Oscar Movies: Letter, The (1940)


Oscar Nominations: 7

Picture, produced by Hal B. Wallis
Director: William Wyler
Actress: Bette Davis
Supporting Actor: James Stephenson
Cinematography (b/w): Gaetano Gaudio
Original Score: Max Steiner
Film Editing: Warren Law

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

In 1940, Hitchcock’s Oscar winning thriller “Rebecca” competed for the top award with nine other films: Hitchcock’s own “Foreign Correspondent” (on of his lesser movies), “All This and Heaven Too,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “The Great Dictator,” “Kitty Foyle,” “The Letter,” “The Long Voyage Home,” “Our Town,” and “The Philadelphia Story.”

Like Hitchcock, John Ford had two movies in contention: “The Grapes of Wrath,” starring Henry Fonda, and “The Long Voyage Home,” with John Wayne. The three most nominated pictures were “Rebecca,” with 10 nods, John Ford’s socially-aware class drama “The Grapes of Wrath,” and William Wyler’s melodrama, The Letter,” each with 7.

In 1940, “The Letter” lost in each and every category it was nominated. “Rebecca” won the black-and-white Cinematography Oscar (by George Barnes). Ginger Rogers won Best Actress for “Kitty Foyle,” and Walter Brennan won his third Supporting Oscar in five years (a record) for Wyler’s other 1940 film, “The Westerner.”

The Score Oscar went to Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, and Ned Washington for “Pinocchio,” and the Editing award to Anne Bauchens for “Northwest Mounted Police.”