Oscar Movies: Foreign Affair (1948)

Director Billy Wilder was criticized by some for the comedic elements in A Foreign Affair, set in Berlin right after WWII.  These reviewers accused Wilder of moral bankruptcy, challenging him to prove what could be funny about the Nazi war guilt, the bombed-out city, the postwar European black market, and so on.

These elements are in Foreign Affair and they have humor—dark humor to be sure.

John Lund plays American army officer, Captain John Pringle, who has an affair with older cabaret singer Erika von Schluetow (Marlene Dietrich), a former Nazi.  She accepts his attentions so long as there are benefits, like contraband cigarettes and nylons.

Meanwhile, Iowa congresswoman Phoebe Frost (Jean Arthur) is sent as member of an American fact-finding delegation to Berlin, and Lund is forced to change his ways. Despite her initial shock at the corruption around her, straitlaced Arthur eventually falls for Lund, but Dietrich has been at this game longer.

A Foreign Affair is a good companion piece to Wilder’s 1961 Cold War comedy One, Two, Three.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, Richard L. Breen

Cinematography (black and white): Charles B. Lang, Jr.


Oscar Awards:

Oscar Context:


The Writing Oscar went to John Huston for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

William Daniels won the Cinematography Oscar for The Naked City

Running time: 116 Minutes.

Directed by Billy Wilder

Written By: Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder

DVD: September 29, 1998

Paramount Pictures