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1929, THE LETTER, with Jeanne Eagles, Wed AM Oct. 24, 2012


FredCDobbs
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Check your local time for this rare showing of this 1929 film.

 

The schedule says 8:45 AM Eastern Time

 

Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012

 

Letter, The (1929)

A planter's wife shoots a neighbor, but tells conflicting stories of what happened.

 

Dir: Jean De Limur Cast: Jeanne Eagels , O. P. Heggie , Reginald Owen .

60 min, TV-PG

 

-------------------------------------

 

D: Jean de Limur. Jeanne Eagels, O. P. Heggie, Reginald Owen, Herbert Marshall, Irene Brown, Lady Tsen Mei, Tamaki Yoshiwara, Kenneth Thomson.

 

First screen version of Somerset Maugham's play about a woman who murders her lover then trades on her unsuspecting husband's name and reputation to bolster her claim of self-defense.

 

Unseen for decades, this is the first--and only surviving--talkie appearance of the legendary Eagels, who died later that year.

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Thanks, Fred. This is my most-favorite pre-code of all, with THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE a close second.

 

Eagels is a powerhouse performer. People will be blown away by her courtroom scene in THE LETTER. Unllike the remake, she testifies on her own behalf. Bette Davis did not attempt to duplicate this in the 1940 version, because I am sure she knew she could not top Eagels whom she deeply admired.

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Fred and Mark - I think I will have to set my alarm for this one. Interesting that Herbert Marshall was in both this and the Bette Davis version. I have never seen Jeanne Eagels in anything! Should be interesting.

 

Edited by: cinemafan on Oct 24, 2012 6:05 AM to correct spelling

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Dear Canadians,

 

So sorry that you're missing out on the 1929 version of The Letter.

 

I attempt to put some salve on your wound by pointing out that those of us in the US are quite possibly in for a bit of disappointment though as we've all seen (and loved) the Davis/Wyler version and the 1929 version will likely be nowhere near as good as there is no Max Steiner score and early talkies are often a little awkward...and from what I've read, I feel like the ending is missing something.

 

Also also, the film is available (I believe) on DVD those of you with the Netflix DVD service can order it.

 

So, even if the 1929 version of The Letter does rock my world, I (for one) will try to temper my response so as not to give you Canucks a harder time than I know you already have, what with all the snow and ice and the damned moose (mooses? meese?) always crashing through your Starbucks windows.

 

Thank you, and good day.

AdW

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Ain't it something, mark?

 

Although the sound is distorted and I'm sure the movie didn't end like that, Jeanne Eagels is another unknown talented actress. Sad she died at the age of 39.

 

What a treat this movie was.

 

Although, why on earth didn't she tear the letter to pieces when she had it in her possession? That wasn't believable, in the least.

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Wow. I liked that better than I thought I would.

 

Just random observations:

 

Yes, it did lack a score. That is one definite improvement in the 1940 version.

 

The 1940 version also has a much, much better begining. A lot of the opening, establishing shots in the 1929 version were clunky with no noise whatsoever. I was worried TCM had gotten a print with no audio or something.

 

 

The actors playing the lawyer and the husband could not hold a candle to James Stephenson and Herbert Marshall in the remake, but it's not entirely their fault. The lawyer's role is much better in the 1940 version, the husband's is a bit more defined and understandable. Herbert Marshall was terrific in both.

 

 

I kind of prefer 1940 Hong Chi Sing. Wyler does a better job of putting forth where he's coming from with that brilliant scene of the lawyer's big car vs. Hong Chi Sing's tiny little jalopy.

 

 

Man, Hammond's Chinese mistress was *hideous* in the 1929 version. She reminded me quite a bit of the manservant in Dracula's Daughter. That said, *her role is far, far better than Sondergaard's wordless turn in the 1940 version.* The one scene that the 1929 version definitely did better was the buying of the letter back. The 1940 version may be more atmospheric and gorgeously shot (although oddly silent), but there's something about the way they did it in the 1929 version (which is, oddly, far more talky) that really hits you hard.

 

 

*Eagles was terrific* - tremulous, twitchy and erratic in her final scenes (maybe the drugs?) but memorable through and through, *angry* and *nasty* in a way that Davis in the remake doesn't even go for (although she wanted to and allegedly Wyler wouldn't let her)- and not just in the final "I still love the man I killed!" scene. Davis is quietly manipulative, Eagles is a volcano. Both deserved their respective nominations.

 

 

I actually *really liked the 1929 ending.* Not better than the 1940 ending- which I think is the best ending for the story, but the 1929 ending is *devastasting.* Deadly silent, abrupt, in your face and *devastating* in a way that the 1940 version is not.

 

 

A terrific film (sorry Canadians); the idiot Maltin gives it **1/2 stars. I don't know why I bother to even cite his opinions, they mean so little, but there it is: Maltin gave it **1/2 stars (aka the same as Laserblast )

 

 

I'd give it ***1/2 out of four. (Sorry Canada.)

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Oct 24, 2012 10:17 AM

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Oct 24, 2012 10:30 AM

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mark, I'll be curious to hear what you think of Our Betters. Constance was such a horror that I had to turn it off, and given that the clothes were to die for gorgeous, she was that much of a horror. And 'horror' is a polite word.

 

Did she get hers in the end? I'm all for women trampling everyone in a movie, but Connie was too much even for me.

 

Man, how did Gilbert Roland get such a good reputation? Blech.

 

Ditto on Bogey, on an island, with a moustache. Blech. I bet he lost out to the so-called pretty guy at the end, right?

 

Well, the Somerset Maugham short stories look good.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}If it makes you Canadians feel any better, this American is also missing it.

TCM wants Canadians to buy the DVD: http://shop.tcm.com/the-letter-dvd/detail.php?p=356672&ecid=PRF-TCM-100187&pa=PRF-TCM-100187

 

19% off, apparently...

 

 

Oh well... Maybe us Canucks aren't buying enough TCM merchandise or something... ;)

 

 

TCM Exec.: "Our numbers are down in Canadaland. WE NEED TO GET THOSE HOSERS BUYING MORE!"

 

 

TCM Underling (doing Peter Lorre impression): "Yessss, bosssssssssss... Why don't we have them Canuckleheads there have to buy our DVDs by not showing certain movies regularly on the Canadian schedule? We'll put them on the American schedule but not the Canadian one.

Then they have to buy from us."

 

 

TCM Exec.: "Brilliant, Cairo, er, I mean, TCM Underling. Do it! Oh, before you go, one thing: Beware of Miss Wonderly."

 

 

Oh well... Too bad and too bad about Jeanne Eagels:

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne_Eagels

 

 

BTW, whatever happened to Countess Valeska?? Haven't seen her around these here parts for a long time... :|

 

Edited by: RMeingast on Oct 24, 2012 5:01 PM

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