Sunday, January 18, 2009

Love Letters (1945)

Singleton: I think very few people are happy. They wait all their lives for something to happen to them - something great and wonderful. They don't know what it is but they wait for it. Sometimes it never happens. What they want is the kind of spirit I found in those letters. A spirit that makes life beautiful. I love that man. I loved him more than my own life. I still love him.... ~Love Letters (1945)
The William Dieterle film Love Letters takes the Cyrano de Bergerac theme and adds a dash of mystery and psychological melodrama. It shows the dangers that can can come from romantic deception and playing with people's hearts, especially the hearts of the innocent. While fighting in Italy during World War II, a soldier Allen Quinton agrees to write letters on behalf of his boorish comrade Roger Morland to a young lady Roger briefly encountered at a dance. The girl's name is Victoria; as Allen reads her letters to Roger he is captivated by the beauty of her soul. Allen's letters to her, written under Roger's name, become more rapturous as he falls in love with a woman he has never seen. He begins to feel guilty at helping Roger deceive Victoria, especially when he hears that Roger has returned to England and married her. Allen is injured and has to return to England himself. He hears that Roger has been killed. Later, at a party, he meets a charming young woman with amnesia called "Singleton," played by Jennifer Jones. As the drama unfolds, Allen realizes the damage his careless but well-meaning love letters have caused.

According to Turner Classic Movies:
This variation on the "Cyrano" story was written for the screen by Ayn Rand, who adapted Chris Massie's novel Pity My Simplicity. Rand had not written a screenplay at this point, though her play Night of Jan. 16th had been filmed in 1941, and her novel We the Living was made into an Italian film in 1942. Love Letters producer Hal Wallis hired Rand to write two scripts at the same time; You Came Along (1945) was the other, and it opened in theaters a month before Love Letters. Rand's most famous novel, The Fountainhead, would reach screens in 1949....

Love Letters
was shot by the great Lee Garmes, whose expressive and moody cinematography greatly enhances the romantic feel of the picture. Garmes later recalled in Charles Higham's book Hollywood Cameramen: "On Love Letters I used the same method I used on Guest in the House (1944). I created an artificial landscape: clouds, trees, everything were in the studio. Dieterle, the director, used to go home every night and have dinner, and afterwards he'd have a little tiny set at home which he'd put the actors on in the shape of tiny dried-up peas. He'd move them around to prepare the next day's shooting."

William Dieterle was a freelance director at this point. He had built his career at Warner Brothers in the 1930s, directing many prestige pictures there under Hal Wallis - films like The Life of Emile Zola (1937) and Juarez (1939). He had a reputation as a sadist on the set and always wore white gloves to work. Nonetheless he coaxed a fine performance out of Jennifer Jones and would direct her again in Duel in the Sun and Portrait of Jennie (1948), both of which also co-starred Joseph Cotten. The two stars would team up for five pictures in all.
Ayn Rand had a bizarre personal life but her writing in Love Letters is poignantly lyrical. Although the film is tinged with her Randian philosophy, it is not so heavy-handed as in The Fountainhead. Love Letters is a searing love story and shows that human heart can never be handled in a cavalier fashion. Broken hearts can be mended but sometimes at a very high price. Share


Enbrethiliel said...


"They wait all their lives for something to happen to them--something great and wonderful. . . Sometimes it never happens."

Elena, when I read that, I thought of The Little Boullioux Girl (sp?) by Collete. Have you read that short story?

elena maria vidal said...

No, I've only read "Gigi."