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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.

Director:

Billy Wilder

Writers:

Charles Brackett (screenplay), Billy Wilder (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

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)
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

20 August 1948 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Operation Candy Bar See more »

Filming Locations:

Berlin, Germany

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,500,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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

Director Billy Wilder said famously of his difficulties with Marlene Dietrich and Jean Arthur in the film, "I have one dame who's afraid to look at herself in a mirror and another who won't stop looking!" See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Joe: Boy, that's strudel! Strudel a la mode! That's the kind of pastry that make you drool on your bib.
Mike: You know what they say? They say she was right up there with them big Nazis. Right in the major league! That's what they say. She was Goebbels' girl. Or, Göring's. One of 'em, any way.
Joe: How did she get away with it?
Mike: How did she get away with it? Just look at her! She's hooked herself some big brass.
See more »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

Isn't It Romantic?
(uncredited)
Written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A little history is a useful thing
11 November 2009 | by rhoda-9See all my reviews

Though the plot of A Foreign Affair is lightweight and has seen service in many other movies (wholesome woman and sexy woman pursuing the same man; man pretends to fall for woman and then really does), the backdrop is deadly serious, compelling, and unusual. We are in the American Zone of Berlin after the war, a sector that, with the British and French zones, would soon become West Berlin, a magnet for many who would struggle to escape to this tiny outpost of the West in what would become Communist East Germany, many of them dying in the attempt. The Berlin Wall would be built to separate West from East Berlin. The Germans in the movie have had their world destroyed, don't know what is going on in the present, and can only wait with helpless terror for the future.

Though we are shown houses pulverised by Allied bombing and people living amongst the ruins, there is a lighthearted aspect to it all--the usual wartime stuff of GI's trading chocolate or stockings for kisses from pretty girls. In reality, however, it was more likely that they would be traded for sex from women desperate to feed themselves and their children, by soldiers reveling in a power they never had in civilian life and oblivious to the disgust and humiliation of the women. Marlene Dietrich says that, when the Russian troops invaded Berlin, "it was hard for the women." That's the understatement of the century! The Russians raped, and gang-raped, any women they could find--women died from being literally raped to death. It is understandable that Billy Wilder did not want to make the milieu too bleak in order to dampen the comedy, but keep in mind that matters were far more brutal and squalid than portrayed here.

It is a rather dark joke that Dietrich is cast in the role of a German woman who has had Nazi lovers and still feels loyal to Hitler. In fact, Dietrich became an American citizen in 1939 and extensively toured US military bases, sometimes at great danger, to entertain the troops. This aroused rage in Germany, and even decades after the war, as the result of protests by locals who called her a traitor, the government backed down and did not name a street in her honour. Can you beat that! An amusing footnote: When Dietrich tries her wiles on an officer, he says, Don't be silly, I've just become a grandfather. I don't know whether this was coincidence or intentional, but at the time the movie was made, Dietrich became a grandmother--an event that gave her a label that was very popular, but which she hated, "world's most glamorous grandmother."


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