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The Passionate Friends (1949)

Approved | | Drama | 26 January 1949 (UK)
The Passionate Friends were in love when young, but separated, and she married an older man. Then Mary Justin meets Steven Stratton again and they have one last fling together in the Alps.



(novel), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Professor Steven Stratton
Betty Ann Davies ...
Miss Joan Layton
Pat Stratton
Arthur Howard ...
Smith - the Butler
Guido Lorraine ...
Hotel Manager
Marcel Poncin ...
Hall Porter
Natasha Sokolova ...
Hélène Burls ...
Jean Serret ...
Emigration Official
Frances Waring ...
Wenda Rogerson ...
Bridge Guest
Helen Piers ...
1st Woman - Albert Hall
Ina Pelly ...
2nd Woman - Albert Hall


The Passionate Friends were in love when young, but separated, and she married an older man. Then Mary Justin meets Steven Stratton again and they have one last fling together in the Alps. Written by David Wark <dwark@atge.automail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Their affair took on a life of its own.




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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

26 January 1949 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

One Woman's Story  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Production began with Ronald Neame as director. See more »


When Steven barges into Howard's office, he is shown starting to close the door, followed by the sound of a door closing. However, in the subsequent shot, the door is open again. See more »


Professor Steven Stratton: Do you remember once, I asked you how you could love me and yet marry someone else?
Mary Justin: Yes, I remember.
Professor Steven Stratton: Your marriage was bound to be a failure.
See more »


Version of The Passionate Friends (1922) See more »


Auld Lang Syne
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User Reviews

"Your love is the romantic kind"
11 August 2007 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

For The Passionate Friends David Lean treads similar ground as he does in his masterpiece, Brief Encounter, although here the source material is an HG Wells story as opposed to a Noel Coward play.

The post-war Lean, with his attention to psychology and emotions, handled these stories of problematic romance brilliantly, and The Passionate Friends is a great example. We open with clouds and snow-capped mountains, a holiday location that foreshadows Lean's Summertime (1955), straight away giving us a sense of dreaminess and soaring emotions.

This is Lean at his most psychological and expressionist. The sound and imagery is always calculated to mirror feelings – like the abruptness of the plane wheel touching the ground when Claude Rains returns from his trip abroad. The acting really supports this too. Considering it's a story about a love triangle, a large amount of the story is told through scenes in which one of the three principal characters is alone, or at least unobserved, and the actors convey inner thoughts through subtle expressions and gestures.

Also, like the bulk of Lean's pictures from this era there are references to the war and the impact it had on British society. It's probably no coincidence that the decision was made to set the flashbacks of the affair in 1939 (Wells' original story was decades older), the year that war broke out. The cold, bureaucratic Claude Rains seems to be in part symbolic of the necessity in wartime to be rational and emotionless, and the story is an allegory for the need to break away from that.

While it is a good story and very well-made, The Passionate Friends is unfortunately no Brief Encounter. On the acting side, Claude Rains is brilliant as always, but I'm less convinced by Ann Todd, who perhaps got the part more because she was Mrs Lean that for her talent. The plot can be a bit confusing with its flashbacks within flashbacks. Probably the biggest problem though is that we never get to totally empathise with the characters. While Brief Encounter's sheer ordinariness made it so universal, you don't get this to the same degree here, and that makes it by far the weaker of the two pictures. Still, it's by no means a disaster, and still one of the better films of David Lean's 1940s output.

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