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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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Lora May Hollingsway, who grew up next to the wrong side of the tracks, married her boss who thinks she is just a gold digger. Rita Phipps makes as much money writing radio scripts at night as her school teacher husband does. Deborah Bishop looked great in a Navy uniform in WWII but fears she'll never be dressed just right for the Country Club set. These three wives are boarding a boat filled with children going on a picnic when a messenger on a bicycle hands them a letter addressed to all three from Addie who has just left town with one of their husbands. They won't know which one until that night. Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
About 20 minutes into the film, Brad Bishop and his wife Deborah Bishop are drinking martinis in their bedroom, which are dark colored in the B&W film. Moments later, when Rita Phipps pours two drinks out of the same pitcher, the martinis are light colored. However, when Phipps hands Deborah her drink, she consumes a dark colored drink from her glass. See more »
Usually films are only told from the view of one perspective as a flat narrative. It takes some real writing skills to do a screenplay and then photograph same from many angles.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz who was very involved with Citizen Kane took a page from that book to tell the story of A Letter to Three Wives. Addie Ross who is never seen has written a letter to three of her girlfriends saying she's leaving town and taking one of their husbands with her. The women, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, and Jeanne Crain are on a Day Line type cruise chaperoning some of their town kids. They all think they could be the unlucky jilted one and they start reflecting back on their lives and marriages.
We learn a lot about all of them in those flashbacks and like the way we learned about the complex Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane, we also learn about Addie Ross. Celeste Holm is the voice of Addie Ross and she probably deserves an Oscar for best performance by an unseen player.
Linda Darnell is a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who marries wealthy department store chain owner Paul Douglas. Jeanne Crain is the sensitive girl who met and married upper crust Jeffrey Lynn who she met while they were both in the Navy. And Ann Sothern is a career minded woman married to teacher Kirk Douglas. The strengths and weaknesses of the relationships are carefully examined in each flashback.
I thought Ann Sothern and Kirk Douglas had the best chemistry between them, too bad they didn't work together again. Her flashback consists of a memorable dinner party with a couple of philistine radio executives played delightfully by Florence Bates and Hobart Cavanaugh. Douglas despises the way his wife cheapens her talent by writing tripe for these two and tells them in no uncertain terms.
Addie Ross's portrait is painted by all the comments made about her in each story. She's obviously a glamorous and chic woman, but who has the heart of a mackerel.
Three years later Kirk Douglas got one of his Oscar nominations in The Bad and the Beautiful. In that one he's the Addie Ross character, but he's very much seen. But their are undeniable similarities in A Letter To Three Wives to that film as well.
Joe Mankiewicz got an Oscar for Best Director in 1949 and he really earned it helming a deceptively complex story.
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