35 user 11 critic

Playing for Time (1980)

Female prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp (Auschwitz) are spared from death in return for performing music for their captors.


Daniel Mann, Joseph Sargent (uncredited)


Arthur Miller, Fania Fénelon (autobiography: "The Musicians of Auschwitz")
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Vanessa Redgrave ... Fania Fenelon
Jane Alexander ... Alma Rose
Maud Adams ... Mala
Christine Baranski ... Olga
Robin Bartlett ... Etalina
Marisa Berenson ... Elzvieta
Verna Bloom ... Paulette
Donna Haley Donna Haley ... Katrina
Lenore Harris Lenore Harris ... Charlotte
Mady Kaplan ... Varya
Will Lee ... Shmuel
Anna Thomson ... Michou (as Anna Levine)
Viveca Lindfors ... Frau Schmidt
Melanie Mayron ... Marianne
Marcell Rosenblatt Marcell Rosenblatt ... Giselle


In World War II, the Jewish French musician and cabaret singer Fania Fenelon Goldstein is sent by the Nazis from Paris to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. The guards take her clothing and luggage and they cut her hair very short. One day, when she is very weak, she hears someone asking whether any prisoner could sing Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly and she joins the group of musicians that have been spared from the gas chambers to entertain the Nazis performing music for them. She convinces the conductor Alma Rose to invite her friend Marianne, telling that she would be a talented singer. Along the years of abusive treatment, they survive but losing their dignity. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Music


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Did You Know?


Despite controversy and attempted boycotts, the 3 hour film was the highest viewed program of the week, with 20.4 million American homes watching its debut. See more »


Upon joining the camp orchestra, Fania Fenelon (Vanessa Redgrave) is asked by the women's commandant for her shoe size. Fenelon replies with the American shoe size "9", whereas in reality she would have given the European equivalent size of 40. See more »


Alma Rose: We must constantly raise the level of our playing, or I really don't know how long they will tolerate us.
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Featured in The 33rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (1981) See more »


The Blue Danube
Music by Johann Strauss
Arranged by Norman Gold
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User Reviews

Shocking... but it happened
24 June 2018 | by EmerencianoSee all my reviews

I don't know how many Holocaust films I have seen in my life, but I know they are still shocking. Shocking to know it all happened! Shocking to know there are still so many people who don't take it as a real fact.

Anyway, focusing on the film now. "Playing for Time", as many others movies, hits us. And not only because of the strong plot, but because of the performance of the cast. And what a cast! I confess I did not know most of the actors, but their talent is undeniable. But - there's no other way to put it - no one works in "Playing for Time" better than Vanessa Redgrave here. She's great!

When I went to IMDb to find out more about the film I saw it was made for TV. I imagine how strong would it be if Daniel Mann and Joseph Sargent had done this for the movie theatres.

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English | German | French

Release Date:

30 September 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Playing for Time See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Szygzy Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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