Letter to Three Wives, A [1949]

Before he made the classic All About Eve, writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz made this clever story about three wives who spend an afternoon at a children's picnic mulling over a letter all three had just received, from a woman who says she's just run off with one of their husbands. As the wives--a former farm girl (Jeanne Crain), a radio soap opera writer (Ann Sothern), and a social climber from the wrong side of the tracks (Linda Darnell)--mull over the troubles of their marriages, each begins to think that she's the one left behind. A Letter to Three Wives doesn't have the crackling show-biz milieu of Eve, but it has the same mix of snappy dialogue and topnotch performances. The tone ranges from florid sentiment to unblinking cynicism, yet Mankiewicz holds it all together with smooth, witty direction. Also featuring Kirk Douglas and the great character actress Thelma Ritter. --Bret Fetzer

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