Saturday, September 26, 2020

Love Letters

The tone of William Dieterle's Love Letters is established in its first scene as Alan Quinton (Joseph Cotten) writes a letter for his friend Roger Morland (Robert Sully). Alan loathes the idea of writing love letters to a girl neither man has met, feeling that she'll fall in love with the letters than the actual man. It's particularly jarring since the film is written by Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that right.)

If that sounds familiar, that's because it should. Rand had deviated from the source novel in favor of making Love Letters more of a modern-day telling of Cyrano de Bergerac. But in stark contrast to the events of Edmond Rostand's play, the aftermath of Alan writing in Roger's name has far dire consequences than anyone could've imagined that's darker than what usually came out of Hollywood at the time.

Similar to Portrait of Jennie -- the next collaboration between Dieterle, Cotten, and Jennifer Jones -- it has Jones' character having an otherworldly nature to her. Her Singleton has no memory of her past, only faint glimmers of what has transpired. It's when we learn of her history that we learn how dark her past is.

But in contrast to Portrait of Jennie, Love Letters is decidedly more cynical in nature. Being a survivor of war, Alan is just tired of what the world is capable of inflicting. It's when he meets Singleton that he finds a light in this dark time in his life.

Love Letters is more pessimistic than other romance titles of the era but at the same time, it's somehow more realistic. Love is far from being a panacea (as Hollywood likes to claim) but with enough compassion and empathy towards the right person, the weight of some of your problems lightens. (Still seek out proper treatment regardless.)

My Rating: ****1/2

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