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The fine cast and the interesting story in "Letter of Introduction" go
together well, making it an enjoyable and sometimes thoughtful movie.
The characters are interestingly quirky while remaining believable, and
the story gets quite a bit out of a relatively simple setup.
Adolphe Menjou and Andrea Leeds are both well cast in the leading roles, as a father and daughter who try to keep their relationship hidden as they work together on the stage. Menjou is always enjoyable to watch in this kind of role, as something of a scamp who nevertheless has a caring heart. Leeds makes good use of her innocence and earnestness. As the central relationship in the story, their two characters also make a nice change of pace from the more conventional setups in comedies of this kind.
The supporting cast likewise features plenty of talent. In particular, Edgar Bergen and Charlie get some of the best lines, Eve Arden is well-suited to her role, and Ernest Cossart seems right at home as Menjou's butler.
Everything fits together well, and in addition to providing some entertaining moments, it includes the kind of drama that makes you think along with the characters and ask yourself what you might do in the same situation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How to discuss this film without spoilers? For once, the screen credit "Story by" (usually one asks: What story?) makes sense. The surprises in this yarn are many. Several established genres -- the aspiring-actress story, the lost-then-found child melodrama, the declining-alcoholic-actor tragedy -- are combined and the results are intriguing. When so many conventions are jumbled together the result is unconventional! Young Andrea Leeds arrives in New York with a letter of introduction to one of America's most beloved actors, played by Adolphe Menjou. Only when she presents the letter to him (in an exquisitely underplayed scene) do we discover that she is his (apparently illegitimate -- was the Hays office nodding in 1938?) daughter. Not having known even of her existence, he is deeply moved and notes her resemblance to her mother. Out of sheer vanity (neatly established in a little scene with his barber) he can't bring himself to introduce her to his fiancée (Ann Sheridan) as his daughter, instead calling her his protegee. Complications ensue, resulting in the breaking-off of his engagement. He then puts all his energy into helping young Kay (Leeds), and, reluctantly, at a producer's urging, agrees to star in a play that will introduce her to the Broadway stage. One expects at this juncture a montage (at least) of the problems involved in putting on a play but instead we cut directly to opening night. And here a most unexpected series of events occurs that turns Letter of Introduction from a light comedy/drama to full-fledged tragedy, defying all expectations of genre. Aside from its remarkable plot, the movie is distinguished by a wealth of fascinating incident. An apartment house fire -- frighteningly realistic, a "bushelites" (artists who hide their talents under a bushel) New Year's Eve party, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy sending up a roomful of the "cream" of society (cream, that is, which rises to the top -- "So does scum," says Charlie). Andrea Leeds's serene quality is the core of this film, and she carries it superbly, with strong support from all concerned, among them Menjou (in a character clearly based on John Barrymore), Bergen & McCarthy and Mortimer (here called "Mortimore") Snerd (whose comedy bits are, as ever, very clever and amusing), and George Murphy. The direction of John M. Stahl is, as ever, unflinching in its depiction both of ordinary reality and the most intense moments of life. Clearly, this was a man who lived life with his eyes open.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The best natural actress who has ever passed under my hands" - that's
how Gregory La Cava described Andrea Leeds after directing her in
"Stage Door" (1937). She appeared in some prestigious films and you
would have thought she had it made but you would be wrong. After only a
handful of films she retired to marry a millionaire sportsman and
became involved in breeding race horses. "Letter Of Introduction" is
one of her best films.
Kay Martin (Andrea Leeds) arrives home to find her apartment block on fire. She is desperate to retrieve a letter of introduction she has to John Mannering (Adolphe Menjou) a Broadway actor, fallen on hard times. Barry (George Murphy), a dancer from across the street, helps her save it and also introduces her to some more Broadway hopefuls (Eve Arden, Rita Johnson and Inez Courtney).
John Mannering was once a top Broadway matinée idol, who just happens to be Kay's father. Because of the secrecy, it creates some sticky situations - Barry is suspicious that Kay and Mannering are more than just "friends" and John's fiancée, Lydia Hoyt (a very glamorous Ann Sheridan) is convinced John is back to his old ways (he has been married 5 times ) and breaks off their engagement. Edgar Bergan and Charlie McCarthy play themselves and also the only ones that are in on the secret. They are given a chance to work by Mannering as they have been unemployed for months and he thinks they have potential.
Mannering is worried that if the news gets out about his "relationship" with Kay he will lose his "youthful" reputation.He is also worried that his ten years in Hollywood may have damaged his stage reputation. Barry has had enough and decides to marry his old dancing partner (Rita Johnson) and go on the road for a tour.
John and Kay are given roles in a Broadway production and they decide at the end of the performance that they will tell the audience that they are father and daughter. John finds it difficult to face an audience after ten years and gets drunk, muffing his part and causing the performance to be cancelled. He feels a failure and steps out in front of a car. He dies without revealing his secret.
The last third of the film is very good. It gives you an understanding of why he didn't want to reveal his relationship with Kay. It became a more dramatic and complex film than it had started out. Leeds' Kay Martin was quite determined to make good. Although she was starry-eyed and emotional to meet her father - she was also intensely ambitious and was initially only upset that he had ruined her big chance. George Murphy, also didn't get to do much dancing.
Andrea Leeds was a talented actress who didn't realise her full potential. Adolphe Menjou was very good as John Mannering, the actor clinging on to his lost youth. In my opinion it would have been a better film if it had concentrated on the relationship between Kay and her father rather than the mistaken situations the secret created.
I'm sooooooo glad that it's finally available on DVD (from
Alpha...mediocre quality, but absolutely worthwhile buying).
This is a John Stahl directed Universal film starring Adolphe Menjou, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, George Murphy, the young Ann Sheridan, as well as two great actresses fresh from starring in "Stage Door", Andrea Leeds and Eve Arden.
Andrea Leeds is really the star of this film....and she's really good. It's a shame her career didn't really pan out.
There's a good dramatic story and plenty of comedy from Bergen and Arden.
If you love good movies from the 1930's, this one's for you.
Accomplished Director John M. Stahl commendably engineers this
well-designed screen play revolving around a striving young actress who
clings with hope onto a "Letter of Introduction" to present to a
veteran theatrical star.
In conjunction with a "visiting card" or "calling card," a letter of introduction would play an important role in the social graces of yesteryear, as one would not interact socially with an individual of distinction, without having been introduced by a peer who shares a connection with either party.
But, in this case, that one opportunity appears jeopardized one winter evening, as crowds congregate around New York City to revel in New Year's Eve.
Katherine 'Kay' Martin (Andrea Leeds) and Edgar Bergen (Edgar Bergen as Himself) pace through the outdoor celebration to witness a stream of smoke's billowing from their residence apartment building. When Edgar defies guards to rush onto his cement staircase and into the building, Katherine pleads with him to salvage a folder in her bureau of drawers.
Edgar manages to rescue his ventriloquism partner, Charlie McCarthy (Himself) from their second story unit, but deems it unsafe to attempt to climb another floor to Katherine's room.
But another spectator, neighbor Barry Paige (George Murphy) dares to accommodate Katherine's wish, by escorting her onto the third floor of the building aflame, to retrieve her "Letter of Introduction," for nothing else does she wish to salvage among her possessions, before they rush for sanctuary via a fire escape.
Honey (Rita Johnson), the dancing partner and admirer of Barry Paige, plus house-mate Cora Phelps (Eve Arden), welcome Katherine, Edgar and Charlie into their residence and circle, as they celebrate the arrival of a brand new year. Honey puts on a brave front when Barry admits his admiration from afar of Katherine, quite possibly hoping that Katherine sets her designs elsewhere, as Cora remarks that she prefers waiting for Charlie McCarthy rather than for Edgar Bergen.
Everyone among this newly-expanded troupe of striving performers, with the exception of Barry, expresses delight in Katherine's plan to pay a visit to the residence of established actor John Mannering (Adolphe Menjou), at which she is received by his valet, Andrews, the Butler (Ernest Cossart), but vehemently resented by Lydia Hoyt (Ann Sheridan), the young fiancée of John Mannering.
John, however, receives Katherine with a grain of caution, but, after reading the correspondence which she present, embraces her sympathetically. He aspires to mentor her fledging stage career, as his has experienced a decline upon returning to Broadway in the aftermath of a ten-year stint in Hollywood, acting in motion pictures.
The theatre in those days would maintain itself as the legitimate venue for the Performing Arts and snub film acting (as film may have turned its chin away from television during its infancy and beyond to an extent, and, perhaps, as television quite possibly would to the stage, in a sort of "full circle fashion").
At any rate, these characters, who portray performers in "plays within a play" fashion, find their lives undergoing a variety of ups and downs, causing a series of ins and outs among their relationships, as a result of one influential "Letter of Introduction." Edgar Bergan, as we may have noticed, portrays himself, along with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, who appears toward the climax of the film.
(Films of the 1930's and 40's sometimes feature an event as a performer portraying himself/herself aside from the Biopics and Backlot Pictures, but this also inflicts a certain restriction for the direction of the character, as it mustn't change history, as it were. But the ever-cordial Edgar and company add a nice touch of vitality and authenticity to the presentation.)
Most of these other stars also shine in roles akin to type, with Andrea Leeds, handling her aspirations while dwelling upon an unfortunate past in outstanding fashion; Rita Johnson, shining as a complaisant ingénue who realizes that she may draw the short straw; Eve Arden, flinging her customary wisecracks from one side of town to another; Adolphe Menjou and George Murphy playing their recurring "borderline cads," who must face the results of their errors; Ernest Cossart in his polite supporting way, and Ann Sheridan a bit wild as the excessively jealous fiancée. Neither Charlie McCarthy nor Mortimer Snerd change very much over the years.
Frank Jenks has a role as Joe, theatre prompter, in a supporting cast which consists of many character performers of the day, including John Archer, Irving Bacon, Brooks Benedict, Don Brodie, Dorothy Granger, Jonathan Hale, Grace Hayle, Eddie Hall, Constance Moore, Phillip Trent, Richard Tucker, Ray Walker, Morgan Wallace and Dick Winslow.
One point which seems to border on the "goofs" coincides with Barry's declaration of having stared from his window into Katherine's room on several occasions before they meet, but from the exteriors, their apartment buildings stand flush with each other, without the slightest width of a lot between them.
All in all, a pleasant film experience, a little downbeat in places, but unpredictable, and featuring a wonderful cast, who, naturally, add a great deal to its fine entertainment value.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Andrea Leeds finally got her wish. If in STAGE DOOR she was doomed to
always be the bridesmaid and never the bride when it came to making her
theatre debut, she gets her chance in this little movie that seems to
have been all but forgotten over the years. And not as a supporting
character but as the star.
The story is as goes: Kay Martin wants to become an actress on her own but does not want any help from her estranged father, actors John Mannering. At the same time, Mannering is having an affair with Lydia Hoyt (Ann Sheridan) who later breaks up with him when she mistakes Kay's presence as being that of his new female conquest. Massive complications arise that lead to father and daughter reuniting on-stage in a moving finale.
This is one of those melodramas that explore the drama behind the stage that seemed to be quite the rage in the Thirties. Employing actors Andrea Leeds, Adolphe Menjou, and Eve Arden, there is a similarity in the general feel of this movie down to their performances since they were together in STAGE DOOR. As a matter of fact, Andrea Leeds characters on both this and STAGE DOOR are named Kay, figure that out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A struggling young actress(Andrea Leeds)keeps her past a secret in
efforts to succeed by getting much sought advice from a famous stage
actor(Adolphe Menjou). When it is discovered this popular thespian is
her estranged father, she decides to keep their relationship mum to the
public in order to not damage his ego and reputation.
LETTER OF INTRODUCTION blends drama with comedy and is sustained by a somewhat strange, but strong cast featuring: Eve Arden, George Murphy, Rita Johnson, Ann Sheridan and Edger Bergen with those not so dumb dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. This movie has been shown well- preserved on both AMC and PBN.
Sorry. Anyways, I just saw this, it was pretty good-pretty serious plotline
of aging actor Adolphe Menjou, his estranged daughter Leeds and his trying
to make it back onto Broadway while hiding her existence from the
undermined somewhat by the oddly large roles of Snerd and McCarthy. They
funny-but it's kinda like sticking Fozzie Bear and Grover into the middle
a 'A Brilliant Mind'...maybe not something you would see now but then? It
was par for the chorus.
Fine character actors-George Murphy, young Anne Sheriden, etc all add to the mix. I liked it, it's an interesting period piece if nothing else.
**1/2 outta ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an odd film because it's almost like two or three films spliced together. The first is a story about a young lady (Andrea Leeds) who introduces herself to the man who didn't realize he was a father (Adolph Menjou)--a bit of a risqué premise for 1938. In the meantime, Leeds and George Murphy fall in love, though Murphy assumes that Leeds' interest in Menjou is romantic! Now all Leeds needed to do was tell Murphy who Menjou was to her. And, Menjou's very young new wife (Ann Sheridan) thinks that Menjou and Leeds are lovers!! It's pretty kinky if you really think about it and almost all the rest of the film could have been avoided had they simply told everyone why they started spending so much time together! But, Sheridan and Murphy both stomp off and much of the film is spent waiting for it all to be worked out successfully. The second film is Edger Bergen and Charlie McCarthy--who just seem to appear and disappear from the film periodically. They really aren't integrated into the film all that well and the viewing experience is a bit odd. Now this ISN'T to say bergen and McCarthy are not enjoyable...just very oddly cast. As for the possible third movie, how Menjou's and Leeds' relationship is worked out is really bizarre and comes completely out of left field. It certainly does NOT do what the audience expects and goes from a light sort of film to a very dark one rather quickly....while Bergen and McCarthy try to do comedy bits!!! And, in the very end, a romance just appears out of no where for Bergen and Eve Arden! Talk about bizarre!! Overall, it's a nice film for fans of the classic Hollywood era, but a bit too strange and dark for the average viewer.
As her New York apartment building burns, pretty Andrea Leeds (as
Katherine "Kay" Martin) retrieves the important "Letter of
Introduction" which confirms her parentage. Fellow resident
ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (as Edgar Bergen) rescues companion Charlie
McCarthy from a future as firewood. Neighborly George Murphy (as Barry
Paige) helps Ms. Leeds out of the fire, and reveals he enjoyed peeping
at her toil over her frying pan, with a watering mouth. Leeds enjoys
kissing Mr. Murphy, but wants to concentrate on her aspiring stage
career. Leeds brings her "Letter of Introduction" to Barrymore-like
acting Adolphe Menjou (as John Mannering), who is her long-lost father.
As his curtain closes, Mr. Menjou helps Leeds to Broadway. Not
essential, but fun in its way.
****** Letter of Introduction (8/5/38) John M. Stahl ~ Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, Edgar Bergen, George Murphy
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