Week One of the Daily Doses of Darkness for those of us in Noir school highlighted the 1941 movie of ‘The Letter’ with Bette Davis. The first five minutes of this movie are intense.
However…in the past I had also seen the 1929 version starring Jeanne Eagels. I re-watched it to see if there was anything noirish about it and wasn’t disappointed. Jeanne’s performance is powerful, the French director Jean De Limur also had scenes that wouldn’t disappoint noir fans. Jeanne Eagels descending the stairs to meet with her murdered lover’s Chinese mistress is pure noir cinematography. I must say this version is my favorite version of W. Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Letter’. I love the fact that Herbert Marshall plays Geoffrey the ex-lover neighbor that is dispatched of after confessing he has moved on and taken a Chinese mistress (pretty strong stuff in Pre-Code Classic Hollywood).
Chinese actress Lady Tsen Mei plays the mistress that is in possession of the damning Letter.
Herbert Marshall plays the cad neighbor to perfection in 1929 as he plays the opposite character the clueless husband in the Bette Davis version.
Jeanne Eagels was nominated for Best Actress Oscar in 1929. She was the first actor to be nominated for an Oscar posthumously. She lost to Mary Pickford in Coquette. Bette Davis was nominated Best Actress for her performance in 1941 but lost to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion.