A Letter to Three Wives
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]