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The Letter (1940)

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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:

I wish I could say I was sorry. 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

According to Bette Davis, actor James Stephenson would often get into fights with William Wyler during filming and walk off the set out of frustration from time to time. She recalled - "Every time Jimmy would leave, I would run after him and make him come back, saying, 'It will be worth it, Jimmy - don't go. You will give the great performance of your career under Wyler's direction.'" Each time Stephenson would return to work and shooting would resume. 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: 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 »

Connections

Featured in O Espectador que o Cinema Esqueceu (1991) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Shadows and subterfuge...Lace and mystery
5 April 2007 | by MarieGabrielleSee all my reviews

the allegories here are effective and striking. Bette Davis is at her best, married in a passionless marriage, involved with a Malaysian. I do not think her character was simply "evil". There are many gray areas to the film. This theme goes along with the story, in keeping with a passionate affair, and subsequent murder.

Vicor Sen Yong and Gale Sondergaard hold the key to the mystery. "The Letter" must be retrieved. When Davis' husband, James Stephenson finds out about the affair, he is at first hopeful they can still move on, buy a large plantation in Sumatra.

The atmosphere is moody and classic. Mystery in the Chinese quarter; Chung Hi has something to sell everyone. At one point Davis picks up a set of elaborately carved ivory knives. Describing her love affair, Davis mentions, ..."even my agony was a kind of joy"... .

This film is proof that creativity and artistry can be submitted on film without obvious and blatant performances.I miss the subtlety and passion conveyed in these noir films.

Yes this is melodrama, in the best sense of the word. Would we ever see something this mood-inspired and effective today?. I highly doubt it. It is very telling that this type of film would be very hard to create today- and I cannot think of one actress who could ever convey the meaning and mood as Ms. Bette Davis. Perhaps that is modern society's loss. 10/10.


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