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Bitter Sweet (1940)

Passed  -  Drama | Musical | Romance  -  8 November 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 288 users  
Reviews: 10 user | 5 critic

In order to avoid an arranged marriage with a man she doesn't love, Sarah Millick runs off to Vienna with her music teacher, Carl Linden, whom she does love. They are married. In Vienna, ... See full summary »


(as W.S. Van Dyke II)


(original play), (screen play)
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Title: Bitter Sweet (1940)

Bitter Sweet (1940) on IMDb 6.5/10

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Ian Hunter ...
Lord Shayne
Felix Bressart ...
Edward Ashley ...
Harry Daventry
Lynne Carver ...
Diana Lewis ...
Curt Bois ...
Fay Holden ...
Mrs. Millick
Sig Ruman ...
Herr Schlick (as Sig Rumann)
Janet Beecher ...
Lady Daventry
Charles Judels ...
Herr Wyler
Veda Ann Borg ...
Herman Bing ...
Market Keeper


In order to avoid an arranged marriage with a man she doesn't love, Sarah Millick runs off to Vienna with her music teacher, Carl Linden, whom she does love. They are married. In Vienna, they struggle to make a living by making music. Carl writes an operetta and tries to get it produced. They are helped along by Viennese Baron, but his intentions are not honorable. He kills Carl in a sword fight. A big producer does put on the operetta, with Sari in the lead -- but without her husband, it is a bittersweet victory. Written by John Oswalt <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A musical triumph! See more »


Drama | Musical | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

8 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bitter Sweet  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Noel Coward's wistful reflection in song, "If Love Were All," sung by Jeanette MacDonald, was deleted from the movie. In the 1933 British-made film production, Anna Neagle had sung the classic ballad. See more »


Sarah Millick, later Sari Linden: [over a very sparse dinner] Oh well, maybe it's all for the best. I hear more people die from overeating than from any other cause.
Carl Linden: I bet we'll be immortal, then. I hate Herr Weiller.
Sarah Millick, later Sari Linden: I hate the market keeper.
Carl Linden: I hate the landlord.
Sarah Millick, later Sari Linden: That's not fair, *I* was going to hate the landlord. *You* hate Herr Weiller again.
See more »


Remake of Bitter Sweet (1933) See more »


Una voce poco fa
(1) (1816) (uncredited)
From Gioachino Rossini's "The Barber of Seville"
Danced by a dancing ensemble
See more »

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User Reviews

"Learning Scales Will Never Be So Sweet Again"
15 February 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

A previous reviewer reported the well known story about how upset Noel Coward was at this version of his work that he refused to allow Hollywood to do another adaptation of any of his works. Hollywood in fact never did.

Of course you'd have to have something to compare it to and I hope that TCM manages to find the 1933 version that Anna Neagle and Fernand Gravey did for the British cinema.

On its own Bitter Sweet is a mixture of the previous MacDonald/Eddy triumph Maytime with a good hunk of Anna Karenina thrown into the mix. Jeanette MacDonald on an impulse runs off with her music teacher Nelson Eddy to gay old Vienna where they live on love and starve a good deal of the time. In doing the elopement she jilts her fiancé, proper and stuffy Edward Ashley who's an up and coming man in their Foreign Office.

I'm sure Noel Coward didn't complain about what Jeanette and Nelson did vocally with his songs because they're sung beautifully. Jeanette is barely passable for British and Nelson is about as Viennese as John Wayne. MGM knew that and surrounded them with the German colony of Hollywood, Sig Rumann, Curt Bois, Felix Bressart, and Herman Bing. And George Sanders is his usual caddish self as the Baron Von Trannisch who's got a lustful eye for Jeanette.

Noel Coward's plays are comedies of manners with some satirical jibes at British society. His music is universal, but his wit is for the British Isles. I doubt he could have written a western. My guess is that that was what Coward objected to in this film.

Still Jeanette and Nelson fans will like it and until someone at TCM finds the Anna Neagle version that's all we're likely to see.

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