A Letter to Three Wives

Film Review by Lewis Porteous | 29 Jun 2015
  • A Letter to Three Wives
Film title: A Letter to Three Wives
Director: Joseph L Mankiewicz
Starring: Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas, Jeffrey Lynn, and Thelma Ritter.
Release date: 29 Jun
Certificate: U

Like the following year's All About Eve, this 1949 mega-hit was adapted from fiction published in the pages of Cosmopolitan. It too is a whip-smart melodrama, a so-called 'woman's picture' of mass appeal. Both saw writer-director Joseph L Mankiewicz clean up at the Oscars. But while Eve's relentless bitchiness was confined to a world of snake-like critics and acid-tongued thesps, A Letter to Three Wives is set in anonymous small-town America. “Any resemblance to you or me might be purely coincidental,” warns an introductory voiceover.

Audiences continue to delight in the emotional excesses of Eve's larger-than-life characters, but contemporary viewers will doubtless struggle to sympathise with the affluent housewives found here, each one fearing abandonment by her husband. The picture is a brilliantly handled exercise in building understanding of three highly strung characters and the men in their lives, yet time has rendered it unattractively conformist and materialistic. [Lewis Porteous]

A Letter to Three Wives is released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the Master of Cinema series from Eureka Entertainment