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The Letter (1940)

7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 7,214 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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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

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 6, 1944 with Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall reprising their film roles. 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: Be flippant about your own crimes if you want to, but don't be flippant about mine!
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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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