Time: 101 mins.
Nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Song and Best Score.
SYNOPSIS: During WWII, a British soldier has been writing love letters for a friend, but finds himself falling in love with the woman from afar. When his friend is killed, the letter writer tries to find out more about the woman, but finds his way obscured by a scandal no one will talk about. As he investigates he discovers that the disappearance of the woman is related to the mysterious circumstances of his friend's death.
BOTTOM LINE: Jennifer Jones didn't have a very prolific career, but she made an indelible mark in cinema history. Her performances have an intensity that draws you in and refuses to let go, whether the rest of the film is good or not. She is as talented as she is beautiful, which is a rarity. This film is a tour-de-force for her as she plays a woman fooled into marrying the wrong man and the trauma that discovery brings into her life. It seems harmless enough when Roger Morland (Sully) asks Allen Quinton (Cotten) to write love letters to Victoria (Jones) while he's at the front. He's not a wordsmith and doesn't want her to get away. Allen begins to have serious doubts about the morality of this when Roger shares her return missives and he realizes how deeply she has come to love "Roger." He just never imagined the dark trouble those letters would bring to all of their lives.
It goes without saying that he eventually meets Victoria and wants to declare his own love for her, but she's far from the innocent girl he conjured up from her letters. In fact, after a horrific crime she supposedly committed, she remembers nothing of her past life and is living quite happily in her amnesiatic fog. There's something about Allen that she's unconsciously drawn to and her joy for life and spirited beauty makes him melt all over. He should run, not walk to the nearest exit and despite protests from everyone in her life, they decide to attempt to build a life together. The trouble is can they live happily ever after with her past ready to surface at any moment? Once it does, will she ever be able to forgive him for the role he played in her downfall? Yes and yes, though the very ending where she says she's happy he wrote the letters that destroyed her life but brought her true love is a sentiment so hokey and unbelievable it almost ruined the movie for me. I can understand that she would eventually forgive him – after all it wasn't his idea – but I would have made him suffer a bit first.
Jones is so good in this role, despite the complete ridiculousness of it all, that most of the credit has to go to her. The final sequence of events where she remembers what really happens that terrible night is so intense and heart-breaking, she makes all the build-up more believable than it should be. Gladys Cooper is equally impressive in her supporting role as Victoria's guardian, a woman who would do anything to protect her charge. If only Cotten was half as good or interesting as the ladies, this would be a film more people would know about today. His wooden turn as the guilty letter-writer is only good when he's pretending to be drunk or when in the presence of Jones. She's so good she could give a statue charm and sex appeal. I thought I was a fan of his work, but the more of his films I see, the more his performances all seem the same. While Jones certainly has the more difficult and showy part here, a better leading man would have made this a true classic.