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The Passionate Friends (1949)

Approved | | Drama | 26 January 1949 (UK)
The Passionate Friends were in love when young, but separated, and she married an older man. Then Mary Justin meets Steven Stratton again and they have one last fling together in the Alps.


David Lean


H.G. Wells (novel), Eric Ambler (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ann Todd ... Mary Justin
Claude Rains ... Howard Justin
Trevor Howard ... Professor Steven Stratton
Betty Ann Davies ... Miss Joan Layton
Isabel Dean ... Pat Stratton
Arthur Howard Arthur Howard ... Smith - the Butler
Guido Lorraine Guido Lorraine ... Hotel Manager
Marcel Poncin Marcel Poncin ... Hall Porter
Natasha Sokolova Natasha Sokolova ... Chambermaid
Hélène Burls Hélène Burls ... Flowerwoman
Jean Serret Jean Serret ... Emigration Official
Frances Waring Frances Waring ... Charwoman
Wenda Rogerson Wenda Rogerson ... Bridge Guest
Helen Piers Helen Piers ... 1st Woman - Albert Hall
Ina Pelly Ina Pelly ... 2nd Woman - Albert Hall


The Passionate Friends were in love when young, but separated, and she married an older man. Then Mary Justin meets Steven Stratton again and they have one last fling together in the Alps. Written by David Wark <dwark@atge.automail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Their affair took on a life of its own.




Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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English | French

Release Date:

26 January 1949 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

One Woman's Story See more »

Filming Locations:

Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, France See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Cineguild 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?


First film of Isabel Dean. See more »


When Mary and Steven are chatting on the park bench, the cigarette switches from being in Mary's mouth to being out of the frame between shots. See more »


Professor Steven Stratton: Do you remember once, I asked you how you could love me and yet marry someone else?
Mary Justin: Yes, I remember.
Professor Steven Stratton: Your marriage was bound to be a failure.
See more »


Version of The Passionate Friends (1922) See more »


First Love and Last Love
Music by Richard Addinsell
Lyrics by Joyce Grenfell
See more »

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User Reviews

One of the Greatest British Classics, Superior to 'Brief Encounter'
17 December 2008 | by robert-temple-1See all my reviews

This film is one of the highest peaks of David Lean's achievement as a director, and possibly it owes something to the fact that he married its star Ann Todd in the same year, which may have helped him elicit her supernaturally radiant performance. Four years earlier, Lean had made 'Brief Encounter', but this film, again with Trevor Howard as the romantic male lead, far exceeds the earlier work in subtlety and genius. Every frame is lovingly composed, and the film is a cinematic masterpiece which can stand beside any Visconti work for comparison. Three future directors worked on the film: Ronnie Neame as producer, Guy Green as Cinematographer, Clive Donner as an editor. There were three editors, and whoever was responsible for it, the final editing is a work of the highest genius. The cinematography by Guy Green and camera operating by Ossie Morris are as good as they get. Everything combined to make this film a triumph and a true work of art. The three stars, Trevor Howard, Ann Todd, and Claude Rains, all excel themselves as they enact this intimate study of a love trio, as if we were standing invisibly beside them and could see it happening, without their being aware of our presence. The tale is drawn from a novel by H. G. Wells. The novel was made into a silent film in 1922 by the famous British director, Maurice Elvey, but it is doubtful that a print of it survives, and I have never heard of anyone who ever saw it. Eric Ambler wrote the screenplay for the Lean version, with immense subtlety. The only one of the three main characters who does not have a major character flaw is Trevor Howard, who is the unfortunate emotional victim of the other two. Ann Todd's character flaw is like an invisible crack in a Ming vase: you can't see it, but the value is immeasurably lowered, as she keeps trying to warn Howard, who cannot believe it: 'My love is not worth much,' she says, and he does not hear her. She has running through her the most abject streak of cowardice, nearly impossible to detect except in extremis, but which reduces her to the status of what one would find for sale at a discount in a cracked china shop. (There used to be such a shop in the King's Road in Chelsea.) Ann Todd shines and is deeply loving and 'true', but repeatedly collapses at the crucial moment and betrays herself every time. This film should really be shown to psychology students (that is, if they could stop studying rats and take an interest in humans). Claude Rains's character flaw is a total denial of love and feeling, as he is convinced he can live without them, that they are unnecessary indulgence. Well, you can imagine the complications. Or perhaps you can't. Better to see the film. In fact, everyone should see this film who has any sensitivity, while those without sensitivity should avoid it, as they will not understand a single thing. What is evanescent is invisible to those with dull inner sight. Psychologically speaking, we have here the intricate elucidation of an invisible character flaw in a woman who appears perfectly normal, warm, glowing, and delightful. Ann Todd's performance is perfectly judged, as it is the very invisibility of her flaw that provides the emotional shock value for the film, and its importance as a lesson to us in human imperfections.

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