While the picture is standout in every aspect, there are two factors mainly responsible for its overall quality. One is the unique story, adapted from a John Klempner novel Vera Caspary and given a nifty screenplay by Joseph L Mankiewicz.

While the picture is standout in every aspect, there are two factors mainly responsible for its overall quality. One is the unique story, adapted from a John Klempner novel Vera Caspary and given a nifty screenplay by Joseph L Mankiewicz.

Idea has three young housewives in Westchester, NY (much of the film was shot on location in the east), all jealous of the same she-wolf who grew up with their husbands. The ‘other woman’ addresses a letter to all three wives explaining that she has run away with one of their spouses but without identifying which one. The audience is then given a chance to figure out which one it is, before a surprise denouement explains all.

Other standout aspect is the fine film debut of legit actor Paul Douglas. His role in Wives is that of a big, blustering but slightly dumb tycoon and he really gives it a ride with some neat character shading. He’s equally good in the more serious romantic moments with Linda Darnell.

Rest of the cast is equally good. Jeanne Crain, Darnell and Ann Sothern, as the three fraus, each turns in a job as good as anything they’ve done. Kirk Douglas, playing Sothern’s husband, is fine as the serious-minded literature prof who can’t take his wife’s soap-opera writing.

Story is bridged by the off-screen voice of the she-wolf, who is built into a character resembling every man’s dream gal by the dialog. Mankiewicz, wisely, never shows her.

1949: Best Director, Screenplay.

Nomination: Best Picture

A Letter to Three Wives

Production

20th Century-Fox. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz; Producer Sol C. Siegel; Screenplay Joseph L. Mankiewicz; Camera Arthur Miller; Editor J. Watson Webb Jr; Music Alfred Newman; Art Director Lyle R. Wheeler, J. Russell Spencer

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1948. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Jeanne Crain Linda Darnell Ann Sothern Kirk Douglas Paul Douglas Barbara Lawrence
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