A Letter to Three Wives appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an excellent presentation.
Sharpness came across well. Any signs of softness reflected the style of photography utilized, as the actresses sometimes got the “glamour treatment”. Nonetheless, overall definition seemed strong. No noticeable problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes stayed absent.
Grain looked light but natural, and the image lacked any form of print flaws. Black levels were nicely deep and firm, and low-light shots usually came across as smooth and well-defined. A couple of awkward day for night scenes popped up, but otherwise the shadows looked clear. I thought this became a splendid transfer.
While not as impressive, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack held up fine given its era. Speech showed its age but still came across as pretty natural; the lines lacked edginess or other problems. Effects played a minor role in this chatty flick, as they stayed in the background. Those elements were acceptably defined and clean; I noticed nothing special about them, but they lacked distortion or problems.
Music was also subdued. Only sporadic examples of score or source music popped up, and those pieces sounded reasonably clear and distinctive. They lacked much breadth, though, and didn’t add much. No background noise interfered with the audio. I thought the audio seemed more than satisfactory.
How did the Blu-ray compare the Fox Studio Classics DVD from 2005? Audio was a bit warmer and fuller, and visuals looked cleaner, tighter and smoother. Everything improved in this terrific presentation.
The Blu-ray replicates most of the DVD’s extras, and we begin with an audio commentary from Joseph Mankiewicz biographers Kenneth Geist and Cheryl Lower and director’s son Christopher Mankiewicz. All three sit separately and the track edits together their remarks. We get the usual look at the lives and careers of various actors as well as many notes about Mankiewicz.
We also learn about adapting the original text, casting, Mankiewicz’s dealings with the Production Code, and other topics connected to the film’s creation. One of the better insights looks at the way many people misinterpreted the ending and the director’s last word about that. All in all, the commentary covers appropriate topics and gives us a nice glimpse at the movie.
Next we find an episode of A&E’s Biography series entitled Linda Darnell: Hollywood’s Fallen Angel. It runs 44 minutes and three seconds and includes interviews with biographer Ronald Davis, sister Undeen Darnell Hunter, daughter Lola Marley, producer AC Lyles, film historian James Robert Parish, actresses Alice Faye and Dorris Bowdon Johnson, and actors Roddy McDowall and Richard Widmark.
Like all of the Biography episodes, “Angel” follows its subject’s ups and downs. In this case, however, the dark moments don’t seem forced, as Darnell clearly went through many bad times. We learn of all the pressure put on the actress by her pushy stage mother Pearl, and we see Darnell’s successes and failures. Alcoholism mars her career and other negatives dominate her relatively short life. The program balances the good and bad sides well and offers a solid portrait of the actress.
One Movietone News reels shows up via “Oscars Presented for Achievements in Motion Pictures”. In the one-minute, 15-second clip, we watch some celebrities arrive and check out as they hand out some prizes; Letter director/writer Joe Mankiewicz pops up there. The disc also includes a trailer for Letter.
A pleasant surprise, A Letter to Three Wives came out of nowhere and really impressed me. Granted, based on prior experiences with the work of Joseph Mankiewicz, I should have expected the zippy and amusing effort I saw, but I nonetheless took it as an unanticipated delight. The Blu-ray offers stunning visuals along with satisfying audio and some satisfying bonus materials. I recommend this solid release for an involving movie.
To rate this film visit the Fox Studio Classics review of A LETTER TO THREE WIVES