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The Letters is a film that was long thought lost, until Warner Brothers released the restored version on DVD, albeit missing a few background sounds and scenes. I expected a bad quality film with a great performance by Jeanne Eagels. What I got was a great film with a powerhouse performance from Jeanne Eagels. It is only an hour long, and is rivetting minute after minute!
It follows the story of Leslie Crosby (Jeanne Eagels), who is married to a rubber plantation owner Robert (Reginald Owen). One night she invites her old flame, Geoffrey Hammond (Herbert Marshall), to her house to confront him about a Chinese woman (Lady Tsen Mei) he has been seeing. After pushing Leslie's emotions to breaking point, she shoots him several times. The ensuing story is of her trial and her attempt to lie to the courts about what really happened that night.
If there is one reason to see this film, it is to see the breathtaking performance of Jeanne Eagels. Her face is the face of a million emotions. There is desperation, love, fear, anger, and contempt in her portrayal of Leslie. I'd go as far as to say it is one of the greatest performances of all time. Eagels died six months after this film finished, which is devastating, for she could have been the Bette Davis of her time. There's no telling where she could have gone with the talent she had, but at least her greatest role in The Letters will always be available to the public.
The other thing that is worth a mention is the brilliant supporting performance by Lady Tsen Mei, who was an absolutely striking actress that gave the film much more intrigue. Her facial expressions made her look as if she were a professional silent movie star. If only there were more of a market for foreign actresses in Hollywood back in the 1920s...
So yes, this is a great film. It has marvellous dialogue that is spoken in such a way that one can scarcely believe an actress could do a better job than Jeanne Eagels. I give it four stars, because whatever it lacked in film/sound quality, it overcame with its screenplay and perfect performances. This is a must-see film for movie buffs.
brilliant movie but i really need a better quality in terms of a film
the first telling of this tale from paramount, skip this and see the 1940 bette davis version-its far superior
I can't find the JEANNE EAGELS biography movie with KIM NOVAK on FLIKSTER, so I am going to recommend it here. If you catch that on TMC, then consider yourself lucky - what an fun old movie to watch - esp the period piece on Coney Island (Luna de Luna) - had to be amazing place - NYC in the 1920's
Eagels only existing sound film shows her to be a unique talent well equipped to make her characters live on screen with a minimum of overblown stage theatrics common to early sound films. Similar to the more renown Bette Davis version but with some content that would never have passed the censor board after the code went into effect. The last scene is riveting.
Bette Davis version better