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The Letter (1940)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  23 November 1940 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 7,739 users  
Reviews: 93 user | 45 critic

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.

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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:

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
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Just months after the film was released, James Stephenson died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 53. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Howard Joyce: Be flippant about your own crimes if you want to, but don't be flippant about mine!
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in My Friend Irma Goes West (1950) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
The letter is "A"
15 January 2005 | by (Derby, UK) – See all my reviews

What a wonderful film this still is, so long as you're not hamstrung with all the modern pc prejudices. Sadly I feel that one far-off day this film will be banned, when apparent white moral repugnance of the past overwhelms the remaining whites with shame. I've seen "The Letter" now maybe 12 times and it hasn't polluted my mind with imperialist or racial stereotypes, just filled it with pleasure that Wyler at Warners could make such an atmospheric studio-bound gem in 1940.

At the start woman shoots man - but was it murder or justified homicide? All of the cast are superb in their roles, Bette never looked sexier, Herbert Marshall never so realistic, and Gale Sondergaard never so sinister - but James Stephenson! He only made a few more films before his premature death but his understated sweaty performance as the lawyer in this electrifies me every time I watch - without him it might have a very different story! Although on a serious level it is (to me) typical Somerset Maugham fare, I haven't read any better from him as yet. Bette has some fine lines and scenes, and only occasionally hamming it up. Steiner's music is repetitive, but memorable anyhow, and the photography gleams well under the Warners arc-moonlight. But as near perfect in every department as it could get, it's still dignified Stephenson's film - he steals every scene he's in, come what or who may.

The Hays Office was the real uncivilised savage at the end, not the inscrutable "Orientals", but even with such a contrived messy ending it remains compulsive classic viewing for me, once every couple of years.


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