Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Forgotten Movies: THE LETTER



Hard to beat this opening, first the lovely panning shot, establishing the setting, and then boom. I don't know why I never saw this one before. Well, I am not a Better Davis fan, I guess that's why. But she nails this one as do the other players, the director, all of them.

Based on a W. Somerset Maugham novel, this is the story of a murder and the question is: will Bette Davis bat her eyes enough to get away with it with so many men to protect her. Well worth your time. And a humdinger ending.

13 comments:

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I can't believe you never saw this one!

(SPOILER ALERT!!!) Hard to have any sympathy for her. (END WARNING)

Fred Zackel said...

Oh yeah!! My wife and I adore this flick! Look at how Bette straight-arms that pistol!! Like Bond, nobody does it better! But then I adore Maugham's stories. We forget about him these days, but he was brilliant. Think "Rain," for instance. And one he wrote about the Isle of Capri still haunts, although I don't remember the title. He studied to be a physician, but turned to writing after watching a small child in his care die. He was also a serious son of a bitch. Lots of good things to say about the man. Plus he lived, I believe, to be 93, hated by all his old associates. i always thought he would have made a great fictional detective. (Hint. Hint. Hint.)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love Maugham and I think THE PAINTED VEIL was a brilliant movie from the novel. I guess he is not taught any longer.

Graham Powell said...

I've heard of this, but (I think) only because they used they used bits of it in DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID.

George said...

Like you, I'm a big W. Somerset Maugham fan. A number of his works were translated into films. You're right about the power of THE PAINTED VEIL.

Elgin Bleecker said...

Glad to see so many Maugham fans. He was a very good writer. It is easy to find his work in used book shops, but I’m not sure how many people are reading him today. Another possibly overlooked talent here is the director of this film, William Wyler. He did many excellent films, but seems to be overshadowed by Hitchcock, Ford, Hawks, and other favorites.

Deb said...

I don't think Maugham was ever taught in the schools--perhaps because his works generally had a rather cynical edge or (more likely) because his work was so popular in his lifetime. My favorite of his works is CAKES AND ALE, supposedly based on Thomas Hardy and his second wife. The film adaptation of THE LETTER had to be changed somewhat especially in regard to the racial element (in the book, the woman kills her lover because he is leaving her for a Eurasian mistress) and also for its ending where (SPOILER) virtue is definitely not rewarded.

Richard R. said...

A terrific film, great cinematography and acting. This and ALL ABOUT EVE ("Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night") are my two favorite Davis movies.

pattinase (abbott) said...

yes, CAKES AND ALE was my favorite. I think I read most of him back in the day.
And Davis was also in OF HUMAN BONDAGE.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

"I? I disgust you? You're a cripple, a cripple, a cripple!"

That's how I remember her in OH HUMAN BONDAGE. But then, I was never a great Leslie Howard fan.

pattinase (abbott) said...

As a kid, I loved him, perhaps influenced by his portrayal of Ashley Wilkes. But later, I thought him a poor actor too.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm a fan of the song, "Bettie Davis eyes." :)

R.T. said...

When I read your posting and the discussion, I think back not so much to BD's movies but to her very late-years appearances on TV (The Tonight Show); my God, she was a withered old soul, and it was so sad to see the light quite gone out of those "Bette Davis eyes." As for the commanding presence in her film appearances, I am reminded of an actors' saying: she sure could chew the scenery!