Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Where's Bette Davis?

Surprisingly, I don't think I've ever done a post on The Letter before. If you've watched enough classic cinema, you'll probably recognize the opening scene of Bette Davis walking backwards out of a bungalow, shooting a gun. And shooting -- again and again and again. What a fun way to start a movie. Anyhow, it turns out that Bette has shot an old (and possibly current) boyfriend who may be trying to blackmail her now that she's married to another man. TCM is showing The Letter tomorrow morning at 8:45 AM.

However, as you watch it, you'll notice something: Bette Davis has gone missing. Well, not quite. TCM is showing the 1929 version of The Letter, which I think is a premiere. Jeanne Eagels plays what would become the Bete Davis role in the 1940 remake. Eagels of course is a story in and of herself; she had been a stage actress who got herself addicted to drugs and died presumably of an overdose (multiple autopsies, each coming to a different conclusion, were performed) at the end of 1929. Eagels made one other talkie, which I think is lost. Her story, heavily glossing over the darker parts, was told in a 1950s film starring Kim Novak.

The other interesting thing is Herbert Marshall, playing the boyfriend. Marshall would appear again opposite Bette Davis in the 1940 version, only this time playing the husband. (The husband in tomorrow's showing is played by Reginald Owen.) It's all based on material by Somerset Maugham, on whom TCM is putting the spotlight tomorrow. (A quick read of the reviews implies that Maugham's original ending didn't fly with the Production Code, so the ending is different from the Davis version.) Since it hasn't been shown before, this is a version I have to admit I haven't seen before, and I'm really looking forward to it.

No comments: