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Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 16 July 1948 (Mexico)
1:37 | 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.


Max Ophüls (as Max Opuls)


Howard Koch (screenplay), Stefan Zweig (novel)
2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Joan Fontaine ... Lisa Berndle
Louis Jourdan ... Stefan Brand
Mady Christians ... Frau Berndle
Marcel Journet Marcel Journet ... Johann Stauffer
Art Smith ... John
Carol Yorke Carol Yorke ... Marie
Howard Freeman ... Herr Kastner
John Good John Good ... Lt. Leopold von Kaltnegger
Leo B. Pessin Leo B. Pessin ... Stefan Jr.
Erskine Sanford ... Porter
Otto Waldis ... Concierge
Sonja Bryden 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 and husband for him. Tragedy follows. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


In the original movie the main male character is not a piano player but a unnamed writer, who is referenced as "R." ("R" as in "Romanschriftsteller", which means "Novel writer" in German). In the movie his first name is Stefan, just like the writer of the original story, Stefan Zweig. See more »


While most signs in the movie are written correctly in German, since the movie is set in Austria, parts of them are in English, e.g. Stefan Brand's concert flyer, which says "Concert Program" instead of "Konzertprogramm". See more »


Stefan Brand: [When leaving for Milan] Say Stefan, the way that you said it last night.
Lisa Berndl: ...Stefan
Stefan Brand: It's as though you've said it all your life.
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Version of Valkoiset ruusut (1943) See more »


Wiener Blut, Op. 354
Music by Johann Strauss (uncredited)
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User Reviews

All she hears is the music
25 May 2017 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Joan Fontaine and her husband William Dozier produced this film which contains a classic performance for Fontaine. In it she plays a woman who sees a lot more in the character of the man of her dreams than he really possesses. The object of her affection is Louis Jourdan, a womanizing concert pianist who when the film opens up is about to flee the scene rather than face an irate husband in a duel. Just as he's ready to take it on the lam, Jourdan receives a Letter From An Unknown Woman, one of many he's known in his life. He reads and the story in flashback begins.

Like in her performance in The Constant Nymph Joan starts her performance as a child. When and widowed mother Mady Christians were living in Vienna, Jourdan was learning his craft and the sound of his playing gave her romantic fantasies.

Later on when they meet as an adult they do have a brief affair which leaves her with child. True to his nature he leaves her and pursues his career and his romantic avocations. She was barely a blip on his radar.

During the course of Fontaine's off screen narration of her letter, the tragedy of her life unfolds and the causes are a combination of her romantic fantasies and his lack of character. I can't say more but the end is truly heartbreaking.

Letter From An Unknown Woman was a nice and truly original idea. It starts slowly, but you really get drawn into the story by Fontaine's off screen narration and on screen performance. Jourdan too is fascinating as a man who is less than the sum of his parts.

A really great choice of roles for Joan Fontaine.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

16 July 1948 (Mexico) See more »

Also Known As:

Brief einer Unbekannten See more »


Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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