British Officer Alan Quinton has a big problem. It’s World War 2, he’s in Italy, and he has been writing love letters to a girl back in England for his war buddy, Officer Roger Morland. Roger was granted a leave in London a few months back and while there, he met a beautiful girl, Victoria Remington, at a ball. He danced with her a lot and made her laugh. He decided to keep the lines of communication open with her despite his return to the war and despite his lackadaisical attitude to writing letters, so he asks, begs, and badgers his friend Alan to write love letters to Victoria for him. Alan, even though he’s engaged to Helen Wentworth and has never met Victoria, begins to fall for her due to the responding letters she writes back.
The plot thickens when Roger gets another leave to London and marries Victoria on a whim. Alan gets wounded in a battle and is sent home to England to finish his recovery. While at the hospital for recovering veterans, Alan and Helen know that their earlier promise to one another to marry has been weakened somehow. Alan then learns that Roger has died in an accident and Alan also finds out he has inherited an elderly aunt’s country home, still employing her caretaker, Mack. Alan decides to move from London to live in this inherited home, hoping to clear the cobwebs from his mind and decide what he now wants to do with his life. Prior to going to the home, his brother, Derek, takes him to a party and it is there that Alan meets Dilly and a young woman who goes by the name Singleton. At the party, Alan has too much to drink and goes on and on to Dilly about how he wrote love letters during the war for his officer buddy who he has recently learned was killed in an accident. Dilly, startled by Alan’s confession, urges him that after he’s settled in at the country home, he should focus on the story about an “old murder” that happened near his aunt’s home.
Alan recalls Dilly’s advice, breaks off his engagement to Helen, and decides that since he has fallen in love with Victoria, he must meet her, especially now that Roger has died. He travels back to London to visit a library in order to try and find out about Roger’s death. Alan finds out that Victoria was found guilty of murdering Roger! Now Alan feels terrible, as he blames himself for writing those letters that brought Roger and Victoria together.
As I watched this romance/mystery film, I thought two things: one, I know that TCM is focusing on films that were either nominated for Academy Awards or winners of the award, showing such films as a lead up to the Oscars, but why not put Love Letters on the air on Valentine’s Day?? Second, this film is screaming for a remake, maybe Hallmark Channel needs to do this??
The plot continues to thicken: Alan is told Victoria is dead, he remeets Singleton and they fall in love. He learns that Singleton has amnesia and can’t remember who she really is. Dilly has information for him about Singleton. Dilly shares with him her fears of the negative consequences that could happen when Alan tells her that he and Singleton wish to marry. An elderly lady appears in the story, a Miss Beatrice Remington and she seems somewhat menacing towards Alan and Singleton and their wedding plans; she eventually relents and reveals that she is a key connection to Victoria and Roger Morland. Singleton is driving herself crazy with memories suddenly popping up in her mind, memories that are confusing and scary for her. She is also worried that Alan married her out of pity and that he really is in love with Victoria Morland, perhaps Singleton should just go away and give Alan up so he can find Victoria and be truly happy?
Love Letters arrived at the US movie theaters in 1945 and it did really well with American audiences. The film was produced by Hal B. Wallis, based upon the novel, Pity My Simplicity, by Christopher Massie. The screenplay was written by Ayn Rand. William Dieterle was selected as the director. Producer, movie mogul David O. Selznick agreed to let two of his actors, Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones play the two leads, Alan and Singleton, but he sent constant memos to Wallis with suggestions and essentially commands as to what he wanted for Jones’s contract; Selznick soon after married Jones. The rest of the cast: Roger Morland-Robert Sully, Helen Wentworth-Anita Louise, Dilly-Ann Richards, Mack-Cecil Kellaway, Beatrice Remington-Gladys Cooper.
What I liked about this film was the acting and the score. Sure, the plot was a bit convoluted, hence my Hallmark remake suggestion, but all of the cast works well together to tell the story and make it believable and Dieterle’s direction with Rand’s screenplay give it all a fitting ending. The score, by Victor Young, was nominated for an Academy Award as was Jones, for Best Actress. Where can one find this film? TCM will be airing it again on Sunday, March 13, at 10:00 am est/9:00 am cst. The film is available on dvd via Amazon, and at TCM’s Shop.
Here is a lovely clip of Nat King Cole’s rendition of Love Letters, Victor Young’s Academy Award nominated song for the film. Here is the link to the trailer that audiences in 1945 would have seen to advertise the film. http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/154197/Love-Letters-Original-Trailer-.html