The Letter

( 3 )

Overview

William Wyler's dark and poisonous melodrama, based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel, features Bette Davis in one of her nastiest roles. The story begins in the shimmering moonlight on a tropical Malayan rubber plantation. Shots ring out and a wounded man, Geoffrey Hammond David Newell staggers from a bungalow as Leslie Crosbie Bette Davis coldly follows him, pumping the remaining bullets into his body. She later tells her husband Robert Herbert Marshall that she shot Geoffrey, a mutual friend, because he was ...
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Overview

William Wyler's dark and poisonous melodrama, based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel, features Bette Davis in one of her nastiest roles. The story begins in the shimmering moonlight on a tropical Malayan rubber plantation. Shots ring out and a wounded man, Geoffrey Hammond David Newell staggers from a bungalow as Leslie Crosbie Bette Davis coldly follows him, pumping the remaining bullets into his body. She later tells her husband Robert Herbert Marshall that she shot Geoffrey, a mutual friend, because he was drunk and tried to take advantage of her. Robert, who owns the plantation, believes her story and hires high-powered lawyer Howard Joyce James Stephenson to defend her. But then a letter surfaces in which it is revealed that Leslie had invited Geoffrey to the plantation on the night of his murder. When Howard confronts her with the letter, Leslie admits writing it and implies that she and Geoffrey were lovers. Howard, nevertheless, agrees to continue defending her; he explains to Leslie, "I won't tell you what I personally thought when I read the letter. It's the duty of counsel to defend his client, not to convict her even in his own mind. I don't want you to tell me anything but what is needed to save your neck." Meanwhile, the letter becomes the object of a $10,000 blackmail scheme from Geoffrey's widow Gale Sondergaard.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
The Letter combines William Wyler's smooth direction and a fine performance from Bette Davis into one of the screen's best melodramas. The film is distinguished by its lush production values, including Tony Gaudio's cinematography and costume gowns by Orry-Kelly, but mostly it is Davis who carries the film. She is ably assisted by her co-stars, particularly Herbert Marshall as her husband and James Stephenson as her lawyer. W. Somerset Maugham's source novel provides a strong framework, which had been filmed before in 1929, with Marshall as the murdered lover. Although the Wyler version scored an impressive seven Oscar nominations, it went home empty-handed.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/1/1998
  • UPC: 027616131539
  • Original Release: 1940
  • Rating:

  • Source: Mgm (Warner)
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Bette Davis Leslie Crosbie
Herbert Marshall Robert Crosbie
James Stephenson Howard Joyce
Frieda Inescort Dorothy Joyce
Gale Sondergaard Mrs. Hammond
Elizabeth Earl Adele Ainsworth
Cecil Kellaway Prescott
Doris Lloyd Mrs. Cooper
Willie Fung Chung Hi
Tetsu Komai Head Boy
Roland Got
Holmes Herbert Bob's Friend
Charles Irwin Bob's Friend
Lillian Kemble-Cooper
Bruce Lister John Withers
Leonard Mudie Fred
Ottola Nesmith
David Newell Geoffrey Hammond
John Ridgely Driver
Douglas Walton Well-Wisher
Victor Sen Yung Ong Chi Seng
Technical Credits
William Wyler Director
George J. Amy Editor
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Tony Gaudio Cinematographer
Howard Koch Screenwriter
Robert Lord Producer
Warren Low Editor
W. Somerset Maugham Source Author
Orry-Kelly Costumes/Costume Designer
Max Steiner Score Composer
Dolph Thomas Sound/Sound Designer
Hal B. Wallis Executive Producer
Jack L. Warner Executive Producer
Perc Westmore Makeup
Carl Jules Weyl Art Director
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    What Really Happened?

    You should enjoy this movie with Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall. You may have heard the statement, "Bette Davis eyes," well in this movie those eyes will hold your attention. During this drama Bette Davis portrays a woman that kills a man, and claims self-defense when telling her lawyer as well as her husband about the incident. Is her self-defense claim an illusion? Watch the tale unfold and you determine the truth.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    William Wyler's The Letter

    This is a powerful and affecting drama based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham. The film begins with a slow pan to the veranda of a bungalow that leads suddenly to a dramatic murder. Bette Davis is seen firing several shots and killing a man. The story then continues with a brief police investigation and to a trial. The movie is beautifully photographed, has an excellent music score, and features fine performances by Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson and Gale Sondergaard. I cannot recommend it too highly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews