(director: Vincent Sherman; screenwriters: David Goodis/James Gunn/based on the play by W. Somerset Maugham; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Alan Crosland; music: Max Steiner; cast: Ann Sheridan (Chris Hunter), Lew Ayres (Larry Hannaford), Zachary Scott (Bob Hunter), Eve Arden (Paula), Jerome Cowan (Prosecuting Attorney), Steven Geray (Martin Barrow), John Hoyt (Det. Lt. Reynolds), Peggy Knudsen (Claire), Marta Mitrovich (Mrs. Tanner), Douglas Kennedy (Roger), Claire Meade (Martha), Frances Morris (Agnes), Jane Harker (Joan); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Wald; Warner Bros.; 1947)
“A satisfactory glossy remake of Wyler’s The Letter.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A satisfactory glossy remake of Wyler’s The Letter, that starred Bette Davis. It’s loosely based on the play “The Letter” by W. Somerset Maugham (that created a more tense situation because race was involved), and is written by David Goodis and James Gunn. Director Vincent Sherman (“The Return of Doctor X”/”Mr. Skeffington”/”Ice Palace”)does a good job directing as he changes location from a Malaysian rubber plantation to the booming postwar high-end suburbs of LA, but keeps the story similar. Lew Ayres, one of the costars, was a Conscientious Objector during World War II, refusing to kill but served in the medical corps, and surprisingly Hollywood forgave him and his career did not suffer unduly after the war.
While socialite Chris Hunter’s (Ann Sheridan) wealthy builder husband, Bob (Zachary Scott), is in Oregon on business, she attends the party of her obnoxious loudmouth gossipy neighbor Paula (Eve Arden) who is celebrating her divorce. Returning home late at night Chris struggles with an intruder and kills him in self-defense. The intruder it turns out was a struggling married sculptor, Michael Tanner, someone Chris had an affair with while she was lonely as her hubby was overseas in the military and when hubby returned ten months ago the volatile Tanner refused to leave her alone after she broke it off. Instead of telling the truth to her hubby, her dear friend and noted divorce lawyer Larry Hannaford (Lew Ayres), and the homicide investigating detective Lt. Reynolds (John Hoyt), the frightened woman, not wanting her loving hubby to be hurt about her infidelity, lies and says she didn’t know the intruder and that his motive was robbery. This story comes apart when slimy art dealer, Barrow (Steven Geray), reveals he has in his art gallery a bust of Chris done by Tanner that he bought for $75 and blackmails her lawyer to cough up $10,000 to retrieve it or else he will go to the police with the incriminating evidence. When the honest lawyer refuses to pay and advises his client to tell the police the truth, she instead tries to buy it from Barrow. But he handed it over to the embittered widow, Mrs. Tanner (Marta Mitrovich), who wants revenge and tells Mr. Hunter about the bust. When the police discover the bust, they charge Mrs. Hunter with murder and Larry defends her while the Prosecutor (Jerome Cowan) puts on a vigorous argument to get her convicted and hubby, now knowing the facts, decides to stand by her side during the trial but to seek a divorce afterwards.
The well-acted and well-executed melodrama had some bite, and its few flaws (it had some confusing moments in keeping track of what its supporting characters were saying about the accused socialite and the blackmailer in real life would have most likely by-passed the lawyer and put the squeeze directly on Mrs. Hunter) didn’t come back to bite the pic that badly.
REVIEWED ON 8/19/2010 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/