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.