Saturday, June 2, 2018

Letter of Introduction

It's often said that honesty is the best policy. A movie in which following that policy would have save a lot of characters a lot of grief is Letter of Introduction.

Kay (Andrea Leeds) is a struggling actress who lives in the same apartment building as platonic friend struggling ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (yes, playing himself). They arrive home on New Year's Eve to find that their apartment building has caught fire. Edgar goes in to save Charlie; Kay wants to get a letter of introduction that supposedly means a lot to her. However, she's thwarted by the fire and helped by dancer Barry (George Murphy) who lives just across the street. The two fall in love with each other.

As for that letter of introduction, it's to prominent actor John Mannering (Adolphe Menjou) who left the stage for screen stardom and in the years since has gone through a series of wives, about to be married to the latest, Lydia (Ann Sheridan). Kay makes her way to John's apartment and is eventually able to give him that letter, which states that before John became a star he had fathered Kay by his first wife, since deceased. John and Kay divorced before John knew Kay was pregnant, so this is the first he's heard of having a daughter, while Kay only learned who her father really was when her mom died the previous year.

At this point, father and daughter ought to try a bit of honesty. Lydia unsurprisingly things Kay may be John's next girlfriend; after all, John has gone through a series of wives. If John could have just told Lydia how he's only just found out he's got a daughter by his first wife, it would be a shock to everybody but they'd all muddle through. He doesn't however, and that causes a couple of scenes of problems before Lydia up and dumps her fiancé.

As for Kay, she's got that boyfriend in Barry, and when Kay starts spending time with John, he understandably gets the impression that John is trying to horn in and make Kay his girlfriend. Barry, as you can expect, is none too happy about this. If Kay had told Barry that John is actually her father, he would have had a much easier time than even Lydia dealing with it. But Kay doesn't say anything either.

John is able to get Kay her big break on the stage, but at the cost that he's going to have to take the male lead, something he feels he's no longer equipped to do. He's planning to reveal the truth about Kay at the curtain call on opening night, but what if something intervenes?

Letter of Introduction is generally good, although I found the plot to be formulaic and the character motivations questionable. As I've been saying throughout this post, if everybody could just be honest, they wouldn't have had the problems they do and there would be a lot less heartache. The story is by no means bad; it's just that I wanted to shake these people and scream "You idiots!"

The supporting cast all does well. Edgar Bergen, of course, gets a lot of opportunity to do his routines with Charlie McCarthy, and these are one of the highlights of the movie. Eve Arden plays Cora, who also lives across the street from Kay and took Kay in after the fire. She winds up being the voice of common sense and best friend to Kay, getting some good one-liners along the way too.

Unfortunately, the print I saw was terrible and I think it had a few scenes cut out. Not that that was enough to make the straightforward storyline unintelligible. Letter of Introduction is available on DVD, although I have no idea about the quality of the print.

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