The Letter combines William Wyler’s smooth direction and a fine performance from Bettie Davis into one of the screen’s best melodramas. The film is distinguished by its lush production values, including Tony Gaudio’s cinematography and costume gowns by Orry-Kelly, but mostly it is Davis who carries the film. She is ably assisted by her co-stars, particularly Herbert Marshall as her husband and James Stepenson as her lawyer. W. Somerset Maugham’s source novel provides a strong framework, which had been filmed before in 1929, with Marshall as the murdered lover. Although the Wyler version scored an impressive seven Oscar nominations, it went home empty-handed.
1940, B&W, 96 minutes