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The Letter (1940)

7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 6,975 users  
Reviews: 92 user | 45 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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Airs Tue. Oct. 07, 7:30 AM on TCM

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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
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:

Fascinating Tantalizing and DANGEROUS! 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

Sixteen years after he directed this film, William Wyler made his TV directing debut with a live production broadcast Oct. 15, 1956 on Producers' Showcase: The Letter (1956). The cast included Siobhan McKenna, John Mills, Michael Rennie, and Anna May Wong in the roles earlier played by Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson, and Gale Sondergaard. Some of the censorship that had restricted the 1940 version was eased for this TV version. For example, Hammond's "Eurasian wife" in 1940 was permitted to be, as in the play and 1929 film, his Chinese mistress. See more »

Goofs

When Leslie enters her bedroom for the last time, she locks the door behind her. Later, the door is unlocked when Robert enters. See more »

Quotes

Robert Crosbie: If you love a person, you can forgive anything.
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Full moon fever.
29 November 2004 | by See all my reviews

Among the three Wyler-Davis' collaborations (the others being "little foxes" and "Jezebel" ) "the letter " is their triumph.The repugnance that most of the French critics feel for the great Wyler is one of their major flaws (coming from "les cahiers du cinema " and the stupidity of the nouvelle vague ravings).

"The letter" is a splendor.A screenplay so simple and so effective it's a wonder it grabs us till the last pictures.A first sequence to rival the best of Hitchcock.A feverish sticky deadly atmosphere from the mysterious garden where a malefic full moon shines on Davis' inscrutable face to the seedy place in the Chinese quarter where they smoke opium and where Gale Sondergaard spins a web :in this memorable scene when she forces Davis to kneel down,she almost surpasses the star,which will seem an impossible task to some,and yet..Every time Sondergaard appears on the screen ,she's absolutely terrifying.I was saying that the screenplay was simple ,but that kind of simplicity takes genius and I wish today's stories had this implacable logic.As always in Wyler's works of that era,the ball sequence is a recurring theme (see the admirable scenes of "Wuthering Heights" and "Jezebel" )Thus,the finale scenes revolve around a ball,beginning with Davis's entrance and ending with a view of the dancers from the outside ,à la "Wuthering Heights" .Excellent performances by the whole cast,fabulous directing,particularly in these last pictures ,where Davis is walking through the garden ,under a bad moon rising..You must see "the letter".


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