A Letter to Three Wives

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A Letter to Three Wives is a 1949 film which tells the story of a woman who mails a letter to three women, telling them she has left town with the husband of one of them. It stars Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas (in his first film role), Jeffrey Lynn, and Thelma Ritter. An uncredited Celeste Holm provides the voice of Addie Ross, the unseen woman who wrote the eponymous letter.

The movie was adapted by Vera Caspary and Joseph L. Mankiewicz from the novel Letter to Five Wives by John Klempner. It was directed by Mankiewicz, who went on to direct All About Eve the following year.

It won the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay and was nominated for Best Picture.


Plot summary

The story involves three married couples in a small Westchester County, New York town. The wives receive a message, just as they are about to take a group of school children on a riverboat ride and picnic, that a fourth woman has run off with one of their husbands. A series of flashbacks intimates the reasons why each wife might be the one deserted.

One is Deborah (Jeanne Crain), who grew up on a farm. Her only worldliness comes from service in the Navy during World War II. She feels out of place at the social occasions that her husband Brad (Jeffrey Lynn) enjoys (and grew up in).

Another is Rita (Ann Sothern), a career woman who writes sappy stories for radio soap operas. Her teacher husband George (Kirk Douglas) feels somewhat emasculated since she earns a substantial portion of the household income and is turned off by his wife giving in to demands of radio managers.

The third, Lora Mae (Linda Darnell), grew up poor but succeeded in bulldozing Porter (Paul Douglas), the wealthy owner of a statewide chain of department stores, into a marriage he didn't want (she works in one of the stores). He is a bit older and "knows all the answers," as she sarcastically tells him. The couple has never gotten along but obviously share a bond.

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