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The Letter (1940)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 23 November 1940 (USA)
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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.

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Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
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...
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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
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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

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Fascinating Tantalizing and DANGEROUS! 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:

La carta  »

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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

The first scene that William Wyler shot was the famous opening shot in which we see Leslie shoot Geoffrey Hammond. The opening shot, which lasted two minutes on screen, took an entire day to film, and that was before even a single word of dialogue was spoken. The studio expected him to shoot at a rate of 3-4 script pages a day, but the opening shot reflected a mere paragraph on page one. See more »

Goofs

The motor vehicles throughout are all left-hand drive. In Singapore traffic drives on the left and all vehicles there are right-hand drive. See more »

Quotes

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.
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Connections

Referenced in Seinfeld: The Letter (1992) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Full moon fever.
29 November 2004 | by See all my reviews

Among the three Wyler-Davis' collaborations (the others being "little foxes" and "Jezebel" ) "the letter " is their triumph.The repugnance that most of the French critics feel for the great Wyler is one of their major flaws (coming from "les cahiers du cinema " and the stupidity of the nouvelle vague ravings).

"The letter" is a splendor.A screenplay so simple and so effective it's a wonder it grabs us till the last pictures.A first sequence to rival the best of Hitchcock.A feverish sticky deadly atmosphere from the mysterious garden where a malefic full moon shines on Davis' inscrutable face to the seedy place in the Chinese quarter where they smoke opium and where Gale Sondergaard spins a web :in this memorable scene when she forces Davis to kneel down,she almost surpasses the star,which will seem an impossible task to some,and yet..Every time Sondergaard appears on the screen ,she's absolutely terrifying.I was saying that the screenplay was simple ,but that kind of simplicity takes genius and I wish today's stories had this implacable logic.As always in Wyler's works of that era,the ball sequence is a recurring theme (see the admirable scenes of "Wuthering Heights" and "Jezebel" )Thus,the finale scenes revolve around a ball,beginning with Davis's entrance and ending with a view of the dancers from the outside ,à la "Wuthering Heights" .Excellent performances by the whole cast,fabulous directing,particularly in these last pictures ,where Davis is walking through the garden ,under a bad moon rising..You must see "the letter".


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