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Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 13 September 1948 (Sweden)
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1:36 | Trailer

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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.

Director:

Max Ophüls (as Max Opuls)

Writers:

Howard Koch (screenplay), Stefan Zweig (novel)
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1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 September 1948 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Brief einer Unbekannten See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

1st Man on Balcony: [Speaking of Stefan] He returned last week.
2nd Man on Balcony: A concert tour?
Woman on Balcony: Pleasure trip most likely.
1st Man on Balcony: The way he's burning himself up, it's a wonder he's still alive.
2nd Man on Balcony: Ten years ago, he showed great promise. Too bad. With that talent, he could have been a great pianist.
1st Man on Balcony: Perhaps talent is not enough.
Woman on Balcony: Perhaps he has too many talents.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Max par Marcel (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Wiener Blut, Op. 354
(uncredited)
Music by Johann Strauss (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

Vienna at its most romantic.
27 April 2004 | by dbdumonteilSee all my reviews

An admirable scene sums up the whole movie:Stefan and Liza are aboard a "train" and they "travel".It's actually a fixed train,and some kind of stagehand forwards a chocolate box scenery :Venice ,Switzerland... In the real world ,trains are ominous messengers of death and despair:it's a train which takes Stefan away after their affair,a train which takes the young boy to his death.

Stefan (Jourdan)lives his selfish life without seeing anything.Ophuls(spelled Opuls in the cast and credits) shows him as a handsome nice young man,but if you look with care,you'll notice it's always Liza(Fontaine)who's looking at him with love.Jourdan seems to care but actually he knows so many women that he acts as if he's in a play:Liza's admiration means nothing to him who is a ladykiller-see the scene when Liza comes back from the station- and a celebrated musician adulated by the crowds.Liza is the romantic woman,with a zest of touch of Madame Bovary thrown in -it's not a coincidence if Minnelli chose Jourdan as Madame Bovary's lover in his eponymous movie the very same year-For her,there must be only one love ,and she's prepared to give it all.

Joan Fontaine had perhaps never been so good as here.Her whole life ,as she writes her letter (the movie is a flashback ) could have been written in the past conditional.Main influence is certainly that of John Stahl and his "only yesterday" (1933)in which Margaret Sullavan wrote John Boles such a letter.Even the young boy is present in both movies.The last page of the letter,ink-stained (or tear-stained?)takes the audience to a peak of emotion.The final predates the ending of Ophuls's "Madame de" (1953),and the scene on the "train" ,an imitation of life ,the big circus of "Lola Montes" (1955)

This is probably Louis Jourdan's best part as well.A French actor,he was never that much popular in his native country ,and he found his best parts in the US ,be it artistically (Ophuls ,Hitchcock and Minnelli) or commercially (Octopussy) speaking.


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