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Plot:

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.

Also Known As: Eine auswärtige Affäre, Φλόγα και πάθος, Escándalo internacional, Det hændte i Berlin, Berliinin raunioiden keskellä, Külkapcsolat, Operation Candy Bar, Berlín Occidente, Зарубежный роман Soviet, La mundana, Külügyi szívügyek, Чуждeстранна афера, Een avontuur in Berlijn, La scandaleuse de Berlin, Floga kai pathos, Scandal international, Det hände i Berlin, Spoljni poslovi, Günahsiz melek, A Sua Melhor Missão, Ljubezen na tujem, Scandalo internazionale, Sprawa zagraniczna, A Mundana, A Foreign Affair, Moralens vokter

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  • richard-pollard
    richard pollard

    Jean Arthur plays congresswoman Phoebe Frost, whose last name tells a lot about her personality.She goes to Berlin to investigate G.I. morals.Her frosty personality is heated a little when she meets Captain John Pringle (John Lund).But she doesn’t know he’s the lover of the café singer Erika Von Schlütow (Marlene Dietrich), who’s also the former mistress of a wanted war criminal.Billy Wilder, who else is behind this marvelous romantic comedy.A Foreign Affair (1948) has the best of actors.John Lund is terrific.Marlene Dietrich is, well, Marlene Dietrich.And she was also a top-notch singer.Jean Arthur is absolutely wonderful.I nearly fell in love with the character she plays, even though she’s a Republican.I want you all to watch this classic and enjoy.There are awfully funny scenes there, like the one where Pringle wants to kiss Phoebe.Wilder really knew how to do it.

  • silviu-ionita
    silviu ionita

    ‘A foreign affair’ provides good entertainment in a typical mid 20th-century style. Showing morals and attitudes that aren’t ours anymore. Marlene Dietrich’s sparkling presence fits in well, lifting ‘A foreign affair’ up to its timeless dimension.Maybe a little history comes in handy as well: situated in the war-torn Berlin of 1947. ‘A foreign affair’ deals with the desperate poverty of the German civilians who survived the Second World War. It was ‘Stunde null’ (= zero hour) for them: the war lost, about 35% of their country annexed by other nations, the cities destroyed, a poor living from day to day without steady earnings, and the women permanently at risk of sexual abuse by the occupying foreign soldiers.

  • marin-florea
    marin florea

    Nobody has an understanding of American cinema quite like the great Billy Wilder, and even though this isn’t his strongest effort; Wilder still makes sure it works. Billy Wilder is a name commonly associated with American cinema, but this film takes place in Germany. The film is both a romantic comedy and a nod towards post-world war 2 Germany, when the country was divided up between Britain, France, Russia and the United States. The way that the great writer-director combines these two elements is brilliant, and too much is never given to either one; thus ensuring that the film works as a whole, rather than one that seems too caught up in delivering two sides – and that is testament to the talent of the main creative force behind the movie. The plot is typical for Wilder in that it doesn’t focus on the mundane, and follows a congress officer investigating army morals in the US sector. While there, she stumbles on evidence that says ex-Nazi turned café singer, Erika, is being protected by an army captain. Captain John Pringle is on hand to help her out…only she doesn’t realise that the man protecting the café singer and Captain John Pringle are the same man!You can always count on Billy Wilder to pull great performances from his cast, and he’s done that here. The central threesome of Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich and John Lund put in excellent performances, which create the right mood for the piece and ensure that their characters are believable. This was one of the last screen performances for Jean Arthur, and she certainly makes the best of it; her character is the linchpin of the piece, so a lot of the movie’s success is up to her. This film was released during a tentative period with regards to the rebuilding of Germany, so it’s both a brave endeavour for a man who had to flee the country to escape becoming embroiled in Hitler’s propaganda campaign, and a film that will always be interesting for its historical relevance. The comedy element does play second fiddle to the more important factors, but it doesn’t matter too much; as I wasn’t watching this expecting to laugh my head off, and what humour there is, is generally quite funny. Overall; this isn’t one of Wilder’s top quality movies, but it’s definitely one his better secondary ones; and well worth seeing for that reason.

  • april-reeves
    april reeves

    Director Billy Wilder also co-wrote this post-WWII comedy (along with producer Charles Brackett) involving a prim, humorless Congresswoman policing American troops stationed in Occupied Berlin, finding little but celebrations and skirt-chasing from the randy soldiers. Predictably, she finds her no-nonsense nature stirred up by an army captain, though he’s currently sweet on a German chanteuse. A strictly lackluster affair; Wilder means for it to be goosey and ‘grown up’, yet the silliness of both the conception and the uninteresting characters defeats the players. Plodding John Lund would hardly seem to rate the pounding pulses he achieves here, and Jean Arthur’s spinsterish Phoebe Frost (ha ha) is an unattractive role for the actress. Only Marlene Dietrich emerges unscathed, though her song selections are poor. ** from ****

  • khosrov-ts-olakyan
    khosrov ts olakyan

    In a wrecked post-war Berlin, a congressional committee from the United States of America comes to the occupied city to investigate the moral of the American troops. The conservative republican Congresswoman Phoebe Frost (Jean Arthur) from Iowa brings a birthday cake to Captain John Pringle (John Lund) from his girlfriend also from Iowa. Later she splits from the others congressmen and decides to investigate the decadence of the military by her own, and not in accordance with the official speech and visit promoted by Colonel Rufus J. Plummer (Millard Mitchell). She meets two American privates that believe she is German and takes her to the night-club Lorelei, where the lead attraction is the singer Erika Von Schluetow (Marlene Dietrich), who is the secret mistress of Captain Pringle. Congresswoman Frost overhears that Erika belonged to the Nazi Party and is protected by a senior officer, and she enlists her fellow countryman Captain Pringle to help her in the investigation of Erika. The officer seduces Frost to protect Erika and himself from martial court, but the jealous former lover of Erika, the Nazi Hans Otto Birgel (Peter von Zerneck), is seeking revenge against his competitor.”A Foreign Affair” is a cynical, but naive and dated romantic comedy of the great director Billy Wilder. It is sad to see the corruption, the decadence and the treatment of the “rebuilding” of Berlin sixty years ago, with abusive soldiers exploring the hunger and misery of the German people to have sex and make business with the poor civilians without any patriotism or sympathy. The politicians are also not spared; the ruins of Berlin are also extremely painful to see; but there are funny moments alternating with others dramatic and great performances of Marlene Dietrich, Jean Arthur and John Lund. My vote is six.Title (Brazil): “A Mundana” (“The Lowlife”)

  • michael-mcclure
    michael mcclure

    This is an excellent film with a Marlene Dietrich absolutely gorgeous ,singing marvelously and revealing all her unique sensuality. And if Marlene is more sensual that all today’s fashion young actresses, when we speak of comedy nothing compares to Billy Wilder and his elegant and intelligent humor that is miles away of distance of nowadays almost all stupid comedies. Wonderful picture of one of the most brilliants directors of the history of the cinema.Don’t forget that he was born in 1906 hundred years ago and that fact must be celebrated showing his movies to the young generation. P.S.I’m not and old man(49years)but in my opinion there are no films like those who where produced in the forties,the fifties and in the begin of the sixties. And the images of the post-war Berlin are absolutely incredible.

  • gabriel-donaldson
    gabriel donaldson

    This underrated Wilder comedy is more pleasurable than some of his more acclaimed, ‘serious’ films. it does need the Preston Sturges touch – to excise those Wilderean longueurs for a start – but ‘Affair’ has an agreeable sourness that poisons any move towards fairy-tale resolution. When the most sympathetic character in this tale of a protecting U.S. Army and conscientious senators is an opportunistic Nazi turned ‘nightclub singer’, you get where Wilder’s coming from. His vision of American military imperialism is presciently negative, astonishingly so for 1948, as is the sexual frankness, the shifting sado-masochism of Pringle’s relationship with Erika (linked to Nazism); the bawdy innuendo of that with Miss Frost. The film also works as a tribute to/critique of Marlene Dietrich, a creation of light and mirrors, who, unlike earthier stars, will never be caught.

  • okturemis-kerman-seven-firat
    okturemis kerman seven firat

    You would’t imagine a comedy could be made set in the devastation of post WWII Berlin. The movie doesn’t reflect on the realities of tensions that lead to the blockade of Berlin by the Soviets. This movie has two famous leading ladies, Marlene Dietrich and Jean Arthur. Dietrich plays an ex-Nazi groupie who is protecting a former high level Nazi. John Lund in probably his best performance plays a playboy Captain who is carrying out orders attempting to find Dietrich’s Nazi boyfriend by courting Dietrich.Along comes a Congressional fact finding delegation of which Phoebe Frost represents a district in Iowa. Her name suits her character which initially is stiff and prudish. I always found Arthur’s voice suited her many roles as a comedian. To me, she just sounds hilarious. Congresswoman and the Captain meet through the presentation of a cake, made by a fellow Iowan former girl friend of the Captain. The Congresswoman’s main concern seems to be the fraternization of soldiers and Frauleins. Arthur manages to get picked up by two GI’s and end up in a bar where Dietrich is the star attraction. The cake also ends up in the bar, along with Lund who had previously taken the cake to the Black Market, bartered it for a mattress for Dietrich, and now is required to explain how the cake arrived at the bar. Lund invents a story that the cake was stolen and soon the Congresswoman begins to buy into Lund’s charms. One of the best scenes is of Arthur and Lund outside Dietrich’s apartment. Lund has to play his official role as an intelligence officer ferreting out ex-Nazi’s and also play his undercover role as boy friend to Dietrich. Director Billy Wilder, who also had a hand in writing the screenplay handles this scene to perfection. He has Dietrich feigning her relationship, and at the same time poking fun at the Congreeswoman’s appearance and demeanor. At this point, Lund’s personal and professional life becomes a comedic complication. Arthur and Lund develop a love interest which is complicated by each others reason for being in Berlin. Her heart is hurt when she thinks the man she has come to love, loves another women. And her professional pride is hurt when that woman is a Nazi. Lund on the other hand is torn between his love for Arthur, and his duties as a soldier. Lund’s boss, a Colonel played by a great character actor Millard Mitchell comes to the rescue by purposely delaying the delegations flight back home. As the Colonel drives the party back to their hotel, he learns that a shoot out has just occurred at Dietrich’s bar. The good guys win, but Arthur thinks the Captain has been killed. With his mission accomplish, Lund can tell Arthur the truth. He loves Arthur.The funniest scene comes when the Colonel does not want to take any chances with his men falling for Dietrich’s charms. He orders two guards to escort her to jail, who are watched by two other guards, who are watched by another two.The saddest thing about this movie is the waste of John Lund’s obvious talents. He never had another good part. He doesn’t seem like the same person in the remake of the Philadephia story, where he plays the jilted groom of Grace Kelly, in the remake of the Philadelphia Story.

  • savak-buyrukhan-koruturk
    savak buyrukhan koruturk

    Billy Wilder returned to Berlin after the war to film part of “A Foreign Affair,” starring Marlene Dietrich, Jean Arthur, and John Lund. Wilder lived and worked in Berlin and, following his always excellent instincts, got out and came to America just in time.In the film, a group of government people arrive in Berlin to assess the morale of the 12,000 American soldiers still stationed there. One of them is a congresswoman from Iowa, the very uptight and put together Miss Frost, aptly named and beautifully portrayed by Jean Arthur. When the group is taken on a tour of the city, the Berlin Wilder shows us is hideous, filled with rubble and the shells and half-shells of buildings. Frost, frantically taking notes, soon realizes with Iowan sensibility that the garbage isn’t just on the surface as she sees soldiers fraternizing with Frauleins, and one woman rolling a baby buggy with an American flag attached. When two American soldiers mistake her for a Fraulein, Arthur plays along and winds up in an underground club, the Lorelei, where the star is Marlene Dietrich. Dietrich is a gorgeous woman who survived by picking up with a high-ranking Nazi official, and she’s kept out of a labor camp now thanks to the protection of an army officer named Pringle, played by John Lund. When Lund romances Frost to keep her from investigating the matter, problems arise.Arthur and Dietrich are fantastic in their roles and play off each other magnificently. The casting is perfect: Two blonds, complete opposites, one worldly wise and one with a hand over her open mouth in shock, one oozing sex and the other oozing primness. Dietrich performs several numbers in her inimitable style, which is an added treat.This is Billy Wilder at his cynical best, with Pringle selling his birthday cake on the black market that Frost brings him from a constituent, and being slipped stockings for his girlfriend. He also shows how the Germans in charge bow down to Dietrich, knowing who she is.There are funny scenes, sexually overt scenes (including a suggestion of S&M in the Dietrich-Lund relationship), and touching scenes in “A Foreign Affair.” Throughout, you will never be bored. This film also has the distinction of an ad-lib by John Lund that Wilder kept in the film: “Relax, baby, it’s mother’s day.” Relax, enjoy, and ponder – it’s Billy Wilder.

  • sydney-silva
    sydney silva

    I got this movie on video when the second half of the Marlene Dietrich collection came out. (Anybody remember VHS? Ah, the good old days.) A friend had recorded it for me, but the sound was all garbled. I enjoyed the parts I understood, and when it came out on video I had to have it.There are so many enjoyable moments in this movie. Congresswoman Frost gets one of the best masquerading as “Gretchen Gesundheit,” only to cause her newfound companions to gleefully remark “We’re fraternizing with a sneeze!” Heck, she gets all the best moments. Jean Arthur, an actress I never cared for due to her high irritating factor (“Shane,” anyone?), does wonders portraying an irritating person. Phoebe Frost is so stalwart and dull it’s remarkable she even breathes. When she finally lets her hair down it’s painfully funny. I refer of course to her performance of “The Iowa Song.” Erika (Marlene, of course) forces her to perform the song in front of everyone at the cabaret, hoping to mortify her into leaving. Phoebe instead gives it the old college try, and to watch her at the end of the song is amazing. She’s terrible, but she’s completely forgotten that little fact. She looks so thrilled to be there, singing the praises of her native land, and everyone else is so thrilled they feel compelled to sing along. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. We’re also treated to a quick cut to Marlene, who’s clapping her hands and puffing her cigarette like a freight train. Another great scene is Phoebe displaying her new dress to Captain Pringle. She found it hanging on the handlebars of a bicycle and it looked devastating. On her it looks, as she aptly puts it, “like a circus tent in mourning for an elephant that has died.” How someone so humorless as her can come up with things like that I’ll never know. (Billy Wilder must have been a great lunch companion!) There is one strange thing about this movie, though, and here it is. Why would Marlene Dietrich and Jean Arthur fight over John Lund, and even more puzzling, how in the hell could Marlene lose? It’s unbelievable! According to legend, Marlene had quite a bit of animosity towards Jean Arthur, and on screen she sure acts like it. Erika insults or mocks every little thing about Phoebe, down to the ribbons (“shoelaces”) in her hair. She even says she has a face like “a kitchen floor.” Erika might lower herself that far (having no dignity left), but Marlene? Never. Not to mention playing a Nazi sympathizer. Why, we even see her whispering into Hitler’s ear! The look of horror and surprise on Captain Pringle’s face when he sees that is priceless. He’s talking about how she couldn’t have been that important, and he looks up to see her chatting with the Fuhrer. I imagine if Marlene Dietrich had gotten that close to Hitler she would have killed him, and maybe gotten away with it.In all fairness, Marlene gets some memorable moments as well, such as when she bitches about her springy mattress. Pointing out a spring, she mutters “That one is the worst.” And who can ever forget her surprisingly tolerable rendition of “Black Market”? Better yet, who can forget how, during “Illusions,” she reaches back and puts her cigarette in Frederick Hollander’s mouth WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING AT HIM? I can just see some other less elegant actress gouging him in the eye with it.I also admire this movie for showing what Germans must have actually been like after the war, instead of focusing on Nazi atrocities like other films are prone to doing. This movie says that the Nazi Party wasn’t Germany, at least not all of it, and definitely seeing the Germans living in the ruins of their formal lives drives the point home.

  • gaetano-conti
    gaetano conti

    Let me state this at the beginning: I am not a particular fan of post-war movies because WWII was a very infamous page of history. Whenever I encounter a story from that period, I prepare myself for heavy experience and get loaded with hard reflections. However, A FOREIGN AFFAIR has been one of the exceptional movies. Being inspired by the original story by David Shaw and masterfully directed by genius director Billy Wilder with the clever screen play by Charles Brackett, the film stands out as a unique production. Although the action is entirely set in the ‘ruins of Berlin’ where people suffer the consequences of the war, one gets an unforgettable insight into the characters. Through the authentic depiction of the times, we are led to certain characters in a natural manner, the characters who act differently; yet…something links them…something that you, as a viewer, must find out yourself.To start with, let me refer to the major idea of the plot because without it, I would not be able to discuss the core point of the story. The American Congress sends a committee to the divided Berlin where they are supposed to investigate the morale of American soldiers. In other words, their task is to eliminate the ‘moral malaria’ that, according to the great legion of decency, is more dangerous than anything else. Among them is a charming lady, Ms Phoebe Frost (Jean Arthur) whose determination in questioning will soon turn into passion in kissing. And…what they discover in the ruins of Berlin is an outrageous scandal that resembles the very violation of the law, the very default of moral decency – immoral bars with ‘forbidden entertainment.’ It occurs the the infamous Lorelei bar is visited by American captains… Isn’t the fact about Republicans being kissed by former Nazi women truly subversive?The change that is depicted in Ms Frost is a clear message of the movie which says openly: desires far beyond regulations, humanity far beyond the law, the mutual far beyond the divided. From today’s perspective, we look at it in a different way; this idea is more obvious to us. But in 1948 when the division of Berlin was the new political situation, it demanded a great courage to make such a film! That aspect which so authentically manifests the German situation after the war was nicely executed in the scene between Phoebe and Captain Pringle – their first love moment in fact. Being angry about the amount of work she does for investigation, Pringle asks her what she does anything for normal human reactions like laugh or tears. Then, in the witty moment, the shelves trap the young fragile beauty and… they kiss. Here, her rules give in at last! New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther praised the job of the movie by saying: “Particularly, their interest is in how human beings behave when confronted by other human beings—especially those of the opposite sex. And their logical conclusion is that, granted attractions back and forth, most people—despite regulations and even differences in language and politics—are likely to do toward one another that which comes naturally.” That aspect is also memorably revealed in two of Ms Dietrich’s famous songs: “Illusions” and “Black Market.” The songs occur to manifest the romantic aspect of the movie but also ‘its vagrant cynicism and its unmistakable point.” (Crowther).Not much would be achieved if it weren’t for the performances. It is another Marlene Dietrich’s stunning achievement under Billy Wilder’s direction. Here she portrays a realistic woman, a German woman who does not give in in spite of the harsh reality. The role of Erika Von Schluetow was, in fact, the role for Marlene because she loved Berlin and she loved the right German spirit which, paradoxically, does not have much in common with the Nazi monstrosity. Her role remains in the memory of a contemporary movie buff as the depiction of the sensual woman rather than a former Nazi, who becomes even more sophisticated and glamorous in the eyes of other characters. She is at the center again, a similar entertainer like in DER BLAUE ENGEL; yet, a differently experienced ‘sex symbol’ Her appeal is strong enough to put the legion of decency onto its knees. Her scenes leave the viewer breathless, her songs are unforgettable reaching their climax, of course, at the final song “in the ruins of Berlin.” Her first moment rewards you with wit… teeth brushing followed by a splash of… ‘indecent behavior.’ John Lund is fine as Captain Pringle, natural with the right sense of humor and a great flair for teaching young ladies how to yearn for his lips and how to investigate the bottles. Jean Arthur is a revelation in the role that required from her a great challenge: how to portray A CHARACTER that experiences the ‘metamorphosis’; in other words, how to portray TWO CHARACTERS? She does it wonderfully becoming equally captivating in both incarnations: as the restrained letter of the law and as a genuine human being. I will never forget her hilarious moments as Gretl who knows one German word “Javol!” Finally, I would like to focus on one more aspect that perhaps has not been quite popular among the critics but occurs to be of significant meaning. Since Germany (Third Reich) was responsible for WWII, not many people concentrated on their suffering. In fact, the suffering of Berlin was quite ignored, seen perhaps more as a ‘punishment’ for the Nazi system. Yet, was the whole nation guilty? A FOREIGN AFFAIR is a revelation in the sense that it truly speaks for the German nation which, though caused divisions, was at the same time a bridge among people. Great script, wonderful performances, flawless direction and an interesting insight into the post-war Berlin, a city that ALSO suffered. In the ruins of Berlin, a new spirit was born and the song goes on telling us stories of unique dreams, desires and foreign affairs…

  • anya-ghazaryan
    anya ghazaryan

    Why is this film less known than “Casablanca” or “The Third Man”? Maybe it’s because many see it as “just” a comedy, which these people consider a “lesser” art-form. In my opinion they miss that the brilliant screenplay just smoothes out the edges and puts some very sharp and witty dialogue on a plot and setting, which is actually very “noir”ish at heart. I guess it takes someone like Billy Wilder, who returned with this film to a city where he once lived (and that he loved), to discover the comic effect of a “weight-challenged” GI with a bunch of flowers and a dachshund on the lead walking to his “Fräulein” through the ruins of a bombed-out street. Less ingenious directors probably would have indulged in mourning and (self)-pity, which is exactly why many German movies from that immediate post-war time are unwatchable (unless you are fascinated by the morbid beauty of the ruins and rubble).As a German my only minor quibble with “A Foreign Affair” is the German dialogue (not the occasional “Strudel” and “Gesundheit” from the American actors, but the actual German by supporting actors and extras): in most cases it sounds embarrassingly dumb, even feebleminded. Apart from one scene that has the same level of cynicism as the English dialogue (the choleric policeman asking “You live? Do you have permission?” after the “Lorelei” round-up), only Marlene Dietrich is allowed to talk normally.Otherwise it’s one of Billy Wilder’s best films (which is synonymous with being one of the best films of all time). Unfortunately you don’t get characters like Captain Renault (“Casablanca”), Major Calloway (“The Third Man”) or Colonel Plummer (“A Foreign Affair”) anymore in contemporary films. A pity!

  • orekhov-silvestr-abramovich
    orekhov silvestr abramovich

    This has the Wilder stamp all over it; cynical, trenchant, classy, stylish. It was common practice for Hollywood studios to use music associated with a given studio as background in subsequent films yet who but Wilder would select Isn’t It Romantic as a background to sleaze and squalor, love among the ruins indeed. Jean Arthur excels as uptight Congresswoman Phoebe Frost, carefully finishing off a report before taking a look at Berlin from the air – reminding us of a previous character written by Wilder, Garbo’s Ninotchka, who failed to be impressed by Paris initially. Frost is bringing a chocolate cake on behalf of one of her constituants in Iowa to Captain John Pringle, John Lund, and Arthur’s performance is truly the frosting on this particular cake. The menage a trois is completed by Marlene Dietrich as Erica Von Shutelow who sings in a shady club called the Lorelei and was the mistress of a high-ranking Nazi currently in hiding. The only false note is the fact that with all the austerity on view – and not even owning a decent mattress til Lund trades his cake for one – Dietrich is able to boast three different expensive dresses, one for each of the three numbers she performs, accompanied, incidentally, by the uncredited Frederick Hollander, who composed all three. Even weakest link Lund, wooden at the best of times and not helped by having to utter such lines as ‘you blonde flame-thrower’, can’t bring this down to less than nine out of ten. It was Wilder’s last film of the forties and stands beside Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend as the very cream of his output – not that The Major And The Minor or Five Graves To Cairo were chopped liver if anyone asks you, but this was just the right note with which to follow the disappointing The Emporer Waltz.

  • demiriz-bilge
    demiriz bilge

    A dazzling movie,standing with Billy Wilder’s very best, and surely it has Marlene Dietrich’s finest performance. Berlin, l946…bitter…witty…haunting story, interesting characters, evocative stuff.You can go back and back to savor this one.The talk is terrific, and the urgency of feeling, and the sharp comedy and underlying drama are pure gold. Dietrich’s songs, “In the Ruins of Berlin,” and “Black Market” ,show a Great Star doing her superb stuff.

  • nunu-mumlaze
    nunu mumlaze

    For the two decades after World War II, there was a popular fascination involving films about or made in a reconstructed Europe. From The Search to The Great Escape, a genuine sense of authenticity maintained, sustained by writers, actors, and directors who had actually lived through the epoch. Most of them are now gone, not the least of which was one of the finest directors ever: Billy Wilder.In this film, there are few stock caricatures once the viewer is able to get past certain allusions to contemporary popular culture (e.g. Who now remembers who “Gabriel Heatter” was?). Even the line “Is it subversive to kiss a Republican?” has a fresh ring to it. The writers must have been pleased with Wilder’s usual fast-paced and witty visual turns accentuating their remarkable script.Of course there is Marlene Dietrich the icon in effect playing herself as a postwar blue angel, and real Germans speaking real German where the story demanded it. Jean Arthur provides an able if somewhat overdrawn foil for La Dietrich, and has a little fun at it. In one scene, she coyly admits her first name is “Phoebe,” which happens to be the name of a character she played years earlier in a western called Arizona (1940).Wilder would revisit Berlin again in 1961 for the hilarious send-up One, Two, Three — still a great favorite and indeed a classic film.

  • linda-gardner
    linda gardner

    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.”

  • christopher-navarro
    christopher navarro

    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.

  • nikola-stastna
    nikola stastna

    Billy, just how did you do it?This is a superb film on post-war Germany, and an amazing take on Berlin in the late 40s. Wilder combines his poetical eye for the comic with a very subtle analysis of morality. And, on top of that, Marlene Dietrich sings and sums it all up. This film is a classic, make no mistake about that, and you definitely want to see it. Plus, it’s history.Billy Wilder had a special relationship with Berlin, and, to be sure, with Germany, and his movies show how deep this understanding ran: “One,Two, Three” and “A Foreign Affair” are among the best films made on Berlin. Full stop.

  • einari-aalto
    einari aalto

    This is a well written (Brackett and Breen) and directed (Billy Wilder) film with great performances. Marlene Dietrich is impressive as the Nazi chanteuse with loose morals, great legs and an eye for the main chance. Her songs e.g. Ruins of Berlin are sardonic and compelling. Jean Arthur is irresistible as the frustrated Congresswoman, throwing herself at John Lund with enthusiasm and gradually coming to see human behaviour in shades of grey, rather than black and white.John Lund is very good as the cynical army officer, attracted to Dietrich while repelled by her politics and prepared to romance Arthur in order to bury Dietrich’s Nazi past. He has a nice way with underplayed humour e.g. “It can’t be subversive to kiss a Republican!” Supporting actors, especially Millard Mitchell as Col Plummer are all good.Berlin makes a bleak impressive backdrop, making the behaviour of the occupying troops and the Berliners easy to understand. There are some lovely vignettes e.g. the German woman pushing a pram decorated with the US flag.Unfortunately the film was perceived as unpatriotic by many critics and did not do as much for the career of John Lund as it should.

  • raul-bastida-novoa
    raul bastida novoa

    This is one of those comedies that will always exist in the stratosphere of wit, intelligence and truth. It pulls no punches about politics, greed, hypocrisy & opportunism and treats its audience like grown-ups. It is as applicable to today’s congress and the situation in Iraq as it was to post-WWII Germany (to which today’s politicians still make frequent comparisons). It also was the first film to unflinchingly capture the effects of the WWII devastation of Berlin.And what a cast! Jean Arthur, surely one of the greatest of all Hollywood comediennes, Marlene Dietrich in a part to match her Lola Lola in Blue Angel, John Lund a great under-utilized actor with the wit and ruggedness of Clark Gable and Millard Mitchell, one of those character actors whose mold was sadly broken decades ago.In my book this film ranks with Double Indemnity as the best work of Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett.Great songs by the legendary Frederick Hollander who actually appears here as Dietrich’s accompanist.

  • melissa-campos
    melissa campos

    in this excellent and underrated Billy Wilder film. Dietrich plays a former Nazi trying to hide behind a post-war American boyfriend. Jean Arthur plays a spinster American congresswoman, and John Lund is the man they both fall for. The scenes of bombed-out Berlin are astonishing, and the 3 stars are wonderful in this sly comedy that gets better with every viewing. The highlights tho are Dietrich’s musical numbers sung in a basement speakeasy. She sings the great “Black Market” with composer Frederick Hollander at the piano. She sings LIVE and it’s electrifying. She also sings “The Ruins of Berlin” and “Lovely Illusions.” Jean Arthur is also good in one of her last films. Millard Mitchell, Bill Murphy, Stanley Prager, and Gordon Jones co-star. A must!

  • boguslav-iaremchuk
    boguslav iaremchuk

    This is one of Billy Wilder’s least known films…and one of his best. A brilliant, cynical comedy about post-war Berlin goings on…black market, Army officers having affairs with notorious ex-Nazis, etc.It stars Marlene Dietrich (one of her all-time best performances), and amazing Jean Arthur (in one of her final films), and newcomer John Lund, who was rather wooden in later performances…here, he’s terrific.Songs and musical score by Frederick Hollander…who’s actually present playing piano. The three songs Dietrich sings, “Black Market”, “Illusions” and “Ruins of Berlin” are lyrically integral to the plot and represent three of best songs written for a non-musical film of the late 1940’s.There’s some serious plot points underneath the cynical comedy.Wish to heck Universal would open their vaults and release it on DVD in the US; thankfully it’s available in the UK (get an all-region DVD player…I did!).It’s an absolutely essential late 1940’s comedy and in my opinion, one of Billy Wilder’s best comedies.Remember….Wilder’s next film was “Sunset Boulevard”.

  • craig-barnes
    craig barnes

    The main impression left by “A Foreign Affair” is Billy Wilder’s nobility toward German people. With authentic magnanimity, he chooses to represent Germans as a pitiful people struggling to survive, not a cruel enemy to hate. The movie has an intrinsic historical interest, since it was filmed in 1948 Berlin, completely destroyed by bombs. As usual in Wilder’s works, the plot is beautifully constructed, the dialogue is witty and funny, irony, sarcasm and anti-rhetoric are spread along the movie. In the opening scenes we see army captain John Lund at the black-market, selling a cake, hand-made by his American sweetheart and coming from the States, to buy a gift for his Berliner lover Marlene Dietrich. By the way, Dietrich and most Berliner women seem to be on the verge of prostitution, just to get primary goods to survive in post-war disaster. Lund meets Jean Arthur, a US congresswoman committed in hunting nazi war criminals. As a matter of fact, we follow Lund’s attempts to destroy evidence of Dietrich’s nazi past: a behavior by the captain not exactly patriotic, nor ethic. The finale is deeper than it appears at a first sight: brutal tyranny, based on terror and slaughter, is doomed to be annihilated, buried under the rubble; pretty girls remain, helping us to spend our life on this unhappy earth.

  • alexander-reed
    alexander reed

    “A Foreign Affair” is not one of the films, directed by Billy Wilder, that are constantly seen on cable. We saw the movie a few years ago, as part as a tribute to the master. “A Foreign Affair” shows a Billy Wilder at one of his best moments of his Hollywood career. In going back to a destroyed Berlin, a city in which he lived, Mr. Wilder, and his collaborators, presents us with a film that must have been close to his heart.We are shown a Berlin in ruins right after the war as the US Congressional delegation comes to investigate the morale of the American men deployed in the divided city. It was still a time where some Nazis are still hiding from justice as the Allied forces are looking for them. One of the members of the commission that arrives in Berlin, Congresswoman Phoebe Frost, is carrying a birthday cake for one of her Iowa constituents, sent by his girlfriend.Berlin in those days was a place where things were hard to obtain. A lot of everyday goods, as well as all types of items, were bought, sold, or bartered, in the streets. We get a glimpse of it, as Capt. John Pringle exchanges his own birthday cake for a mattress that he intends to present to his current love, the exotic Erika, who entertains in the Lorelei, the cabaret that attracts a mixed crowd. Things get complicated as Phoebe Frost, who is a sticker for detail, catches Pringle at the night club. Phoebe, Pringle and Erika will be involved in a web of deception, intrigue and love. The no-nonsense Congresswoman falls in love, against her better judgment with the handsome Pringle.There are delicious moments in the film that only someone with Mr. Wilder’s eye for detail could get from his players. Phoebe Frost is taken for a ride with two GIs who think she is a local. The Congresswoman also plays a number in the Lorelei, a song with the appropriate title of “Iowa Corn Song”, one of the highlights of the movie. Also, Erika, sings a couple of numbers, “Illusions”, and “Ruins of Berlin” that will stay with the viewer because of the way Ms. Dietrich could only interpret them. Another sequence involves Pringle and Phoebe inside a file room in which drawers are opened and shut with an amazing pace.Jean Arthur is the best thing in the film. She was an actress who showed every emotion so well in her expressive face. Phoebe Frost has to be one of the best roles she ever played on the screen. Marlene Dietrich is another asset in the movie. Her Erika was a survivor, as she clearly shows. John Lund, makes a wonderful Pringle, the man who ends falling in love with Phoebe. Millard Mitchell is seen as Col. Plummer.The only thing with the copy shown on TCM, it was so dark, that at times is hard to see what’s going on. The photography by Charles Lang shows the devastation and the condition that Berlin looked like right after being repeatedly bombed by the Allies during WWII. At one point in the film, Erika tells Phoebe to accompany her home, “It’s the next ruin”, she explains.”A Foreign Affair” is one of Mr. Wilder’s best achievements as he gives us an account of the city he knew well.