The Letter

1929

Drama

0
IMDb Rating 6.7 10 717

based on play or musical pre-code

Plot summary


Uploaded by: FREEMAN
August 02, 2022 at 02:41 PM

Director

Top cast

Fredi Washington as Opium Den Dancer
720p.WEB
555.62 MB
984*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 0 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by roberts-1 9 / 10

Cries out for a restoration!

"The Letter" is an absolutely fascinating early talkie. The only surviving talkie made by the legendary stage actress, Jeanne Eagels (whose skill as a Broadway stage actress was obvious in the delivery of her lines - particularly the final scene, which I found mesmerizing) cries out for a restoration! The print of the film I viewed had a very poor visual quality (although I could always discern the action), but became all the more tantalizing - this film probably looked great in 1929, and would still look wonderful in a refurbished print. For a very early "talkie", I was very surprised at how natural and "unstodgy" the dialogue is (and the soundtrack was remarkably clear and strong, with even a little bit of profanity, which I'm sure it raised a few eyebrows in 1929!) It is very unfortunate that Eagels' other talkie "Jealousy" is now lost, and all the more reason that "The Letter" (being the only sound document of this legendary actress) should have a wider distribution. I hope someone some day will spearhead such an undertaking.

A 2011 update: I recently acquired the DVD release of "The Letter" from Warner Archives. It is a revelation - an amazingly good print, particularly considering it is mastered from what is apparently the sole surviving 35mm print. Some segments lack musical background, but the dialogue is intact, and the visuals are far better than I expected (or hoped for!). Congratulations and many thanks to Warner Archives for finally making this treasure available!

Reviewed by tbumbera 8 / 10

Eagels fascinates in her only surviving sound film

I was fortunate to see a rare screening of this (early) 1929 film. The lure for me was Jeanne Eagels, and her performance did not disappoint. Her screen presence is amazing - there is scarcely a performance from this early talkie period to compare it with. If Eagels was alive at the time (she died in October 1929), if Paramount had more clout with the MGM-dominated AMPAS at the time, she surely would have won the Academy Award for Best Actress (it went to Mary Pickford in one of the WORST performances of the period, in the nearly-unwatchable "Coquette"). Her final confrontation with her husband, one of the most dynamic pieces of film acting from ANY period, is alone worth the price of admission.

This film exists only as a work print, without final dubbed-in music and sound effects, which may be disconcerting to some viewers, but thank God Eagels' performance survives intact. The storyline is similar to the 1940 remake but without several plot variations imposed by the Hays Office, and in many ways this earlier film seems more modern, complete with a few profanities and obvious depictions of a brothel (that scene, with Eagels' character humiliated in front of a bevy of Asian prostitutes, is amazing). The casual racism of colonialists on display throughout the film may be off-putting when viewed today, but is historically and dramatically appropriate.

Rights to this film apparently belong to Universal, so the chance of its being distributed on DVD - along with the many wonderful Paramount pre-1934-code films, the brilliantly restored Technicolor "Follow Thru" and "Paramount On Parade", etc. - is slender-to-none. No studio cares less about its pre-1948 catalog, especially the Paramount titles, and we can only pray that whoever heads their video division will be replaced by someone who knows and loves this eminently under-exploited catalog. In the meantime, Run, don't walk if this is screened in your area, and experience this beautiful and vibrant star who influenced a generation of actresses (not the least of which, Bette Davis, who took much from Eagels).

Reviewed by AlsExGal 9 / 10

Shows what the 1940 version could never have shown

It just makes you wonder what could have been had Jeanne Eagels lived. The plot follows very much the same trajectory as the 1940 version. In fact, some of the very same dialogue is used. There is one major difference - we are shown the wild and hard side of Leslie Crosbie (Jeanne Eagels) right from the start, not left until the end of the film to guess exactly what really lurks behind the face of the crocheting angel we are presented in the 1940 version.

At the beginning we watch her bid her bland husband (Reginald Owen) goodbye as he heads to work. She makes sure he is gone and then writes the famed "letter" to her lover, Geoffrey Hammond, demanding he appear. In a clever bit of casting, here Hammond is played by Herbert Marshall, and very convincingly so. In 1940, the same actor plays Leslie's loving and trusting husband, also convincingly. What a great tribute to Marshall's range as an actor. You get to see Hammond with his Eurasian mistress (in 1940 the production code demanded they be married) complaining about Leslie, but saying that he must go see her one last time and put an end to her illusion that the affair is still on. You see the entire exchange between Leslie and Hammond - a conversation between a woman in love and a man who has moved on. You then see her deliberately pump a multitude of bullets into Hammond, which is where the 1940 film begins. The look on Leslie's face as she fires is the same in 1929 as 1940, but here we get to see the reason for that blank expression - it's not shock from an attempted sexual assault, it's payback for rejection.

The rest of the film plays out pretty much like the 1940 version, up until the end when Robert discovers he is too impoverished to buy his own plantation and must continue on working for the company, all because Leslie was guilty all along and had to pay blackmail to insure suppression of her last letter to Hammond. Robert tells Leslie that her punishment will be to stay in the home where the murder took place, haunted by her memories of both love and death. She, however, has one more bullet - a verbal one - this time aimed at her husband Robert. She tells him "with all my heart I still love the man I killed". Here, Leslie says this to lash out at Robert, to make sure that if she is stuck with him he realizes he is equally stuck with her. In 1940, Bette Davis says it as a woman whimpering out one last confession to her husband to profess that she is not worthy of the love of a man for which she feels nothing.

Both movies are very effective, but this one just has a realistic edge to it that was not possible in the 1940 one. It's just too bad that the existing copies I've seen are in such poor shape, but it's still very much worth watching.

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