A Letter to Three Wives


D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

20th Century Fox (Sol C. Siegel)

US 1949

103 mins


W: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (& Vera Caspary) [based on the novel "A Letter To Five Wives" by John Klempner]

DP: Arthur C. Miller

Ed: J. Watson Webb

Mus: Alfred Newman

Jeannie Crain (Deborah Bishop), Linda Darnell (Lora Mae Hollingsway), Ann Sothern (Rita Phipps), Jeffrey Lynn (Brad Bishop), Paul Douglas (Paul Hollingsway), Kirk Douglas (George Phipps)

Things may have moved on somewhat since the 1940's but I guess there will always be infidelity.

Adapted from a 1945 novel which was initially published in Cosmopolitan magazine, the plot loses two wives in its transition to the big screen and focuses on three principal leading ladies. During an outing, the trio receive a letter from their best friend, Addie Ross (voiced by Celeste Holm - uncredited), informing them that she has left town with one of their husbands, but doesn't state which one. The three wives then spend the rest of     afternoon reminiscing about their unhappy marriages, as events shown in flashback offer clues as to which husband has been unfaithful.

Quite a lot of the mannerisms and attitudes seen seem dated by modern standards - a fine example being Kirk Douglas' husband being unhappy because his wife earns more money than him, but Joseph L. Mankiewicz's script and direction does push the boundaries for the time, sneaking double entendres into the dialogue as revenge for not being able to use some of the more risqué dialogue from the original source.

The ensemble cast are all excellent, despite nobody really standing out and the picture having three principal leads. Celeste Holm's uncredited vocal performance as Addie Ross was kept secret for quite some time, since the marketing for the film built on the mystery of this. Mankiewicz won Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Oscars, and even repeated the same feat a year later with All About Eve. 

A made for TV remake aired in 1985


The cast of A Letter to Three Wives
The cast of A Letter to Three Wives