Sunday, 17 March 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1949: Kirk Douglas in A Letter To Three Wives

Kirk Douglas did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying George Phipps in A Letter to Three Wives.

A Letter to Three Wives tells the story of the turmoil three women suffer after receiving a letter from their mutual friend that she has run off with one of their husbands, although she does not say which one. This is a decent enough film that is rather forgotten despite winning Best Director for Joseph L. Mankiewicz, although William Wyler, William Wellman, and Carol Reed would have been better choices.

The three husbands include Jeffrey Lynn who is quite a dullard, Paul Douglas who is the standard rich guy whose performance is pretty uninteresting although he is pretty good in his last scene. Kirk Douglas is the most interesting of the husbands mostly because he is played by Kirk Douglas. Each of the husbands have some sort of trouble with their wives George Phipps's problems is he feels somewhat emasculated that he makes less that his money than his radio writer drama wife (Ann Sothern), and also becomes rather annoyed by his wife bowing down to the whims of the rather unscrupulous advertisers for the radio.

Douglas gives the best performance in the film which isn't saying too much really, but here he does show his ability to steal scenes in a film in a supporting role in a similar fashion to the way he does it in a leading role. Douglas relies as usual on his ample amount of intensity he has in his possession that he can turn on and off in a matter of seconds but still make it seem entirely believable within his character. He does that here quite well when his character bashes the radio advertisers in particularly brutal fashion which Douglas handles with a delightful energy which gives life to the film well establishes properly the conflict in his character.

Of course Kirk Douglas's whole performance is not intense and he has a few scenes of being just his charming old self which he does so well, and due to his ability to switch from intensity to charm so effective and naturally it really makes the revelations of his character work out properly. This is a good performance by Kirk Douglas but not a great one as his role is very limited, and more importantly he and Sothern really do not have that much chemistry. This luckily is not that much of a problem as they are suppose to be not getting along for most of the film, but it leaves the ending of the film having a fairly minor impact. Entirely on his own though Douglas gives a good efficient performance.

1 comment:

Michael Patison said...

I agree with your assessment of his performance, but I don't really agree with your assessment of the film and most of the other performances. I thought the film was indeed not nearly as good as All About Eve, but it showed signs of what was to come from Mankiewicz just one year later. Also, I found the ladies to be quite good. Well, maybe not Jeanne Crain, but Ann Sothern and especially Linda Darnell. I also found Paul Douglas to be about as you mentioned. He's pretty standard throughout but that last scene for me is bordering on brilliance.