The Scarlet Letter

Colleen Moore plays Hester Prynne in the 1934 film version of “The Scarlet Letter,” the classic novel by William Hawthorne.  The producers (Larry Darmour Productions) made the film independently using the RKO Ranch in Sherman Oaks, California, while MGM provided background design.  The story follows the book closely, with old-fashioned dialogue and a few other notable silent stars besides Moore, including Alan Hale, Sr. and Henry B. Walthall.  The simple story features Moore wearing the scarlet letter (“A”) on her chest for adultery as she strives to raise her daughter in the puritanical society of Salem, Massachusetts in 1642.

Colleen Moore as Hester Prynne in “The Scarlet Letter.”

I specifically wanted to see this movie because of Colleen Moore, but I learned a surprising amount of information from the commentary track on the DVD, narrated by Sam Sherman.  He reads letters received from the principals, including Moore, which shed light on both the movie and the movie industry in and before 1934.  Sherman and his company, Signature Films, acquired the film in 1962, and releasing it provided him with, as he says, an advanced degree in film distribution.  Although it’s not comparable to the 1926 Lilian Gish silent version (directed by Victor Sjöström), it’s definitely worth seeing.

 

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