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A Foreign Affair (1948)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 20 August 1948 (USA)
In occupied Berlin, an army captain is torn between an ex-Nazi café singer and the U.S. congresswoman investigating her.


Billy Wilder


Charles Brackett (screenplay), Billy Wilder (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jean Arthur ... Congresswoman Phoebe Frost
Marlene Dietrich ... Erika Von Schluetow
John Lund ... Captain John Pringle
Millard Mitchell ... Colonel Rufus J. Plummer
Peter von Zerneck Peter von Zerneck ... Hans Otto Birgel
Stanley Prager ... Mike
William Murphy ... Joe (as Bill Murphy)
Raymond Bond Raymond Bond ... Congressman Pennecot
Boyd Davis Boyd Davis ... Congressman Giffin
Robert Malcolm ... Congressman Kramer
Charles Meredith ... Congressman Yandell
Michael Raffetto ... Confressman Salvatore
Damian O'Flynn ... Lieutenant Colonel
Frank Fenton ... Major Mathews
James Lorimer James Lorimer ... Lieutenant Hornby (as James Larmore)


A congressional committee visits occupied Berlin to investigate G.I. morals. Congresswoman Phoebe Frost, appalled at widespread evidence of human frailty, hears rumors that cafe singer Erika, former mistress of a wanted war criminal, is "protected" by an American officer, and enlists Captain John Pringle to help her find him...not knowing that Pringle is Erika's lover. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It would make a cigar store Indian laugh ...


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »





English | German

Release Date:

20 August 1948 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La mundana See more »

Filming Locations:

Berlin, Germany


Box Office


$1,500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Mirroring the triangle in the plot of the movie, Jean Arthur and Marlene Dietrich vied with each other for Billy Wilder's attentions, with Dietrich usually coming out far ahead. Although this was their first picture together, the two Europeans were old friends, and they would frequently be off in a corner of the set, talking in German and giggling. Sometimes Wilder went to Dietrich's dressing room for lunch or tea. All of this had Arthur seething, compounded by the fact that she was always insecure about her looks and knew she was playing the Plain Jane to Dietrich's Glamour Girl in this film. Reportedly, she showed up at his house one night with her husband, producer Frank Ross, visibly shaken and eyes red from weeping. She demanded to know what he had done with a certain close-up of her, "the one where I looked so beautiful," and accused Dietrich of having forced Wilder to burn it. One story claimed he eased her concern by showing her the close-up, but Wilder always said no such shot ever existed. Truth of the matter was, Arthur, although only a year and a half older than Dietrich (though neither of them were admitting their right age at the time), could not hide her age from the all seeing eye of the close-up camera, even with the help of false eyelashes and soft focus, and photographed from her traditionally favored left three-quarters. See more »


Though the character played by Jean Arthur is an 'unmarried' American Congresswoman, the actress's real life wedding ring is visible in many scenes especially close-ups during the latter part of the film. See more »


Captain John Pringle: Baseball and a little less heel clicking is what he needs.
See more »


Edited into The Good German (2006) See more »


Written by Lev Knipper and Viktor Gusev
Sung by chorus (Soviet soldiers)
See more »

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User Reviews

A little history is a useful thing
11 November 2009 | by rhoda-9See all my reviews

Though the plot of A Foreign Affair is lightweight and has seen service in many other movies (wholesome woman and sexy woman pursuing the same man; man pretends to fall for woman and then really does), the backdrop is deadly serious, compelling, and unusual. We are in the American Zone of Berlin after the war, a sector that, with the British and French zones, would soon become West Berlin, a magnet for many who would struggle to escape to this tiny outpost of the West in what would become Communist East Germany, many of them dying in the attempt. The Berlin Wall would be built to separate West from East Berlin. The Germans in the movie have had their world destroyed, don't know what is going on in the present, and can only wait with helpless terror for the future.

Though we are shown houses pulverised by Allied bombing and people living amongst the ruins, there is a lighthearted aspect to it all--the usual wartime stuff of GI's trading chocolate or stockings for kisses from pretty girls. In reality, however, it was more likely that they would be traded for sex from women desperate to feed themselves and their children, by soldiers reveling in a power they never had in civilian life and oblivious to the disgust and humiliation of the women. Marlene Dietrich says that, when the Russian troops invaded Berlin, "it was hard for the women." That's the understatement of the century! The Russians raped, and gang-raped, any women they could find--women died from being literally raped to death. It is understandable that Billy Wilder did not want to make the milieu too bleak in order to dampen the comedy, but keep in mind that matters were far more brutal and squalid than portrayed here.

It is a rather dark joke that Dietrich is cast in the role of a German woman who has had Nazi lovers and still feels loyal to Hitler. In fact, Dietrich became an American citizen in 1939 and extensively toured US military bases, sometimes at great danger, to entertain the troops. This aroused rage in Germany, and even decades after the war, as the result of protests by locals who called her a traitor, the government backed down and did not name a street in her honour. Can you beat that! An amusing footnote: When Dietrich tries her wiles on an officer, he says, Don't be silly, I've just become a grandfather. I don't know whether this was coincidence or intentional, but at the time the movie was made, Dietrich became a grandmother--an event that gave her a label that was very popular, but which she hated, "world's most glamorous grandmother."

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