Reviews

A Letter To Three Wives

5

Set over one day in a nameless US town ("It's the one that's just 28 minutes from the big city," purrs unseen narrator Celeste Holm), Joseph L Mankiewicz's witty social satire peeks through curtains at three flawed marriages.

The premise is a belter: a trio of prosperous friends receive a letter from our melodious narrator, its poisoned ink informing them that she's run off with one of their husbands (Kirk Douglas among them). Flashbacks then disclose each woman's seething insecurities as they stew, trapped at a children's picnic.

Perceptive and playful, sly and sarcastic, A Letter To Three Wives bagged Mankiewicz a pair of Oscars for writing and directing, a feat he repeated with the following year's All About Eve. It's a movie of considerable guile, the graceful camera never distracting from the champagne dialogue and sparkling performances, but there's real venom beneath the composed surface. Like suburbia, really.

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