Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  13 September 1948 (Sweden)
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 7,558 users  
Reviews: 57 user | 53 critic

A pianist about to flee from a duel receives a letter from a woman he cannot remember, who may hold the key to his downfall.


(as Max Opuls)


(screenplay), (story), 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Marcel Journet ...
Art Smith ...
Carol Yorke ...
Herr Kastner
John Good ...
Lt. Leopold von Kaltnegger
Leo B. Pessin ...
Stefan Jr.
Erskine Sanford ...
Otto Waldis ...
Sonja Bryden ...
Frau Spitzer


In Vienna, about 1900, a dashing man arrives at his flat, instructing his manservant that he will leave before morning: the man is Stefan Brand, formerly a concert pianist, planning to leave Vienna to avoid a duel. His servant gives him a letter from an unknown woman, which he reads. In flashbacks we see the lifelong passion of Lisa Berndle for him: first as a girl who was his neighbor; next as a young woman who, in secret, has his child; then as a mature woman who meets him again and abandons husband and son to be with him. Each time he does not remember who she is or that they have ever met. By morning, he has finished the letter, and her husband awaits satisfaction. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

letter | pianist | duel | neighbor | 1900s | See All (193) »


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

13 September 1948 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Brief einer Unbekannten  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Joan Fontaine's favorite movie. See more »


Stefan Brand: Promise me something.
Lisa Berndl: Anything.
Stefan Brand: And I don't even know where you live. Promise me you won't vanish.
Lisa Berndl: I won't be the one who vanishes.
See more »


Featured in At the Movies: 25 Years of Margaret & David (2011) See more »


Radetzky-Marsch, Op. 228
Music by Johann Strauss Sr. (uncredited)
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User Reviews

Vienna at its most romantic.
27 April 2004 | by See all my reviews

An admirable scene sums up the whole movie:Stefan and Liza are aboard a "train" and they "travel".It's actually a fixed train,and some kind of stagehand forwards a chocolate box scenery :Venice ,Switzerland... In the real world ,trains are ominous messengers of death and despair:it's a train which takes Stefan away after their affair,a train which takes the young boy to his death.

Stefan (Jourdan)lives his selfish life without seeing anything.Ophuls(spelled Opuls in the cast and credits) shows him as a handsome nice young man,but if you look with care,you'll notice it's always Liza(Fontaine)who's looking at him with love.Jourdan seems to care but actually he knows so many women that he acts as if he's in a play:Liza's admiration means nothing to him who is a ladykiller-see the scene when Liza comes back from the station- and a celebrated musician adulated by the crowds.Liza is the romantic woman,with a zest of touch of Madame Bovary thrown in -it's not a coincidence if Minnelli chose Jourdan as Madame Bovary's lover in his eponymous movie the very same year-For her,there must be only one love ,and she's prepared to give it all.

Joan Fontaine had perhaps never been so good as here.Her whole life ,as she writes her letter (the movie is a flashback ) could have been written in the past conditional.Main influence is certainly that of John Stahl and his "only yesterday" (1933)in which Margaret Sullavan wrote John Boles such a letter.Even the young boy is present in both movies.The last page of the letter,ink-stained (or tear-stained?)takes the audience to a peak of emotion.The final predates the ending of Ophuls's "Madame de" (1953),and the scene on the "train" ,an imitation of life ,the big circus of "Lola Montes" (1955)

This is probably Louis Jourdan's best part as well.A French actor,he was never that much popular in his native country ,and he found his best parts in the US ,be it artistically (Ophuls ,Hitchcock and Minnelli) or commercially (Octopussy) speaking.

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