A Letter To Three Wives
By the late 1940’s, Joseph L. Mankiewicz had established himself as a superlative Hollywood director, as well as screenwriter. He coaxed top-notch performances from his actors, while supplying them with witty, sardonic dialogue of a high order. Based on a Cosmopolitan magazine novel, the 1949 "A Letter to Three Wives" features a key character, Addie Ross, who is never actually pictured. Yet she catalyzes the action by writing to three married girlfriends, informing the trio that she has run off with one of their husbands. The main body of the film consists of three lengthy flashbacks, in which the women reflect on their marriages, each questioning if it may have been their husband.
Mankiewicz followed this light fare with two hard-hitting dramas, "House of Strangers," and "No Way Out," closing the decade with the unforgettable "All About Eve." Though certainly enjoyable, "Letter to Three Wives" is not quite on the same level. The storyline is dated in stretches, and the script, though highly literate, is occasionally verbose. Yet snappy one-liners abound, and a stellar cast realizes the characters to perfection. As a tough, gold-digging husband-hunter, Linda Darnell steals the film, but not before feisty Thelma Ritter gets in her licks.
20th Century Fox is introducing "Letter..." to the Blu-ray format this month. Lacking the remarkable clarity and luminosity of some black and white transfers, the new edition yields respectable but unexceptional picture quality. In addition to audio commentary, it includes a comprehensive A & E documentary on the fascinating but tragic life of Linda Darnell.
Vintage movie buffs will certainly be pleased with Fox’s new Blu-ray of this engaging film. It’s no "All About Eve," but, then again, what else is?
A Letter to Three Wives