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A Letter for Evie

A Letter for Evie(1946)

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teaser A Letter for Evie (1946)

Before director Jules Dassin staked his reputation with a string of memorable late-'40s film noir offerings, he first cut his professional teeth at MGM during the earlier part of the decade. Receiving his first opportunities behind the camera on short subjects, he moved on to a series of "B" programmers. Still, an MGM "B" had more to commend it than a lot of other studios' "A" product, and the filmmaker managed to wring reasonably diverting results from the modern-dress Cyrano romantic farce A Letter for Evie (1946).

For this wartime product's scenario, the MGM story department dusted off a 1922 silent entitled Don't Write Letters. Patriotic gal Evie O'Connor (Marsha Hunt), determined to lift the spirits of some unknown soldier out there, crafts an introductory missive and stuffs it into the shirt pocket of a standard-issue uniform slated for some barracks somewhere. The togs wind up in the hands of the very handsome and just as smarmy Edgar "Wolf" Larson (John Carroll), who's got no interest in Evie's entreaty.

That's not the case for Larson's unprepossessing bunkmate John Phineas McPherson (Hume Cronyn), who responds in Wolf's name and starts an increasingly warm correspondence. The shy McPherson gets himself in even deeper when he honors Evie's request with a photo of the hunky Wolf. Eventually working a transfer to New York, McPherson succeeds in making Evie's acquaintance, only to find her head over heels in love with Larson. Worse, Larson is finally wise to what's going on, and is determined to take advantage of the situation.

It's a harmless, easy-going B-picture, and ably abetted by a good comic cast including Spring Byington, Pamela Britton, Norman Lloyd, and Cameron Mitchell. The cinematography was the work of Karl Freund, whose remarkable career spanned from classic expressionist German silents such as The Last Laugh (1924) and Variety (1925) to the bulk of I Love Lucy's TV run.

Cronyn, who would later work again with Dassin, to much more memorable effect, as the martinet prison warden of Brute Force (1947), had amusing recall of the film's tightrope contest sequence in his memoir A Terrible Liar. "The other contestants, all played by professional wire walkers, had to teeter violently and comically, and then fall off. Julie said he could never shoot the scene satisfactorily unless I walked the wire...

"Under the guidance of one of the professionals, I practiced and practiced and fell and fell," the actor continued. "To call it a bruising experience is an understatement... [A]s I fell, the wire would rip up my side like a paring knife on a carrot, so that from anklebone to armpit I became a mass of yellow, green and blue bruises. Jessica [Tandy, Cronyn's wife] was horrified. Perhaps I should add that I did wear a metal jock strap."

Producer: William H. Wright
Director: Jules Dassin
Screenplay: DeVallon Scott, Alan Friedman; Blanche Brace (story "The Adventure of a Ready Letter Writer")
Cinematography: Karl Freund
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Hubert Hobson
Music: George Bassman
Film Editing: Chester W. Schaeffer
Cast: Marsha Hunt (Evie O'Connor), John Carroll (Edgar 'Wolf' Larson), Hume Cronyn (John Phineas McPherson), Spring Byington (Mrs. McPherson), Pamela Britton (Barney Lee), Norman Lloyd (DeWitt Pynchon), Percival Vivian (Mr. McPherson), Donald Curtis (Capt. Budlowe), Esther Howard (Mrs. Edgewaters), Robin Raymond (Eloise Edgewaters), Therese Lyon (Mrs. Jackson), Lynn Whitney (Miss Jenkins).
BW-90m. Closed captioning.

by Jay S. Steinberg

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