Warner Archive Press Release: The Letter (1940) (Blu-ray)

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THE LETTER (1940)
Run Time 95:00
Subtitles English SDH
Sound Quality DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 – English
Aspect Ratio 4 X 3 FULL FRAME, ORIGINAL ASPECT RATIO – 1.37:1
Product Color BLACK & WHITE
Disc Configuration BD 50
Special Features:
Alternate Ending Sequence; 2 Audio-Only Bonuses: Lux Radio Theater adaptation starring Davis, Marshall and Stephenson from 4/21/41 and Lux Radio Theater adaptation starring Davis and Marshall from 3/6/44; Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Six years after exploding to stardom in Of Human Bondage, Bette Davis equaled that excitement with another W. Somerset Maugham role as an adulteress using her sexual wiles to escape a murder conviction in The Letter. The film throbs with sultry tension thanks to Davis, an impeccable supporting cast, atmospheric cinematography and the artistry of three-time Academy Award® winner* William Wyler, Davis’ director on Jezebel and The Little Foxes. Nominated for seven Oscars®, including Best Picture, Actress, Director and Supporting Actor, The Letter remains one of Hollywood’s most special deliveries, a peerless example of melodrama as movie art.

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Robert Crawford

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25 Comments

  1. Thomas T

    YES!!! Her greatest performance!

    I hope this isn't much of a spoiler but I'll put it under a tag just in case. This movie contains perhaps my favorite Bette Davis "moment" of all

    Spoiler

    Gives me chills every time!

  2. Alternate ending!! Most curious about this. I just wish they had included the 1929 version, a very good movie in its own right and with the correct ending. Herbert Marshall is in both films. Jeanne Eagels was nominated, posthumously, for Best Actress in this, her last film.

  3. I'm pretty sure the Alternate ending was included on the DVD. BRB…

    Yes, it was.

    Can't wait for this!

    Man, FIVE BP noms for my collection in four months from Warners. If only some of the 1930's ones would be upgraded… But I really can't complain.

    This is a great film. I've only seen it once, but I liked it. Can't wait to watch it again. I'm not the biggest fan of Bette Davis; in fact, I don't really like her at all, but she is an amazing actress.

  4. Although the ending was changed for this film, i love it!! those final close-ups of Bette…

    she has worked herself up into a state i have never experienced in my life, yet it rings sooo

    true and believeable…. masterful acting from the Grand Dame!

  5. bujaki

    Alternate ending!! Most curious about this. I just wish they had included the 1929 version, a very good movie in its own right and with the correct ending. Herbert Marshall is in both films. Jeanne Eagels was nominated, posthumously, for Best Actress in this, her last film.

    The alternate ending was included on the DVD, but it still doesn't hold a candle to the original, nor Jeanne Eagels spine-chilling, yet almost matter-of fact reading of the final line. I would have loved to have heard Bette say it though. A pox on all those blue-noses!

  6. I haven't seen the film since MoMA's showing of The Letter in 1973, so I was unaware of the alternate ending. And yes, discovering the 1929 version (35mm print) during the Paramount retrospective (1972) was an unexpected pleasure. Eagels certainly proved that she could have been a major star in the "talkies" had she not succumbed to drugs. What a waste.

  7. Excellent film – perfect in every way. James Stephenson is especially good as the lawyer; such a shame that he died at the young age of 52 – after having started acting in films only four years before his death..

  8. PMF

    Last month, we got "Jezebel".
    And then this month, we got "The Letter".
    This makes me wonder if we're headin' towards a Wyler-Davis triple-play;
    and by that, I'm talking about "The Little Foxes" for next month.
    Maybe I'm being greedy or cleverly insightful; but, alas, only time will tell.:)

    Wouldn't THAT be a kick. Wonderful movie. As good as Davis is in that, and she IS, the movie is totally stolen IMO by Patricia Collinge recreating her heartbreaking stage performance.

  9. Will Krupp

    Wouldn't THAT be a kick. As good as Davis is in that, and she IS, the movie is totally stolen by Patricia Collinge recreating her heartbreaking stage performance.

    Little doubt, Hellman doth bring out the best.;)

  10. Will Krupp

    Wouldn't THAT be a kick. Wonderful movie. As good as Davis is in that, and she IS, the movie is totally stolen IMO by Patricia Collinge recreating her heartbreaking stage performance.

    Collinge is unforgettable and heartbreaking as Birdie. Her character is also well-served in the opera Regina.
    I've also seen Greer Garson as Regina and actually liked her performance better than Bette's because Garson played an outwardly superficial, charming Southern lady (of which I still meet many such magnolias), instead of the tarantula that Bette plays. I believe that Wyler wanted another interpretation from Davis and it was this that caused their professional rupture.

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