Thursday, September 4, 2014

Oscar Movie Review: "The Letter" (1940)

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Oscar Movie"The Letter"
Year Nominated: 1941
Director: William Wyler
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) has killed a man outside her home in Singapore. The man's name was Jeff Hammond, and Leslie claims she shot him in self-defense after he tried to sexually assault her. When his widow, Mrs. Hammond (Gale Sondergaard), claims that she has a letter written by Leslie to the deceased inviting him to her house, it draws her self-defense claim into question. Mrs. Hammond makes a deal with the Crosbie family attorney, Howard Joyce (James Stephenson), to give them the letter and to hide it from the prosecution for $10,000 dollars. In the end, the letter in question may end up costing Leslie more than just her freedom. 

Is having Better Davis eyes a good thing or a bad thing? Because, seriously, her eyes are intense! Director William Wyler seems to use lighting to his advantage when drawing attention to Davis' gigantic eyes throughout the film. That's what she was known for, and in this movie, her eyes provide for many vicious, cunning, inquisitive, conniving stares and expressions.

This film is a pretty good one. The story itself is rather basic. A man is murdered and audiences get to uncover the truth behind the killing to see if it was self-defense or just plain and simply, murder. It has all the elements of a wonderful film-noir melodrama: deceit, revenge, love, lust, and betrayal. The acting is what sells it in this case. Bette Davis is phenomenal as Leslie Crosbie, a woman who would do just about anything to prove that she's innocent. Like we mentioned above, her eyes tell a completely different story from what her mouth says. She remains shrouded in mystery throughout parts of the film, until her cover is blown and you begin to question her story. Early on in the film, though, she seems to be extremely nonchalant about having just killed a man, whether it was self-defense or not. If someone tried to assault me, you can damn well bet your sweet bippy that I wouldn't be my making guests eggs and breakfast at 4 am. James Stephenson plays a conflicted lawyer quite well. His character must deal with the moral dilemma of being a defense attorney and maintaining his loyalty to his client and friends versus his duty to uphold the law.

This movie is one to watch if you love a good and deceitful mystery and/or Bette Davis. She didn't win an award for this film, but it's certainly one I won't forget very soon. Her eyes are burned into my head! AGHHHHHHHHHHH!

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Insidious"

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