Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones in Love Letters (1945)


(director: William Dieterle; screenwriters: Ayn Rand/from the book Pity Mr. Simplicity by Christopher Massie; cinematographer: Lee Garmes; editor: Anne Bauchens; music: Victor Young; cast: Jennifer Jones (Victoria Morland/Victoria Singleton), Joseph Cotten (Allen Quinton), Ann Richards (Dilly Carson), Cecil Kellaway (Mac), Gladys Cooper (Beatrice Remington), Anita Louise (Helen Wentworth), Robert Sully (Roger Morland); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Paramount; 1945)
“Never managed to stir me with its depressing soap opera love story and its gooey ending.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

William Dieterle (“Duel in the Sun”/”Portrait of Jennie”/”September Affair”) moodily directs this sentimental love triangle romantic melodrama and Ayn Rand pens it from Chris Massie’s book Pity Mr. Simplicity. This was Rand’s first screenplay. It’s a variation on the Cyrano De Bergerac tale. If you can overlook its contrived plot and Jennifer Jones’ overdone otherworldly performance, there’s the stunning expressive camerawork of Lee Garmes to keep you fully focused and the haunting score by Victor Young to touch your heart. Jones received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, top billing and was paid a whopping $100,000.

During WW II, on the Allied front in Italy, Brit officer Alan Quinton (Joseph Cotten) writes love letters to Victoria Singleton (Jennifer Jones) for his cruder fellow British officer Roger Morland (Robert Sully), who lives in Beltmarsh with her adopted mother Beatrice Remington (Gladys Cooper). Victoria, who just briefly met Roger, falls in love with him through the sensitive letters. When Roger goes on leave to England, he marries her against her mother’s wishes. This disturbs Alan, who though engaged to Helen Wentworth has fallen in love with the unseen Victoria and also knows that Roger is wrong for Victoria. Their marriage turns bitter, as Roger proves to be a drunken and abusive husband. One night Roger is found stabbed to death, and Victoria goes into shock and develops amnesia. She may be the murderer; the only witness present was her mother, who can’t testify because she went into a paralytic stroke and can’t talk. Victoria confesses and is sentenced to a year in a prison psychiatric ward.

At the war’s end, a severely wounded Alan has trouble adjusting to civilian life and moves to the country home in Beltmarsh he has inherited from an aunt. Before departing, Alan’s brother takes him to a London party hosted by Dilly Carson (Ann Richards) and he meets an attractive woman named Victoria Singleton. While drunk he talks about writing letters for his soldier’s girlfriend and feels responsible for the murder, and Dilly connects his drunken tale with Victoria. Upon Victoria’s release she was taken in by her old friend Dilly. Since the fragile Canadian orphan still suffers from memory loss, Dilly doesn’t want Alan to tell her that he’s the letter writer. She already knows her hubby didn’t write the letters because in a fit of anger that fatal night he told her so and tried burning them.

When Victoria returns to visit her former home in Beltmarsh, she falls in love with Alan but still doesn’t know all the details of the murder. Also returning is Beatrice, now fully recovered from her stroke. As Victoria gets better, Beatrice who can now talk tells what happened. It now comes a question of how powerful is the love of the star-crossed lovers for each other and if they can overcome their past to get married.

The film never managed to stir me with its depressing soap opera love story and its gooey ending.