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Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 13 September 1948 (Sweden)
1:36 | Trailer
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), (novel)
1 win. See more awards »



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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.
Sonja Bryden ...
Frau Spitzer


In Vienna in 1900, Stefan Brand must face a duel the following morning. He has no intention of defending his honor however and plans to flee the city when he notices that he has received a letter from someone in his past. A struggling concert pianist at the time he met Lisa Berndle when she was just a teenager living next door. Brand has had many women in his life however and unaware that Lisa is genuinely in love with him, forgets all about her. They meet again but he only vaguely remembers ever having met her. Unknown to him she bears his child and eventually marries a man who knows of her past but loves her very much. When she runs into Brand many years later her love for him resurfaces and she is prepared to abandon her son son and husband for him. Tragedy follows. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

pianist | letter | duel | 1900s | neighbor | See All (190) »


This is the love every woman lives for...the love every man would die for!


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?


One of many Max Ophüls's films in which the main female character's name starts with the letter L. 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 »


Version of Lettre d'une inconnue (2001) See more »


Un sospiro
Music by Franz Liszt
Played on piano by Louis Jourdan (dubbed by Jakob Gimpel)
Also used as main theme in the score
See more »

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User Reviews

Max Ophulus' American Masterpiece
4 July 1999 | by (Chicago, USA) – See all my reviews

All of Ophulus films are remarkable achievements of content and form, but, this film is certainly his greatest contribution to cinema in the USA, and arguably his greatest film of any period. It is the intoxicatingly bittersweet tale of the obsessive love a young girl (Joan Fontaine) develops for a rougish pianist (Louis Jordan) that remains throughout each charcters life, long after most school-girl crushes have faded away. Fontaine charcter is so convincingly and sympathetically drawn that we are pulled into her desire for this rather self-possessed artist against our own rational thoughts. And as the film progresses Fontaine's attraction to the artist begins to deepen and humanize the audiences response to him. This film is deeply concerned with a woman's role under patriarchy and the limitations of "romantic" love as a form of fulfillment. It is also a well thought out examination of the idea of the "artistic" life as offering the possibilities of either liberation or entrapment.

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