100 user 47 critic

The Letter (1940)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 23 November 1940 (USA)
2:18 | Trailer

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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.



(by), (screen play)
3,048 ( 12,120)
Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
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


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


I wish I could say I was sorry. See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

23 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La carta  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Bette Davis called the film "A magnificent picture", largely due to 'William Wyler's direction. She considered the opening scene to be one the finest she'd seen. See more »


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 »


Leslie: With all my heart, I still love the man I killed.
See more »


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

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Chalk up another winner for the great Bette Davis
4 June 2006 | by (Camilla, GA) – See all my reviews

In a career that spanned almost six decades, it would be hard pressed to cite one definitive Davis performance. There are so many, and with the number of Davis fans worldwide, it would be redundant to list them here.

However, Davis's performance as adulterer/"devoted" wife "Leslie Crosbie" has to rank as one of her finest. Davis does more in the short span of ninety-five minutes (the film's running time) than an actor of lesser skill could do in an entire career. Her "Leslie" is delicate, yet demanding, appealing yet repulsive, and submissive yet authoritative. The character dominates every inch of the screen and the actress makes full use of those trademark "eyes" of which Kim Carnes sang.

The supporting cast is equally as brilliant, with Herbert Marshall outstanding as her loving (but dim-witted) husband, James Stephenson, suave and determined, as Davis's lawyer, Victor Sen Yung (later to achieve fame as "Hop Sing" on TV's "Bonanza"), and Gale Sondergaard, magnificent in the speechless yet captivating role of "Mrs. Hammond."

And praise of this film is not complete without mention of its score. Max Steiner contributed one of film's greatest musical accompaniments. So powerful is this work that Laurence Rosenthal adapted themes in his score to the television version, starring the late Lee Remick.

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