A Letter to Three Wives


A Letter to Three Wives (1949)



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Movie Info

Three wives, played by Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern and Linda Darnell, are about to embark on a boat trip when each receives a letter, written by a mutual friend named Addie, informing her that Addie is about to run off with one of their husbands. In flashback, each wife wonders if it is her marriage that is in jeopardy. Deborah (Crain) recounts her fish-out-of-water relationship with her up-and-coming hubby (Jeffrey Lynn); businesswoman Rita (Sothern) asks herself if she's been too rough on her professorial spouse (Kirk Douglas); and Lora May (Darnell), a girl from (literally) the wrong side of the tracks, questions the security of her marriage to a brash business executive (Paul Douglas). The voice of Addie, who is never seen, is provided by Celeste Holm. Thelma Ritter shows up in a hilarious unbilled bit as a slatternly domestic, while an equally uncredited Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer makes a quick entrance and exit as a bellhop. Written with perception and not a little witty condescension by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, A Letter to Three Wives won two Oscars ,both for Mankiewicz. Based on a novel by John Klempner, the property was remade for television in 1985, with Ann Sothern back again in a supporting part.

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Jeanne Crain
as Deborah Bishop
Ann Sothern
as Rita Phipps
Linda Darnell
as Lora Mae Hollingsway
Kirk Douglas
as George Phipps
Paul Douglas
as Porter Hollingsway
Jeffrey Lynn
as Brad Bishop
Connie Gilchrist
as Mrs. Finney
Florence Bates
as Mrs. Manleigh
Hobart Cavanaugh
as Mr. Manleigh
Patti Brady
as Kathleen
Ruth Vivian
as Miss Hawkins
Ralph Brooks
as Character
Joe Bautista
as Thomasino
John Venn
as Messenger
Sam Finn
as Waiter
Celeste Holm
as Addie Ross
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Critic Reviews for A Letter to Three Wives

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (2)

Despite its emotional intensity, the film is comic, effervescently so, and its magical ending lends wit a metaphysical dimension.

Oct 6, 2014 | Full Review…

Mankiewicz's writing is bright and hard -- he's sharpening his teeth for All About Eve, made the next year -- but his acid wit is almost too much for his fragile characters to bear.

Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

A brilliantly handled exercise in building understanding of three highly strung characters and the men in their lives.

Jul 6, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

A sophisticated and witty slice of life drama.

Mar 29, 2015 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

There's a lot more focus on the development of the women while the men in their lives are really just window dressing. It's this angle that makes the film most intriguing.

Dec 6, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's riveting melodrama is set up like a whodunit, only instead of a murderer, the guilty party is a philandering husband.

Oct 5, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for A Letter to Three Wives

This movie is both dramatic and suspenseful, while telling four different stories, and I liked the ending too. This is a good movie.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer


My favorite Linda Darnell film. It's hard to stand out in a cast that includes such greats as Kirk Douglas, Ann Sothern and Jeanne Crain but she still manages to shine.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

I'd forgotten what a great movie this is! Celeste Holm narrates as Addie Ross, the unseen but effortlessly superior friend of three women (Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern and Linda Darnell), one of whose husbands Addie claims, in a mischievous letter, to have run off with. But whose husband does she mean?!?! Each adores Addie, and each seems to be acting strangely... Moving to flashback, one for each wife in turn, we see the women quietly upstaged in their domestic bliss by their infuriatingly perfect girlfriend. Linda Darnell stands out from the excellent cast, probably because she gets most of the best lines, but Ann Sothern is just as good. It's nice to see Kirk Douglas taking his place in the ensemble for a change, instead of selfishly chewing the scenery; even when he does explode, in a rant against radio advertising, he does so with relative restraint and his performance is the better for it. Thelma Ritter plays that same part she always plays. As you would expect with Mankiewicz, there's some wonderfully sophisticated dialogue. Celeste Holm's sweetly malicious voiceover, though brief, must qualify as one of cinema's greatest.

Stephen M
Stephen M

Super Reviewer

"a letter to three wives" is a dialogue-driven psychological drama by joseph l. mankiewicz who contributes to the legendary bette davis classic "all about eve"....an estrogenic piece which is highly empathetic with female audience. the story whirls around a striking socialite named addie ross who writes a note to her three best friends in the town that she's gonna elope with one of their husbands....and that leads to the flashbacks of these three women's private jealous animosity and weakening apprehensions that their spouses all seem to have a deep crush on addie....so exactly whose husband becomes the prey of addie's feminine magnetism? to anchor the mystic charm of addie ross who is also the narrator, she remains abscent through the whole flick, and audience picture her poises of grace thru the three women's bitter reactions just as hitchcock's rebecca never reveals herself...now we witness the typical gender interactions of three housholds. jeanne crain's being self-abased by her rural upbringing, and her fear of being lacklustered by addie ross....ann sothern's mercenery irreconcilbility with her idealistic husband kirk douglas since she's much less thoughtful and refined by taste than the witty addie ross...then the sultry linda darnell with an awareness of her slum-bred background, aspiring to marry her wealthy boss by playing titilating "hard-to-get", still assured as darnell, she's being emulated by the addie ross with class her husband values. most women share a sort of envious intimidation from their so called "the beautiful friend" whom they criticize behind or gossip about with sour sarcasm when it comes to any female's living experiences, especially your significant the other keeps praising upon that fair confidante of yours, then a sense of vulnerability strikes since you're too infatuated with the man but too stubborn to admit. linda darnell's tale is most riveting with her lofty glamour as the ragged woman with pride, and thelma ritter plays the wise-cracking maid with an acid tongue. ritter, along with younger fresher kirk douglas, is the scene-stealer who has the "it" to grapple a smirk from the audience. "a letter to three wives" is mankiewicz's another success examplification that dialogues and sheer performances make the feature work.

Veronique Kwak
Veronique Kwak

Super Reviewer

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