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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.

Director:

William Wyler

Writers:

W. Somerset Maugham (play), Howard Koch (screen play)
Reviews
Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Bette Davis ... Leslie Crosbie
Herbert Marshall ... Robert Crosbie
James Stephenson ... Howard Joyce
Frieda Inescort ... Dorothy Joyce
Gale Sondergaard ... Mrs. Hammond
Bruce Lester ... John Withers
Elizabeth Inglis Elizabeth Inglis ... Adele Ainsworth (as Elizabeth Earl)
Cecil Kellaway ... Prescott
Victor Sen Yung ... Ong Chi Seng (as Sen Yung)
Doris Lloyd ... Mrs. Cooper
Willie Fung ... Chung Hi
Tetsu Komai 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:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 November 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Das Geheimnis von Malampur See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Bette Davis walked off the set once in a fight with William Wyler over the film's climactic scene in which Leslie says to her husband, "With all my heart I still love the man I killed." It was a crucial line, and the way it was delivered was of utmost importance to the drama. Wyler believed that Davis should look her husband's character in the eye as she delivered the devastating blow. Davis, however, disagreed. She recalled in her 1962 memoir The Lonely Life, ""It was such a cruel thing to say to the husband, I felt I could not say it to his face. I couldn't conceive of any woman looking into her husband's eyes and admitting such a thing. I felt it would come out of her unbeknownst to herself, and therefore she would not be looking at him. Willie disagreed with me - most definitely. I walked off the set! Something I had never done in my whole career...I could not see it his way, nor he mine. I came back eventually - end result, I did it his way. It played validly, heaven knows, but to this day I think my way was the right way. I lost, but I lost to an artist." See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Robert Crosbie: If you love a person, you can forgive anything.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also shown in computer colorized version. See more »

Connections

Edited into Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Chalk up another winner for the great Bette Davis
4 June 2006 | by garrardSee 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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