Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The Letter was the first film version of the Somerset Maugham play of the same name. Broadway star Jeanne Eagels plays the wife of Reginald Owen, the owner of a Malayan rubber plantation. The film opens with Eagels shooting a man (Herbert Marshall) to death; she explains that the man had tried to assault her. It is assumed that the subsequent trial will go well for Eagels, who has the advantage of wealth and social position. But Eagels' lawyer (O.P. Heggie) learns of the existence of a letter sent to the dead man in which Eagels declares her undying love--thereby proving that the killing was not justified. At great personal expense, the lawyer buys back the letter from the dead man's wife, a grim native woman. Only after Eagels is found not guilty does she reveal her indiscretion to her husband. She tries to convince him that she will be a faithful wife in the future, but suddenly pulls back and violently declares "With all my heart--I still love the man I killed!" The Letter was remade in 1940 (with considerable censorial alterations) starring Bette Davis as the murderess and Herbert Marshall--the victim in the 1929 version--as her cuckolded husband.
defense-attorney, extramarital-affair, letter, murder-trial, killing, plantation, victim