Letty Lynton (1932)

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I am on something of a Marie Belloc-Lowndes kick somewhat unexpectedly, though I didn’t write up The Lodger (1944) which I watched recently because I thought I had seen it but I hadn’t. With Merle Oberon as the vivacious Kitty, George Sanders as the sleuthing Inspector Warwick and a swivel-eyed Laird Cregar (why do I always want to add an A to his name?) as the titular mystery man. Based on Belloc-Lowndes novel which I read some years back and really enjoyed, it’s a fun romp rather different from Hitchcock’s silent and from the talkie that also starred Ivor Novello but did not do as well as the first film [fans of Gosford Park (2001) will remember Jeremy Northam’s Novello being taunted about that].

I read that Belloc-Lowndes resented being pegged as a crime writer though certainly that was a rich vein she mined throughout her career. I’m currently mulling over thoughts about another of her novels and its film adaptation, which I’ll be talking about this fall (more on that later). Letty Lynton is also a true crime-inspired story. It’s hard to find the pre-Code film due to a successful prosecution for plagiarism. Seems the novel wasn’t enough for the filmmakers so they pilfered from the 1930 play Dishonored Lady by Edward Sheldon and Margaret Ayer Barnes, which was later filmed (and sounds fascinating too).

Robert Montgomery looking fine

But track it down I did eventually; of course Joan Crawford is magnificent, but I have to say I have come around to becoming a real fan of Montgomery, whom I had not rated highly enough. While I enjoy the very uneven adaptation of Hughes’ Ride the Pink Horse it’s really been the comedy roles that won me over like Picadilly Jim (1936) and he’s a delight here.

Make no mistake this is a Crawford films and she gives it her all: laughing cynically, laughing delightfully, crying, falling for that Montgomery fellow. She’s ably abetted in all her endeavours by Adrian who went all out and created quite a sensation with the Letty Lynton Dress, though her entire wardrobe is astonishingly good.

And now to read the novel!

UPDATE: I have read the novel and OMG they plagiarised the entire film! (O_o)

The Letty Lynton dress: a dream of ruffled sleeves and diaphanous layers