't so damn good, I might not forgive him.


Return to “Dramas”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest