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The Letter (1940)

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

Fascinating Tantalizing and DANGEROUS! 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 »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$16,455
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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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

Jack L. Warner originally asked William Wyler to test James Stephenson for the role of the lawyer. Wyler was surprised at how suited Stephenson was for the part and then was astonished when Warner balked at casting him, worrying about the stock player's lack of name recognition. Wyler insisted on keeping him, putting him in the odd position of having to fight to cast an actor that Warner had originally suggested. 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: 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.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also shown in computer colorized version. See more »

Connections

Version of The Letter (1929) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A price to pay as Fate steps in
1 September 2001 | by lora64See all my reviews

I can't help comparing "Witness for the Prosecution (1957)" with this one "The Letter," as they represent a good study in contrast. The former I recall has many bouts of loud dialogue, in particular the courtroom scenes of constant shouting which reach fever pitch at times. Whereas in this "Letter" movie the atmosphere is ever so subtle, very subdued dialogue, and far more impressive because of it. I rather liken it to a warrior noisily clashing by day on the battlefield contrasted by another kind of warfare, that of stealth night fighting in shadows and lit only by moonlight. Both these movies deal with the guilt or innocence of the main character.

Bette Davis gives one of her great portrayals, and Herbert Marshall as the sympathetic husband is well suited to the role, with that wonderful voice of his too, what more could one ask! I don't really know James Stephenson in many roles but here he makes us feel how difficult the situation was for him to deal with -- truly a razor's edge for each and every one of the characters involved. I've seen this movie many times and it just gets better at each viewing, always most intriguing.


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