(1949)5Dan JardineThe wickedly clever premise of A LETTER TO THREE WIVES is a brilliant jumping-off point for a clever and astute screenplay. The film's three different but equally troubled marriages offer an insightful glimpse into the gender politics, rotting class distinctions, and social mores of America in the mid-20th century. Unlike many filmic depictions of women of this era, the three leads in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES are not stereotyped or pigeon-holed. Each one is independent and strong, despite nagging doubts about the strength of her marriage. Joseph L. Mankiewicz's script goes right for the throat of middle-class suburban values via some very sympathetic characters; if the mix is occasionally uncomfortable (the characters are a bit too likeable to be skewered so harshly), the aim is straight and true. The stars play no small part in the film's success, especially Ann Sothern's poised performance as the ambitious writer for radio programs and Linda Darnell as the rough, self-doubting girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Visually, the film adds little to the art of cinema, but Mankiewicz's writing is a wonder. The following year, he wrote and directed the legendary All About Eve, leading to an unprecedented Academy Award record: Mankiewicz won Best Director and Best Screenplay for both movies, in consecutive years.