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The Letter (1940)

7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 7,269 users  
Reviews: 93 user | 44 critic

The wife of a rubber plantation administrator shoots a man to death and claims it was self-defense; a letter in her own hand may prove her undoing.

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Title: The Letter (1940)

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Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Herbert Marshall ...
James Stephenson ...
Frieda Inescort ...
...
Bruce Lester ...
Elizabeth Inglis ...
Adele Ainsworth (as Elizabeth Earl)
...
Prescott--Well Wisher at Party
Victor Sen Yung ...
Ong Chi Seng (as Sen Yung)
Doris Lloyd ...
Mrs. Cooper
Willie Fung ...
Chung Hi
Tetsu Komai ...
Head Boy
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Storyline

The wife of a rubber plantation administrator shoots a man to death and claims it was self-defense. Her poise, graciousness and stoicism impress nearly everyone who meets her. Her husband is certainly without doubt; so is the district officer; while her lawyer's doubts may be a natural skepticism. But this is Singapore and the resentful natives will have no compunction about undermining this accused murderess. A letter in her hand turns up and may prove her undoing. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

I wish I could say I was sorry. See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

23 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La carta  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to screenwriter Winston Miller Warner Brothers commissioned him to write a Western version of "The Letter" with the evil woman rewritten as a schoolmarm. It was offered to director Raoul Walsh, who refused to read it. According to Miller he said, "I don't make pictures about schoolteachers!" See more »

Goofs

When Betty and her lawyer get in the car to go to Chinatown to get the letter, Betty enters the car first from the left side, the lawyer second. When they get to Chinatown, Betty gets out of the left side of the car first, followed by the lawyer. See more »

Quotes

Howard Joyce: Strange that a man can live with a woman for ten years and not know the first thing about her.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in 10 pelis (2011) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Remarkable drama that begins with several literal bangs; we're fascinated from that moment until the last frame of film
2 March 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The wife (Bette Davis) of a rubber plantation administrator shoots a man to death and claims it was self-defense. Her poise, graciousness and stoicism impress nearly everyone who meets her. Her husband (Herbert Marshall) is certainly without doubt; so is the new district officer (Bruce Lester); while her lawyer's (James Stephenson) doubts may be a natural skepticism. But this is Singapore and the resentful natives will have no compunction about undermining this accused murderess. A letter in her hand turns up and may prove her undoing.

This remarkable drama begins with several literal bangs, and we're fascinated from that moment until the last frame of film. Davis, with her precise and intricate manners that match her character's elaborate web of deceit (symbolized by her compulsive crocheting), gives a fiery, mannered, mysterious performance that may equal anything she's done. Marshall and Stephenson are both subtle in their acting and refined in their manners. William Wyler directs an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's play (Maugham provided the material for Davis's breakthrough role in "Of Human Bondage") and never makes a false move until the censor-imposed ending. Tony Gaudio's photography, with the light often hitting people from a full moon or through the slats of blinds, is splendid. Max Steiner's music, though repetitive, is very effective. A great film.


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