The Letter (1929 film)

The Letter is an American pre-Code drama film produced by Paramount Pictures. It was the first full-sound feature shot at Astoria Studios, Queens, New York City.[1] A silent version of the film also was released.[2] It stars the noted stage actress Jeanne Eagels and O.P. Heggie, and it was directed by Jean de Limur. The film was adapted by Garrett Fort from the 1927 play The Letter by W. Somerset Maugham. It tells the story of a married woman who kills her lover out of jealousy and is brought to trial.

The Letter
Film poster
Directed byJean de Limur
Produced byMonta Bell
Screenplay byGarrett Fort
Based onthe play The Letter
by W. Somerset Maugham
StarringJeanne Eagels
O.P. Heggie
CinematographyGeorge J. Folsey
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
April 13, 1929 (1929-04-13)
Running time
65 minutes
CountryUnited States


Bored and lonely living on her husband's rubber plantation, Leslie Crosbie takes a lover, Geoffrey Hammond. Eventually, however, he tires of her and takes a Chinese mistress, Li-Ti. When Leslie finds out, she insists on seeing him while her husband is away. She tries to rekindle his love, but when he tells her that he prefers Li-Ti to her, she becomes enraged and shoots him repeatedly.

At the murder trial, she perjures herself on the stand, claiming she had little to do with Hammond and that she shot him when he tried to rape her. Everyone sympathizes, but then Li-Ti's emissary provides Joyce, Leslie's attorney, with a copy of the letter in which Leslie begged Hammond to come see her. Li-Ti is ready to sell it for $10,000, provided Leslie herself make the exchange. On Joyce's advice, Leslie agrees. Li-Ti humiliates her, but eventually accepts the money. Leslie is found not guilty.

Joyce presents his bill to Leslie's husband, Robert. He charges no fee, but the expenses come to $10,000. When Robert demands an explanation, Joyce gives him one, and the damning letter. After Joyce leaves, Robert confronts his wife and forces her to admit everything. As punishment, he decides to keep her on the plantation (he has no more money anyway). In return, she boasts that she still loves the man she killed.


Preservation status

The Letter was long out of circulation. In June 2011, a restored edition of the film was released on home video by Warner Bros. (via Turner Entertainment) as part of its Warner Archive Collection as a made-on-demand DVD.[3]

Awards and nominations

Eagels, who died just months after the film was completed, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the married woman. She was the first performer to be so recognized by the Academy after her death, though hers was not an official nomination. Eagels was among several actresses "under consideration" by a board of judges.[4]

The Letter was cited as one of the Top Ten Films of 1929 by the National Board of Review.


Herbert Marshall, who plays Leslie's lover in the film also appears as her husband in William Wyler's 1940 Warner Bros. remake. Bette Davis received an Oscar nomination for the role of Leslie Crosbie in the remake, just as Jeanne Eagels had done in 1929.

See also


  1. The Letter at
  2. Advertisement, Photoplay, March 1929, p.4
  3. Kehr, Dave (July 15, 2011). "A Tragic Actress's Twilight, Burning, Not Dimming". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-23.
  4. O'Connor, Clint (2008-07-13). "James Dean, Spencer Tracy among posthumous Oscar nods". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on 2012-10-14. Retrieved 2014-02-23.
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