April 18, 2013

Jeanne Eagels And The Letter (1929)

(Eugenia) Jeanne Eagels, a theatre and film actor who died at age 39 from a mix of booze, pills and heroin, is best remembered for a salacious 1957 film biography starring Kim Novak and her performance as Leslie Crosbie in the 1929 film of the W. Somerset Maugham play The Letter (for which she is also recognized as the first actor posthumously nominated for an Academy Award). Eagels plays Leslie Crosbie who kills her lover, claims rape to her husband and is jailed, a story with more than a few similarities to the 1928 play Chicago in which Eagels was cast as Roxie Hart but quit during rehearsals. Although Katherine Cornell originated the Crosbie role on Broadway and not Eagels (who did originate the role of Sadie Thompson on Broadway in W. Somerset Maugham' play Rain), Eagels is convincing in a crazed sort of way and the film feels contemporary - with a visceral end that must have been a real shock back then because it was a real shock right now.

Watch The Letter now from archive.org

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