100 user 47 critic

The Letter (1940)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 23 November 1940 (USA)
2:18 | Trailer

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



(by), (screen play)
3,048 ( 12,120)
Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Bruce Lester ...
Elizabeth Inglis ...
Adele Ainsworth (as Elizabeth Earl)
Prescott--Well Wisher at Party
Ong Chi Seng (as Sen Yung)
Doris Lloyd ...
Mrs. Cooper
Chung Hi
Tetsu Komai ...
Head Boy


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


Fascinating Tantalizing and DANGEROUS! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

23 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La carta  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The 1929 version was Jeanne Eagels' last film and her only Oscar nomination. See more »


When Leslie and the others leave and Leslie shuts the door, Howard walks through the door twice. See more »


Robert Crosbie: I'll do whatever you think is right.
Howard Joyce: I don't think it's right, but I think it's expedient. Juries can sometimes be very stupid, and it's just as well not to worry them with more evidence than they can conveniently deal with.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Shadows and subterfuge...Lace and mystery
5 April 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

the allegories here are effective and striking. Bette Davis is at her best, married in a passionless marriage, involved with a Malaysian. I do not think her character was simply "evil". There are many gray areas to the film. This theme goes along with the story, in keeping with a passionate affair, and subsequent murder.

Vicor Sen Yong and Gale Sondergaard hold the key to the mystery. "The Letter" must be retrieved. When Davis' husband, James Stephenson finds out about the affair, he is at first hopeful they can still move on, buy a large plantation in Sumatra.

The atmosphere is moody and classic. Mystery in the Chinese quarter; Chung Hi has something to sell everyone. At one point Davis picks up a set of elaborately carved ivory knives. Describing her love affair, Davis mentions, ..."even my agony was a kind of joy"... .

This film is proof that creativity and artistry can be submitted on film without obvious and blatant performances.I miss the subtlety and passion conveyed in these noir films.

Yes this is melodrama, in the best sense of the word. Would we ever see something this mood-inspired and effective today?. I highly doubt it. It is very telling that this type of film would be very hard to create today- and I cannot think of one actress who could ever convey the meaning and mood as Ms. Bette Davis. Perhaps that is modern society's loss. 10/10.

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