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The Letter (1940)


Kid Dabb
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The last scene: When Bette Davis exits the gate and discovers her assailants.

 

She makes eye contact with the man and the look that comes over her face gets me every time I watch this. So much communication in just a look. Blows me away. What an actress.

 

Robert Osborne's end notes on this mention how everyone disliked this ending; especially Bette Davis. He explained how "the code" wouldn't permit someone to murder another person and not pay for it in the end - either by imprisonment or their own death.

 

Very interesting. I like this film a lot. I began watching this on a 42" LED TV and noticed there was a lot of what could be called "image noise". It appeared as if it was filmed or was being shown through a cheesecloth or stocking. Like the technique used with Fiddler on the Roof.

 

Perhaps it was the particular TV I was watching, because the print looked very good otherwise.

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No I did not but you have sure got me wondering what it is.

 

At the end, the man and woman in the alley committed a murder, so they too had to be punished. That is why they bumped into the policeman in the last scene, and he shined his flashlight in their faces.... so he could identify them at their trial later..... after the movie had ended.

 

:)

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At the end, the man and woman in the alley committed a murder, so they too had to be punished. That is why they bumped into the policeman in the last scene, and he shined his flashlight in their faces.... so he could identify them at their trial later..... after the movie had ended.

 

:)

Thanks!!  Interesting.

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Yes, I did too.

Me too. I've always thought the movie should have ended after Bette's confession to Herbert Marshall.

 

Bette really was intersting int his movie. I love the motiff of the lace making. It sort of sums up the sheer futility of her life on the plantation and demonstrates the tension the character couldn;t openly show without givening herself away.

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I've never thought the cop "ran into them" at the end but they had reported the crime ahead and planned to turn themselves in afterwards.  The widow had a strong moral code and with the  husband she loved dead and avenged would have done that.  He could not have seen the body from outside the fence where he was standing. Also, they do not admit the crime to the cop but just let him lead them off.  It was in contrast to Leslie who tried to lie her way out of a murder. She at first did but at the end she didn't as it all caught up with her.

 

The "I still love the man I killed" ending makes you wonder what happens to Robert and Leslie afterwards.  You feel for Robert as he is totally undeserving of what Leslie has done to him but is willing to forgive her.  While her honesty seems admirable it is done out of her own pain which she has brought on herself and is inflicting on him.  In this scenario I doubt they stay together which opens up a number of possibilities and maybe another movie.  I like the movie ending as "What goes around comes around"  but wonder why Leslie goes out into the garden after she sees the knife at her door.  She must know her advisory is out there and what she wants.  Perhaps it's Leslie's guilt or the fact that she has neither husband or lover left in her life makes her give up on it.  A change of heart, when she screams as she dies, comes too late. 

 

The person who gets to me in this movie is Victor Sen Yung's paralegal.  He is soo smooth, polite and smilingly cheerful; just like a crocodile or cobra snake playing with their prey. (You wonder why Lawyer Joyce doesn't see through him or does but for Leslie's sake and his plays along.)  To think he also played one of "Charlie Chan's" sons and "Hop Sing" of Bonanza yet died destitute and forgotten as I've heard is so sad.  One great actor!   

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I think analysis beyond "I still loved the man I killed" is hampered because of the code that the screenwriters were beholden to, they really didn't have the freedom to give this story a good ending, or perhaps the ending they wanted. What would be a good ending? Fun to speculate.

 

I agree, Sen Yung was terrific. A wonderful greasy undcercurrent to the wide smile and pointed innuendo. Also great was the lawyer. I asked myself, now why haven't I seen more of him in movies? Yes, I seem to remember that he did see through the paralegal, he illicited a knowing sigh during those little interchanges (almost a eye-rolling effect) ...

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I've never thought the cop "ran into them" at the end but they had reported the crime ahead and planned to turn themselves in afterwards.  The widow had a strong moral code and with the  husband she loved dead and avenged would have done that.  He could not have seen the body from outside the fence where he was standing. Also, they do not admit the crime to the cop but just let him lead them off.  It was in contrast to Leslie who tried to lie her way out of a murder. She at first did but at the end she didn't as it all caught up with her.

 

 

Oh, I didn't think they were going to be arrested then and there; just that, when the body was later discovered, an inquiry would lead to the cop having seen the two of them leaving the site.

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It's on YT.  Not a good print tho:

 

youtube.com/watch?v=7tDpG8hiA5A

 

thanks slaytonf; i peeped that source immediately after posting.

 

yeah, it is crappy quality.

 

i think i'll wait until (hopefully not too long) tcm airs it again.

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Oh, my! This was a bad copy-remember Kinescope-but how else can you see an 85-year old movie?  It was way better than nothing.

 

It’s amazing how they put the whole nearly 2-hour version we’re used to-minus that ending-into an hour.  This one left no question that Leslie committed murder although today you could argue for a “crime of passion” or 2nd degree murder.   Also Geoffrey’s Chinese love was just his mistress rather than his wife and she was rather vapid rather than the strong determined widow of 1941.  The rest of the supporting cast was better served in this later effort.

 

This is the only time I’ve seen Jeanne Eagles act and she deserved her Oscar nomination.  I know she was American but her British accent was spot on and I totally believed her.  It’s sad the drug demons got her before we could see more of her work.

 

It was a hoot to see Herbert Marshall playing Geoffrey rather than Robert.  He was good in both roles but the ’29 Robert was not as wimpy as in ’41 and he might have been miscast in that instance.  Robert’s giving Leslie her due at the end was literally “Hell on Earth” for her and better than hanging. 

 

I like both for different reasons and appreciate having had the chance to see ’29.  Thank you!

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