Skip to main content
Updated date:

Love Letters - The Power of the Pen Over the Hearts of the Romantic

Author:

Dusty is an avid classic movie fan who wants to share movie stories and evoke conversation about them.

Movie Poster

Cast

Love Letters

1 hr. 41 mins Drama, Mystery, Romance 1945 7.1 stars

Director: William Dieterle

Cast: Jennifer Jones - Victoria Morland/Singleton

Joseph Cotton - Alan Quinton

Ann Richards - Dilly Carson

Cecil Kellaway - Mac

Gladys Cooper - Beatrice Remington

Robert Sully - Roger Morland

Ernest Cossart - Bishop

Ian Wolfe - Vicar

Note: Spoiler alert. This review reveals the outcome of the movie

Writing the Original Letters

Joseph Cotton writing Robert Sully's letters

Joseph Cotton writing Robert Sully's letters

Synopsis

The opening scene is in a war town village in Italy; two buddies are debating the advisability about a practice they’d developed. Alan Quinton (played by Joseph Cotton) has a gift for writing romantic letters for Roger Morland (played by Robert Sully). Roger has been having Alan write letters to his fiancé back home in England, but he doesn’t care for her nearly as much as those letters convey. The letters, however, have been very effective, more so than Roger knew or even intended. The return letters indicated strong, positive, romantic responses. Roger’s fiancé, named Victoria Remington, was falling for him because of the things written in those letters. The problem was that Roger didn’t write them and couldn’t have written them because he did not possess the depth of feeling that was required for such writing. Alan however did have that depth of feeling. It was Alan who wrote them and it was Alan who read the ones sent back. Alan was falling for Roger’s fiancé, but did not know her at all; had never met her, nor ever seen her.

Roger got transferred back to England and in a short time got married to Victoria, who Alan had wooed for him.

Alan got severely injured in an attack and ended up in the hospital for a long time. After some time convalescing back home in England he eventually made a full recovery. But while convalescing he learned that his buddy, Roger had died and he wondered about Victoria. At this time the relationship between Alan’s own girlfriend and himself fell apart. Alan inherited his aunt’s farm, named Beltmarsh, out in the country along with its caretaker, Mac (played by Cecil Kellaway). The farm just happens to be a neighboring farm to the one that Victoria is from. The night before he left to live at the farm his brother took him to a party hosted by Dilly Carson (played by Ann Richards). He meets another guest at the party, Singleton (played by Jennifer Jones); she is Dilly’s roommate and is quite taken with him. While at the party Alan gets drunk and opens up about a woman he’s fallen in love with through correspondence, Victoria Morland (Morland being her married name by then), whom he has never met, but was the widow of his former army buddy. Dilly appears know something about this situation and mysteriously hints that he should investigate and learn what happened and that she would be there to help if he needed it.

Alan went off to his farm. He decided to go to the neighboring farm in Longreach to meet Victoria, but he is told that she also had died. In response Alan travels back to London to inquire of Dilly about the situation. Dilly is out but Singleton is there. She and Alan get acquainted – they are taken with each other. When asked, Singleton tells Alan that has no other name, it’s just Singleton. In their conversation he mentions that he had been in love with a girl named Victoria Morland, but that was in the past. Dilly returns and Singleton asks her who Victoria Morland is. Dilly quickly sends Singleton out on an errand then tells Alan that Singleton is Victoria Morland! She then relates the whole biography of Singleton, how she was originally Victoria Singleton adopted by a woman named Beatrice Remington and how she had married Roger Morland who turned out to be nothing at all like the letters he had sent home from the war. She continued that Roger was an abusive drunk. He had attacked her, throwing those precious letters into the fire. She further told Alan that at that moment Singleton killed Roger with a knife and lapsed into a trauma-induced amnesia. At the trial Singleton had received a light sentence and had been released. She is now living with Dilly who had grown up neighboring the Remington farm in Longreach.

Later back at Beltmarsh Alan got a call from Dilly. Singleton was missing and Dilly was wondering if she was at Beltmarsh to which Alan had said ‘no’. But moments later Singleton came out from hiding; she was at Beltmarsh after all. She had come there to visit because she likes Alan. He enjoyed her visit, but then took her back to London. While there, he visited Beatrice Remington (played by Gladys Cooper), Singleton’s adoptive mother. She was in a nursing home recovering from a stroke. Alan asked her permission to marry Singleton despite the difficulties inherent in being in a relationship with an amnesiac. Beatrice granted her permission so long as the bishop approved. Alan took Singleton to visit the bishop. After a pleasant time the bishop bestowed his blessing on the union. But when Alan actually proposed Singleton recoiled in fear though she knew he was going to ask. She had a visceral reaction, nevertheless she accepted and the two were married in the next scene.

Life at Beltmarsh was idyllic, but it did have its difficulties. Singleton reacted in fear when the postman came. Later she began to remember things.

Eventually Alan received a letter from Beatrice stating that she had left the nursing home and was back at Longreach and that she will help him with Victoria Morland. Singleton however opened and read the letter, then went over to Longreach to talk to Beatrice, though she didn’t remember who Beatrice was. She even told Beatrice that she would like to find Victoria Morland for Alan. Beatrice told her she will. Then gradually Singleton began to recognize the room she’s in. Her memory began to return to her and she suddenly realized that she is Victoria Morland. It came out that it was Beatrice Remington who had killed Roger Morland, but in the heat of the moment she suffered a stroke and could only utter the words, “he struck her” before going mute.

Just then Alan showed up to an elated Singleton or more appropriately an elated Victoria. One thing remained, however, to be brought out into the open and Alan decided that now was as good a time as ever. He recited some of the words he had written in the original letters years ago which had started this whole mess. To his delight Victoria was thrilled to learn that he was the author of those letters. She did not hate him for his unwitting part in arranging her disastrous marriage to the abusive Roger Morland. All was forgiven. Victoria’s memories returned and it is presumed they lived happily ever after.

Shock at Hearing Proposal

Jennifer Jones hears Joseph Cotton's proposal

Jennifer Jones hears Joseph Cotton's proposal

Analysis

This is an improbable, but strong love story. It’s improbable because it is rare, to say the least, for a correspondence to take the leading role in developing a romance that so permeates the mind when other memories are faded away. It is strong because the romance did survive through the mental morass of amnesia and non-acquaintance.

The biography of Singleton explains the complexity of the plot. Victoria Singleton was a foundling raised in an orphanage in Canada who caught the heart of the wealthy English spinster, Beatrice Remington and all was well until she took up with a young man named Roger Morland who turned out to be a selfish scoundrel. Off he went to fight in World War II and the letters he sent back to her were soul piercing works of poetry. Victoria fell in love with him. But he didn’t write them, Alan Quinton did. She married Roger because of those letters. In a way she fell in love with those letters themselves. She married Roger, but Roger turned out not to have the character of those letters and everything fell apart. Roger burned the letters and struck Victoria. Beatrice, observing this, knifed Roger and subsequently had a stroke. Victoria could not deal with these events and her mind lapsed into amnesia. She even forgot her name and reverted to using just her maiden name. That’s who she was when the real letter writer came to town.

The character of Victoria Singleton has a strongly imaginative innocence about her. She is also extremely perceptive of and strongly appreciative of the beauty all around her. If you are at all familiar with the story Anne of Green Gables you see here that type of perception, appreciation and world view. I would point out that Anne, like Victoria Singleton, was also a product of a Canadian orphanage.

I draw a further comparison with the movie, Random Harvest but only in so far that amnesia is used as a significant plot device though clinical amnesia doesn’t often manifest itself in these forms we see on the screen. Like Random Harvest the romance weathers the storm of both the amnesia and the cessation of the amnesia. For what it’s worth both movies also take place in England.

One of the background lessons in this movie, the moral of the story is the notion that love conquers all even in the worst of times or it may be said, “For better or for worse”.

There is an interesting double entendre hidden in the words which Singleton says to Alan that she wants to help him find Victoria Morland. Alan hasn’t mentioned this interest from his past, but once or twice but Singleton has latched onto it as a sort of quest. We, the audience, know that she is Victoria Morland; Alan knows it, but Singleton does not. Yet she is driven to help Alan to find her so that he can rest. One might be tempted to think that in her subconscious she knows that she is Victoria and that in helping him to find her she is helping her own memories to resurface, of literally helping her to find herself. Presumably then she could present herself whole to Alan, since love is characterized by selfless surrender. She would then be holding nothing back. Singleton says to Alan regarding Victoria, “I was almost envious of her … someday you’ll be very happy with her; I don’t mind because right now you are happy with me.”

An allegation is voiced more than once in the movie that the greatest culprit in the whole story is the man who wrote Roger’s letters for him and thereby caused Victoria to fall for him. It is said that if Victoria ever found out who that was that she would hate him. I don’t see why this would be so and of course it is revealed to Victoria in the last scene that Alan was that author. Unsurprisingly to me that revelation doesn’t make any difference to Victoria except to enhance her love for Alan. I believe that thread may have been woven into the story to add risk to Alan should Victoria’s memories ever awaken.

The movie goes to great lengths to emphasize the peace which Singleton felt after she was stricken with amnesia. She was almost playful-like, perhaps childlike. Here is where I notice the similarity between her and Anne Shirley in the Anne of Green Gables story. Singleton says wise things in the flashback of the trial and again demonstrates a complete peace. A prime example of her peaceful, joy-filled perspective on her world is when, after Alan chances a kiss upon her, she says, “That’s the difference between us; you’re unhappy that can never happen again and I’m happy that it’s happened once.” She is prone to see only the silver linings.

Perhaps there is a fear she holds deep within that once her memories return she will lose that incredible optimism. Indeed that’s what happens when Alan first proposes to her; she reacts by cringing – she’s being hurt by a distant memory trying to resurface. The entire sequence of events during her coming-out of amnesia is painful for her. Perhaps that is true of most major life changes, but she is coming out of a blissful unawareness and it’s a long difficult way to come.

Is she aware that she has amnesia? Yes and she is worried that she will not be the same woman once her memories return. Perhaps she will no longer love Alan. Alan for his part marries her with the full knowledge of this possibility. At one point Singleton tells Alan that he has married half a woman. But they both struggle to make a go of it despite the potential for disaster when those memories return.

It is an admittedly unlikely story. You have to accept that a series of love letters engender love in two parties who don’t know each other and that that love endures over a span of years through the trauma of a murder and a lengthy bout of amnesia. If that can be sustained, if the suspension of disbelief can endure it, then the movie will be a delightful mystery and a moving romance for the viewer to enjoy.

Dilly tells Alan about Singleton

Ann Richards talking to Joseph Cotton

Ann Richards talking to Joseph Cotton

Love Letters - A Tribute

The Heart of Love Letters

Related Articles