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A Letter to Three Wives

153 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Joseph Mankiewicz's unique intriguing comedy stars Ann Southern, Linda Darnell and Jeanne Crain as three wives who must wait out a long day to learn which of them has lost her husband to another woman.

Just as their boat sets off for the day, Deborah (Crain), Rita (Southern) and Lora Mae (Darnell) receive a letter from the alluring Addie Ross (narrator Celeste Holm) stating she has left town with one of their husbands. Each wife spends the fretful day pondering the state of her marriage and the affection each of their husbands has for Addie. By the end of the day, each woman is convinced she must surely be the betrayed wife.

Special Features

  • Commentary by Mankiewicz biographers Kenneth Geist & Cheryl Lower
  • Biography: Linda Darnell - Hollywood's Fallen Angel
  • Fox Movietone News
  • Oscars presented for Achievements in Motion Pictures
  • Restoration Comparison
  • Theatrical Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas
  • Directors: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • Writers: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, John Klempner, Vera Caspary
  • Producers: Sol C. Siegel
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Black & White, Dolby, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: February 22, 2005
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00074DY0W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,037 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A Letter to Three Wives" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Ilona Novotny on December 18, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
"A Letter to Three Wives" would probably bomb at the box-office these days because it isn't mawkish, vulgar, or depressing. Too bad! It's insightful without being depressing, compassionate without being maudlin, and razor-sharp funny without being sophomoric. In short, it is a film written and directed by an adult aimed at adults. "Three Wives" examines, with wit to spare, the importance placed on money, class distinction, and what women had/still have to deal with concerning the opposite sex, with a couple of jabs at entertainment,advertising, and consumerism thrown in for good measure. All of the performances are excellent, with a remarkable performance by the gorgeous Linda Darnell as a gold-digging dish (with a heart of gold) from the other side of the tracks. Also present are Connie Gilchrist and an unbilled Thelma Ritter,whose presence in a film always guaranteed howls of laughter. (Her roles were written with her in mind, by the way) "Three Wives" was unnecessarily remade, without the wit or charm, into a made-for-TV movie in the late 1980s, its only redeeming quality being Ann Sothern, one of the original "Three Wives" played a small role in it. To sum it up, "A Letter to Three Wives" is a delicious piece of apple pie, its ingredients being a brilliant, insightful script and direction, three beautiful women, and excellent performances-enjoy!
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 14, 2005
Format: DVD
Three suburban wives board an excursion boat to chaperone an all-day outing with a group of school children. Just before the boat leaves the dock a messenger arrives with a note for the three of them. It's from Addie Ross, an old friend who may not be much of a friend. "Dearest Debby, Lora Mae and Rita," she writes. "As you know, by now, you'll have to carry on without me from here. It isn't easy to leave a town like our town, to tear myself away from you three dear, dear friends who have meant so much to me. And so I consider myself lucky to be able to take with me a sort of memento, something to remind me of the town that was my home, and of my three very dearest friends, who I never want to forget, and I won't. You see, girls, I've run off with one of your husbands. Addie" For the next few hours, unable to get to a telephone, each of the three women can only reflect back on her marriage and wonder if she is the one who has just lost her husband. Only that afternoon when they return will they learn which husband Addie made off with.

There's Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain) married to Brad (Jeffrey Lynn). She was a small town girl swept away by a glamorous officer, who now lives a life of country club complacency. She has never lost her insecurity. There's Rita Phipps (Ann Southern) married to George (Kirk Douglas). She and her husband started out as school teachers. He still is but she is carving a successful and well-paid career as a radio soap opera writer. There's Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell) married to Porter (Paul Douglas). She wanted away from the other side of the tracks, and managed to make a marriage happen with the town's biggest businessman.

As they flash back, we learn a lot about each one of them and the state of their marriages.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 8, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
Jeanne Crain was a very pretty girl, Ann Sothern was chiefly noted for her comic turns, and Linda Darnell was a memorable beauty--but although all three appeared in popular films none were particularly celebrated for their acting talents until Joseph L. Mankiewicz tapped them for the roles of three society wives in this poison pen letter to both sexes. Wickedly witty in script, and remarkably acid in tone, A LETTER TO THREE WIVES would put every one involved in the film firmly on the Hollywood map.

Three society wives (Crain, Sothern, and Darnell) are committed to hosting a children's picnic on an isolated island--and as the ferry prepares to depart they receive a letter from town femme fatale Addie Ross (never seen but memorably voiced by Celeste Holm.) Addie informs them that she is leaving town forever... but has decided to take one of their husbands along as a memento. And each of the three wives, cut off from the outside world for the day, is left to wonder: when I go home tonight, will my husband still be there?

During the day each of the wives recalls scenes from her marriage. Deborah (Craine) arrived in town as a pretty but very awkward farm girl fresh out of the navy and with a wardrobe consisting of a single and very ugly mail-order dress; she has never felt entirely secure. Rita (Sothern) is married to a schoolteacher, and has committed the unpardonable sin of becoming the writer of a popular radio show that brings her more money than her husband will ever earn. And Lora Mae (Darnell) was a beauty born on the wrong side of the tracks who connived her way into a wealthy marriage and now specializes in bickering with her gruff and boorish husband.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Michael C. Smith VINE VOICE on June 14, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
The foundation of any great film is an even greater screenplay. In "A Letter To Three Wives" Joseph L. Mankiewicz achieved greatness as a writer first and a as director second. The screenplay sparkles with wit and humor and an edgy take on the modern world that is as up to date today as it was fifty-four years ago.
Joe was a great writer and a consummate wit; were he not in the movies one might think him an intellectual. (Hats off to his "Cleopatra"). He understood women and wrote some of the most complex, deep and exciting women on the screen. He gave them life on the page and then with his brilliant eye for casting and directing he brought them to life on the screen. Eve Harrington, Margo Channing, in "All About Eve". Maria Vargas in "The Barefoot Contessa", and his most complex of all his smart Cleopatra, a modern woman of politics and passion in an ancient setting.
The unseen Addie Ross, the clumsy Deborah, Rita the writer, and the smart and guarded Lora Mae are just a few of the gems Joe Mankiewicz presented to us in his Oscar winning "Letter". He brings out some of the best acting Jeanne Crain would ever do. She is both vulnerable and comic. Ann Sothern dominates the screen as a feminist ahead of her time. She cements the image that she would carry the rest of her career, that of a beautiful smart woman making it in a man's world. The stunning centerpiece to this work is the top-notch performance handed in by Linda Darnell as tough wrong side of the tracks Lora Mae. This is a great performance by an actress who herself felt she had little to offer as an actress. Here with the help of her writer and director Miss Darnell delivers the goods as no one else of her generation possibly could.
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