Dec 2, 2009

Letty Lynton (1932) – Movie Chain Review #3

Wendy from Movie Viewing Girl has started a movie review chain. She got things rolling with her review of The Women (1939). For link #2 of the chain, Kate from Silents and Talkies chose Norma Shearer as her link to the next review Private Lives (1931) . Now I am continuing the chain with my review of Letty Lynton (1932)--linked by Shearer's costar Robert Montgomery. If you’d like to participate in the movie review chain, check out the end of my post for the rules.

Now on to the review!


This pre-code drama is best known for two reasons: being unavailable to the general public due to legal issues (you can read about that kerfuffle here) and the “Letty Lynton dress” —a white organdy gown with large ruffled sleeves designed by Adrian—of which Macy’s sold thousands of copies. Since there was so much off screen drama connected to the movie, I feared I would be underwhelmed by what took place onscreen. Thank heaven I was wrong.

Joan Crawford plays the titular heroine, an American socialite who is attempting to escape her unhappy home life by conducting an affair with the wealthy, but slimy Emile (Nils Asther) in Uruguay. She realizes this man is no good for her, but struggles to leave him. After several attempts to escape her toxic beaux, Letty finally hops a steamship for home. While onboard, she meets Jerry (Robert Montgomery), a playful, wealthy American. The pair fall in love, and are engaged to be married by the journey’s end. Unfortunately, Emile is determined to win Letty back, and he isn’t going to be nice about it. Letty spends the rest of the flick extricating herself from this situation in a decidedly pre-code fashion.

This simple story is made more intriguing by the well-tuned performances of a solid cast. Director Clarence Brown guides his players with a sure hand, smoothly changing the tone as the drama unfolds--from lightly screwball to depressingly dingy, gently romantic to tense and threatening. Letty’s showdown with Emile is a particularly gripping, horrific scene.

I also enjoyed the easygoing rapport between Letty and Jerry as they got to know each other. Clark Gable was originally slated for the role of Jerry, but I don’t think he could have managed the mixture of playful affection and gravity that Montgomery accomplishes here. Crawford is at her best as Letty; she effectively demonstrates the hurt bubbling beneath her flippant party girl shell.

My only complaint is that the ending felt too pat. While I do think it is possible that the wealthy and influential could affect this sort of a resolution, it is a bit of a dramatic letdown after such an intense climax. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that there’s no way the drama could have panned out that way after the code went into full effect.

After years of yearning to see Letty Lynton, I finally caught it on YouTube. It has since been taken down, but as it has made brief appearances on the site before, I’m sure that it will show up again some day. You can also purchase the disc here (thanks to Kate Gabrielle for that information).

Now it is time for another blogger to pick up the baton! If you’d like to participate in the movie review chain, here are the rules:

1. Call dibs on doing the next review in the comments. First one to speak up gets it; others will have to wait to join up to the next link in the chain! (Chains usually only link one at a time, after all.)It's not a movie review tree.)

2. Write your own review of another movie (it should be one not yet used in the chain) and post it on your blog. Make sure the link to the previous review is made clear and that you link back to the original post where the chain began (so we can keep track of how the chain grows). The link can be an actor or actress, director, or something more creative (like a theme).

3. Include the rules of how to continue the chain, and let someone else continue it!

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  1. Great review, KC! It was a wonderful read, and you made the movie sound very interesting.

    I call dibs on the next link!

  2. Thanks Amanda. I'm looking forward to your review!

  3. Great review of another movie I have yet to see! Glad to see the chain continue... :-)