A Letter to Three Wives

A Letter to Three Wives

Joseph L. Mankiewicz 1949
USA | Format: DCP | 103 minutes

Mankiewicz considered this adaptation of John Klempner’s 1946 novel to be his first film as a full-fledged creator. “I read it and knew I had looked upon the Promised Land,” he said of Vera Caspary’s treatment, in which five wives had been cut down to four (Fox chief Darryl Zanuck brought it down to three by excising a wife that would have been played by Anne Baxter). The final result is a bittersweet yet sparkling masterpiece, an intricately structured comic melodrama with a satirical eye on suburban striving. Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern, and Linda Darnell play the three wives who receive a letter from their mutual enemy Addie Ross (an unseen Celeste Holm) informing them that she will run away with one of their husbands. Constructed as a series of consecutive flashbacks from the POVs of each woman, the film quietly builds as it goes before soaring into the stratosphere with supermarket mogul Paul Douglas’s courtship of hard-nosed Darnell.

Series: NYFF52 Retrospective – Joseph L. Mankiewicz: The Essential Iconoclast

Venue: New York Film Festival