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Herbert Marshall in THE LETTER


casablancalover
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Seeing it again last night I was focused on watching his character. How Robert is so wonderfully honest and clueless. He is the paragon of nobility throughout the whole story. It is hard to watch his realization of his life crumbling upon learning about the letter...

 

I am glad I could "tune down" Bette last night to notice his reaction.

 

What do you think?

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Herbert Marshall is perfectly cast as the completely deceived husband in *The Letter*. And - this is important- not just a deceived husband, but a sympathetic deceived husband. He loves his wife, he wants to do everything he can to make her happy, he works hard for the two of them, and he is utterly faithful and trustworthy, and has the expectation that his wife is the same.

That is one reason why it's so heart-breaking when he finds out he was wrong. The mingling of conflicting emotions, Robert's bewilderment and amazement that his wife betrayed him -surprise, pain, confusion, - and then the realization that he still loves her, is all captured perfectly in Marshall's performance.

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I think that, as opposed to George Brent, whom she starred opposite so often because he was such a non-presence he guaranteed the focus would be on her, Bette should have worked with Herbert Marshall as much as humanly possible- an actor who is absolutely wonderful, yet so effortless his work doesn't steal away from yours. (Think of how much better Dark Victory would be with Marshall in the Brent role.)

 

It's like the old addage about tennis- you don't get better playing people who aren't as good as you are.

 

J-adore Herbert Marshall. Whenever his name comes up in the credits to something, I make it a point to sit and check him out. His performance in The Little Foxes the year after The Letter is the best one in the whole movie (and it's an impeccably acted film) he's aces in Angel Face, Foreign Correspondent (a difficult role), The Razor's Edge, and most especially Trouble in Paradise.

 

SUTS DAY FOR HERBERT MARSHALL!

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Feb 24, 2012 9:37 AM

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{font:Arial}Looking at {font}{font:Arial}Marshall{font}{font:Arial}’s long and distinguished career, it’s hard to believe he lost a leg during his active service in World War One! Even to this day, many fans have no idea of just how successful he hid his disability. This was an actor who did it all! Without any doubt, {font}{font:Arial}Marshall{font}{font:Arial} was one of the most popular actor’s of his era. His love of the profession was legendary and garnered him so much respect. As he aged, it didn’t matter to him to end up becoming a character actor. He was always in demand, right up to the time of his death that in so many ways saddened the motion picture community on the day he passed on.{font}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{font:Arial}My favorite film of his is one that has been most underrated, “The Moon and Sixpence.” His beautiful narration and stellar performance was absorbing and displayed a skillful, provocative urbane style that few actors could have matched! And then, there’s that haunting and intriguing voice of his that is so recognizable. I had the wonderful and rare pleasure of having met him once and as far as I could tell during that one encounter, he was just like the some of the delightful, elegant characters he played on screen. After my meeting him, I left with a confidence and a firm belief that he was rather special, wonderful and somebody whom I could admire without any disappointment! They just don’t come around like him very often. {font}

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Marshall saved his best performance for Gog, in which he plays a scientist who straps on a flame thrower to take out a robot run amuck. You can also spot Richard Egan and Constance Dowling here. The robot was played by a very young Al Gore.

 

 

gog.jpg

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>misswonderly wrote: Robert's bewilderment and amazement that his wife betrayed him -surprise, pain, confusion, - and then the realization that he still loves her, is all captured perfectly in Marshall's performance.

Therein is that one more definable trait for Robert. He leaves the room, not to abandon her as some would suspect, but to process this blow she gives him. He has grace.

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Well then, I guess I have no "grace" at all in THAT case, 'cause I would've kicked her sorry butt off MY plantation!!!

 

(...btw, I don't exactly know why, but Marshall always kinda sorta reminded me of Alan Mowbray, who I would've hoped if HE would've played that part, would've kicked her sorry butt off HIS plantation TOO!!!)

 

:^0

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SUTS for Herbert Marshall.. Why not a mini SOTM? Has he been star of the month before?

 

Now that we've won Joel McCrea, I think it's worth exploring. Marshall certainly could turn in some interesting performances. I just want to see THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE again.

h5. Just looked up his imdb. He doesn't need a mini-- he's got the cred to SOTM.

 

Edited by: casablancalover on Feb 24, 2012 11:08 AM

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Dargo,

With all due respect to your views, and I understand your feelings, you may not understand story construction here. It is not to our higher nature to cheer the death of Leslie. Her great sin was her undoing in destroying all those lives with her deception, and her acting on her deception and covering up and denial. In the cosmos of justice, she would best meet her reckoning at the hands of Mrs. Hammond, who is, let's face it, portrayed as another champion of evil deception and craveness with bad Karma about her. I am certain of that!

 

Think about it... what *did* Hammond see in her?

 

I think Hammond married her to get out some sort of ugly business. More deception that may never be fully revealed.

 

h5. In order to sucessfully keep a secret between two people, one of them must be dead.

 

Edited by: casablancalover on Feb 24, 2012 11:21 AM

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Yeah maybe, so let's just say that my idea of a "story construction" is that the sooner somebody who's expressing a thought about themselves such as say Sugar Kane in *Some Like It Hot* says, "Always get's the fuzzy end of Lollypop", OR as C.C. Baxter says in *The Apartment,* "That's just the way it crumbles, 'cookie-wise'!", wises the heck up and stops lettin' people step on 'em, than the better I can appreciate their plight in any "story construction"!

 

BUT, I suppose THIS all just goes back to my "lack of grace" again, huh! ;)

 

 

(...btw, I hope you realize I'm just half-joking here, as I DO appreciate how good a movie *The Letter* really is, and how well done all the performances are in it)

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I know you do. But if we wrote to please you, Dargo, I fear they would all end up as one episode sit-coms.

 

Someone gets it in the crotch, we laugh at the perverse virtue of it and we can go about our lives feeling better about ourselves because someone got even.

 

Don't you want a better story than that?

 

h5. Stay on topic. Herbert Marshall, performance in THE LETTER..

 

Edited by: casablancalover on Feb 24, 2012 11:50 AM

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Yeah, I do, and I also understand your point here. You're right. Without the trials and tribulations expressed which these sorts of characters go through in long-formated story construction, there wouldn't be much of a storyline at all to 'em, would there?!

 

Maybe this is why I've always slightly more preferred and appreciated storylines expressed in more of a comedic fashion or at least maybe in a mixed Comedy/Drama format and where a character or two is being "stepped on" and a little "clueless" before they come to their "epiphany", such as in the two examples I earlier supplied, and instead of in these more dramatic or melodramically presented storylines.

 

 

(...but then after all this time, I'm pretty sure you know me by now and know how I pretty much like to find the humor in the most unlikely of places and the darkest of ideas)

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Actually, I don't think I would change a thing about his character, as I do understand his motivations and his reactions to finding himself betrayed.

 

And so not to kill or hijack your thread here, let's just say it's my limited ability to totally empathize with characters of whom I feel somewhat refuse to see their world and the people in it in more of a circumspect manner until it's too late.

 

However, as I said earlier, I think it's a well done piece with some excellent acting.

 

(...and now back to Herbert Marshall, folks!)

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As I'm fairly sure you and the other posters on this thread know, *The Letter* is based on a work by the great story-teller W.Somerset Maugham. Although he did write novels too, ( like, Of Human Bondage ) Maugham excelled at the art of the short story, sadly a type of literature that has fallen out of fashion in recent years.

 

It's been a long time since I read it, so I'm afraid I can't recall some of its details. but perhaps some of the answers to the questions you raise about what happens in the film can be found in Maugham's short story.

 

Dargo, I "get" what you're saying about how you get frustrated with characters who don't "stand up for themselves" or otherwise don't behave as you would in a similar situation (sometimes I feel that way too) but of course in fiction, whether it's literature or film, well-developed characters don't always do what we want them to do, or what we think they should do.

Part of what makes Herbert Marshall's character interesting and complex is that he does forgive his wife and decides he wants to make a new life with her. Many people in real life might do the same thing. It doesn't necessarily make him a "wuss".

Of course, things don't work out the way poor old Robert hoped they would.

 

 

One of the most dramatic and powerful moments in this film - and I believe it's also in the short story - is when Leslie initially agrees to make a new life with him, but then suddenly cries out,

"NO ! With all my heart, I still love Geoffrey !"

This is the kind of moment in movies that makes me love movies.

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Seems to me that the Bette Davis character has probably had some other experiences cheating on her husband and maybe on other men too. She lies so well to the three men at the beginning of the film, and that makes me think she has done a lot of lying before.

 

Leslie might have married Robert for financial security. She didn't think twice about using his $10,000 to buy the letter. Evidently Robert just didn't pay much attention to what Leslie was up to when he was away in the jungle.

 

I think James Stephenson's character (the lawyer) is somewhat na?ve too about Leslie's character, and he winds up in a position where he could lose his job, his law license, and also wind up in jail for what he did to help Leslie.

 

Seems to me that the only one in the film who fully understands Leslie is Mrs. Hammond (Gale Sondergaard).

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Maugham is a good storyteller. I miss his style too.

>misswonderly wrote: Part of what makes Herbert Marshall's character interesting and complex is that he does forgive his wife and decides he wants to make a new life with her. Many people in real life might do the same thing. It doesn't necessarily make him a "wuss".

>Of course, things don't work out the way poor old Robert hoped they would.

Robert is a lover, so he believes in the power of love. I think Leslie just believes love is power. That's my take on her. With so much deceit, how can she have a honest emotion?

>One of the most dramatic and powerful moments in this film - and I believe it's also in the short story - is when Leslie initially agrees to make a new life with him, but then suddenly cries out,

>"NO ! With all my heart, I still love Geoffrey !"

I am glad that line was rewrittten. It packs more punch when she feels she is forever psycho-bound to a dead man.

>This is the kind of moment in movies that makes me love movies.

Me too :x

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>I think Leslie just believes love is power. That's my take on her. With so much deceit, how can she have a honest emotion?

 

There are some women, "dames", who can love intensely, for a while, but after several months or years with one partner, the love can fade and gradually turn to dislike and even hate after a while. (Of course there are men like this too.)

 

Compare Leslie with Marilyn Monroe's character in "Niagara", and compare Robert with Joseph Cotten's character in the same film.

 

I'll bet that Leslie was something of a floozy before Robert married her.

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>when Leslie initially agrees to make a new life with him, but then suddenly cries out, "NO ! With all my heart, I still love Geoffrey !"

 

What she still loves is not the Geoffrey she killed, but the Geoffrey she first met and the Geoffrey of her memories of the first few months (or couple of years) of her affair with him. That's what she wants back. She wants back that initial thrill of the earliest days of her romance with Geoffrey.

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Great observations, Fred. It is easy for her to dupe the audience as well. Until the mention of the letter, I didn't believe her evil, but what everyone who knows about the letter must do in order for her to maintain her pretense becomes increasingly damning. Talk about using people to maintain your facade.

 

Married Robert for financial security? No doubt about that. It doesn't appear that Geoffrey Hammond could have provided the means necessary for her to enjoy her tropical paradise in the manner she expected.

 

As far as her wonderful, trusted family attorney, that is evil. She doubled down on her deception, counting on his friendship and trust and his integrity to keep it hushed. I knew her bad Karma was going to catch up with her then.

 

h5. I admit, Dargo, I was engaged to see how it was going to be delivered.

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