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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:

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 »

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

After shooting was completed, William Wyler watched a rough cut and decided that he wanted the character of Leslie to be more sympathetic. He ordered some re-writes and planned to shoot them. Bette Davis recalled - "I was heartbroken," she said, "as I felt, after reading the rewrites, that my performance could be ruined with these additions. I asked Willie if I could see the film before doing the retakes. To my horror I was crying at myself at the end of the showing. There was dead silence in the projection room when the lights came up. I said, 'If we film these retakes, we will lose the intelligent audience. It is impossible to please everyone with any one film. If we try to accomplish this, we can lose all audiences.' Plus, to my shame, even though I played the part, I deeply sympathized with Leslie Crosbie. We only made one small addition to the original film. Wyler had agreed with me. Thank God!" 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

Howard Joyce: Strange that a man can live with a woman for ten years and not know the first thing about her.
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Connections

Featured in Here's Looking at You, Warner Bros. (1991) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Exquisite!!!!
21 May 2007 | by RaiderJackSee all my reviews

From the opening sequence where we see Bette emptying her gun on this poor unsuspecting soul, you become riveted watching one of Ms. Davis' all-time flawless performances.

In a nutshell, this tells the story of what happens when first we practice to deceive. Bette claims she was attacked by a friend she has seen only casually until she was forced to "defend" herself against his unwanted advances. Initially, it looks like a slam dunk but when the case is taken to trial, more and more, Bette's lies get the best of her.

Not a sympathetic character for the most part. There is one chilling scene where she, totally exasperated with having to remember so many lies, makes a confession to her husband. It is a fascinating scene for while you recoil at her seemingly selfish attitude, there is this underlying, reluctant admiration you feel for this woman's brutal honesty.

Excellent supporting cast all around, most notably, Herbert Marshall as the poor unsuspecting (it appears many men fall under this category when dealing with the Divine Ms. Davis!)husband whose main goal is to support his wife. Now whether she deserves this loyalty is another ugly story.

Excellent mystery with certainly enough twists and turns to keep you totally engrossed in a very good story.

*Just watched it again last night (10/8/2006) - I'm tellin' ya guys - after 900 viewings, the movie still rocks!!!!


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