Markings of Mankiewicz’s auteur voice and narrative style (it’s almost all narrative) are coming through—like All About Eve (Mankiewicz’s best work which comes the year after) we’re getting multiple narrators through voice-over
Mankiewicz won the best director and best screenplay Oscars and would do the same thing again for Eve in 1950 the following year- wow
Third screen role for the incomparable Thelma Ritter- she’s still uncredited (like she was in Miracle on 34th Street– her debut, and Call Northside 777 (1948))- very good here in support
Apparently there were originally five wives in the novel, Mankiewicz filmed four (Anne Baxter would be cut by producers) so we’re at three. Of course Baxter would bounce back with Mankiewicz the following year with All About Eve
The voice-over here is a writer’s tool largely in cinema and this is no exception- very good writing and some interesting changing of POV and fourth-wall breaking: unseen narrator (Celeste Holm- who would also go on to be in Eve the following year) saying “That’s right- I’m Addie” and is omniscient talking to characters who never talk back. Cynical. Obviously voice-over narration used by Paul Schrader in Taxi Driver, often by Wilder (Sunset Boulevard), lots of noir at the time, Charlie Kaufman in most of his work (Eternal Sunshine, Adaptation).
Great shot of the three women in the frame staring at the pay phone all wanting to call their husbands to check if they’re home after reading Addie’s ominous letter.
The casting of Kirk Douglas is strange—you can tell this is still early Douglas. He’s always captivating but here he’s largely so light and cheery here—almost gelded. There is one exception- in one scene he really gets going about how awful the radio is and radio writing. It’s amazing- his nostrils are flaring.
Structurally we’re broken up nicely into three parts of a domestic drama with hints at who the letter could be about—interludes of the three women together the day they receive the letter after the opening which sets it all up
Ritter, again, slays it- “my union doesn’t like me doing this type of work for free” (answering the door at her friends)
There’s a weird “why didn’t George go fishing” and the like distorted voice. I don’t like it- Mankiewicz should have more faith in the audience then to pick yet another vehicle to tell us what the character is thinking). I do like the graphic matches as we go into flashbacks.
Very intelligently written and six stellar performances- the three couples, minus Jeffrey Lynn’s “Brad” (who doesn’t have much to do) plus Ritter