THE LETTER - Content
For Hicksflicks.com, Nov. 15, 2013
Even today, some 73 years after its debut, the opening scene of "The Letter" (1940) is a shocker — which I won't describe here because I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it yet.
Suffice to say Bette Davis kills a man and from that point the twists and turns in this hot-blooded melodrama will keep you on edge. Was it a justified killing? Is Davis a woman protecting her honor or was there something else that motivated her? That's for the courts to decide.
Davis is the wife of a rubber-plantation manager (Herbert Marshall) who immediately calls his attorney (James Stephenson) and begins to work up her defense. But the lawyer is suspicious of Davis' motives. Then he learns of a letter she wrote on the day of the killing, a damning piece of evidence — and what happens next could jeopardize the futures of Davis and Marshall, not to mention the lawyer's career.
Davis dominates this highly charged W. Somerset Maugham story, which is directed perfectly by William Wyler. Riveting all the way. (Friday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m., free, BYU, Provo, see the website here.)