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The Letter

The Letter(1940)

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The W. Somerset Maugham play, which opened in New York on September 26, 1927, was based on a short story by Maugham published in 1925. According to materials contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA rejected the original story that Warner Bros. submitted for this film on the grounds that it contained adultery and unpunished murder. As a result, Warner Bros. changed the ending to punish "Leslie's" sins. In the original play, the wife lives out her life without her husband and the character played by Gale Sondergaard was "Hammond"'s Chinese mistress. That character was changed to his Eurasian wife to placate the Hays office. Although Cecil Kellaway is listed in the onscreen credits, his character was apparently cut before the film's release. He only appears in a longshot during a party scene. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture; Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Editing, Best Direction, Best Original Score, and Best Black and White Cinematography. Among the other films based on the W. Somerset Maugham play are Paramount's 1929 version, which was directed by Jean de Limur and also starred Herbert Marshall together with Jeanne Eagels, who starred in the stage production with Eagles (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.3053). Warner Bros. made another version in 1947, called The Unfaithful, starring Ann Sheridan and Lew Ayres and directed by Vincent Sherman, and in 1982 John Erman directed a television movie starring Lee Remick and Ronald Pickup. In 1938, Merle Oberon and Walter Huston starred in a Lux Radio Theatre version of the play.