12 user 6 critic

Bitter Sweet (1940)

Passed | | Drama, Musical, Romance | 8 November 1940 (USA)
A woman runs away with her music teacher in order to escape an arranged marriage, but they struggle to make ends meet.


W.S. Van Dyke (as W.S. Van Dyke II)


Noël Coward (original play) (as Noel Coward), Lesser Samuels (screen play)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeanette MacDonald ... Sarah Millick
Nelson Eddy ... Carl Linden
George Sanders ... Baron von Tranisch
Ian Hunter ... Lord Shayne
Felix Bressart ... Max
Edward Ashley ... Harry Daventry
Lynne Carver ... Dolly
Diana Lewis ... Jane
Curt Bois ... Ernst
Fay Holden ... Mrs. Millick
Sig Ruman ... Herr Schlick (as Sig Rumann)
Janet Beecher ... Lady Daventry
Charles Judels ... Herr Wyler
Veda Ann Borg ... Manon
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 <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A musical triumph! See more »


Drama | Musical | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

8 November 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bittersweet See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Except for a few shots where she was doubled by Audrey Scott, Jeanette MacDonald did most of her own horseback riding. 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 »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits are shown on a sewing sampler. See more »


Referenced in Arena: The Orson Welles Story - Part 1 (1982) See more »


Dear Little Cafe
(1929) (uncredited)
Words and Music by Noël Coward with additional lyrics by Gus Kahn
Sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy
Reprised by Jeanette MacDonald
See more »

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User Reviews

Not one of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy's best, but still with much to enjoy
28 August 2013 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Bitter Sweet is not up there with New Moon and especially Maytime(out of their collaborations), but it is not their worst, that would be- though from a personal perspective it wasn't as bad as heard- I Married An Angel. Bitter Sweet does have things wrong, the story is silly, at times draggy and also a little choppy, the Baron's wife is an annoying character and is played even worse and Nelson Eddy's acting is rather stiff, he also has as much conviction as an Austrian as John Wayne did as Genghis Kahn in The Conqueror. It's not as if his acting is like that in all his films, it was great in The Chocolate Soldier for instance where he does show some gift for comedy. Bitter Sweet looks incredible though, out of Eddy-MacDonald's outings it is one of their best-looking. The costumes and sets are very sumptuous, the set for Zigeuner stands out. The Technicolor photography is the very meaning of exquisite. Fabulous also are the songs, Noel Coward's first score and one of his greatest too, I'll See You Again and Zigeuner are the best of the bunch. The dialogue is snappy and sweet, with some appropriate seediness for the baron, the choreography does have energy and W.S. Wise's direction while not landmark-standard is perfect for the type of film Bitter Sweet is, charming and solid with a light touch. There is a good supporting cast, George Sanders is wonderfully smarmy and lecherous in another one of his caddish roles, Hermann Bing is very funny and Ian Hunter shines at being distinguished. Jeanette MacDonald is as beautiful and charming as ever, and her performance carries Bitter Sweet very nicely, she was always better in the acting stakes than Eddy. Though Eddy was the better singer, it is difficult to ever find fault in Eddy's rich, warm baritone singing and while personally it isn't a problem MacDonald's somewhat thin-toned at times, trilly soprano is an acquired taste. Both she and Eddy sing absolutely beautifully throughout, together and individually, and their chemistry is convincing. All in all, still much to enjoy but not one of their best. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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