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Saturday, February 8, 2020

"A Letter to Three Wives" (1949)

A year before he made the classic "All About Eve", director  Joseph L. Mankiewicz made this acerbic   examination of marriage and suburbia. It starts with a gimmicky plot device: a small town she-devil who we only hear in voice-over, sends a poison pen letter to three good friends informing them she's running off with one of their husbands that night, but not which one she's stealing. So each of the ladies (a great cast of Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern, and Linda Darnell), woolgather into a flashback where we get a snapshot of their marriages. Crain feels socially inadequate to her society husband, Southern is going for that work/life balance in a two career family, and Darnell cunningly married for money. The dialog is snappy and funny and each of the ladies shine, especially Darnell who has a droll way with her character's world-weary pragmatism. Despite it's age the script still feels fresh, maybe it's because women still struggle with the same marital hurdles today. Look for an uncredited Thelma Ritter in one of her first film roles, she swipes the whole picture in a few choice scenes.

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