The Scarlet Letter (1934 film)

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The Scarlet Letter
Scarlet Letter lobby card.jpg
Lobby card
Directed by Robert G. Vignola
Written byLeonard Fields
David Silverstein
Based on The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Produced by Larry Darmour
Starring Colleen Moore
Hardie Albright
Henry B. Walthall
Alan Hale
Cinematography James S. Brown Jr.
Edited byCharles Harris
Music by Abe Meyer
Darmour Productions
Distributed by Majestic Pictures
Release date
  • September 18, 1934 (1934-09-18)
Running time
69 minutes
CountryUnited States
The full film

The Scarlet Letter is a 1934 American film directed by Robert G. Vignola and based on the 1850 novel of the same name by Nathaniel Hawthorne.


The film has been preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Plot summary

Hester Prynne has a child out of wedlock and refuses to name the father (who is a respected citizen). For this, she is sentenced to wear a red letter "A" (for adultery). Her husband is long missing and presumed dead. When the husband returns and finds his wife with another man's child, he sets out to torture them. At last, the father reveals himself, with a letter "A" carved in his chest and dies after that.



The first sound version of the story starring former Jazz Age comedian Colleen Moore as the ill-fated Puritan adulteress Hester Prynne, the film retained many of the silent film era players and studio sets from director Victor Seastrom’s 1926 silent adaptation starring Lillian Gish. Henry B. Walthall played Roger Chillingworth in both these film versions. [1]

Under the influence of the recently re-imposed Production Code, director Vignola emphasized the guilt-ridden ordeal of the novel’s protagonists, which resonated with Hollywood censor’s preference for a depiction of “the moral failure of the central figures” as a cautionary tale, distinguish it from the Seastrom’s decidedly romantic film adaption. [2]

It was shot in Sherman Oaks, California. It was the only film Colleen Moore ever said she made for the money. She was reportedly preparing to take her dollhouse on tour for charity, and saw the film as an opportunity to make a last film with friends.[ clarification needed ][ citation needed ]


National Board of Review gave a negative review, criticizing the script and "Vignola's static, uninspired direction", but appreciated Moore's performance, considering it "the only good thing in the picture". [3]


  1. Malcolm, 2004: “...a superabundance of silent film personalities” were employed in the sound remake... [and] many sets in this lower-budget production seem to be borrowed from the Seastrom film...”
  2. Malcolm, 2004: “...this adaption, perhaps in response to the recently re-constituted Production Code, underscores the moral failure of the central sinners…[and] serves to highlight the realism of the film’s dialogue.”
  3. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, Films in Review - Volume 14, 1963, p.421

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