The Letter Reviews

  • Jul 22, 2020

    Davis is great but it was hard to care what happened to her.

    Davis is great but it was hard to care what happened to her.

  • Mar 16, 2020

    1940. NOIR. saw on tv, 1st time, March 2020. Great. star YOUNG BETTY DAVIS. I've never seen her more beautiful, literally. In fact, I've never seen her good looking, until this.

    1940. NOIR. saw on tv, 1st time, March 2020. Great. star YOUNG BETTY DAVIS. I've never seen her more beautiful, literally. In fact, I've never seen her good looking, until this.

  • Feb 23, 2020

    Greatly overrated movie which is frankly a waste of a talent as great as Bette Davis. Her character is despicable. Didn't like this one bit. Held interest though, some nice cinematography. Some suspense. But that's about it. NOT a good film IMO. Highly overrated.

    Greatly overrated movie which is frankly a waste of a talent as great as Bette Davis. Her character is despicable. Didn't like this one bit. Held interest though, some nice cinematography. Some suspense. But that's about it. NOT a good film IMO. Highly overrated.

  • Sep 20, 2019

    Bette Davis is inarguably one of the greatest actresses of all time and this film, which is essentially a glorified acting showcase, allows her to display the full range of her talents. Much like the superior The Heiress (1949) this film gives it's lead actress the opportunity to play a layered, sometimes villainous character who we root for at times but slowly find ourselves disillusioned with. The film itself is not as successful of a film noir as My Cousin Rachel (1952) or Mildred Pierce (1945) as the plot seems incidental and we never really drawn into the mystery but nevertheless Davis alone is enough reason to watch a film. Another selling point of the film was that it was one of the early films of William Wyler who went from strength to strength after breaking out with Dodsworth (1936) and it is easy to see why he took off in the late 1940s. In British Malaya, the seemingly innocent Briton Leslie Crosbie, Bette Davis, coldly murders respected local rubber plantation owner Geoff Hammond on her own large plantation. Her defense is that he attempted to rape her and she shot him in self defense. This is a story that her devoted husband, Robert, Herbert Marshall, believes without reservation but the lawyer hired to represent her, Howard Joyce, James Stephenson, does not trust her. His suspicions are confirmed when he receives a letter from Ong Chi Seng, Sen Yung, that reveals Crosbie had requested that Hammond come to the plantation. After being let off without being charged she eventually admits that she was entangled in a long romantic affair with him that ended when he became involved with the oriental Mrs. Hammond, Gale Sondergaard, causing her to shoot him in a fit of rage. She does receive her comeuppance in the end however. Davis employs her eyes to great effect here, when does she not, as she appears at first triumphant, then shifty and finally devastated in the last moments we see here as she has come to terms with what she has done. In many ways she reminded me of Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988), playing a woman who enjoys manipulating those around her but ends up losing the only person she truly cares about due to her pride. Davis is equally as devastating as Close in her final scene as she is at first shocked and then resigned to her fate. Davis has always been adept at playing characters who have lived hard lives and are prepared to do whatever it takes to get out of a difficult decision. She is rougher and nastier than Joan Fontaine and Paulette Goddard and we can't take our eyes off her. Sadly the rest of the film does not rise to meet her as it doesn't feature the dark satire of All About Eve (1950) or the campy theatrics that made What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) such an experience. The mystery of the film is never particularly alluring as we can be almost certain from the opening shot that Davis is a jilted lover and she will deceive those around her. This is partly because Davis produced so many films of this sort at this time but because the mystery was not very complex and therefore we are left unmoved at revelations that the film expects us to be shocked by. In Mildred Pierce we are aware of the fact that Veda, Ann Blyth, has murdered a man and her mother is determined to protect but we don't know why they have such a close relationship and we don't see what would drive this young girl to murder a man she had married of her own volition. That film unfolds slowly and we get an idea of the simmering tensions between various characters and when they erupt it is rather thrilling. Here, we know that we are dealing with an anti-hero of sorts and while Davis is always watchable the story prevents us from really investing in this story and these characters. This was not one of the best films of 1940 as it doesn't hold a candle to The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and The Philadelphia Story (1940) but it's a testament to Davis' abilities that she makes this film worth watching.

    Bette Davis is inarguably one of the greatest actresses of all time and this film, which is essentially a glorified acting showcase, allows her to display the full range of her talents. Much like the superior The Heiress (1949) this film gives it's lead actress the opportunity to play a layered, sometimes villainous character who we root for at times but slowly find ourselves disillusioned with. The film itself is not as successful of a film noir as My Cousin Rachel (1952) or Mildred Pierce (1945) as the plot seems incidental and we never really drawn into the mystery but nevertheless Davis alone is enough reason to watch a film. Another selling point of the film was that it was one of the early films of William Wyler who went from strength to strength after breaking out with Dodsworth (1936) and it is easy to see why he took off in the late 1940s. In British Malaya, the seemingly innocent Briton Leslie Crosbie, Bette Davis, coldly murders respected local rubber plantation owner Geoff Hammond on her own large plantation. Her defense is that he attempted to rape her and she shot him in self defense. This is a story that her devoted husband, Robert, Herbert Marshall, believes without reservation but the lawyer hired to represent her, Howard Joyce, James Stephenson, does not trust her. His suspicions are confirmed when he receives a letter from Ong Chi Seng, Sen Yung, that reveals Crosbie had requested that Hammond come to the plantation. After being let off without being charged she eventually admits that she was entangled in a long romantic affair with him that ended when he became involved with the oriental Mrs. Hammond, Gale Sondergaard, causing her to shoot him in a fit of rage. She does receive her comeuppance in the end however. Davis employs her eyes to great effect here, when does she not, as she appears at first triumphant, then shifty and finally devastated in the last moments we see here as she has come to terms with what she has done. In many ways she reminded me of Glenn Close in Dangerous Liaisons (1988), playing a woman who enjoys manipulating those around her but ends up losing the only person she truly cares about due to her pride. Davis is equally as devastating as Close in her final scene as she is at first shocked and then resigned to her fate. Davis has always been adept at playing characters who have lived hard lives and are prepared to do whatever it takes to get out of a difficult decision. She is rougher and nastier than Joan Fontaine and Paulette Goddard and we can't take our eyes off her. Sadly the rest of the film does not rise to meet her as it doesn't feature the dark satire of All About Eve (1950) or the campy theatrics that made What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) such an experience. The mystery of the film is never particularly alluring as we can be almost certain from the opening shot that Davis is a jilted lover and she will deceive those around her. This is partly because Davis produced so many films of this sort at this time but because the mystery was not very complex and therefore we are left unmoved at revelations that the film expects us to be shocked by. In Mildred Pierce we are aware of the fact that Veda, Ann Blyth, has murdered a man and her mother is determined to protect but we don't know why they have such a close relationship and we don't see what would drive this young girl to murder a man she had married of her own volition. That film unfolds slowly and we get an idea of the simmering tensions between various characters and when they erupt it is rather thrilling. Here, we know that we are dealing with an anti-hero of sorts and while Davis is always watchable the story prevents us from really investing in this story and these characters. This was not one of the best films of 1940 as it doesn't hold a candle to The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and The Philadelphia Story (1940) but it's a testament to Davis' abilities that she makes this film worth watching.

  • Aug 24, 2019

    One of the best. Clear simple plot that moves along at a good pace. Great actors that do a great job. Wyler's direction is superb. A must see.

    One of the best. Clear simple plot that moves along at a good pace. Great actors that do a great job. Wyler's direction is superb. A must see.

  • Feb 05, 2019

    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. Prime Bette Davis featuring a memorable shooting in the opening. The Letter (1940) is a classic melodramatic film noir of murder and deceit, directed by William Wyler. The screenplay by Howard Koch . First-class cinema.

    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. Prime Bette Davis featuring a memorable shooting in the opening. The Letter (1940) is a classic melodramatic film noir of murder and deceit, directed by William Wyler. The screenplay by Howard Koch . First-class cinema.

  • Feb 01, 2019

    The best movie character ever portrayed: Bette Davis as Leslie Crosbie!

    The best movie character ever portrayed: Bette Davis as Leslie Crosbie!

  • Jan 19, 2018

    Sweaty melodrama from a Somerset Maugham story full of sex, that you never see on the screen. Films like it were once mainstream now they just don't get made.

    Sweaty melodrama from a Somerset Maugham story full of sex, that you never see on the screen. Films like it were once mainstream now they just don't get made.

  • May 19, 2016

    The Letter is such a good, if not great noir flick. The story is so authentic and intriguing, albeit too confusing and unexplained at times. The characters are phenomenal, albeit the protagonist is problematic. The cinematography is just gorgeous, the score is absolutely fantastic, the acting is really strong and its pacing is great as well. It is in the end a flawed, but respectable film that benefits from such a strong mysterious quality to it.

    The Letter is such a good, if not great noir flick. The story is so authentic and intriguing, albeit too confusing and unexplained at times. The characters are phenomenal, albeit the protagonist is problematic. The cinematography is just gorgeous, the score is absolutely fantastic, the acting is really strong and its pacing is great as well. It is in the end a flawed, but respectable film that benefits from such a strong mysterious quality to it.

  • Apr 16, 2016

    I'm trying to watch all things Bette Davis, so this was another film to check off the list. Davis, usually so brilliantly over-the-top, is very subtle here and plays a character who murders someone with a deep lack of conscience and remorse without effort. One of her great performances and the film itself is good, too.

    I'm trying to watch all things Bette Davis, so this was another film to check off the list. Davis, usually so brilliantly over-the-top, is very subtle here and plays a character who murders someone with a deep lack of conscience and remorse without effort. One of her great performances and the film itself is good, too.