Bette Davis and James Stephenson star in William Wyler’s 1940 drama The Letter.

Howard Joyce (Stephenson) must defend his friend’s wife, Leslie Crosbie (Davis), in her self-defense trial. Leslie supposedly shot a man, several times in fact, in self-defense after he tried to assault her in her home. As the case develops, it turns out Leslie had written the man a letter although she had stated that she had had no recent contact with him. The letter begged him to come and see her, specifically stating that her husband would be out. The dead man’s wife found the letter and blackmails Leslie.

Joyce knows he should not give in to the woman’s demand, but he also wants to win the case. Leslie claimed the letter was innocent, a simple invitation to discuss a birthday gift for her husband. But after reading a copy of the letter, Joyce knows there was something more. But he goes ahead and uses Leslie’s husband’s own money to buy the letter and save his case and Leslie’s neck.

After the trial. Leslie’s husband finds out about the high price of the letter and demands to see it’s contents. Leslie finally confesses her affair and the murder to Joyce and her husband. She became angry at her lover for marrying another woman, a Chinese woman at that, and killed him in a rage.

For a short time, the Crosbie’s go on with their lives as normally as possible. Finally Leslie breaks down and confesses that she still loves with all her heart the man she killed. I do not want to give away the complete ending, but I certainly did not see it coming!

Only Bette Davis can still look proud and dignified even when kneeling at another woman’s feet to pick up a purposefully dropped letter. Later in the film, she is calmly restrained as she tells her husband and lawyer the truth about her affair. But you can sense her anger when she recounts how and why she killed her lover.

Stephenson is great as the ethically conflicted lawyer and friend of the Crosbie’s.

It is interesting to me the way the letter itself was shot. Viewers never get a chance to read the letter for themselves as in most films. They only see the back of the letter as a character reads it. The contents are only read aloud once.

The Letter is a great story that was filmed and acting excellently. I would recommend it as I would most other Bette Davis films.

Below is an old poster from TCM advertising The Letter in their lineup for the summer of 2009. The link ( has several other awesome posters. Which is your favorite?


Tonight as I am watching Roman Holiday for the 3rd or 4th time, I am struck by Audrey Hepburn’s beauty all over again. This is one of my all-time favorite classics and since I have a DVD copy of it I can watch it anytime I want.

Released in 1953, Roman Holiday is one of Hepburn’s first big screen roles and the one in which she won her first and only Academy Award. Also, Hepburn is first paired with famed costume designer Edith Head. They would have many more collaborations in future pictures such as Sabrina, Funny Face, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Hepburn plays Princess Ann who is growing quite tired of her duties while on a goodwill tour of Europe. While stopped in Rome, Ann decides to sneak out of the hotel even though she has been given a sleeping drug. She quite literally falls in the arms of Gregory Peck. Peck is playing the down-and-out American news reporter, Joe Bradley.

Bradley decides to take the girl back to his house for the night in order to let her sleep off the medicine with the intention of never seeing her again after that. But after realizing that she is the princess, Bradley sees his chance for the story of a lifetime.

Bradley pretends let her wander off into the city to explore, only to “accidently” bump into her later. He gets his photographer friend in on the gig and together they go sightseeing all day with the princess. All the while, the photographer is taking candids of the princess doing everything from smoking her first cigarette to riding a motorbike.

By the end of the day, Bradley and Ann realize their love for each other; they also realize in that same moment that whatever they shared that day cannot continue. Princess Ann must leave and go back to her family to continue with her life.

Instead of writing a not so flattering piece on the princess’ day out, Bradley forgoes the money he could have made and ends up giving Ann the pictures he had taken of her.

You can easily believe Audrey as a princess in this movie. The movie’s plot is elemental, but Peck and Hepburn both pour the right amount of emotion in to their parts. Hepburn’s joy is evident as she explores the city of Rome with her character.

This is one of director William Wyler’s best films as evidenced by its winning 3 Oscars.

This movie never ceases to make me want to just shirk all my responsibilities and “just do what I whatever I want- the whole day long!”

Enjoy this clip of one of the many delightful scenes in the romantic classic: