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The Letter (1940)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 23 November 1940 (USA)
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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Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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

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Taglines:

With all my heart I still love the man I killed See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

23 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das Geheimnis von Malampur  »

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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 Betty and her lawyer are in Chinatown to collect the letter from the widow, there is a padlock on the door while they are waiting outside the building. Seconds later, a man unlocks the door from the inside. See more »

Quotes

Robert Crosbie: If you love a person, you can forgive anything.
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Connections

Referenced in Providence: The Letter (1999) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Moon Over Malaya
12 October 2001 | by (brighton, ma) – See all my reviews

William Wyler directs Bette Davis in a fine screen adaptation of a Somerset Maugham story. The plot is sheer melodrama and has la Davis in all kinds of hot water, legal and personal, in British Malaya. Wyler's pretentious direction works better here than elsewhere, and this is one of his finest films. The combination of the director's grandiose desire to turn everything into high art meshes nicely with Maugham's journeyman but psychologically complex, basically mediocre tale. Add to this a bravura performance from his star, and the result is a highly watchable and intelligent movie.

The tropics are nicely evoked without without drawing too much emphasis to the fact that everything and everyone seems to be wilting in the heat. Wyler and his screenwriters have clearly done their homework, and along with the cast present a believable picture of the closed society that was the essence of British imperial rule. These people are more snobs than not, but they are often decent snobs, good friends to one another in a tight spot, and carry themselves with a kind of quiet dignity that seems to have died with the empire. There are some fine performances aside from Miss Davis', notably from James Stevenson as her lawyer, who yet seems to be her lover, but isn't; and Herbert Marshall, who may as well her lawyer but is in fact her husband. The moon figures prominently in the film, seeming to hover over the action, perhaps even dictating it, and giving the movie perhaps a stronger resonance than its civilized melodrama deserves.


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