Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  13 September 1948 (Sweden)
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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?


"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 10, 1949 with Joan Fontaine and Louis Jourdan reprising their film roles. 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 Letter from an Unknown Woman (1969) See more »


Radetzky-Marsch, Op. 228
Music by Johann Strauß Sr. (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

Vienna, the Eternal City
22 October 1999 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

Much of Max Ophüls' elegant Vienna, so affectionately and painstakingly presented here, vanished during the First World War, but much remains today, the baroque accoutrements, the omnipresent aura of devout Catholicism, the genteel amusements of the Prater, and, of course, the music. In that respect, the musical, Vienna has never emotionally quit the time of Emperor Franz Josef.

The photography here is luminous, so befitting since Joan Fontaine has probably never been more radiant. The film seems custom-made for her demeanour, as early on she plays the mild girl of modest means, the one with that expression like a frightened doe. This is the kind of portrayal which served her so well in "Rebecca" and "Suspicion".

She gains confidence and poise as the story progresses, but the reticence remains. Therein lies the story's drama.

At her height of prosperity, she dons a fur coat of purest white, as white as the helping of Schlagobers which accompanies a Viennese cup of Schokolade. As pure of hue as an unsullied white rose. But the purity of the whiteness is illusory. Franz Kafka was beginning to write at about this time in the Cisleithanian city of Prague to the north; he clearly understood the symbolism implicit in fur. Joan's security is undermined by the illicit secret from her past.

Stefan Brand's dumb manservant is an enigmatic figure. He would seem to be the embodiment of all the emotions left unstated by the principal characters. So much goes unsaid in Max Ophüls' charming Austro-Hungarian tragedy.

14 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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