A Letter to Three Wives

A Letter to Three Wives

4.8 5
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Cast: Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern

     
 

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Three wives, played by Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern and Linda Darnell, are about to embark on a boat trip when each receives a letter, written by a mutual friend named Addie, informing her that Addie is about to run off with one of their husbands. In flashback, each wife wonders if it is her marriage that is in jeopardy. Deborah (Crain) recounts her fish-out-of-water… See more details below

Overview

Three wives, played by Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern and Linda Darnell, are about to embark on a boat trip when each receives a letter, written by a mutual friend named Addie, informing her that Addie is about to run off with one of their husbands. In flashback, each wife wonders if it is her marriage that is in jeopardy. Deborah (Crain) recounts her fish-out-of-water relationship with her up-and-coming hubby (Jeffrey Lynn); businesswoman Rita (Sothern) asks herself if she's been too rough on her professorial spouse (Kirk Douglas); and Lora May (Darnell), a girl from (literally) the wrong side of the tracks, questions the security of her marriage to a brash business executive (Paul Douglas). The voice of Addie, who is never seen, is provided by Celeste Holm. Thelma Ritter shows up in a hilarious unbilled bit as a slatternly domestic, while an equally uncredited Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer makes a quick entrance and exit as a bellhop. Written with perception and not a little witty condescension by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, A Letter to Three Wives won two Oscars ,both for Mankiewicz. Based on a novel by John Klempner, the property was remade for television in 1985, with Ann Sothern back again in a supporting part.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
This 1949 drama is a superb example of the glossy entertainment that big Hollywood studios once turned out effortlessly, without enormous budgets or media hype to make it “important.” Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve), it centers on three housewives in Westchester, New York, each jealous of the soulless she-wolf who grew up with their respective husbands. The vicious temptress writes a letter to all three wives (played by Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, and Ann Sothern), claiming to have run off with one of the husbands but refusing to say which one. The suspense is unbearable, not only for the wives but also for the film’s viewers, who get the chance to figure out which hubby is most susceptible, based on flashbacks involving all three couples. Mankiewicz, wisely, never shows the Other Woman, but her voice (reading the letter) is that of Celeste Holm. A young Kirk Douglas is memorable as the sober-minded professor of literature embarrassed by Sothern’s writing of soap operas. Stage actor Paul Douglas (no relation) makes a strong feature-film debut as the blustery, not-too-bright tycoon married to Darnell. The three female leads are terrific, with the often-underrated Crain turning in a surprisingly affecting performance. Script, direction, acting, and production mounting -- much of the movie was shot on location in New York -- are all top-drawer. This is one of those films that always elicit remarks like, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” And indeed, they don’t.
All Movie Guide - Dan Jardine
The wickedly clever premise of A Letter to Three Wives is a brilliant jumping-off point for a clever and astute screenplay. The film's three different but equally troubled marriages offer an insightful glimpse into the gender politics, rotting class distinctions, and social mores of America in the mid-20th century. Unlike many filmic depictions of women of this era, the three leads in A Letter to Three Wives are not stereotyped or pigeon-holed. Each one is independent and strong, despite nagging doubts about the strength of her marriage. Joseph L. Mankiewicz's script goes right for the throat of middle-class suburban values via some very sympathetic characters; if the mix is occasionally uncomfortable (the characters are a bit too likeable to be skewered so harshly), the aim is straight and true. The stars play no small part in the film's success, especially Ann Sothern's poised performance as the ambitious writer for radio programs and Linda Darnell as the rough, self-doubting girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Visually, the film adds little to the art of cinema, but Mankiewicz's writing is a wonder. The following year, he wrote and directed the legendary All About Eve, leading to an unprecedented Academy Award record: Mankiewicz won Best Director and Best Screenplay for both movies, in consecutive years.

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/04/1993
UPC:
0086162109331
Original Release:
1949
Rating:
NR
Source:
20th Century Fox

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jeanne Crain Deborah Bishop
Linda Darnell Lora May Hollingsway
Ann Sothern Rita Phipps
Kirk Douglas George Phipps
Paul Douglas Porter Hollingsway
Barbara Lawrence Babe
Jeffrey Lynn Brad Bishop
Connie Gilchrist Mrs. Finney
Florence Bates Mrs. Manleigh
Hobart Cavanaugh Mr. Manleigh
Patti Brady Kathleen
Ruth Vivian Miss Hawkins
Thelma Ritter Sadie
Stuart Holmes Old Man
George Offerman Nick
Ralph Brooks Character
James Adamson Butler
Joe Bautista Thomasino
John Davidson Waiter
Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer Messenger
Sam Finn Waiter
Ted Offenbecker Nick
Celeste Holm Addie Ross

Technical Credits
Joseph L. Mankiewicz Director,Screenwriter
Vera Caspary Screenwriter
Gaston Glass Asst. Director
Roger Heman Sound/Sound Designer
Arthur L. Kirbach Sound/Sound Designer
Thomas K. Little Set Decoration/Design
Arthur C. Miller Cinematographer
Kay Nelson Costumes/Costume Designer
Alfred Newman Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Ben Nye Makeup
Walter Scott Set Decoration/Design
Fred Sersen Special Effects
Sol C. Siegel Producer
Russell J. Spencer Art Director
J. Watson Webb Editor
Lyle Wheeler Art Director

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