Friday, July 24, 2009

Pre-Game Warm-Up: A Letter to Three Wives

The previous two installments in the pre-game warm-up series have spotlighted films that focus on lies and the lying liars who tell them, tying in nicely with the theme of the first third of our imminent series. But what about those other rogues and rascals, the thieves and cheats out there, can they receive no love? I shall attempt to remedy this omission for at least one of the sub-categories with the following endorsement.

A Letter to Three Wives from 1949 deserves a viewing for those particularly interested in the Cheats segment of our calendar. The story concerns itself with three women who receive a tantalizing note just as they are about to embark on a day-long excursion to an island getaway. The letter informs them that their communal rival, Addie Ross, the local femme fatale, has run off with one of their husbands. They spend an excruciating day near no telephones, each woman wondering if her husband is the cheat.

The film is intelligent and deeply engaging with wonderful performances all around (particularly from Kirk Douglas and the always awesome Thelma Ritter) with a very unique score by Alfred Newman (is that a Jew's harp or a vocoder playing during Ann Sothern's daydream?) It shares a similar structure with our second adultery film, Preston Sturges's sublime Unfaithfully Yours, as the majority of the film is played out in paranoid reveries, each woman remembering previous instances when their husband's affections for Miss Ross were laid bare. The film also manages to tie in even more directly with another upcoming Classic, All About Eve, as it was written and directed by the same man, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who won the Academy Award for both duties on both films.

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