A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

Linda Darnell, Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern Letter to 3 Wives(1949)

Joseph L. Mankiewicz was more than a film director. Joseph L. Mankiewicz was one of the greatest storytellers of all time. And if All About Eve (1950) guarantees him a place amongst Hollywood’s greatest, then A Letter to Three Wives (1949) is the cherry on top of it.

Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain), Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell) and Rita Phipps (Ann Sothern) are on their way to a children’s picnic when they receive a letter saying that their friend Addie Ross (voiced by Celeste Holm) has run off with one of their husbands. But which one?

Masterfully told in flashback, A Letter to Three Wives has everything you’d expect in a Joseph L. Mankiewicz picture: a ridiculously fantastic screenplay, strong female leads that don’t feel like caricatures, a great ensemble cast (which includes Kirk Douglas and Thelma Ritter), true-to-life depictions of marriage and friendship and a touch of class that has hardly ever been matched. Oh, and have I mentioned how witty it is?

Not only is this a great movie in itself, but also one of the all-time great suburban movies. I’ve always been fascinated by suburbia, because, as a writer, there is so much you can do with it, so many stories and characters, and A Letter to Three Wives is an excellent example of how to get it absolutely right.

Winner of Best Screenplay and Best Director Oscars (both Mankiewicz), A Letter to Three Wives is pure class.


DOUBLE BILL #6: Gilda (1946) and Notorious (1946)


I know what you’re thinking. These two films don’t have a lot in common, apart from the year they were released and arguably the genre they belong to. But something else they have in common is the love-hate relationship element, and that’s the main thing that always comes to mind when I think about them.

Love-hate relationships are hot. They’re intense, emotional, sexy, dramatic, sometimes funny and more often than not, fantastic plot devices. Notorious and Gilda are probably my favorite examples of this.

In Gilda (dir. Charles Vidor), Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is hired by casino owner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) to be his right-hand man. Little does he know that Macready is married to Gilda (Rita Hayworth), a woman he once loved…

The entire film is a power struggle between Gilda and Johnny, fuelled by their intense love and subsequent hate for each other. Gilda tries to make Johnny jealous whenever she can, and Johnny tries to pretend none of it bothers him. That’s pointless, of course, since it’s pretty obvious he’s still in love with her. He tries to lie to himself and to her, but she can see right through him. His emotional turmoil and her constant teasing are the perfect combination and their scenes together are electric. Particularly the ‘I hate you too, Johnny’ scene, which is, in my opinion, possibly the hottest scene ever. It’s just so full of love, hate, lies and desire and it culminates beautifully with the two of them finally giving in. But it doesn’t stop there. Gilda and Johnny’s relationship suffers yet another set-back after that. Of course it does. They wouldn’t let you off the hook that easy!

Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, on the other hand, is a lot darker. Party-girl Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) is asked by T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to spy on her dead father’s former friends, who he suspects are Nazis operating in South America. Eventually, she realizes she’ll have to marry Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), the leader of the group, in order to get information. Problem is, Alicia and Dev fall in love…

Throughout the movie, both of them struggle with their feelings for each other as well as their own demons. Dev can’t deal with the fact that he’s in love with a woman who he thinks would never be able to commit, and Alicia tries to prove him wrong. She tries to seduce him once she realizes that he’s in love with her, but he keeps trying to resist, even though he knows it’s useless. Before they know it, they’re sharing a kiss on the balcony in what is probably one of the most beautiful and romantic scenes ever filmed. You know what I’m talking about. That scene. The one everybody loves. It is so sweet, so carefully restrained, so intimate, it’s almost intrusive. I almost feel bad for watching it. It is their moment… After that, things take a turn for the worse and their relationship is yet again put to the test.

Gilda is hot. Notorious is sweet. Gilda and Johnny are fire. Alicia and Devlin are melting ice. Obviously, there is a lot more to these movies than just that, but for me personally, this is my absolute favorite thing about them. Ooh, the sparks!

My favorite scene in Duck Soup (1933)

Chico and Harpo gang up on Edgar Kennedy 3

We all love Duck Soup (1933). It’s as crazy as a box of cats and every scene is comedy gold. But there’s one scene that stands out for me. No, not the mirror scene (I know, I know…). My favorite scene from Duck Soup is actually the three hats scene. The first time I saw the film, back in the glorious summer of 2007, I laughed uncontrollably and had to rewind the scene about four or five times. It is pure genius from start to finish. Chico’s ‘I’m a spy and he’s a spy’ speech, Harpo’s goofiness, and, of course, Edgar Kennedy’s hilarious reactions. I don’t have a favorite Marx Brother, but I do have a soft spot for the Chico/Harpo combo (‘Charpo’, in modern terms), and the three hats scene, to me, is one of their best moments. It’s just great. ‘Peanuts!’

The Dark Mirror (1946)


The Dark Mirror’s eerie opening scene thrusts us into a world of deceit, twists, revenge and mind-games, fuelled by sibling rivalry and psychological issues, from which you couldn’t escape if you tried.

When Dr Frank Peralta is found dead in his apartment, his girlfriend Terry Collins (Olivia de Havilland) becomes the main suspect. But there’s just one problem: she has a twin sister. When questioned by Lt Stevenson (Thomas Mitchell), Terry and Ruth refuse to confess which one of them did it, which leads to Dr Scott Elliot (Lew Ayres) being brought into the case, to study the twins and solve the mystery.

Directed by Robert ‘King of Atmosphere’ Siodmak, The Dark Mirror plays tricks with your mind, the way it’s meant to. Despite the fact – or maybe because of it – that it contains one of the oldest gimmicks in fiction, it just works. It’s great, we buy into it, and we’re enthralled by it. Mostly because Olivia de Havilland is beyond fantastic. We all love Olivia de Havilland. Like William Powell, Claude Rains or Barbara Stanwyck, Olivia de Havilland is one of those universally beloved people in classic film world. And why not? She’s incredible. In The Dark Mirror, she plays Terry and Ruth with amazing precision and detail, carefully and wisely, always making us question everything, including our own sanity, and the film’s climactic ending is one of her all-time best moments.

The Dark Mirror is a great psychological thriller. It pulls you in straight away and doesn’t let go until the very end. What more could you ask for?