Jeanne Eagels plays the bored and restless Leslie Crosbie who turns to another man, Geoffrey Hammond (Herbert Marshall) for attention when neglected by her husband Robert (Reginald Owen). ... See full summary »
Jeanne Eagels plays the bored and restless Leslie Crosbie who turns to another man, Geoffrey Hammond (Herbert Marshall) for attention when neglected by her husband Robert (Reginald Owen). Robert decides to go out for the evening to pick up a new rifle. Leslie's calm vanishes as she awaits an answer to a letter she has written Hammond. He has found a new love - a beautiful unscrupulous native woman Li Ti (Lady Tsei Mei) and has discarded Leslie. Written by
Originally released by Paramount, the rights to the film were sold to Warner Bros. in 1939 when WB began production on a remake which was released the next year. 2 other early Paramount sound films would also be sold to Warners - 1932's "A Farewell to Arms" and 1933's "One Sunday Afternoon" (both were also acquired with intention to remake, but only the latter would ever be remade by WB). Thus, the "Popeye" cartoons would not be the only former Paramount properties sold to Associated Artists Productions in the mid-1950s - the three sound features Paramount sold to WB would be sold to a.a.p. with the rest of WB's pre-1950 features, as well as all short subjects released prior to August 1948 (except black-and-white Looney Tunes, non-Harman/Ising B&W Merrie Melodies, and the first cartoon in the latter series - "Lady, Play Your Mandolin") and the live-action short subjects released that month. See more »
[direct to camera]
With all my heart and all my soul, I still love the man I killed!
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Although this version of The Letter that I saw was incomplete lacking the final six minutes, if you have seen the better known Bette Davis version from 1941 then you know what fate awaits Jeanne Eagels in this film. Sad to say this and another sound film are all we have of her acting and stage presence. Eagels was most famous on stage for doing another W. Somerset Maugham work, Rain. After seeing this what a shame it was she died of too much living before doing a film version of that. Joan Crawford was unjustly criticized for essentially not being Jeanne Eagels, so vivid was the memory of what she did on stage with Sadie Thompson.
She doesn't do too bad with Leslie Crosbie either in this film. Eagels is the bored wife of rubber plantation owner Reginald Owen and she casually drifts into an affair with Herbert Marshall. But Marshall has been two timing Eagels with a lovely Asian mistress. After deceiving her husband she's not about to be thrown over for an Oriental so she empties a revolver into Marshall. In the Bette Davis version Marshall plays the wronged husband and the character of the lover is only shown at the beginning being ventilated with six bullets.
Eagels gets the best barrister in Singapore O.P. Heggie, but there is the nasty business of an indiscreet letter she wrote to Marshall that the Chinese woman now has. Therein lies the tale.
Somerset Maugham if anything was more observant of the racism in the British colonial community in this version than the later one. What's driving Eagels is the thought of being tossed aside for an Oriental woman, the type she employs as servants and looks down on. Not to mention the scandal of her affair and what would happen to her position in that strict British white colonial society.
Eagels gives a dynamic performance in her confrontations with the various male characters and in a soliloquy in court where she recounts a version for the jury as to why she killed Marshall. Of course it's all lies and the white jurors want to believe her. But that letter should it get out, she's toast.
Shot in Paramount's Astoria studios, The Letter shows its age, but even as she overacted as most of her Broadway contemporaries did when they faced sound cameras, her dynamism is undeniable. Watch this and you'll why Jeanne Eagels was such a big star.
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