The Scarlet Letter (1934)

The Scarlet LetterScarlet Letter Poster
Directed by Robert G. Vignola
Larry Darmour Productions

First Viewing



“It [the scarlet letter] had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

This poverty-row adaptation of the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel stars Colleen Moore as Hester Prynne, Hardie Albright as Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, Henry B. Walthall as Roger Chillingworth, and Alan Hale as comic relief.  In 17th century Massachusetts, a woman whose husband was thought to be lost at sea is forced to wear a scarlet “A” on her breast as punishment for adultery that resulted in the birth of a child.  She refuses to reveal the father of the girl but her husband returns incognito, determined to hound both parties to the affair for the rest of his days.

Scarlet Letter 1

It is hard to find anything good to say about this movie.  The first strike against it is that the makers felt compelled to lighten the dark story of the novel with copious amounts of comic relief, mostly supplied by Alan Hale and William Kent as sort of a Mutt and Jeff team.  Their bits are really jarring and not all that funny.  All the beards look obviously fake.  Then you get the principals posturing as if they were making a silent movie.  Colleen Moore is the worst and also seems years too old for her part, though she would have only been 35 in 1934.  This was the last film Moore ever made.



Colleen Moore was a silent film star.  She is most famous for “flapper” roles such as in  classic Flaming Youth (1923), in which she played Patricia Fentriss. By 1927 she was the top box-office draw in the US.  She invested her motion picture earnings wisely and remained wealthy until her death in 1988 at age 88.

Excerpt – oh, those wacky Puritans!





8 thoughts on “The Scarlet Letter (1934)

  1. I have not seen this film and it looks like I won’t be looking for it. I can’t even imagine why the director or whomever thought that some comedy schtick should be inserted into this serious themed film We’ve seen enough movies from the 1930s to know that it seemed to be common practice but in The Scarlet Letter??…….might as well make it a musical and cover all the bases.

  2. All I had to see was the bit in the clip (which opens the movie) and I knew it would be dire. I haven’t seen the Demi Moore version, have you? The reviews made it sound pretty dire in a different way.

    • Haven’t seen it either but have seen the 1926 version with the incomparable Lillian Gish. She will tear your heart out. She never failed to amaze me with her range……silent or talkie, she was one hell of an actress.

  3. after watching this version , i felt the same way.
    but i still enjoyed it because Colleen’s full films are really hard to find 🙂

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