A Letter To Three Wives

  • 1949
  • 1 HR 43 MIN
  • NR

Delicious bites of suburbia, with lucious Darnell a surprising prize plum. This ingeniously constructed film is one of the finest movies ever made about marriage. It focuses on the doubts, fears and recriminations of three lovely wives who believe they are soon to lose their husbands to another woman. Crain, Darnell, and Sothern are about to leave on a...read more

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Delicious bites of suburbia, with lucious Darnell a surprising prize plum. This ingeniously constructed film is one of the finest movies ever made about marriage. It focuses on the doubts, fears and recriminations of three lovely wives who believe they are soon to lose their husbands to

another woman. Crain, Darnell, and Sothern are about to leave on a boat trip along the Hudson River, escorting a group of youngsters, when a messenger delivers a letter to each of them, all from the same woman, Addie Ross, never shown and played only as an off-screen voice by Holm. Holm has

written the same message to all three wives; she has run off with one of their husbands but she does not mention which one, leaving them to figure out who has lost out, and subjecting all three to subtle emotional torture. The three wives live in comfortable homes in the Hudson Valley and have

ostensibly happy marriages, but the letters cause them to frantically review their relationships.

The acting of the six leading players here is outstanding, with the aforementioned Darnell in particular giving the finest performance of her career (in the film's best sketch) as the supposedly hardhearted lady with only wealth on her mind (Top line--when Thelma Ritter cracks Darnell should dress

up, wear beads, Linda retorts, "What I got don't need beads!"). Both Douglases, Ann Southern, the Gilchrist and Ritter team, Florence Bates and Jeanne Crain all rise to the occasion. The sharp piquancy of the dialog earned Mankiewicz an Oscar for his script, another for his deft direction.

Originally, Zanuck wanted Ernst Lubitsch to direct the film, and gave producer Siegel a fight before he would accept Mankiewicz. The film was a landmark achievement for Mankiewicz, who, on the strength of it, became the darling of the Fox lot, earning profound resentment from Zanuck. Years later,

Zanuck blamed Mankiewicz personally for almost destroying Fox with his hugely expensive production of CLEOPATRA.

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