Letter from an Unknown Woman

Letter from an Unknown Woman

Director: Max Ophüls

Cast: Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan, Mady Christians

     
 

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Perhaps the finest American film from the famed European director Max Ophüls, the film stars Joan Fontaine as a young woman who falls in love with a concert pianist. Set in Vienna in 1900, the story is told in a complex flashback structure as the pianist, Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan), comes upon a letter written to him by Lisa Berndl (Fontaine), a girl who has been in… See more details below

Overview

Perhaps the finest American film from the famed European director Max Ophüls, the film stars Joan Fontaine as a young woman who falls in love with a concert pianist. Set in Vienna in 1900, the story is told in a complex flashback structure as the pianist, Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan), comes upon a letter written to him by Lisa Berndl (Fontaine), a girl who has been in love with him for years. Stefan is in the process of fleeing Vienna on the eve of fighting a duel. As he prepares himself for the nocturnal journey, the letter arrives. It begins, "By the time you read this letter, I may be dead." As Stefan sits back in his study to read this letter, it turns out to be a confession of unrequited love from Lisa. The story flashes backs to when Lisa was 14 years old and Stefan was her neighbor. After following Stefan with a girlish obsession, the romance gets much more serious, and they have a brief encounter. Stefan promises to come back to her after a concert tour, but he never does. Meanwhile, Lisa marries another man when she discovers that she is pregnant with Stefan's child. When she runs into Stefan years later, he doesn't remember her and tries to seduce her. After Stefan reads the letter, he wants to rush to her side, but now poor Lisa is dying from typhus.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
A lush story of unrequited love in turn-of-the-century Vienna, Max Ophüls's Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948) sumptuously visualizes the emotional power of one woman's life-long fixation on a selfish man. The title missive from Joan Fontaine's "unknown" Lisa to Louis Jourdan's flippant Stefan begins a series of flashbacks recounting her all-consuming love for him and his inability to remember her, even after he seduced her once and impregnated her. Ophüls's fluid shooting style communicates the passion that Lisa cannot articulate until it is too late, with lyrical camera movements that linger over Lisa's fascination with anything related to her one night with Stefan and evocative shots of the curved staircase leading to Stefan's apartment. The elegantly detailed period sets and costumes reveal the privileged life that Lisa abandons for Stefan, while subtly suggesting that she knows nothing about him beyond his entrancing surface. Though it was not initially a success, the gracefully romantic Letter From an Unknown Woman has since come to be considered Ophüls's best American film.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/01/1998
UPC:
0017153538632
Original Release:
1948
Rating:
NR
Source:
Republic Pictures

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Joan Fontaine Lisa Berndle
Louis Jourdan Stefan Brand
Mady Christians Frau Berndle
Marcel Journet Johann Stauffer
Art Smith John
Carol Yorke Marie
Howard Freeman Herr Kastner
John Good Lt. Leopold von Kaltnegger
Erskine Sanford Porter
Otto Waldis Concierge
Sonja Blyden Frau Spitzer
Douglas Carter Actor
Jack Gargan Man
Ramsay Hill Col. Steindorf
Arthur Lovejoy Footman
John McCallum Store Helper
Manuel Paris Baron's Second
Jean Ransome Maid
Diane Stewart Actor
Doretta Johnson Actor
Cy Stevens Actor
Leo B. Pessin Stefan, Jr.
Audrey Wilder Pretty
William Trenk Fritzel
Fred Nurney Officer on Street
Torben Meyer Carriage Driver
Hermine Sterler Mother Superior
Lotte Stein Woman Musician
Ilka Gruning Woman Ticket Taker
Paul E. Burns 2nd Concierge
Roland Varno Second
Leo Mostovoy Older Man
Shimen Ruskin Older Man
Celia Lovsky Flower Vendor
Lester Sharpe Critic
Michael Mark Cafe Customer
Louis Austin Elderly Woman
Lisa Golm Woman Musician
Rex Lease Station Attendant
Edmund Cobb 2nd Carriage Driver
Betty Blythe Frau Kohner
Vera Stokes Girlfriend
Will Lee Mover

Technical Credits
Max Ophüls Director
Alexander Golitzen Production Designer
Daniele Amfitheatrof Score Composer
Travis Banton Costumes/Costume Designer
Russell A. Gausman Set Decoration/Design
John Houseman Producer
Ted Kent Editor
Peter Howard Screenwriter
Ruby Levitt Set Decoration/Design
Franz Planer Cinematographer
Bud Westmore Makeup

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