3 things about William Wyler’s THE LETTER

The Letter [1940]

1. In the beginning of the movie, to calm her nerves, they give Bette Davis a drink. It’s black as molasses, almost looks like grape juice. What drink is it supposed to be? It’s too dark for whiskey. They wouldn’t give her a glass of wine. So what drink is it supposed to be? It’s a mystery.
2. Gale Sondergaard as Mrs. Hammond, the best thing in the movie. She’s the ultimate dragon lady. In fact she really made me think of the evil henchwoman Kala in Flash Gordon. The scene where she confronts Bette is very unsettling, with its suggestions of opium smoke, moonlight, a wind chime, Mrs. Hammond’s slinky straitjacket of a dress. Sondergaard says very little. She doesn’t need to.
3. Herbert Marshall is drinking, laying out his doomed plans for a new plantation on Sumatra. After Bette takes her leave, he suddenly grabs hold of the bar and slumps over. The men around him do not know how to react.

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