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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 7,679 users  
Reviews: 93 user | 44 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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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:

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


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

23 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La carta  »

Company Credits

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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

Herbert Marshall portrayed author W. Somerset Maugham in the 1946 film The Razor's Edge (1946) . 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!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Bette Davis: A Basically Benevolent Volcano (1983) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Remarkable drama that begins with several literal bangs; we're fascinated from that moment until the last frame of film
2 March 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The wife (Bette Davis) 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 (Herbert Marshall) is certainly without doubt; so is the new district officer (Bruce Lester); while her lawyer's (James Stephenson) 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.

This remarkable drama begins with several literal bangs, and we're fascinated from that moment until the last frame of film. Davis, with her precise and intricate manners that match her character's elaborate web of deceit (symbolized by her compulsive crocheting), gives a fiery, mannered, mysterious performance that may equal anything she's done. Marshall and Stephenson are both subtle in their acting and refined in their manners. William Wyler directs an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's play (Maugham provided the material for Davis's breakthrough role in "Of Human Bondage") and never makes a false move until the censor-imposed ending. Tony Gaudio's photography, with the light often hitting people from a full moon or through the slats of blinds, is splendid. Max Steiner's music, though repetitive, is very effective. A great film.


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