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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 (by), 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:

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

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

When Leslie enters her bedroom for the last time, she locks the door behind her. Later, the door is unlocked when Robert enters. 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 »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Full moon fever.
29 November 2004 | by dbdumonteilSee 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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