THE LETTER

(1940)
With Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson, Frieda Inescort, Gale Sondergaard
Directed by William Wyler
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

     Any film that begins with Bette Davis pumping lead into the body of some poor sap works for me.  According to Davis, the poor sap had tried to take advantage of her.  According to a certain letter that surfaces, she never seemed to object to his affections in the past.  Although a bit predictable, THE LETTER, based on W. Somerset Maugham's novel, is an engrossing mystery-melodrama held together by the strength of Davis's performance in one of her most subtly nasty roles.  As with most Davis films following her legendary legal battles with Warner Brother in the mid-'30s, the film is marked by high production values and gorgeous costumes.  Solid support is provided by Herbert Marshall and James Stephenson.  Marshall had appeared in an earlier screen adaptation of the Maugham tale in 1929, in the role of the murdered lover. ½ - JB

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