The Letter

  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Howard Koch, Based on the play by W Somerset Maugham
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery
  • Actors: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson

On a moonlit night in the opening scene, Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis), the wife of a British rubber plantation manager in Malaya, shoots and kills a man whom her male servant recognizes as Geoff Hammond (David Newell). She tells the servant to send for her husband Robert (Herbert Marshall), who is working at one of the plantations. Her husband returns, having summoned his attorney and a British police inspector. Leslie tells them that Geoff Hammond “tried to make love to me” and she killed him to save her honor.

Leslie is placed under arrest and put in prison in Singapore as a matter of form to await trial for murder. Everyone believes she acted heroically, with the exception of her attorney, Howard Joyce (James Stephenson), who seems to be rather suspicious of her motives. Howard’s suspicions seem justified when his clerk Ong Chi Seng (Victor Sen Yung) shows him a copy of a letter Leslie wrote to Hammond the day she killed him, informing him she would be home alone that evening and pleading with him to visit her. Ong Chi Seng tells Howard that the letter is in the possession of Hammond’s widow (Gale Sondergaard), a Eurasian woman who lives in the Chinese quarter of town. Howard then confronts Leslie with the damning evidence and forces her to confess to Hammond’s cold-blooded killing; but Leslie cleverly manipulates the attorney into agreeing to buy back the letter.

In a dazed state after the pressure of the trial and her confrontation with Robert, Leslie wanders out into the moonlight and begins walking outside the gate almost as if she knows that someone is waiting for her. There she meets Mrs. Hammond and her henchman. Mrs Hammond kills her with a knife, after the henchman has overpowered her. As the two attemp to silently slip out, they are confronted by a policeman who question their whereabouts. The policeman tells the two to move along and both walk away from the scene. The clouds which hid the moons rays, darken the area where Leslie Crosbies body was killed. In the end, the clouds open and the moons rays shine at the area where her body lays but no one is there to see her body.

Jezebel

  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Producers: Executive Producer, Hal B Wallis, Producer, William Wyler
  • Writers: Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel, John Huston, Robert Buckner, Story, Owen Davis
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, George Brent

Spoiled, strong-willed New Orleans belle Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) is engaged to banker Preston ‘Pres’ Dillard (Henry Fonda). In retaliation for Pres refusing to drop his work and accompany her while she shops for a dress, she orders a brazen red one for the most important ball of the year, one where white dresses for unmarried women are expected. All of Julie’s friends are shocked, but no one can convince her to give up her whim.

Pres escorts Julie to the Olympus Ball, where their entrance is met by the disdainful stares of all present. She finally realizes the magnitude of her social blunder and begs Pres to take her away, but by this time, he is implacable. He makes her dance with him. All the other couples gradually leave the floor, finally leaving them alone and isolated. When the orchestra conductor stops playing, Pres orders him to continue and they finish the dance.

Afterwards, Pres takes his leave of Julie, implicitly breaking their engagement. In a final bit of spite, Julie slaps him in the face by way of farewell. Aunt Belle Massey (Fay Bainter) urges her to go after Pres and beg his forgiveness, but she refuses, arrogantly confident that he will return to her. Instead, he goes north on business. Julie shuts herself up in her house and refuses to see visitors.

Then something happens that overshadows everything else. As Pres and Dr. Livingstone had feared, a deadly epidemic of yellow fever sweeps the city, as it had numerous times before. Pres comes down with it and, like all other victims, is to be quarantined on an island. Amy prepares to go along to care for him, risking her own life, but Julie stops her. She tells the Northerner that she doesn’t know how to deal with the slaves and Southerners on the island. She begs to go in her place, as an act of redemption. Amy agrees.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane

  • Directors: Robert Aldrich
  • Producers: Robert Aldrich
  • Writers: Lukas Heller, Based on the novel by Henry Farrell
  • Genres: Drama, Horror, Thriller
  • Actors: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono

A lengthy prologue set in 1917 introduces six-year-old Baby Jane Hudson, a highly successful vaudeville performer, and her older sister Blanche, who remains in her shadow. Jane is extremely popular with the audiences and doted on by her father. Blanche resents this but, out of consideration for their mother, keeps her feelings buried.

As the two become adults, in a second prologue set in 1935, Jane fades into obscurity while Blanche becomes a renowned film actress. One night after a party, one of the sisters walks forward to open the gate to the driveway of the Hudson mansion. We see the other sister put her foot on the gas and and crash the car into the gate.

As the film reaches present day, we see that Blanche is paralyzed after the accident, and Jane is apparently the responsible party. The two have become recluses in their decaying mansion, where Jane ‘cares’ for Blanche. When Jane learns Blanche is planning to sell the house and move in with their black maid Elvira, and perhaps place her in a convalescent home, Jane holds her prisoner and increases her sadistic verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. She even kills Blanche’s pet parakeet and serves it to her sister on her dinner plate. She later performs the same gruesome prank with a dead rat.

Jane realizes Blanche could have been her friend, and goes off to a snack stand to buy ice cream cones for the two of them. Two policeman at the food stand recognize Jane and run after her. Soon, when the policemen catch Jane, a crowd gathers around her. The now completely deranged Jane begins to entertain them with a song-and-dance routine as they watch, giving her the attention she had so desperately craved. The film ends with a long shot of the beach. The police spot the limp body of Blanche and run over to her, leaving Jane happily dancing within a circle of onlookers.

The Petrified Forest

  • Directors: Archie Mayo
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Robert E Sherwood, Charles Kenyon, Delmer Daves
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran

This 1930s drama is set in the Petrified Forest area in northern Arizona. Hitchhiker Alan Squier, who sees himself as a failed writer, wanders into a roadside diner. The diner is run by Jason Maple (Porter Hall), his daughter Gabby, and her grandfather (Charley Grapewin), “an old man who was missed by Billy the Kid.”

Gabby’s mother was a French war bride who fell in love with Gabby’s father when he was a young, handsome, uniformed American serviceman. They married and moved to the remote Petrified Forest desert in Arizona. Gabby’s mother found her husband a “dull defeated man” and moved back to France when Gabby was a young child. She now sends Gabby poetry. Gabby dreams about visiting Bourges to study art. Gabby shows Alan her paintings and reads him a favorite Villon poem. Alan finds Gabby’s eagerness and optimism touching and refreshing.

Duke Mantee, “world famous killer” and his gang appear, and hold everyone hostage. When Gabby is out of the room, Alan signs over an insurance policy on his life to Gabby. He asks Duke to shoot him. “It couldn’t make any difference to you, Duke. After all, if they catch you, they can hang you only once…” And to another character, he explains: “Living, I’m worth nothing to her. Dead — I can buy her the tallest cathedrals, and golden vineyards, and dancing in the streets.”

All About Eve

  • Directors: Joseph L Mankiewicz
  • Producers: Darryl F Zanuck
  • Writers: Joseph L Mankiewicz
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm

Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is one of the biggest stars on Broadway, but despite her unmatched success, she is beginning to show her age. After a performance one night, she encounters a young woman named Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). Eve claims to be her biggest fan, and an aspiring actress from Milwaukee, who tells a group gathered in Margo’s dressing room that she followed Margo to New York after seeing her in a play in San Francisco. Gradually the film reveals that she is a scheming and duplicitous woman who plans to take from Margo everything she holds dear: her lover (Gary Merrill), her friends (Celeste Holm and Hugh Marlowe), and her stage career and fame.

Eve begins working to supplant Margo, scheming to become her understudy and taking advantage when Margo is unfairly prevented from making a performance, so that she herself can step in, performing to an audience full of critics. When this fails to jump-start her career, she blackmails her way into playing the next role Margo had been promised, unaware that Margo herself, unhappy at playing roles that are now too young for her, has decided not to do it anyway. Eve attempts to climb higher by using theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders). Just before the out-of-town opening of her play Eve faces DeWitt with her next plan – to marry playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) after he divorces his wife, Karen (Celeste Holm). DeWitt, with plans of his own, confronts Eve and reveals her trumped up story of how she came to New York via San Francisco. In fact, Eve had been forced to leave a job at a brewery in Milwaukee when her boss’s wife caught wind of Eve’s improper connection to the boss. Addison, although reviled by Eve, is at the same time attracted to her and continues to advance her career.

Eve, now a Broadway star, is presented with an award for her performance in that role. Afterwards, she encounters an apparently besotted young fan who had sneaked into her apartment – with the cycle of star and fan presumably beginning all over again.