|The Letter (DVD, 2005) (SEE DESCRIPTION)|
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In "The Letter," (1940) Bette Davis & director William Wyler are collaborating again (they did the Oscar-winning "Jezebel" together in 1938). This movie earned 7 Oscar nominations: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Bette Davis; Best Actor in a Supporting Role, James Stephenson; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Tony Gaudio; Best Director, William Wyler; Best Film Editing, Warren Low; Best Music, Original Score, Max Steiner; Best Picture. The plot is about an adulterous woman who murders her lover, then lies about it. But, there is a letter that could prove the truth.
Davis (Leslie Crosbie) is the wife of rubber plantation administrator, Robert Crosbie (Herbert Marshall). Mrs. Crosbie unloads a pistol shooting one of their friends & her adulterous lover, Geoffrey Hammond (David Newell). Summoning everyone she can to his death scene, Mrs. Crosbie claims it was self-defense because Hammond was trying to rape her. Because her poise, graciousness, and stoicism impress nearly everyone at the scene & during the investigation, it seems as if Mrs. Crosbie is going to get away with murder. her. Her husband is certainly without doubt; so is the district officer; while her lawyer's doubts may be a natural skepticism.
However, the murder happens in Singapore, where the resentful natives do not hesitate to expose the unaccused murderess. Her attorney's legal aid cleverly presents him with a bribe for a love letter in Mrs. Crosbie's handwriting that could prove she's anything but innocent.
Wyler's feeling for the bonds of people within their culture is remarkable for the period of this film. After all, this film was shot during WWII, when Asians of any kind were being oppressed by Americans. Instead of portraying Asian characters as 'primitive', Wyler reveals an early cinematic feeling for ethnic diversity sensitivity, without taking traditions of Singapore out of context. Plus, Mrs. Crosbie murders a white English man who is married to an elegant Singapore woman. That is played down as if cross-cultural marriage is not an issue in the least.
Davis' performances directed by Wyler are always stunning. Wyler has a way of bringing Bette's many character facets out. "The Letter" contains such a complex mix of emotions. Wyler & Davis obviously could bring out the best of emotional artistry in the film cast & crew! That's what made them the greatest filmmaking collaborators.
Bette Davis plays Leslie Crosbie, a woman guilty of murder in this movie. We know this from the beginning because we see her shooting an unseen man, Geoffrey Hammond, over and over (I mean multiple times) when the movie first starts. Since she lives on a rubber plantation in Singapore with her husband, Robert (Herbert Marshall), she is arrested and is subject to the rules of that country. Since she is the wife of a distinguished man and claiming to have been raped, Leslie thinks that she can beat the murder rap because of her position and her cool act. The only incriminating evidence is a letter that she wrote to Hammond in which she professes true love for him and tells him to meet her on the night he was killed. The letter, however, is missing.
Robert, being a naive husband, and Leslie, playing a cool and calm murderess, try to procure the letter when it surfaces in a foreign woman, (played by Gale Sondergaard) who was married to Hammond. I'll leave the rest of the movie's plot for you to visualize. Does Leslie get her just desserts?
This is one of Bette Davis' most famous movies, and she received an Academy Award nomination for it. Also, the movie was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, James Stephenson, who played Leslie's lawyer. Also, the famous William Wyler was nominated for Best Director. The movie also received several other nominations including Best Original Score and Best Cinematography.
If you read Bette Davis' biography "The Little Girl Who Went Home Alone", you will learn that Bette had a special relationship with William Wyler. He was her favorite director--so favorite that she had an affair with him.
Don't miss the beginning of "The Letter," or you will have missed the complete shock of the murder. It is not to be missed! This is Bette's best mean role.
The Letter is a classic film from 1940 and stars perhaps the best actress to ever to grace the silver screen,none other than the legend herself Bette Davis.
This film is based on the classic play by legendary playwright and author W.Somerset Maugham.
Helming the direction was the legendary award winning director William Wyler and it was the second teaming of both he and Miss Davis.
Their first collaboration yielded the oscar winning classic Jezebel from 1938 for which Ms Davis won her second academy award for best actress.
In many ways the letter is a far superior film and it also has one of the most vivid film scores to date by oscar winning composer Max Steiner.
The Letter had much praise heaped upon it including academy award nominations for best actress(Bette Davis),best direction(William Wyler) and best music score(Max Steiner).
The film tells the story of Leslie Crosbie-played by Ms Davis,who is a wife of a rubber plantation owner in Singapore,who shoots a man to death and claims it was self defense.
Her devoted husband is without doubt and so is the district attorney,while her lawyer's doubts may be a natural skepticism.
But this is Singapore and the resentful natives will have no compunction in undermining this accused murderess.
A letter in her hand turns up,and it may prove to be her final undoing........
The film was produced and made by the legendary film studio of Warner Brothers and it was a huge success upon it's release.
Since 1940 there have been many further adaptations ,but this is without doubt the finest version of them all.
The film just goes to show how much of an impact films from the golden age of hollywood had then and still have now.
This film richly deserves it's five star rating and it is a perfect and flawless classic in every way.
Actors like Bette Davis only come once in a lifetime and in "The Letter" she proves this point strongly. The story begins with one of the greatest opening scenes in cinematic history and it only gets better throughout the film. To say William Wyler is a superb director is an understatement and his brilliant directorial skills can be seen in this movie. A true cclassic. Highly recommend it!
I just love the old classics!!! What do I want for Christmas?? You can never have enough Bette Davis movies!! The size always fits perfectly, good color, matches everything else on the shelf the price is right and add some snacks and you are good to go!