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The Letter (22-Nov-1940)

Director: William Wyler

Writer: Howard Koch

From a play: The Letter by W. Somerset Maugham

Music by: Max Steiner

Producer: William Wyler

Keywords: Drama, Film Noir

Leslie Crosbie, wife of a plantation overseer in colonial Malaysia, shoots her lover to death in cold blood and makes a case for self-defense. She is believed but the contents of a letter she had written to the victim luring him to the scene may prove her undoing. Received 7 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score.

[watch trailer]

NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Bette Davis
5-Apr-1908 6-Oct-1989 All About Eve
Frieda Inescort
29-Jun-1901 26-Feb-1976 A Place in the Sun
Cecil Kellaway
22-Aug-1893 28-Feb-1973 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Doris Lloyd
3-Jul-1896 21-May-1968 British-American character actress
Herbert Marshall
23-May-1890 22-Jan-1966 Foreign Correspondent
Gale Sondergaard
15-Feb-1899 14-Aug-1985 Anthony Adverse
Victor Sen Yung
18-Oct-1915 9-Nov-1980 Hop Sing on Bonanza


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 Earl   ...   Adele Ainsworth
Cecil Kellaway   ...   Prescott
Victor Sen Yung   ...   Ong Chi Seng
Willie Fung   ...   Chung Hi
Tetsu Komai   ...   Head Boy
Doris Lloyd   ...   Mrs. Cooper


Review by Edward S. Cooney (posted on 13-Apr-2009)

An outstanding black and white film made during a time when the world was already plunging headlong into world war and excellent movies were one of the few escapes from the reality of the horrors of the time. Ms. Davis and the entire cast, all long since deceased, left us with a reminder that films can be intense and realistically portray a great story which can be very entertaining even though it contains hints of adulterous conduct as well as murders but omits the raw sex and graphic blood letting so common in films of 2009. The Letter ranks among one of the best of all time and was produced in an era when audience imaginations were part of film enjoyment. The Letter is a film that really sells itself and stands on its own as a great work in all respects and the proof is that the film is still being shown 69 years after it was released.

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