A Letter to Three Wives (1949) is based on a novel by John Klempner. His novel was entitled A Letter to Five Wives. Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz thought the novel was too long and would be difficult to transfer to the screen. So, he shortened it to four wives and then shortened it again to three. Mankiewicz adapted the screenplay with author and screenwriter Vera Caspary (Laura).
Like Mankiewicz’s All About Eve a year later, A Letter to Three Wives has witty dialogue delivered by a cast of pros. Crain, Sothern, and Darnell are all wonderful as the three wives, with Darnell a standout. As Lora Mae, Darnell has a tough exterior, but in many ways is more vulnerable than either Crain or Sothern.
For Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1949 was an extraordinary year. Not only did he win the Academy Award for Best Director, but he also won for Best Writing as well. Writing and directing was something Mankiewicz had always wanted to do and A Letter to Three Wives showcases Mankiewicz at the height of his creativity.