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A Letter to Three Wives

(1949 b 103')

En: 7 Ed: 7

Director Joseph Mankiewicz adapted John Klempner's novel about wives who receive a letter from a woman who ran off with one of their husbands.

Brad Bishop (Jeffrey Lynn) tells his wife Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain) that he may not be at the dinner dance, and she is jealous of Addie Ross. Deborah picks up Rita Phipps (Ann Sothern) and sees George Phipps (Kirk Douglas) wearing a suit on a Saturday. Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell) tells Deborah and Rita that Addie left town. The three get a letter from her saying she ran off with one of their husbands. The three go on a ship with kids.

Deborah remembers being scared to go out with Brad, Rita, and George; but Rita alters her dress and persuades her to go. Porter Hollingsway (Paul Douglas) says that Brad and Addie have class. Deborah has been drinking and gets dizzy. Her dress comes apart, and she is embarrassed. She sees Brad with Addie.

At the picnic Rita recalls instructing her maid Sadie (Thelma Ritter). George is a teacher and corrects Rita's English. She writes for radio and makes more money. Her boss is coming for dinner. George gets a present from Addie, and Rita forgot his birthday. The guests listen to radio. George tells Mrs. Manleigh (Florence Bates) and Mr. Manleigh (Hobart Cavanaugh) it is not good writing, and he makes fun of the commercials. Rita had hoped he would take an editing job. Rita and George quarrel, and he says radio changed her.

Rita finds Lora Mae in a locker room, and she says she does not care if Porter ran off with Addie. Lora Mae grew up by a railroad track, and she argues with her sister Babe Finney (Barbara Lawrence) and their mother (Connie Gilchrist) about using the bathroom. Babe objects, but Lora Mae is going out with her boss Porter. George meets Lora Mae. Porter parks with her, but she puts him off. She says she is looking for a man who wants to marry her. On the next date she kisses him. She sees a picture of Addie, and Porter says he helped her with investments. He says he was married, and she is jealous of Addie. Lora Mae says she is quitting her job and kisses him. On New Year's Eve Porter asks Lora Mae to go to Addie's party. She declines, and he asks her to marry.

The three wives plan to meet at the country club. Rita is glad that George is home. He says he wore a suit because he is directing a play. Deborah gets a message that Brad will not be home. Lora Mae tells her mother that Porter may have left; but she says Porter loves her, and he walks in. Lora Mae and Porter quarrel about their relationship being based on money. Deborah tells Rita and George that Brad is not coming. Deborah tells Porter that Lora Mae loves him. Deborah explains to Porter that Brad ran away with Addie. Then Porter says he ran away with Addie but changed his mind. Porter tells Lora Mae she can have money, but she calls him a gorilla and dances with him.

Although the plot is contrived, the characters are so well portrayed that one gets a sense of what country-club couples are like. The conflict between the poor teacher and those making money with commercialized mass media reflects a society that is becoming more materialistic.

Copyright © 2006 by Sanderson Beck

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