The Letter (1940)

Not Rated   |    |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir


The Letter (1940) Poster

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.


7.6/10
11,551


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  • James Stephenson in The Letter (1940)
  • Bette Davis in The Letter (1940)
  • Bette Davis in The Letter (1940)
  • James Stephenson in The Letter (1940)
  • Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall in The Letter (1940)
  • Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall in The Letter (1940)

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29 November 2004 | dbdumonteil
9
| Full moon fever.
Among the three Wyler-Davis' collaborations (the others being "little foxes" and "Jezebel" ) "the letter " is their triumph.The repugnance that most of the French critics feel for the great Wyler is one of their major flaws (coming from "les cahiers du cinema " and the stupidity of the nouvelle vague ravings).

"The letter" is a splendor.A screenplay so simple and so effective it's a wonder it grabs us till the last pictures.A first sequence to rival the best of Hitchcock.A feverish sticky deadly atmosphere from the mysterious garden where a malefic full moon shines on Davis' inscrutable face to the seedy place in the Chinese quarter where they smoke opium and where Gale Sondergaard spins a web :in this memorable scene when she forces Davis to kneel down,she almost surpasses the star,which will seem an impossible task to some,and yet..Every time Sondergaard appears on the screen ,she's absolutely terrifying.I was saying that the screenplay was simple ,but that kind of simplicity takes genius and I wish today's stories had this implacable logic.As always in Wyler's works of that era,the ball sequence is a recurring theme (see the admirable scenes of "Wuthering Heights" and "Jezebel" )Thus,the finale scenes revolve around a ball,beginning with Davis's entrance and ending with a view of the dancers from the outside ,à la "Wuthering Heights" .Excellent performances by the whole cast,fabulous directing,particularly in these last pictures ,where Davis is walking through the garden ,under a bad moon rising..You must see "the letter".

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