His first hit as a director after several undistinguished outings, this crisp and witty comedy of manners about suburban matrimony reveals the beginnings of Joseph Mankiewicz’s distinctive style. Smartly self-aware, with its teasing voicover and plaited story of rueful marital memories, it formally prefigures All About Eve and the graveside flashbacks of The Barefoot Contessa.
June 05, 2015
Mankiewicz’s writing is scintillating and expressive, but his daring direction makes it burst into life. When Crain utters the film’s most anguished line, she gives a defiant, dramatically unmotivated look into the camera, a gesture of existential complicity that became a cornerstone of cinematic modernism. Despite its emotional intensity, the film is comic, effervescently so, and its magical ending lends wit a metaphysical dimension.
As a director, Mankiewicz’s style—now unharnessed from the bolder visual style of genre expectations—may be plainer, as though demanding closer attention to the performances and dialogue. But the blocking is thoughtful, and small felicities lap around the edges. The realization of Linda Darnell’s family home inLetter, for instance, is precisely laid out and wonderfully a-jumble (the gag about the walls shaking when the train passes is classic).
"Worry," says the radio.
"Will your best friends not tell you?
"Will you lose your teeth?
Will your cigarettes give you cancer?
"Will your body function
after you're 35?
"If you don't use our product,
you lose your husband, your job and die!
Use our product and we'll make you rich,
we'll make you famous!"
I very much enjoyed the film, its pretty much because its written very well, its casts are great, the story, well its the kind that keeps you guessing til the end, so I liked it very much..Plus, probably this movie is what inspired 'desperate housewives'..It was worth to watch.
The direction is absolutely unspectacular and at times extremely silly. That said, the script was quite excellent in many areas. The structure, which zigzags between past and present, is perfect for this tale. The themes of social status and devotion are also never over done and, at times, are masterfully intertwined with one another. In short, if you like old Hollywood melodrama, this one is well worth watch.
Lora May is the deification of Linda Darnell. She and Paul Douglas are perfect together, as good as Jean Harlow and Wallace Beery in "Dinner At Eight." In some ways, this is a better movie than "All About Eve."
Unfussy and unhurried, it plays like a movie for television avant la lettre. One problem for me was that I didn't find myself caring or rooting for anyone, so the journey towards the final reveal felt a bit academic.