Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

A Letter to Three Wives
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
USA 1949
103 min

I've noticed that you can find a great deal of classic films, divided in parts of ca 10 minutes, on YouTube. That made me very happy, since it soon will be hard to get ahold of these old films in Sweden. Not as many as you'd like can be found on DVD, and soon you can get busted real hard for downloading...
Anyway, I thought a could link to the first part of the movies that I have seen on YouTube, beginning with today's
A Letter to Three Wives: link

Three women and long-time friends are taking a trip for the day with a boat. Just when the boat is about to leave a messenger boy brings a letter from a fourth woman, who we understand the women have very jealous feelings for, to the three of them. The letter tells them that the fourth woman, Addie Ross, have left town with a little souvenir - one of their husbands.
The three women looks longingly after the telephone booth as the boat leaves shore.

Mrs. Hollingsway, Mrs. Phipps and Mrs. Bishop. Who has been abandoned?

During the day we get a closer look on the women's marraiges through retrospects.

The first story is about Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain) and her husband Brad (Jeffrey Lynn). Deborah and Brad met during the war, and Brad brought her home to his small town as a wife. She is, however, uncomfortable with meeting his friends who have known each other for years. Her hair is too messy, her dress is too old-fashioned, she feels that she will emberass her husband in front of his friends.
Is it Brad who has left his wife with Addie Ross?

Deborah (Jeanne Crain).

The second story is that of Rita Phipps (Ann Sothern) and her husband George (Kirk Douglas). The couple have been married for seven years, but certain aspects are beginning to tear on their marriage. Rita is trying to make a career as a radio playwright and invites her bosses over for dinner. The bosses, a middle-aged couple named Mr. and Mrs. Manleigh, especially George. They insist on listening to bad radio theatre and condescend George for not liking what they see as professional writing. (George is in fact a Shakespeare-quoting school teacher.) The dinner ends with George telling Rita's bosses what he thinks of them and their taste in litterature, and a strond argument between husband and wife.
Could it be George who has left Rita for Addie Ross?

Rita (Ann Sothern).

The last story is that about Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell). She comes from a poor family and a house that almost fall to pieces every time a train passes it. She begins to have an affair with her boss, Porter Hollingsway (Paul Douglas in his motion picture debut). He is a wealthy business man who already has a marriage behind him, but Lora Mae insists that she wants a man that will marry her. After a while Porter gives up and marries her, being crazy about her, but is still sure that she only wants his money.
Have Porter had enough of gold digging women, and run off with Addie Ross?

Lora Mae (Linda Darnell).

With Joseph L. Mankiewicz as the director, I had great expectations for this film, and I am happy to announce that my expectations were well fulfilled. A smart, witty dialogue, fantastic manuscript, interesting plot and the character's destinies were well summarized. The actors and actresses are well chosen for their parts and played their characters without any possibility for the viewer to complain.
Thelma Ritter as the house keeper Sadie is cynical with a perfect feeling of comic timing, as usual in her parts (for example All About Eve from 1950 and Rear Window, 1954). See her in the following scene, were Porter Hollingsway picks Lora Mae up for a date.

"Good night, Mother dear, and don't wait up." If a daughter of mine ever really talked like that I'd cut her tongue out!

And who is Addie Ross? The mysterious woman that conserns everyone in this film, but we still never see. She is the narrator of the film, seducingly chuckling about her importance to all the characters. I thought I recognized the voice, but I couldn't quite place it. Thank heavens for IMDb - she was no less than Celeste Holm!
When the film was released the identity of Addie Ross was not revealed, and many "Who is Addie?" contests were held all over the United States.
Originally there were supposed to be four wives (in the novel the film is based on there were five), and the fourth woman would have been played by Anne Baxter. Unfortunately one woman had to go, the film would have been too long otherwise.
(When Mankiewicz had told producer Darryl F. Zanuck, also producer to All About Eve, about the length problem he simply said "Take out one of the wives.". If only all problems were that easy to solve!)


Addie Ross: She won't stay mad at him for long. She's too much in love. Pretty soon she'll be full of self-reproach. Ha ha! Women are so silly.

Mrs. Finney: Can't we have peace in this house even on New Year's Eve?
Sadie: You got it mixed up with Christmas. New Year's Eve is when people go back to killing each other.

Porter Hollingsway: It's a man's world. Yeah! See something you want, go after it and get it! That's nature. It's why we're made strong and women weak. Strong conquer and provide for the weak. That's what a man's for! Teach our kids that, there'd be more men!

George Phipps: The purpose of radio writing, as far as I can see, is to prove to the masses that a deodorant can bring happiness... a mouth wash guarantee success and a laxative attract romance.


Kate Gabrielle said...

When we watched this together, me and my mom bet on who Addie was before we looked it up on imdb... as usual I was right :)

Does Sweden have the PAL coding? There are so many PAL movies I want to see but can't because we can only watch NTSC.. especially British releases.

Lolita said...

Kate Gabrielle:
I'm impressed! I recognized her voice so much that it made me irritated-beyond-this-dimension that I couldn't figure out who she was! It seemes of course obvious that it was Celeste when I had found it out on IMDb.

I think most DVD-players can read both PAL and NTSC, at least if you ask for it in the store. They are often very helpful to give you information on how to de-code your DVD-player, too. But it is really frustrating. I have bought a lot of imported films with Region 1 (Sweden has Region 2), and now I canät watch them since my de-coded DVD-player stopped working. Auurrrgggh!

Alexis said...

Jeanne Crain is one of my all time faves! I'm so happy you wrote about it! My favorite part is when she gets plastered and has to meet all the people...with that UGLY flower/bow thing!! Hysterical!

Also--I <3 Kirk Douglas in this...he's so charming.

Lolita said...

Haha, that was the comical highlight of the whole picture! It really looked ridiculous. And on top of the nervousness she felt already! Haha!