The Letter (1940)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

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 … More

Rating: PG
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: W. Somerset Maugham, Howard Koch
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 11, 2005
MGM Home Entertainment


as Leslie Crosbie

as Robert Crosbie

as Howard Joyce

as Dorothy Joyce

as Mrs. Hammond

as Prescott

as Ong Chi Seng

as John Withers

as Adele Ainsworth

as Adele Ainsworth

as Mrs. Cooper

as Chung Hi

as Head Boy

as Driver

as Bob's Friend

as John Withers

as Bob's Friend

as Well-Wisher

as Geoffrey Hammond

as Bartender at Party
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Letter

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Critic Reviews for The Letter

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (2)

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 28, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Prime Bette Davis featuring a memorable shooting in the opening.

March 14, 2009

The second and best version of Maugham's noirish tale of adultery and murder is emarked by Wyler's nunaced mis-en-scene, Gaudio's lensing, and superlative acting of Bette Davis (surprisingly restrained), Herbert Marshall and especially James Stephenson.

Full Review… | January 8, 2008

even a bad Davis movie where she's hamming and mugging and even humiliating herself is more fun than practically no Bette at all.

Full Review… | June 13, 2005
Slant Magazine

If there is any doubt that Bette Davis is the star of this film, high above all others, it is vanquished by William Wyler's careful framing of her in every shot.

Full Review… | January 14, 2005
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Audience Reviews for The Letter


A slightly predictable story of blackmail and murder involving Bette Davis. Pretty good movie, but it could be more exciting.

Aj V

Super Reviewer


What a powerful performance by Miss Davis in a very unflattering role. All the elements are present for a great motion picture (casting, direction & screenplay) and The Letter delivers in spades

Of note is the presence of Gale Sondergaard as the silent but ominous Malaysian widow who speaks volumes without ever uttering a word. Yes, this is the same Gale Sondergaard who was originally cast as the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz before (thankfully) turning the role over to the talents of Margaret Hamilton. Sondergaard's appearance might seem stereotypical and offensive today, but there's no denying her screen presence. Simply brilliant.

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

maybe the best of ms. davis' many fine performances. and one of the best opening scenes ever.

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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