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Funny, sly, dramatic, but never melodramatic, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Academy Award winning writing and direction made A LETTER TO THREE WIVES ($15) a potent Hollywood cocktail of style, wit, glamour and pure entertainment value. In fact, A LETTER TO THREE WIVES has so much going for it, that this marvelous motion picture has deservingly earned the right to be called a true classic. Based on the book by John Klempner, A LETTER TO THREE WIVES tells the story of three married friends, Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain), Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell) and Rita Phipps (Ann Sothern), who live in an upper class suburban community in the post WWII period. On the morning the story begins, these three wives receive a letter from Addie Ross (sultrily voiced by Celeste Holm), announcing that she has left their community permanently- taking one of their husbands with her. What follows is a series of flashbacks in which all three wives reflect on their marriages, and just why each they think their husband may have run off with another woman. The cast of A LETTER TO THREE WIVES also features Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas, Barbara Lawrence, Jeffrey Lynn, Connie Gilchrist, Florence Bates, Hobart Cavanaugh and the always-delightful Thelma Ritter.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made A LETTER TO THREE WIVES available on DVD in a marvelous looking black and white transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. This film is another fine example of Hollywood glamour cinematography- beautifully lit, fairly crisp, glossy and with a silky smooth appearance. Not surprisingly, the actresses’ close-ups have a slightly diffuse appearance, which only serves to enhance their beauty. Blacks appear velvety, whites are clean, plus the picture boasts fine contrast. The film elements have been given a digital cleanup, which is free from most signs of age and wear. A grain structure is noticeable in place, but it gives the DVD a nice film like quality. Digital compression artifacts are always nicely contained.

A LETTER TO THREE WIVES has been issued on DVD with a remixed stereo soundtrack that decodes to surround reasonably well. The musical component is rather nicely spread throughout the outlying channels. Fidelity is about all one could expect from a film that is well over a half century old; there is a bit thinness to the music, but it never particularly harsh or brittle sounding. Most of the age related background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the track with a very respectable sonic quality. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always completely understandable. An English monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extras. Starting things off is an interesting, albeit somewhat scholarly running audio commentary featuring Mankiewicz biographers Kenneth Geist and Cheryl Lower, as well as the director’s son Christopher Mankiewicz. Next up is Hollywood's Fallen Angel an A&E Biography on the exquisitely beautiful Linda Darnell, whose own life was far more tragic than any character the actress could have ever imagined playing on the screen. A restoration comparison is also featured on the DVD, as is a theatrical trailer, plus newsreel footage from the Academy Award ceremony that honored A LETTER TO THREE WIVES.

A LETTER TO THREE WIVES is wonderful screen entertainment from Hollywood’s golden age. Fox has done a really fine job with the DVD presentation of this classic film, offering a good-looking image and smooth sound. If you are a movie buff, or a fan of any of the film’s stars, then A LETTER TO THREE WIVES is a must have DVD. Highly recommended.



A Letter to Three Wives (1949)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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