The Golden Age of Hollywood

I was fortunate to obtain a copy of the 1929 film THE LETTER which stars Jeanne Eagels in the only film in which she appears that is still extant at least as far as I know. She only made one other sound film. Shortly after the film was made she died of a drug overdose.

There is a lot can be said about this relatively short film. I think it is a stand out performance all around and the fact that Eagels was nominated (posthumously) for an Academy award is just one item. She lost to Mary Pickford in COQUETTE which I also have seen and as often happens, the better actress did not win. The film also was the introduction role in American film for two British actors, Reginald Owen and Herbert Marshall. Both these gentlemen went on to a long and successful movie career. Most classic movie fans have seen the 1940 Bette Davis film of the same name which was also very good, but it was hampered in telling the story by the then existing production code that would not allow the ending as it was written. Not so for the 1929 production which is another mark in its favour such as the role of the Chinese mistress which was of course changed to protect the public in the 1940 version. Interesting to note that Herbert Marshall was in both versions of the film but played different parts.

As for Miss Eagels, she does a very believable portrayal and one can only wish that she had made more films before coming to the tragic early end of her life.

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Comment by Catherine on March 21, 2010 at 3:34pm
Jennifer - your da Bomb! And Bill - you start and contribute the best blog posts!
Comment by Bill on March 20, 2010 at 1:13pm
Joanne, you can follow the link given by Jennifer below and watch the film on YouTube.
Comment by Joanne C on March 20, 2010 at 9:03am
Thank you for sharing, Bill. I hope I can have the opportunity to see this film someday.
Comment by Bill on March 20, 2010 at 8:53am
Yes, restoration can make a huge improvement. It is up to the whim of the studio or the owner of the film and can be costly. One of the films I would like to see restored is ILLUSION which apparently is in the possession of UCLA.
Comment by diane on March 20, 2010 at 5:56am
You can get films from 1929 that look and sound as clear as a bell.
I think it all has to do with if the film has been restored.
Comment by Bill on March 19, 2010 at 1:56pm
I obtain a lot of my discs by way of trading and that is how I got this one. I did notice it was listed on for a suggested $8.
Comment by Catherine on March 18, 2010 at 8:33pm
Oh, I have always wanted to see this film! Jeanne was tour-de-force talent whom I wished I could have seen in her Broadway performance - I adore her - how did you manage to get a fairly decent copy of this movie?
Comment by Bill on March 17, 2010 at 4:45pm
Yes, I agree but we have to remember that the later film could never have been allowed to have a finish like that due to the production code. A. she had committed adultery B. she committed murder and was not convicted.
Comment by diane on March 17, 2010 at 4:28pm
I have seen this film also. Although the print quality is extremely poor, it
does not detract from Jeanne Eagel's superb performance. I thought
the story was structured a lot better than in the Bette Davis remake (in
my opinion). In the Eagels film you knew from the start she was having
an affair and it was a case of when is her husband (Owen) going to see
through her lies. I thought the ending was very confronting and the
famous line "I still love the man I killed" carried more drama than the
later Davis' film.
Comment by Bill on March 17, 2010 at 4:23pm
I do feel fortunate to have the copy I have and as I mentioned, the film is quite watchable after the first few minutes which includes the title and credits.

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