The Letter Overview:

The Letter (1940) was a Crime - Drama Film directed by William Wyler and produced by William Wyler, Hal B. Wallis and Robert Lord.


Another stellar performance by Davis in a Wyler film after their 1938 success with Jezebel. It's almost possible to see the cold, calculating machinery in Davis's mind as she plays the wife of a Malayan rubber-plantation owner who kills her lover and then claims that he attacked her. Her husband (Marshall) defends her until the victim's wife comes forward with a letter Davis had written to her husband - and a blackmail demand. The Maugham story had been filmed once before in 1929 (and was remade again in 1947 as The Unfaithful with Ann Sheridan, and again for TV) and Davis reportedly based her performance on the star of that silent version, Jeanne Eagels. The unfortunate Eagels was a heroin addict and a brilliant, raw actress; she died soon after her appearance in The Letter.

(Source: available at Amazon AMC Classic Movie Companion).


Academy Awards 1940 --- Ceremony Number 13 (source: AMPAS)

Best Supporting ActorJames StephensonNominated
Best ActressBette DavisNominated
Best CinematographyGaetano (Tony) GaudioNominated
Best DirectorWilliam WylerNominated
Best Film EditingWarren LowNominated
Best Music - ScoringMax SteinerNominated
Best PictureWarner Bros.Nominated

BlogHub Articles:

On Blu-ray: Bette Davis at Her Best in William Wyler's The Letter (1940)

By KC on Nov 7, 2019 From Classic Movies

I’ve always viewed the films that Bette Davis made with director William Wyler as an emotionally charged conversation between actress and filmmaker. There’s something precise about the cinema they made together, as if they are trying to achieve the perfect mix of the authentic and the dr... Read full article

The letter for Lombard I wrote

By carole_and_co on Apr 2, 2019 From Carole & Co.

As you probably know, the campaign for Carole Lombard to get a commemorative U.S. postage stamp -- an honor previously awarded numerous Hollywood legends -- is in full swing. I hope you'll join many others in sending your letter of support to the address above.Towards that end, I sent my letter toda... Read full article

The letter that launched a legend

By carole_and_co on Oct 26, 2018 From Carole & Co.

In 1912, Jane Alice Peters turned four years old and resided in Fort Wayne, Ind. That same year, Myrna Williams turned seven in Helena, Mont.Neither could have known a lengthy letter sent that year would impact their lives...or that of a one-year-old in Kansas City named Harlean Carpenter:That year,... Read full article

How Bette Davis Mesmerizes us in The Letter

By Virginie Pronovost on Mar 27, 2017 From The Wonderful World of Cinema

Bette Davis was one of the most iconic and talented actresses to ever grace the silver screen. She’s remembered for her strong personality, her impressive tact, her unique eyes and, of course, all those classics she starred in such as Jezebel, All About Eve, Now Voyager and many others. Except... Read full article

Bette's Back in The Letter

By Amanda Garrett on Sep 2, 2016 From Old Hollywood Films

Today, I'm reviewing Warner Archive's new re-release of Bette Davis' classic film noir, The Letter (1940). The good folks at Warner Archive are bringing five classic Bette Davis movies back into print. Each Friday in September, I'll have a review of one of these movies, starting today with the cla... Read full article

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Quotes from

Leslie: With all my heart, I still love the man I killed.

Howard Joyce: Strange that a man can live with a woman for ten years and not know the first thing about her.

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

read more quotes from The Letter...

Facts about

Merle Oberon and Walter Huston had starred in a Lux Radio Theatre version two years before.
"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie onMarch 6, 1944 with Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall reprising their film roles.
Previously filmed as an early talkie in 1929 starring Jeanne Eagels, The Letter. Herbert Marshall, who plays the husband in this film, portrayed the lover in that version.
read more facts about The Letter...
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