The first to do it was Leo McCary.

He won the Oscar for best screenplay and best director in 1945 for Going My Way. The next year Billy Wilder matched that, winning in both categories for Lost Weekend.

Then Joseph Mankiewicz (above) topped them both winning both in 1949 and again in 1950! It’s widely appreciated in the business that  1950’s All About Eve — written and directed by Mankiewicz — garnered a record 14 Oscar nominations.

But how many people know much about his 1949 hit, A Letter to Three Wives? Or much about his other 1950 release, No Way Out.

Above are the three wives from the former title (from left, Ann Sothern, Linda Darnell and Jeanne Crain), each involved in shaky marriages.

No wonder they are collectively upended by a letter received from one Addie Ross (the voice of Celeste Holm, seen briefly from the rear in only one scene) announcing that she has run off with one of their husbands.

Which one?  Well, you gotta see the picture.

The movie is based on a novel by John Klempner titled A Letter To Five Wives.  Two of the spouses were dropped in the transition from the page to the screen, one at the suggestion Twentieth Century Fox boss Daryl Zanuck, who responded to Mankiewicz’s complaint that the script was too long, with this:  Cut one wife.

Image result for images of taylor burton in cleopatra

(The Mankiewicz-Zanuck combo had less success at Fox in the early Sixties with the monstrously ill-fated Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. A bloated disaster of historic proportions, the movie almost sank the studio. Director Mankiewicz wound up getting fired by Zanuck.)

In any case, Letter To Three Wives was Mankiewicz’s first double Oscar win — in the best screenplay and best director categories.

He missed a third double “double winner” triumph with another of his 1950 titles, No Way Out, a dark, violent drama about racism which featured the grizzled Richard Widmark and a self-possessed newcomer by the name of Sidney Poitier.

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Mankiewicz directed the movie from a screenplay he wrote with Lesser Samuels. The script, not his direction, was nominated for an Oscar, but lost out.

Why?  This was the year of Sunset Boulevard, which received 11 nominations and three wins.

 

 

 

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