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A Letter to Three Wives
All of them wondered while one of them wandered!
Just as their boat sets off for the day, Deborah (Crain), Rita (Southern) and Lora Mae (Darnell) receive a letter from the alluring Addie Ross (narrator Celeste Holm) stating she has left town with one of their husbands. Each wife spends the fretful day pondering the state of her marriage and the affection each of their husbands has for Addie. By the end of the day, each woman is convinced she must surely be the betrayed wife.
A Letter to Three Wives is the type of film that could only work in the late 40's and 50's. Equal parts melodramatic and comedic, it deals with issues of gender and class that don't fit into modern society. But judging it for its time, it's a powerful view on marriage and fidelity with strong work across the board. Best in show is the gorgeous Linda Darnell, who actually gets to do more than just look good in her role.
Does someone monitor the fridge 24 hours a day so the food doesn't spoil?
Wait, so what was Brad doing if he wasn't coming home that night? Was that a happy ending or are we having to ignore something big here? What the fuck?
This film is a funny, mostly decently performed little romance that erred on the side of completely sexist. It had a set up that could be and was mined to explore the insecurities of women in regards to their marriages and in general, but it painted those insecurities entirely in terms of the men in their lives (and a faceless paragon of a perfect off-screen woman) in a way that just didn't work for me.
Of the three women depicted, the second and third come off the worst. The second…
**Part of the Best Picture Project**
Despite an unnecessary narrator, A Letter to Three Wives is a smart and relatively insightful drama about the social malaise of the traditional marriage as well as the idea of specific gender roles.
The film is kick started by three friends, all married, going on a retreat. While on the way, they get a letter from one of their single friends who tells them that she has run off with one of their husbands. This plot device causes them to reflect back on their marriages and look at the strengths and weaknesses of them.
A Letter to Three Wives is at its best when its looking at the roles these different women play in their marriages, which makes for some great social commentary. These actresses are great in their roles, and the writing is intelligent and varied to give them a proper voice. It's a damn good drama, and smart at that.
The B-movie feel of the cast, with this material gives a rough/smooth surface. It mirrors the story of three women not confident in their own skins that the classy, faceless enigma of the other woman; won't whisk away their man, whilst they are off being all homely with the kiddies. Kirk Douglas' and Linda Darnell's presence adds a noir touch to the melodrama, a dash of tabasco, that had me thinking Mildred Pierce; something hot and spicy for the ladies. I did think of this as a 40s chick flick, but I adore MP. I also place All About Eve as a softer form of noir, so Mankiewicz was in full flow in this period. All these strong but vulnerable…
An excellent domestic drama where the unseen narrator (Celeste Holm) may or may not have stolen one of the husbands of three friends (Crain, Darnell, Southern). Kirk Douglas is very restrained in the role as one of the chaps, and the flashback sequences work well within the fabric of the uncertainty of each marriage. There's even a talking sink pipe to give a sense of the absurd, and - uncredited- you can enjoy the priceless Thelma Ritter as a maid.
Great acerbic dialogue, acted very well throughout. This is a year before Mankiewicz's "All About Eve," and it's not quite up to that level of ferocity.
I kept thinking that this was like "The Third Man," where we would spend 2/3 of the movie waiting for the big character reveal, but we never get to meet Addie. That's not a problem, but I think that the pacing of the central section of the film is problematic. I wish that the story didn't divide into those three distinct chapters; I missed the other characters during each of the wive's flashbacks.
"A Letter To Three Wives is entertaining, well made and solidly performed... But it's also a film that lacks the narrative excitement and intrigue - something which its set-up almost certainly had the potential to more effectively engender - to make it genuinely memorable". Read my full review of A Letter To Three Wives at Film Intel
Joseph L Mankiewicz is still the only writer/director to have won back to back Oscars in both categories, writing and directing. The second was for ALL ABOUT EVE in 1950 but in 1949 he won his first pair of Oscars for this classic comedy-drama. A LETTER TO THREE WIVES is one of the great movies of the 1940's, (it should also have won Best Picture). The letter is written by Addie Ross, (a superb unseen Celeste Holm providing the narration), and the three wives she writes the letter to are Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern and Linda Darnell and their husbands are, respectively, Jeffrey Lynn, Kirk Douglas and Paul Douglas. The reason for Addie's letter is to inform the women that…
Nota = 8,5
Love this sly and witty film, especially the Linda Darnell and Paul Douglas duo. Reviewed on flickersintime.com
Delicious marital melodrama has a trio of married friends receiving a note from another women telling them she has run off with one of their husbands just as they are leaving on a day trip and they must spend the day reflecting (in flashbacks) on their marriages and whether their husband will be gone when they return. While its take on matrimony might not pass muster now it was reasonably progressive in its time, though it does have the feeling of possibly having been curbed somewhat by concerns over offending the audience's sensibilities. It is really a unique whodunit in which the crimes are emotional and victim is the mystery and unknown until the end. Great work by a fine cast of lead and supporting actors, including the always delightful Thelma Ritter and Florence Bates as the unbelievably obnoxious ad-woman Mrs. Manleigh.
Like many a Mankiewicz script, this gets to be too wordy and preachy at times, but on the whole a fabulous entertainment. Celeste Holm provides the voice of the unseen homewrecker with the perfect mixture of honey and venom (referring to the 3 wives as "my *dearest* friends"). Satirizes suburban class and gender roles with a surprisingly nasty edge for the time. Florence Bates' radio marketer has shocking lines about her ads "penetrating and saturating" her female listeners. Ahead of its time use of talk-box voice effects (by "SonoVox") for the tortured imaginings of the potentially jilted wives. 8/10
A very simple plot improvement makes the structurally very similar the bad and the beautiful, released just three years later a vastly superior film.
From the NYT website:
This list is drawn from the second edition of The New York Times Guide to the…