For Reel

A Letter for Evie (1946)
February 10, 2012, 12:16 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jules Dassin

A modern reworking of Cyrano de Bergerac, A Letter for Evie starts promising and with plenty of charm. The cast – Hume Cronyn as the Cyrano type, John Carroll as his wolfish companion, and Marsha Hunt as the object of their interest – were more than enough to lead a B-picture of this stock, and, in fact, they have considerably more appeal than some of the major stars of the era. Cronyn was a very special performer who, in addition to projecting a level of sensitivity that came naturally to him given his size and unassuming looks, possessed a remarkable intensity. In Brute Force, for example, which was a later collaboration with director Jules Dassin, his prison security chief is a memorable sadist, who delights in punishing the inmates for his own presumably sexual urges. Though his co-star in Evie, John Carroll (who resembles a mix of George Brent and Clark Gable), dwarfs him, Cronyn is never purely a victim and he isn’t afraid to throw a few punches. As game as the cast is, however, Dassin eventually loses the heart of the picture and things topple into a mean-spirited affair. Persistent to a fault, Cronyn goes beyond hopeless romantic and appears fully deranged as he plays drunk, wrecks Hunt’s apartment, and nearly attempts rape. When the film gets over the madcap and attempts to restore order, the sentiment feels unearned and Dassin mishandles key dramatic scenes. Despite the flaws, however, it’s a picture that you can’t help but root for, even when it doesn’t live up to what it could have been.

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