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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


You'll Be Buttonholed by People You Hardly Know Who'll Tell You "I Just Saw the Funniest Show in My Life!" See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »





English | German

Release Date:

20 August 1948 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Operation Candy Bar 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?


For the scene in which Phoebe character gets drunk and ends up being tossed in the air by rowdy soldiers, Billy Wilder wanted to use a double, but Jean Arthur insisted on doing it herself. After the physically strenuous take, she said loudly and pointedly, "What will you require next from me, Mr. Wilder," to a round of sympathetic applause from the crew. See more »


When the Americans are flying over Berlin, the scenery outside Phoebe's (Jean Arthur's) window never changes. See more »


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


Referenced in Take Me Home Tonight (2011) See more »


The Ruins of Berlin
Written by Friedrich Hollaender
Sung by Marlene Dietrich
See more »

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User Reviews

Occupied Berlin in a Wilder Vein
15 November 2009 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Although A Foreign Affair turned out to be a big success for all involved, biographies of Billy Wilder, Jean Arthur, and Marlene Dietrich all talk about the difficulties they had in this film. Especially Wilder and Arthur.

Paramount put up some big bucks for this film, even including sending Billy Wilder and a second unit team to film the surviving city of Berlin from World War II. It all paid off quite nicely and you can bet the footage found it's way into films not half as good. It looks far better than the standard newsreel films that are often used as background for foreign locations.

Marlene Dietrich plays the girlfriend of former Nazi bigwig Peter Von Zerneck who is presumed dead by the public at large, but the army knows is very much alive. How to smoke him out is the problem that Colonel Millard Mitchell of the occupying forces has. He decides to use the growing relationship that Captain John Lund has with Dietrich as Von Zerneck is the jealous type.

But into the picture comes Jean Arthur, part of a group of visiting members of Congress touring occupied Berlin. Arthur departs from the group and starts conducting her own investigations and in the way Joseph Cotten was doing in occupied Vienna in The Third Man blundering his way into an investigation in the British sector there, Arthur threatens to blow up all of Mitchell's plans. Especially since Lund is starting to switch gears and drop Marlene for Jean.

Dietrich comes out best in this film. Not only was she German, but she was born and grew up in Berlin. Marlene may have invested more of herself in her character of Erika Von Schluetow than in any other film she did. She gets three great original songs by Frederick Hollander, Black Market, Illusions, and The Ruins Of Berlin that speak not to just her character, but to the sullen character of a beaten people. By the way that's composer Hollander himself accompanying her at the piano.

Dietrich and Wilder got along just great, both being refugees from Nazism. They got along so good that Arthur felt she was being frozen out and Wilder was favoring Dietrich.

Both Frank Capra and Cecil B. DeMille spoke of the difficulties in working with Jean Arthur and Billy Wilder also echoes what his colleagues said in their memoirs. Arthur was a terribly insecure person and it took a lot of patience to work with her. The results were usually worth it to the movie going public, but for her fellow workers on the film it could be painful. A Foreign Affair may have been good training for Wilder when he later had to get performances out of another diva, Marilyn Monroe.

Wilder came in for a lot of criticism showing our occupying forces in a less than perfect light and also making fun of a member of Congress and a Republican at that as Jean was in the film, most definitely not in real life. Millard Mitchell's a smart and tough professional soldier, but he's a bit of fathead as well as extols the virtue of teaching German youth baseball as a method of deNazification. As if it were that simple. But A Foreign Affair has held up very well over 60 years now and is Billy Wilder at some of his satirical and cynical best.

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