Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Letter (1940): A Lie Is As Good As the Truth...

Just in time for a Turner Classic Movies' broadcast of The Letter (1940) early Sunday morning at 12:00 AM (ET) on January 22nd, 2012, a guest contributor to this blog has come along to rekindle our fascination with this compelling W. Somerset Maugham story of the power of obsessive love, duplicitous motives, and racism in colonial Malaysia during British control of the region.

The guest author, CineMaven aka Theresa Brown, is a filmmaker and a longtime member of the TCM Message Boards (and a striking figure in one of TCM's distinctive interstitials called "My Retrospective: A Fan's Memories"). In the paean below, she shares her thoughts about one of her all-time favorite films, the 1940 Warner Brothers classic, The Letter, directed by William Wyler. The second American version of the Maugham story was adapted by Howard Koch, and the movie received seven nominations for Academy Awards.* It won none of them, but has earned a spot in the heart of every classic film aficionado for its marvelous synthesis of mood, story, performance, and craftsmanship that still lingers in our collective memory, no matter how familiar it has become.  In 2009, Theresa even had the opportunity to introduce this W. Somerset Maugham adaptation on-air, with Turner Classic Movie's Robert Osborne, when she was chosen as one of fifteen guest programmers to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of TCM.

Regardless of whether you have seen The Letter (1940) only once or many times, I think that Theresa's passionate, amusing and observant insights into this movie may make you a fan of her unique voice as well as this cherished product of the studio era. I hope that regular readers enjoy this personal take on a fine film, and thank you so much, Cine! ~ Moira


by Guest Blogger, CineMaven

“THE LETTER.” I’ve had many viewings of this classic film since I was a teenager. But there was something about seeing it this time, that made me see the movie differently. The Letter (1940) keeps me bone-straight in my seat as I watch the slow peeling of a woman scorned; from the cry of release of the confession. Bette Davis as Leslie Crosbie is layered and peeled like an onion. But don’t cry for her. It’s a movie about watching a murderer. Is there any need for a spoiler alert here? I’m pretty sure EVERYONE has (or SHOULD have) seen this great classic.


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