The Letter

Never forget the classics.

What I Watched Last Night...

If I were asked to cite one film as an example of “High Hollywood,” it might be The Letter. That is not unalloyed praise, but the film is undeniably a trim example of what the studio system could achieve at its peak. I would choose it over more high profile examples, like Gone With The Wind, for instance, because the very scale of the latter makes it somewhat atypical. The studios have never been afraid to spend money, but the standard classical Hollywood film was made as economically as possible, both in terms of money spent and the expressive means employed. Everything counted.

Glossy, star-centered, formulaic, with a thumping Max Steiner score underlining every fervid moment, The Letter is the kind of full throttled melodrama that is easier to parody than to equal. Start with the star: how many actresses would dare to play a sex-starved Englishwoman sweating in the…

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