The Letters (1973)

This film was viewed for the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project. To see more reviews from this project, visit the index!

Mail service is usually pretty predictable. You drop a letter in a mailbox, and depending on how far it’s traveling, you can usually expect it to be received in a matter of days… unless some sort of accident occurs.

(Image via Movie Night Series)

When a U. S. mail plane crashes, the usual service is, of course, disrupted. Three letter-senders have no clue that the mail they’ve sent has been lost. A year later, after a bag of mail is recovered from the site of the crash, the letters will finally be delivered — complicating matters for the senders and the receivers.

The Letters was directed by Gene Nelson (“Andersons” segment) and Paul Krasny (“Forresters” and “Parkingtons” segments). It originally aired on TV on March 6, 1973. The film features the talents of Jane Powell, John Forsythe, Ida Lupino, Leslie Nielsen, and Barbara Stanwyck, among others!

The Letters is not all high-stakes, ultra-engrossing drama, but there’s a certain charm to it. It opens adorably, with a mailman talking about letters and the importance of his job — kind of reminiscent to cartoon Fred Astaire’s opening to Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, in an odd way! It made me quite nostalgic.

For the most part, the film focuses on fairly simple dramas. Stanwyck has the wildest segment, which includes murder, and feuds over family money.

Barbara Stanwyck as Geraldine Parkington (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Stanwyck’s character is conniving and cruel, hearkening back to those noir dames she played forty years prior! She has a rough relationship and long-standing rivalry with her sister. She’s very protective of the family money. Early on, she shares some great verbal sparring with Leslie Nielsen.

Though Stanwyck’s segment was by far the most melodramatic (and surprisingly dark, compared to the others), all three segments held my attention.

It was a real delight to see Stanwyck, Jane Powell, and Ida Lupino all in the same film, even if they didn’t share any scenes! Lupino is a stand-out of the film as a protective mother trying push her daughter’s bad-boy boyfriend out of town.

Another perk, beyond those fabulous classic actresses, is that the film is quite seamless despite the fact that it features the work of several different directors, editors, and other crew, each segment being made by a different team. It all adds up to a decent watch, not one I’d recommend highly, but one that’s definitely worth a look, especially for those interested in the later careers of old Hollywood starlets.


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