A Letter to Three Wives

I watched “A Letter to Three Wives,” the movie directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.  It was from 1949, and one of the most notable things about it is that a young Kirk Douglas was in it.  He played a schoolteacher whose interests were Brahms and Shakespeare, and he was scornful of that poisonous influence called radio.  The letter to three wives of the title was written by a woman who claimed that one of their husbands had run off with her.  There were humorous scenes, like one showing a dress malfunction.  The Kirk Douglas character rants about the commercialism of radio programs at one point.  The culture shown in this film is from the lives of the affluent, and people who say what is on their minds.  You notice that there is quite a bit of drinking of alcohol.  I had to think about what he might have to say about the movie business.  The three women are Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, and Ann Sothern.  The original concept was that there were more than three wives, but the movie already felt crowded with three.  In fact, you could make the argument that there should have been only one wife.  Celeste Holm was the unseen and uncredited voice.  I didn’t see the voiceover as being such a great element, although it was amusing in the beginning.  I would have liked seeing Gene Tierney and Maureen O’Hara in the film.  Thelma Ritter looked young in this movie, although her persona was the same as in “Rear Window.”  Mankiewicz won the Best Director Oscar for this film, although he went on to greater accomplishments, namely “All About Eve” the following year.  He also directed “The Barefoot Contessa,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “Sleuth.”  Also, there was the disaster of “Cleopatra.”  When I watch something like “A Letter to Three Wives,” I see why I prefer the style of Preston Sturges.  This film seems more like it should be a comedy with drama than vice versa.  I don’t think audiences should take the premise too seriously.  It was obviously that the story was not going in the direction of tragedy.  I see a lot of women who see “A Letter to Three Wives” today and scoffing at the weakness of the principals.  They’re ready to fall to pieces at the idea of problems with their marriages.  It is incredible that Kirk Douglas is still alive, although I wonder if he still has clear memories of appearing in movies like this.  Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, and Jeanne Crain died in 1965, 2001, and 2003, respectively.  Some of the people who died on May 1 include Spike Jones (1965), Aram Khachaturian (1978), Nora Swinburne (2000), and Grace Lee Whitney (2015).  Today is a birthday for Wes Anderson (48).

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