Bette Davis, The Letter
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Sunday, September 25, 2005
"The Letter, Bette Davis's forty-third movie, marked her tenth year in films; it is one of her few good vehicles.... The central figure is the wife of a rubber plantation owner--a woman of such unimpeachable respectability that she can empty a gun in her lover and get by with it (in the courts, at least, because in Singapore the white ruling class must stick together.) Davis gives what is very likely the best study of female sexual hypocrisy in film history. Cold and proper, she yet manages to suggest the fury and frustration of a murderess...."
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968), p. 368-69
5001 Nights at the Movies, p.
Around the time Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was published, Kael wrote that Davis had been, with Katharine Hepburn, one of the "two great heroines of American talkies...." (review of The Lion in Winter, a movie and performance Kael did not like, as she had not liked much of Hepburn's and Davis's then-recent work).
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
".... But there has been another and much subtler side of her mythic persona that has been neglected, the side on which the hysteria and the histrionics are bottle up beneath a repressive surface of calm and control....
"If I were to pick my favorite Bette Davis performance, it would have to be her Leslie Crosbie in William Wyler's The Letter, particularly her amazingly quiet, tense, sensitive scenes with James Stephenson's gently probing defense counsel, the scenes in which talk dribbles on and on until it is transmuted into the most ringing truth. There are also the sequences in which she does her needlework with such passionate devotion that we come to understand the many dimensions of quiet moments in the lives of all women.... "
Andrew Sarris, Village Voice,
as reprinted in "You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet": The American Talking Film, History and Memory 1927-1929 (1998), p. 406-07