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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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Popularity
2,967 ( 13,545)
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:

18 | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 May 1947 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

De brief 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

Director Wyler and star Davis had had an affair which ended well before this, their third project together. (He was married to Margaret "Talli" Tallichet two years before shooting.) Davis discovered herself pregnant during the first week of filming and, unsure of the father, kept it a secret and arranged for an abortion, her third, a week later. She later told friends, "I should have married Willy." See more »

Goofs

The motor vehicles throughout are all left-hand drive. In Singapore traffic drives on the left and all vehicles there are right-hand drive. See more »

Quotes

Howard Joyce: Be flippant about your own crimes if you want to, but don't be flippant about mine!
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also shown in computer colorized version. See more »

Connections

Featured in Precious Images (1986) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Awesome Performance of Bette Davis
14 October 2005 | by claudio_carvalhoSee all my reviews

In Singapore, Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis), the wife of the administrator of a plantation field of a rubber company, shoots six times in Geoffrey Hammond.and pleads self-defense to her husband Robert Crosbie (Herbert Marshall) and her lawyer and friend of the family Howard Joyce (James Stephenson). The case seems to be easy and simple, but a letter written by Leslie to Geoffrey and in the hand of the Hammond's widow may sentence Leslie to death by hanging. When the widow decides to sell the letter for US$ 10,000.00, Howard faces a dilemma between his friendship and his career.

"The Letter" is a great film-noir, nominated for seven Oscars, and with awesome performance of Bette Davis in the role of an evil and cold-blooded woman. The story and the characters are very well developed in an increasing tension. The direction of William Wyler is precise as usual, and uses long and low paced shootings along the scenario, giving a perfect view to the viewers. The use of shadows in the black& white cinematography is also amazing. I am not sure about the meaning of the full moon, but maybe it discloses the real feelings of Leslie, covered by the "clouds" most of the time while living with Robert. Anyway, the full moon has an important symbolic meaning in the film. James Stephenson, in the role of a honest lawyer living a dilemma between saving the life of his client and friend, or staining his career, and Herbert Marshall, performing a naive cuckold in love with his unfaithful wife, have also magnificent performances. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "A Carta" ("The Letter")


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