- Recently Discovered Alternate Ending Sequence
- 2 Audio-Only Bonuses: 4/21/41 "Lux Radio Theatre" Adaptation Starring Davis, Marshall and Stephenson and 3/6/44 "Lux Radio Theatre" Adaptation Starring Davis and Marshall
- Theatrical Trailer
- Subtitles in English, French and Spanish
- Rated: Not Rated
- Closed captioning available
- Run Time: 1 hours, 35 minutes
- Video: Black & White
- Released: January 11, 2005
- Originally Released: 1940
- Label: Warner Home Video
- Encoding: Region 1 (USA & Canada)
- Packaging: Keep Case
- Single Side - Dual Layer
- Aspect Ratio: Full Frame - 1.33
- Dolby Digital Mono - English
- Subtitles - English, French, Spanish - Optional
- Additional Release Material:
- Audio - Audio-Only Bonuses:
Alternate Ending: Recently Discovered Alternate Ending
Trailers: Theatrical Trailer
- LUX RADIO THEATER (4/21/1941) - Starring Bette Davis , Herbert Marshall & James Stephenson
- LUX RADIO THEATER (3/6/1944) - Starring Bette Davis & Herbert Marshall
Performers, Cast and Crew:
Premiere - 02/01/2005
"Davis is at her calculating best in this adaptation..."
Entertainment Weekly - 01/14/2005
"Davis unsurprisingly mesmerizes as a duplicitous murderess..."
Los Angeles Times - 01/09/2005
"Beautifully and sensuously directed by William Wyler..."
Wall Street Journal - 02/05/2010
"[With] one of Davis's best roles....William Wyler directed from a script that Howard Koch adapted from a Somerset Maugham play."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Six years after exploding to stardom in Of Human Bondage, Bette Davis equaled that excitement with another W. Somerset Maugham role as an adulteress using her sexual wiles to escape a murder conviction in The Letter. The film throbs with sultry tension thanks to Davis, an impeccable supporting cast, atmospheric cinematography and the artistry of three-time Academy Award winner William Wyler, Davis' director on Jezebel and The Little Foxes. Nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Actress, Director and Supporting Actor, The Letter remains one of Hollywood's most special deliveries, a peerless example of melodrama as movie art.
It's nighttime in Malaysia. A full moon is shining. The camera glides along, from left to right, along the exterior of a plantation, past sleeping workers. In the background there is a white house. Suddenly a shot breaks the silence. A bird takes flight. Startled, a dog twists around. A man stumbles onto the veranda, followed by a woman. She holds a gun and keeps firing till she has no more bullets and the body is still. She shuts herself in her room and sends for her husband and the authorities. Why has Leslie Crosbie shot Geoffrey Hammond'
Description by Warner Home Video:
Six years after exploding to stardom in Of Human Bondage, Bette Davis equalled that excitement with another W. Somerset Maugham role as an adulteress using her sexual wiles to escape a murder conviction in The Letter. The film throbs with sultry tension thanks to Davis, an impeccable supporting cast, atmospheric cinematography and the artistry of three-time Academy AwardO winner* William Wyler, Davis' director on Jezebel and The Little Foxes. Nominated for seven OscarsO** including Best Picture, Actress, Director and Supporting Actor (James Stephenson, superb as the anguished defense attorney), The Letter remains one of Hollywood's most special deliveries, a peerless example of melodrama as movie art.
William Wyler created the powerful opening for THE LETTER from the few words he says were in the script: "You hear a gunshot and you see a woman coming out shooting a man." Leslie's husband, Robert (Herbert Marshall), is stunned at the shooting; colonial official John Withers (Bruce Lester) is overwhelmed, out of his depth; and the Crosbie's lawyer, Howard Joyce (James Stephenson), is thoughtful. Leslie says Hammond tried to rape her. They all seem to accept her explanation. So she is surprised when a trial is necessary. It seems a letter has been found, by Hammond's Eurasian widow (Gale Sondergaard)--a letter that Leslie wrote to Hammond on the day of the shooting; a letter, Leslie lets Howard know, it would be a good idea to obtain--no matter the cost.
THE LETTER is one of William Wyler's best movies. Based on W. Somerset Maugham's play, it is taught and exciting. Wyler and master photographer Gregg Toland use tense compositions with the protagonists pressed together, facing the same way, and receding diagonally across the frame. Bette Davis is compelling and James Stephenson in his first major role is riveting.
Essential Cinema |
- THE LETTER premiered at the Strand in New York on November 22, 1940.
- Herbert Marshall, who played Robert Crosbie for Wyler in THE LETTER, also appeared in the first film version of Somerset Maugham's play. In the 1929 version, which features a remarkable performance by Jeanne Eagles as Leslie and which was directed by Jean de Limur, Marshall had the short-lived role of Geoffrey Hammond.
- Before THE LETTER, James Stephenson was a little-known English actor who had played mostly minor parts in minor movies. After his fine performance as Howard Joyce, much was expected of him--and he was oustanding in Irving Rapper's SHINING VICTORY--but unfortunately he died of a heart attack in the summer of 1941.
- The stort was remade in 1947 as THE UNFAITHFUL with Ann Sheridan and Lew Ayres. In 1982 the story was loosely adapted for a British TV movie, EAST OF ELEPHANT ROCK, starring Lee Remick and Ronald Pickup.
- The original ending had to be changed to comply with Hollywood's censorship regulations, which stipulated that a murder could not go unpunished. The character of the mistress was also changed to the wife.
- Sen Yung, who in THE LETTER plays Ong Chi Seng, Howard Joyce's assistant, was often credited as Victor Sen Yung.
- "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed!"--Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) to her husband, Robert Crosbie (Herbert Marshall)