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« Seasons of Bette: The Letter (1940) | Main | Channing "Gambit" Tatum and Your Favorite Superheroes »

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Visual Index ~ The Letter (1940)

William Wyler's The Letter (1940) was nominated for seven Oscars in 1940 and remains a compelling example of two essential noir staples: dramatic lighting and the art of the femme fatale. I was watching it for Seasons of Bette, but the dramatic cinematography and Bette's heyday called out for a closer investigation from multiple sets of eyes...

The Letter's 11 Best Shots
in rough chronological order (click on the image for the 12 corresponding articles)

Her body language that it bleeds such layers into her character...
-A Fistful of Films

When William Wyler controls the moonlight, it shines with the all power of a Hollywood spotlight...
-We Recycle Movies

'Oh, it was all instinctive. I didn't even know I'd fired.'
- Sorta That Guy 

The right blend of scared innocent and hardened survivalist, enough to be believable to her in-movie audience while sending out signals to the theater audience... 
- Alison Tooey

We are witnessing a flashback occur in the present without leaving the scene...
- The Film's The Thing 

The shadows of blinds in the protagonist’s face might be something that we now immediately associate with film noir...
-Coco Hits NY

Wyler is founding noir right here...
- Cal Roth 

This fetishistic attention to Mrs Hammond's "exoticism" actually serves to level the playing field...
 - The Film Experience 

But what I really love about this particular shot is the costuming...
-Entertainment Junkie

 It's almost like a standoff in a Western, except the women aren't on equal footing... 
- Film Actually

One of the most visual performers of the sound era offers up an entire film's worth of great expressions...
-Antagony & Ecstasy

I try to think this is the moment where the film ends...
-Manuel Betancourt 


Next Tuesday night (April 22nd)
Disney's POCAHONTAS (1995). Can you sing with all the colors of the wind? If so, please join us by selecting your best shot. The more pairs of eyes, the better the cinematic visions. [More Upcoming "Best Shot" Episodes]

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Reader Comments (9)

here's my shot:
thanks! looooooved this movie.

April 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

Don't know if you saw my email yet. Here's mine:

April 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Don't know if you got my email. Here's my post:

April 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

What a list! So interesting to read all the posts. I almost picked We Recycle Movies's shot myself.

April 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterConrado

Wow, these shots are all simply exquisite - Old Hollywood craftsmanship at its most glorious. How I wish even a handful of movies today could match that level of refinement and sophistication.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

What a great choice for this series. I've only seen The Letter once - over a decade ago now - and it was overdue for a revisit, but alas I didn't get a chance to in the leadup to HMWYBS. Still I very much enjoyed all these writeups. I'll be returning to them once I've seen The Letter again. In fact I kinda feel like watching all of Wyler's 1936-1958 filmography again. He's a horribly underrated artist, and I never understood why he was always discounted from the auteur lists. He has such a vivid and elegant directorial stamp.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

On the way to her actual best shot, Anne Marie recapped the one I would have picked if I were playing: the opening of the film, about 60 seconds without a cut (except for the cheat wipe at the end of the camera move), establishing the hot, lazy atmosphere that is disrupted by gunshots and the appearance of the pistol-packing adulteress. I love how we see (then hear) the two dogs' reaction before that of any human beings. And then Miss Davis comes into view, and into focus.

By the way, what a difference eleven years makes: The Letter (1929).

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

goran, ITA, Wyler is my favorite director. So underrated and what an artist. He changed the vocabulary of film.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

brookesboy & goran -- so happy to have other Wyler lovers reading. Definitely one of the best directors of all time. I feel like no one understood storytelling as well. love his movies so much

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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