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The Letter

Bette Davis , Herbert Marshall , William Wyler    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 39.89
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

In the opening sequence of The Letter, director William Wyler delivers a primer on film directing: at a rubber plantation, in the tropical funk of a Malaysian night, the heavy stillness is suddenly broken by shots... and a woman with a gun, descending a staircase. She is the wife of the plantation owner, and the dead man is, ahem, not her husband. Holding the gun so securely is Bette Davis, in one of her greatest performances (her acting of a big revelation, late in the film, is still an astounding piece of emotional fluency). The story is taken from one of those sturdy Somerset Maugham tales that has proved itself in many versions, but this is the keeper; it was nominated for seven Oscars®, including best picture, director, and actress, winning none. Wyler's impeccable direction, and Davis's take-no-prisoners approach to an "unsympathetic" character, make for a completely satisfying picture. --Robert Horton

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Moody, Taut and Sultry: Bette Davis Scores Big March 5 2005
By Nix Pix
Format:DVD
Once you've seen the opening moments of William Wyler's superb "The Letter" you aren't apt to forget what great Hollywood film making is all about for a very, VERY long time. Bette Davis stars in this potent, diabolically delicious melodrama as Leslie Crosbie; the unscrupulous wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner. After packing six slugs into a man exiting her boudoir...not her husband...Leslie embarks on a deeply disturbing odyssey to vindicate her murder. Hmmm....vengeful Eurasian, Mrs. Hammond (Gale Sondergaard)will have something to say about that. To this morbid end of tragic curiosity, Leslie is ably aided by the naiveté of her husband, Robert(Herbert Marshall). But then there's the letter; a bit of forgotten business that threatens to unravel all of Leslie's well laid plans and lay bare her genuine passion for the man that she's killed.
The play by Somerset Maugham on which the film is based must have seemed like old hat to Davis. For there can be no other reason why she's so cleverly fiendish and stylishly sinister as Leslie. But then all is not to be realized in sweet escapism when a letter surfaces that could blow the whole truth wide open and send Leslie to prison for life. Superbly crafted with the fine animal instincts of a jungle cat at every turn, "The Letter" was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture but won not a single statuette. Wyler's impeccable direction, and Davis's mesmerizing and unsympathetic performance are what transform this standard melodrama into movie art!
Unfortunately all is not well with the transfer from Warner Brothers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars DELICIOUSLY DANGEROUS AND OVER THE TOP! Jan. 21 2005
By Nix Pix
Format:DVD
Once you've seen the opening moments of William Wyler's superb "The Letter" you aren't apt to forget what great Hollywood film making is all about for a very, VERY long time. Bette Davis stars in this potent, diabolically delicious melodrama as Leslie Crosbie; the unscrupulous wife of a Malaysian rubber plantation owner. After packing six slugs into a man exiting her boudoir...not her husband...Leslie embarks on a deeply disturbing odyssey to vindicate her murder. To this end, Leslie is ably aided by the naiveté of her husband, Robert (Herbert Marshall) and by her popular following of fair weather friends, helmed by Mrs. Hammond (Gale Sondergaard).
The play by Somerset Maugham on which the film is based must have seemed like old hat to Davis. For there can be no other reason why she's so cleverly fiendish and stylishly sinister as Leslie. But then all is not to be realized in sweet escapism when a letter surfaces that could blow the whole truth wide open and send Leslie to prison for life. Superbly crafted with the fine animal instincts of a jungle cat at every turn, "The Letter" was nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture but won not a single statuette. Wyler's impeccable direction, and Davis's mesmerizing and unsympathetic performance are what transform this standard melodrama into movie art!
Unfortunately all is not well with the transfer from Warner Brothers. Seemingly contrasting a bit on the overly dark side, fine details are generally lost in the deep and foreboding blackness. Yes, most of the picture was designed to have a very dark image, but contrast and tonality in the gray scale here are what seem to be lacking over all throughout this black and white image. Also, the image is not very stable. Long shots tend to be a bit blurry and out of focus.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great deal June 24 2003
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
It is a real crime story. Only at the end of this story you experience what happened in this special night. It is hard to feel how this nice beautiful woman can be a murderer.I was surprised that a lawyer does such a great deal (with that letter) to save the life of his client who is guilty. At the end you are in doubt if it is a fair end or not. The book is interesting to read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Classical detective story June 24 2003
By NKSA
Format:VHS Tape
"The Letter" is easy to read, interesting, but not very creative. You can see such a story in every detectiv movie! But I think it was really colourful and amusing and all the less the end is surprising, but also quite trashy. This book was another exemple of how unpredictable people are.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very good May 16 2003
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
The letter
I have read the book, and I think it's very good. The story is great. "The Letter" I must say, is one book of English, that I like to read. I have read a lot of English books, but this is my favourite. The book is very easy to read. And i like it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A real crime story May 16 2003
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
The letter
At the beginning, it was a bit difficult to understand, but at the end, I could understand the whole story. It was a very funny, and it was very good for us students. It is not a long novel.
So far this has been my favourite. It is very exciting, at the beginning you don't know why the woman kills the man and so you will like to read it.
I think that "The Letter" is a very good title for this book with different cultures, (London and Singapore) and also various characters. If you want to read a book about a "criminal-love- plot, without a happy-ending, you will have to read this book
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Bette Davis vehicle
In some ways, "The Letter" has dated in the sixty plus years since it was released. The idea of the benefiting third world or non-Western countries by colonizing them has been... Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2003 by Matthew Horner
5.0 out of 5 stars Take a look at this letter from Bette Davis
The Letter represents one of the great collaborations on screen between William Wyler and Bette Davis. Read more
Published on April 29 2002 by Daniel G. Madigan
4.0 out of 5 stars DAVIS DELIVERS...
This is a terrific film in which the opening scene focuses on a Malayan plantation on a hot, sultry night. Read more
Published on Nov. 6 2001 by Lawyeraau
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge a book by its cover...
or a lady by her appearance. Bette Davis appears to be a proper English matron who had to shoot a man dead in self-defense against his unwanted advances. Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2001 by Linda McDonnell
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting Away with Murder
Who else could get away with murder and still get the approval of the audience but Bette Davis? Based on Somerset Maugham's story, THE LETTER relates the murder of a... Read more
Published on July 29 2001 by gobirds2
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting Away with Murder
Who else could get away with murder and still get the approval of the audience but Bette Davis? Based on Somerset Maugham's story, THE LETTER relates the murder of a... Read more
Published on July 27 2001 by gobirds2
5.0 out of 5 stars Bette Davis and William Wyler, a winning combination
In "The Letter" William Wyler takes a predictable plot and turns it into a brilliant film with the help of one of the grande dames of film. Read more
Published on May 9 2001 by "flickjunkie"
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