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One of the funniest and truest commentaries on married life is set into motion when the three wives receive a letter stating that the town siren has run off with one of their husbands--but which one? Flashbacks trace the course of three stories in one--along with witty dialog and comic situations that keep you entertained from beginning to end. All of the principals are excellent--but if I had to choose the favorite couple it would have to be Paul Douglas and Linda Darnell. Why they weren't both at least nominated for Oscars, I'll never understand. Darnell, in particular, more noted for being a great beauty than a great actress, has some of the wittiest lines in the movie and gets them across with slambang effect. Her Lora Mae Hollingsway just about steals the film in some of the funniest, yet poignant moments in the whole story. Paul Douglas is superb opposite her, as are Thelma Ritter and Connie Gilchrist as two outspoken bystanders. Not far behind are Ann Sothern and Kirk Douglas as the squabbling couple whose marriage is falling apart because of her financial success as a soap opera writer vs. his non-lucrative teaching career. Only sequences that fail to register strongly are those between Jeanne Crain and Jeffrey Lynn--lacking the wit of the other stories. The lines and situations get more hilarious as the film goes on and by the end you've seen one of the most richly satisfying comedies ever about the ups and downs of domestic bliss. Fully deserved its Oscars for best screenplay and direction.
You have here a situation that is rarer than you might imagine-a top-notch cast with an even better script. This is a delightful film with fine performances all around and some of the best dialogue! Strangely, none of the cast were nominated for their work here, although three were nominated for other performances in other films they did that year. The script deservedly won an Oscar as did the director. This is a joy to watch and the voice-over narration is perfectly handled throughout. Highly recommended!
In `A Letter to Three Wives,' Deborah Bishop, Lora Mae Hollingsway, and Rita
Phipps are chaperoning underprivileged children on a day trip picnic. As
they board the riverboat that will ferry them up-river to the picnic
grounds, they are stopped by a messenger who delivers a letter from their
dear, close friend, Addie Ross. Addie, who was supposed to accompany them on
the day trip, quite unexpectedly, left town that very morning. After
debating whether or not they should open the letter, with a bit of
trepidation, they do. And so begins the story of three wives, three
husbands, one letter, and Mrs. Addie Ross.
Addie Ross wrote in the letter to her dear, close friends Deborah, Lora Mae, and Rita, that she was so sorry to be leaving town, permanently. And, that by the way, she took one of their husbands with her.
Which husband has run off with Addie Ross? That question is the driving force of this drama, with just a bit of comedy to hone its edges. This movie is compelling, there are no gaps; from start to finish you're hooked. Be there no doubt, you'll be kept guessing until the end. All is not always what it seems.
`A Letter to Three Wives,' is a story nicely staged by a series of three flashbacks, each chronicling meaningful events in the lives and marriages of the three wives.
Jeanne Crain does well playing Deborah, the young, sometimes self-doubting and suspicious wife of the well-to-do Brad Bishop, played by Jeffrey Lynn. As we soon learn, Brad is a lifelong, close friend of the alluring Addie Ross.
The story is further fashioned by the immense talents of Kirk Douglas and Ann Sothern, who portray George and Rita Phipps. George is a devoted school teacher, and Rita is a social climbing script writer of radio plays. Both George and Rita are old, close friends of Addie Ross. However, Rita thinks George is just a little to close. Expect a stellar performance from Ann Sothern, because that's exactly what you're going to get.
This story's most interesting characters are portrayed by Paul Douglas, and the beautiful Linda Darnell. These talented actors play Porter and Lora Mae Hollingsway. They're a couple who tolerate a marriage of convince, he for her beauty, and she for his money. Lora Mae knows that Porter has helped Addie Ross with financial matters in the past, and perhaps other things in the present.
This movie has an excellent supporting cast in Thelma Ritter, and Connie Gilchrist. Look for them to relieve the natural tension of this story. Also contributing are Hobart Cavanaugh and Florence Bates, as Mr. and Mrs. Manleigh. Keep your ear tuned and listen for Celeste Home, as she is the voice of Addie Ross.
`A Letter to Three Wives,' is a festival of love, hate, jealousy, and suspicion. It's propelled by the energy of a very high caliber cast, and the directorial influence of Joseph L. Mankiewiez.
It should be noted that `A Letter to Three Wives,' brought Mankiewiez, two Academy Awards in 1949. Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay.
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.
There's no doubt about it: "Letter to Three Wives" is, to use a character
quote from the script, a "Bingo!"
I agree that the screenplay, directing, acting, and general production are all excellent. What a pleasure to see how well it holds up after so many years.
Constantly engaging, a powerhouse, perfect cast offers beautifully modulated performances, and the writing is creatively brilliant.
I'd forgotten what an effective actor is Paul Douglas. Like Thelma Ritter (also in the cast) he seems like an ordinary guy from real life, not even "acting." Both he and Ritter are "naturals," in that they just seem to "live" their parts, never showing their technique.
Plaudits also go to Linda Darnell, whose scenes with Douglas are gems, as well as veterans Ann Southern, Jeanne Crain and Kirk Douglas. Their casting couldn't have been bettered.
Here's a film that seems to, like fine wine, grow increasingly better with age. It's becoming (if has not already become) a genuine classic.
One of Hollywood's best directors, Joseph Mankiewicz, who gave us "All
About Eve," had a previous winner with "A Letter to Three Wives,"
starring Linda Darnell, Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas, Paul
Douglas, Jeffrey Lynn, Thelma Ritter, and Connie Gilchrist.
The never-seen Addie Ross (voice of Celeste Holm) has run off with the husband of one of her friends - whose? Three women look back over their marriages, each realizing she could be the one who will not come home to anyone that evening.
Linda Darnell was involved with Mankiewicz during the filming of "A Letter to Three Wives" in what would be a devastating relationship for her. Her story is the most fun and interesting of the film. Lolamae works in one of Porter Hollingsway's department stores, and she manages to nab the boss by playing her cards just right. He assumes throughout their marriage that she's with him because of his money. The funniest parts of the film take place in the home Lolamae shares with her mother (Connie Gilchrist) and sister. They live next to the train tracks and when a train goes by, the house rattles and shakes. Each time this happens, everyone just waits patiently for the train to go by as they rattle right along with it and then takes up where they left off as if nothing happened. When Lolamae and Hollingsway announce their engagement, Gilchrist cries out, "Bingo!" and faints! Thelma Ritter plays Gilchrist's best friend. The two provide some of the best moments in the film - Ritter is also the maid in the home of Ann Sothern and Kirk Douglas. Lolamae and Paul are the most fully drawn couple, and the one the audience is most invested in.
As with "All About Eve," the female characters are the focal point. Sothern is married to Kirk Douglas - he's a schoolteacher and she writes for radio, so it's intellect vs. the dumbing down of America fight; Jeanne Crain plays a woman who married upper class Jeffrey Lynn after leaving the service, and she originally feels out of her element among his tight-knit group of country club members. All of these women have to contend with the much admired (by males) Addie Ross, who remembers their men's birthdays, dresses beautifully, sends wonderful gifts, and has loads of class.
When it was pointed out to Mankiewicz that Jeanne Crain had played a character named Deborah in two films for him, he replied, "I don't like the name Deborah, and I don't like Jeanne Crain." Hers is the weakest storyline, but she is beautiful and gives a good performance. Lynn as her husband has very little to do. Sothern and Douglas make a spirited couple - he's at the height of his good looks, and Sothern makes the most of her witty dialogue.
But in the end, the focus is on Darnell and Paul Douglas. Darnell is stunningly beautiful and, because of this, isn't often thought of as a great actress. She brings a dry humor, sexiness, and vulnerability to the role of a woman who on the surface appears clever and a little too street smart for her own good. Douglas is a wonder, a complete natural - he plays his role as if Porter could just as easily be a hardware salesman as a filthy rich department store owner. He's both endearing and sympathetic, with his dumb, lovable face and his immaculately tailored suits. While they don't look like a perfect couple, their chemistry and what's underneath their bantering dialogue makes them one.
Now, which husband ran off with Addie? See if you can figure it out during this highly entertaining and well-acted film.
In a small town, three couples are close friends: the upper class Brad
Bishop (Jeffrey Lynn) went to the war and returned married with the
insecure country girl and Navy military Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain);
the university professor George Phipps (Kirk Douglas) is married with
the writer of silly screenplays of radio soap operas Rita Phipps (Ann
Sothern), who makes more money than him and financially supports their
home; and the wealthy tradesman Porter Hollingsway (Paul Douglas) is
married with the smart Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell). In common,
further to their friendship, the women hate and the men love the
elegant and high-class Addie Ross. While going to a picnic in riverboat
with the local students, the three wives receive a letter of their
"friend" Addie Ross informing that she is running off with one of their
husbands. Along the day, each woman recalls events that might have put
her marriage in danger, while anxiously waiting for the end of the day.
One of my favorite movies ever is "All About Eve", of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. I know only a few movies of this outstanding director: "Sleuth", "Cleopatra", "The Barefoot Contessa" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". A dear friend of mine gave me "A Letter to Three Wives" on DVD, I have just watched and I must confess that I am enchanted with such delightful, witty and intelligent screenplay. The romance is perfectly developed with the narrative in off and in an adequate pace, disclosing the lives of each couple and their problems in flashbacks and with a wonderful resolution. The cast is in state of grace, with awesome performances, and Linda Darnell is extremely sexy in the role of an opportunist woman and Jeanne Crain is very beautiful. There is a continuity goof not related in IMDb, when Lora Mae arrives with her car for the picnic, followed by Rita and Debbie's car, and the relative positions of the parked cars and buses change, but this mistake never diminishes this magnificent movie. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Quem É o Infiel?" ("Who Is the Unfaithful?")
Jeanne Crain was a very pretty girl, Ann Sothern was chiefly noted for
her comic turns, and Linda Darnell was a memorable beauty--but although
all three appeared in popular films none were particularly celebrated
for their acting talents until Joseph L. Mankiewicz tapped them for the
roles of three society wives in this poison pen letter to both sexes.
Wickedly witty in script, and remarkably acid in tone, A LETTER TO
THREE WIVES would put every one involved in the film firmly on the
Three society wives (Crain, Sothern, and Darnell) are committed to hosting a children's picnic on an isolated island--and as the ferry prepares to depart they receive a letter from town femme fatale Addie Ross (never seen but memorably voiced by Celeste Holm.) Addie informs them that she is leaving town forever... but has decided to take one of their husbands along as a memento. And each of the three wives, cut off from the outside world for the day, is left to wonder: when I go home tonight, will my husband still be there? During the day each of the wives recalls scenes from her marriage. Deborah (Craine) arrived in town as a pretty but very awkward farm girl fresh out of the navy and with a wardrobe consisting of a single and very ugly mail-order dress; she has never felt entirely secure. Rita (Sothern) is married to a schoolteacher, and has committed the unpardonable sin of becoming the writer of a popular radio show that brings her more money than her husband will ever earn. And Lora Mae (Darnell) was a beauty born on the wrong side of the tracks who connived her way into a wealthy marriage and now specializes in bickering with her gruff and boorish husband. And always they have been victim to Addie--a woman who "has class," who stings them with competition and evil wit, and who has their husbands eating out of her hand.
Although the construction is artificial, the script is wickedly knowing, painting a truly subversive vision of American marriage and mores of the late 1940s. Of the three leads, Ann Sothern dominates with her spirited "Rita"--but Darnell has the best of the script, a series of manipulations and drop-dead quips and ripostes, and Crain is perfectly cast as the insecure beauty who is as out of place as a dove at a gathering of eagles. The supporting cast, which includes Kirk Douglas, Thelma Ritter, and Connie Gilchrist is remarkably fine as well. And before all is said and done, small town society gets raked over coals.
If A LETTER TO THREE WIVES has a flaw, it is the same flaw that would trouble Mankiewicz's later and even more celebrated ALL ABOUT EVE: the point of view that a woman is ultimately nothing without a man, an idea that tends to limit the scope of the film and at times even belittle its characters. Some viewers may also be disappointed with the film's conclusion, which--although extremely ironic--lacks the sharp bite you might expect. Even so, this is a truly memorable and often very funny film, and one that deserves to be seen more often today than it usually is.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Though based on a relatively simple idea, "A Letter to Three Wives" is an
interesting and well-written story. The cast and the rest of the production
are good as well, but it is primarily the carefully written story that makes
it work. Joseph Mankiewicz's screenplay does not necessarily have flashy
dialogue or lots of surprises, but rather creates well-defined and
believable characters, and puts them into an unusual situation, which he
then develops at a good pace.
The opening sequences pull you right into the story, introducing the characters efficiently and then setting up the predicament in which the three wives find themselves as a result of the letter from their absent friend. None of the characters are especially interesting as individuals, but all are believable, and you certainly care about what will happen to them. The cast make their characters work together quite well, and there are quite a few good moments. The unseen Addie Ross is also as much a part of the story as any of the others, and her narration is used effectively.
The story moves along smoothly, almost logically, as things are resolved in an unspectacular but satisfying fashion. It's the kind of well-crafted feature that may not dazzle many of today's viewers, but that makes good use of every opportunity.
A Letter to Three Wives has a stellar cast with Ann Southern, Jeanne Craine, Linda Darnell, Paul Douglas, and Kirk Douglas. Any one of those actors would assure the viewer of a terrific performance. All of them together creates one of the first ensemble casts that are so popular today as in ER or Friends. Ann Southern is great as she plays off of Kirk Douglas and Thelma Ritter. Just looking at Linda Darnell makes watching the movie worthwhile. She was one of the most beautiful women who ever acted in a motion picture. Paul Douglas plays his usual rough and tumble character with a heart of gold. The premise is that a group of friends has one female who has the attention of all the men, and all the stares of the women. One day when the three wives are working on a volunteer project with some children when they receive a special delivery letter from the target of their stares. In the letter the woman states that she is moving away and will never return, and she is taking one of their husbands with her. The women then think about how easily it could be each one of their husbands. It's a great way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon, and boy will it surprise your wife when you watch it with her. She won't know what to think.
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