A FOREIGN AFFAIR [1948 / 2020] [The Masters of Cinema Series] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] Brilliant Post-war Comedy! One of Billy Wilder’s Great Forgotten Films Worthy of Rapid Rediscovery!
From the inimitable Billy Wilder (‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘The Lost Weekend’) comes this classic comedy that mixes romance with hard-boiled wit in a story about stiff-necked Iowa Congresswoman Phoebe Frost [Jean Arthur] mired in jaded post-war Berlin.
As Phoebe Frost investigates the morale of American troops, Phoebe Frost is cynically wooed by fellow Iowan Captain John Pringle [John Lund], who is trying to cover up his affair with Nazi-tainted chanteuse Erika von Schlütow [Marlene Dietrich].
Filled with sharp dialogue and satiric jabs, ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ is one of Billy Wilder s most beloved comedies, and The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the film in its UK debut on Blu-ray.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1949 Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Writing, Screenplay for Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Richard L. Breen. Nominated: Best Cinematography in Black-and-White for Charles Lang. 1949 Writers Guild of America: Nominated: WGA Award (Screen) for Best Written American Comedy for Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Richard L. Breen.
Cast: Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund, Millard Mitchell, Peter von Zerneck, Stanley Prager, William Murphy, Raymond Bond, Boyd Davis, Robert Malcolm, Charles Meredith, Michael Raffetto, Damian O'Flynn, Frank Fenton, James Lorimer, Harland Tucker, Bill Neff, George M. Carleton, Gordon Jones, Freddie Steele, Nick Abramoff (uncredited), Leon Alton (uncredited), Robert Bohannon (uncredited), Ted Cottle (uncredited), Roy Damron (uncredited), Zina Dennis (uncredited), Jimmie Dundee (uncredited), Curt Furberg (uncredited), Joseph Goebbels(archive footage) (uncredited), Lisa Golm (uncredited), Leo Gregory (uncredited), Ilka Grüning (uncredited), Vilmos Gyimes (uncredited), Chester Hayes (uncredited), Len Hendry (uncredited), Lars Hensen (uncredited), Hans Herbert (uncredited), George Hoagland (uncredited), Friedrich Hollaender (uncredited), Jerry James (uncredited), Howard Joslin (uncredited), George Kachin (uncredited), Willy Kaufman (uncredited), Phyllis Kennedy (uncredited), Henry Kulky (uncredited), Harry Lauter (uncredited), Rex Lease (uncredited), Norman Leavitt (uncredited), Paul Lees (uncredited), Max Linder (uncredited), Ken Lundy (uncredited), Don Lynch (uncredited), Mathew McCue (uncredited), Gregory Merims (uncredited), Ralph Montgomery (uncredited), Bert Moorhouse (uncredited), Hazard Newsberry (uncredited), Larry Nunn (uncredited), Paul Panzer (uncredited), George Paris (uncredited), Joe Ploski (uncredited), Frank Popovich (uncredited), Otto Reichow (uncredited), Albin Robeling (uncredited), Richard Ryen (uncredited), William Sabbot (uncredited), William Self (uncredited), Pat Shade (uncredited), John Shay (uncredited), Bill Sheehan (uncredited), Peter Similuk (uncredited), Robert J.T. Simpson (uncredited), Kinko 'Lucky' Simunovich (uncredited), Bert Stevens (uncredited), Walter Thiele (uncredited), Jack Tornek (uncredited), George Unanoff (uncredited), Edward Van Sloan (uncredited), Jack Vlaskin (uncredited), Sergei N. Vonevsky (uncredited), Henry Vroom (uncredited), Otto Waldis (uncredited), Fay Wall (uncredited), Christa Walton (uncredited), Bobby Watson (uncredited), Chalky Williams (uncredited), Eric Wyland (uncredited), Frank Yaconelli (uncredited) and Nicholas Zane (uncredited)
Director: Billy Wilder
Producer: Charles Brackett
Screenplay: Billy Wilder (screenplay), Charles Brackett (screenplay), Richard L. Breen (screenplay), Robert Harari (adaptation) and David Shaw (original story)
Composer: Friedrich Hollaender
Cinematography: Charles B. Lang Jr., A.S.C. (Director of Photography)
Special Photographic Effects: Gordon Jennings, A.S.C.
Image Resolution: 1080p (Black-and-White)
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 116 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount Pictures / EUREKA! Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: With the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’  the story begins when a planeload of American diplomats arrives in Allied-occupied Berlin to inspect conditions for the soldiers posted there. Among this predominantly-male group of envoys is Congresswoman Phoebe Frost [Jean Arthur], a prim and proper congresswoman from Iowa who’s quick to clutch her pearls at even the slightest display of moral bankruptcy. Phoebe Frost crosses paths with Captain John Pringle [John Lund], a duplicitous serviceman engaged in a secret affair with Erika von Schlütow [Marlene Dietrich], a German showgirl with ties to prominent ex-Nazis still lurking around the city. Phoebe Frost knows Erika von Schlütow is sleeping with an American serviceman but Phoebe Frost doesn’t know the man’s identity, so she unwittingly partners with Captain John Pringle, the very man she’s looking for to bring Erika von Schlütow’s American lover to justice. This being a romantic comedy, Phoebe Frost’s close proximity to Captain John Pringle naturally causes her to fall head over heels in love with Captain John Pringle, creating a messy love triangle that somehow manages to neutralize an insurgent threat from the Nazi party’s lingering remnants.
‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ is a complicated film, taking on a decidedly cynical tone that explores how people might continue finding comedy when the world has been destroyed around them. Occupied Berlin resembles something of a large-scale prison, with citizens having forsaken paper currency in favour of a barter system. They trade their goods and services and, as the film implies, their bodies for small fleeting pleasures like cigarettes and candy. The social depravity seems to have also given way to moral depravity, which Billy Wilder frequently alludes to with a deft, comedic touch. We see frequent images of American servicemen riding through the city on tandem bikes, catcalling German women out on their own, or those very same German women confidently striding through town with babies in strollers garnished with little American flags – all winking references to the widespread climate of fornication and adultery that has flourished in the absence of governmental order. The relationship dynamic between John Lund and Marlene Dietrich also contains slight hints towards BDSM proclivities, creating a sense of sexual delinquency that underscores an otherwise-demure romantic comedy. But the ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ subject matter is indeed quite risqué relative to the time in which it was made, but serves as yet another instance of Billy Wilder pushing the envelope of what mainstream Hollywood films could depict on-screen.
The ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ film plot hinges upon the dynamic of the eccentric love triangle between Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, and John Lund. Jean Arthur’s naive and prudish Congresswoman Phoebe Frost is the chief protagonist – a bold choice given the unfortunate fact that mainstream Hollywood traditionally doesn’t make films detailing the romantic aspirations of older women. Billy Wilder reportedly lured Jean Arthur out of retirement to play the role, but her experience on set just might have caused her to regret it; and Billy Wilder’s sincere admiration for her co-star Marlene Dietrich caused Jean Arthur to become the envious second fiddle by default. Marlene Dietrich, to her credit, is perfectly cast as the German enchantress Erika von Schlütow. In the classic femme fatale fashion, which Billy Wilder helped to create, Marlene Dietrich exudes an icy glamor and a weaponized sex appeal in her portrayal of a nightclub singer whose allegiance to her new American conquerors is suspect. Having spent a great deal of World War II touring the European front and entertaining Allied troops, Marlene Dietrich was understandably reticent about taking on the role of a lusty woman with Nazi sympathies, but Billy Wilder was able to coax her aboard with the promise of a big payday as well as the company of her old friend Friedrich Hollaender as the film’s composer and her on-screen accompaniment during singing numbers like “Black Market.” John Lund’s Captain John Pringle is a two-faced American soldier who he projects a somewhat dopey demeanour in public, only to switch over into a womanizing cynic behind closed doors. Lund was a Paramount Pictures contract player whose career never really took off, and his serviceable yet ultimately forgettable performance in A FOREIGN AFFAIR would arguably become his best-known appearance.
Thanks to his minimalist aesthetic and usage of in-camera cutting techniques, Billy Wilder and his editing partner Doane Harrison reportedly completed a cut of the film only a week after principal photography had wrapped. The film was well-regarded in critical circles, but ultimately unsuccessful come the Academy Awards season. Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett were nominated once more for their screenplay, but if it’s any consolation to them, the film they eventually lost out to John Huston’s ‘The Treasure of Sierra Madre’ that would become a monumental classic in its own right.
A FOREIGN AFFAIR MUSIC TRACK LIST
BLACK MARKET (uncredited) (Written by Friedrich Hollaender) [Sung by Marlene Dietrich]
ILLUSIONS (uncredited) (Written by Friedrich Hollaender) [Sung by Marlene Dietrich]
THE RUINS OF BERLIN (uncredited) (Written by Friedrich Hollaender) [Sung by Marlene Dietrich]
IOWA CORN SONG (uncredited) (Written by Edward Riley, George Botsford, Ray W. Lockard and George Hamilton) [Sung by Jean Arthur and chorus]
MEADOWLANDS (uncredited) (Written by Lev Knipper and Viktor Gusev) [Sung by Soviet soldiers chorus]
ISN’T IT ROMANTIC? (uncredited) (Written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart)
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Blu-ray Image Quality – EUREKA! Entertainment presents us the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ with a wonderful Black-and-White 1080p images that are crisp and clean transfer, capturing the wonderful compositions of Charles Bryant Lang Jr. and is of course enhanced with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The 35mm film frame is awash in a very moody chiaroscuro, incorporating the deep shadows and expressive lighting techniques that director Billy Wilder is famous for and with be thrilled to add this gem to their collection with a generally satisfactory transfer that brings the evocative black-and-white cinematography by the brilliant Charles Bryant Lang Jr., is brought to life and the photography is effectively realised. A great number of scenes in the film are downright stunning with this high-quality encode. At around 1:50:38 we get some thin white lines down the left side of the film, that lasts until 1:57:17, such shame they could not of eliminate this from the negative. Still despite this it is slightly annoying anomaly, but despite this, overall the picture quality definitely gets a five star rating from me and well done EUREKA! Entertainment. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – EUREKA! Entertainment brings us the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ with just one standard 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio experience. The audio is nicely rounded and also gives us a good dynamic range and is also very clear, well-modulated sound with no distortion or age-related surface noise, pops, or crackles. The audio experience also manages to capably render the film's soundtrack and razor-sharp dialogue really good. In the majority of the film's witty and charming dialogue-heavy scenes, the audio clarity sounds quite crisp and satisfactory to one's ears. Overall the audio quality definitely gets a five star rating from me and well done EUREKA! Entertainment.
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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Original 2.0 uncompressed LPCM Audio
Audio Commentary by Film Historian Joseph McBride: Here Joseph McBride introduces himself, and is honoured to do this audio commentary for the Billy Wilder’s film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR.’ Joseph McBride has been writing about Billy Wilder for a very long time, since 1970 actually, and at the time of this audio commentary, was in the process of writing a book about Billy Wilder and is a natural follow up to his critical study when he worked for Hans Lubitz. Joseph McBride has also written articles about Billy Wilder films, and has interviewed him on several occasions, and ones on the set for the film ‘Front Page’ for a day in 1974, and was invaluable to see him at work, and was a lot of fun. The film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ is not one of his best known, and it is underrated and is not talked about a lot, and Billy Wilder has commented that he regarded that he felt it was one of his better pictures and Joseph McBride totally agrees it is a terrific film and a great political satire and strong mixture of comedy and drama, and Joseph McBride feels it is a very personal film for Billy Wilder, especially when he lived and worked in Berlin, but of course had to flee Germany in 1933 because of the rise of the Nazi Party and especially with the fact that he is Jewish. Joseph McBride feels the film was overlooked over the years, and one that is very topical, and does not agree with the argument that films date, and feels that it is a very naïve statement, but feels the film represents the times when it was made, and that is why Joseph McBride loves films as they are like a time machine, especially where you go back to a certain time in history, especially post was Germany. The film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ came under attack after the film was released by the United States Congress, the Army and the United States Department of State for its real look at Germany and its unsentimental attitude of the American occupation forces. Joseph McBride loves the actress Jean Arthur’s naïve attitude and is one of his favourite female actresses. The film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ was banned for showing it to the American forces, especially the troops and especially about the troop’s morale. After the film was pillared by official’s sources, Paramount Pictures more or less lost faith in the film, and stopped promoting the film. The reason Billy Wilder wanted to make the film, is because he knew the terrain and also the film was very personal. In the 1940s and the 1950s Billy Wilder tended to push the censorship with some of his films with a mature content and usually got away with it, he also ran into problems with films like ‘Kiss Me Stupid’ , but then changed direction and tended to be more refined like ‘AVANTI,’ ‘The Private Lives of Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘FEDORA’ and sadly they were not very popular, and Billy Wilder’s career came to an abrupt halt and spent the last 22 years of his career where he was unable to make any films, and Joseph McBride feels it was a Hollywood scandal, and Billy Wilder went into exile a couple of times. Joseph McBride also felt Billy Wilder made a pivotal trilogy of films and they were ‘People On Sunday,’ ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ and later on with ‘One, Two, Three,’ which was a scathing attack on the division of Germany and the building of the Berlin Wall, and you can view these three films that gives the vision of the changing faces of Berlin. When we see John Lund picking up the mattress in exchange for his chocolate birthday cake and we see him driving around bombed out Berlin, well Joseph McBride points out the music being played in the background that is entitled “Isn’t It Romantic,” which was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and Billy Wilder loved that tune and was quizzed why he used it specifically for that scene in the film and you can see his comment in the special feature Billy Wilder on ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’  and it all revolves around the fact that it was a Paramount Pictures. Billy Wilder was criticised for having Marlene Dietrich spit water at John Lund, but Billy Wider commented by saying, “That is how a broad is, and if she loves the guy, and it is love.” We find out that Billy Wilder was very liberal, brash and wanted to make a very strong political film, which helped towards his rant against political correctness. Billy Wilder was involved in the Hollywood Blacklist in 1947, and the House Un-American Activities Committee that was investigating the Hollywood elite who were accused of being communist and Billy Wilder went out of his way in defending the Hollywood Ten and was very brave in doing so and was without question totally loyal to the Directors Guild of America and is an entertainment guild that represents the interests of film and television directors in the United States motion picture industry and abroad, because he garnered eight Directors Guild of America Award nominations with the sole win for his work on ‘The Apartment.’ Billy Wilder received seven nominations at the Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Director for ‘The Lost Weekend’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ Even thought he was an immigrant, he had a lot of guts and was a fierce defender of the Constitution of the United States, and ironically it was the same time as the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ was release, and is also full of tension. When Billy Wilder fell out with Charles Brackett [American novelist/screenwriter], who was a staunch right wing Republican and was also very uptight about sex like the Jean Arthur character, and then went onto work with Richard L. Breen [Hollywood screenwriter/director] and was one of the screenwriters for this film, and also they also worked together with some other films, and also worked on a not so successful film entitled ‘Titanic’  but did win the Academy Award® for Best Screenplay. When we see the United States House of Representatives men and woman being driven around bombed out Berlin and the American officer comes out with lots of sarcastic remarks, well this came about when Billy Wilder hanged out with American Servicemen in Berlin, so felt it was well worth incorporating it into the script. When naïve uptight Jean Arthur sees American Servicemen fraternising with the young German women, Phoebe Frost is appalled and is even more shocked in finding out American Servicemen are having sex with the young German women, and Joseph McBride says that it is only natural, especially away from home, but because of Phoebe Frost’s sexually repressed attitude, back home in America she has led a very sheltered religious upbringing, with a very repressed Republican conservative family, but of course the Jean Arthur character is so narrow focused and cannot recognise her own foibles and does not realise that before the Americans took over, just near the end of the Second World War Russian troops raped German women, which Marlene Dietrich’s character mentions this fact and of course when the Americans arrived brought more stability and a civilised life for the German residents. When Phoebe Frost is mistaken for a German and is taken to the nightclub and then we see Marlene Dietrich perform and Joseph McBride felt the actress looked very sophisticated and of course very alluring to the men in the audience and feels this was helped with the beautiful cinematography by the legendary Charles B. Lang Jr., who also worked on the films ‘Ace In A Hole’ and ‘Some Like It Hot.’ Joseph McBride also points out the piano player, who was the famous composer Friedrich Hollaender, who composed all of Marlene Dietrich’s songs and was her most favourite composer. Joseph McBride talks about how Billy Wilder loved portraying naïve Republicans who condemns other people who are not like them, but do not look in the mirror and see their own flaws, and of course loves to incorporate these characters in his screenplays in several of his films. Billy Wilder had a certain attitude in wanting to show the difference between Europe and American attitude, and the John Lund character, who Joseph McBride thinks is a very sophisticated American and informs Phoebe Frost that this is how G.I.’s react in Germany, because they are far away from their home in America and of course John Lund also has to fool and romance Phoebe Frost as a PR exercise, because he has to protect the Marlene Dietrich character, especially knowing that in her past she has relationships with officials from the Nazi Party. Joseph McBride feels there is a lot of Jean Arthur in the film and Joseph McBride knew her personally, and in her past was very reckless and LIFE magazine in the early 1940s and called her, “She is so reclusive, it makes Garbo look like a party girl,” and Jean Arthur didn’t like publicity, also was very anxious and Frank Capra really made her career, and became a big star in the 1930s. In 1944 Jean Arthur left Hollywood and only made two films after that. Harry Cohen had a saying about Jean Arthur and he said, “You see that face, she’s half angel, and half horse.” But there is another great comment someone made about Jean Arthur, where they said, “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion,” which was originally said by Francis Bacon. Joseph McBride feels that actors with beautiful features are rather dull and you see them on television a lot and a lot of them are very bland. But if you look at a lot of great female stars and male stars also, there is something odd about their features and that’s what makes then distinctive and Jean Arthur certain features in that category. After the film ‘SHANE,’ Jean Arthur wet back to the stage to perform and had a tendency to get terribly anxious with every performance and suddenly leave the production, and eventually mysteriously left the profession, but after some period of time in isolation, but suddenly two great directors lured her back into films, but it took some doing to persuade her. When we get to around 43 minutes mark, we get the scene where John Lund is investigating the German Father and his son in the office, and then we see the son draws the swastika on John Lund’s desk with a piece of white chalk, and to Billy Wilder that is black humour and also when the German Father and his son are about to leave, they click their heals, and John Lund comments that we don’t have the Gestapo anymore, but even funnier is when the German Father and his son turn round to leave, the young boy has drawn a swastika on the back of the Father’s jacket and of course it is a terrific piece of satire humour. One night Jean Arthur turned up at Billy Wilder’s home without warning with her husband, who complained that Marlene Dietrich was getting more close ups than Jean Arthur and of course if you view the film it is a totally false allegation, as they both get equal amounts of close ups each. About 40 years after the release of ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR,’ Billy Wilder gest a phone call, and it is Jean Arthur and recognises her unique voice immediately, and she says, “Billy Wilder, I saw the picture,” and Billy Wilder said, “You saw what picture,” and Jean Arthur says, “Well that thing to do with the Congress woman, and I saw it and thought it was wonderful, and so sorry I put you through those things,” and she suddenly hangs up, and two years late, sadly passed away. Joseph Mc Bride says about Billy Wilder, that he portrays realistic human people, like showing human nature at its best and gets into deep truths in both man and women and Billy Wilder does not go into the typical Hollywood stereotypes, like here is a good character, and here is a bad character, people are great and in-between, and the character of John Lund you like, because he is funny, sophisticated, witty and a charming guy, but can also be a heal and a bastard and treats Jean Arthur’s character really badly and eventually feels guilty about it, but also at the same time going out of his way to protect the character of Marlene Dietrich. At the end of the Second World War, the German people were shown loads of propaganda films and had to fill out a form with a pencil on what they thought of the film, but not long after the film was shown, they would walk out with their pencils. In America, cinema owners did not want to show too many propaganda films on the war, but instead, people wanted to see Hollywood musicals. Joseph McBride talks in-depth about the actor John Lund, who he felt was a very smart actor, who had also done some playwriting, especially as he originally came from New York where he had done some theatre work, and sadly he never quite made it as a film star, and thinks he looks a bit like Clark Gable, and Billy Wilder was asked, would you of liked to have used Clark Gable instead, but sure he said, but wasn’t available, but I feels John Lund looked perfect for the part of the G.I., and did a terrific performance, but sadly just did not catch on with the American public, which is such vacuous ignorant attitude, because the public did not think he had the charisma, which I think is a pathetic mindless attitude, and Billy Wilder summed up that of course if it had been Clark Gable, the film would have been shown loads of times, but would not of been as good a film. Uptight critics would lambast Billy Wilder as a misogynist in the 1960s and of course he was not at all a misogynist, but a realistic, because he did not romanticise women, like directors did in the 1930s mostly, Also Billy Wilder does not like American flag waving in films, like who won the war, because he is not that type of director, and the character of John Lund is opposite of that type of thing, and does not give patriotic speeches. We also get to see a kindness underneath the Marlene Dietrich character when rescuing Phoebe Frost from the German police because of being at the nightclub when the police raided it, and that showing her in being much more human person. It is a real treat for Billy Wilder, that he can, within complex ideological historical situations, and even make a Nazi character somewhat sympathetic and it is not a question that you approve of her, that also you do not approve of her at the same time, and that is a very negative way to look films and we should not judge characters that way, that’s childish what Joseph McBride thinks, in that you should look at people as very complex, and we see Marlene Dietrich wising up jean Arthur about the facts of life and how she survived the Second World War and feels Marlene Dietrich gives one of her best performances in the film, and Jean Arthur has now become a better person. But with this film there are a lot of tragedies with characters in this film, and how do they break out of the mould. Joseph McBride thinks it is a great scene when the Nazi lover enters the kitchen of the nightclub and sits down in the nightclub watching Marlene Dietrich performs, who is there to shoot John Lund because of his romantic liaison with the singer, and Joseph McBride thinks Billy Wilder’s direction at this moment in time is superb and really realistically builds up the tension. Joseph McBride feels people who like this film, feels that Billy Wilder would say, “That the resolution of the film does not work.” Also if you have a devastating end to a film, the audience will reject the film completely, so the better filmmaker have to have a sort of bitter sweet ending and if you look at life, life is bitter sweet, things are not one way or the other, and often mixed, and good and bad things mingle, and sometimes you cannot tell the difference. Of course the tables are turned in the nightclub scene, where everyone has been escorted out after the Nazi has been shot, with a couple of stragglers are left at the table singing, and Jean Arthur faints thinking John Lund has been shot in the kisser, but when she comes around sees John Lund is alive, and this is where the tables are turned with Jean Arthur and starts to push John Lund backwards to now seduce him, who is now trying to reject her, so now John Lund is getting his comeuppance, and is quite a funny scene. But Joseph McBride realises that if John Lund went back to America with a right wing Republican Phoebe Frost it would not work and that is the way Billy Wilder thought, in the way he wanted to end the film like it is, and leaves you with lots of questions, like what would happen next, and makes you want to think about life in a much more complex way, and is why it makes the director Billy Wilder so great and provocative. At this point THE END credit appears, as well as the end credits and Joseph McBride says, “So thank you very much for listening and I really enjoyed talking about one of his greatest films, and that I hope it has a long long life,” and also totally agree with that statement, and I can definitely say that Joseph McBride is totally brilliant and totally fascinating to listen to and is so insightful with all the information he imparts and definitely gets a top notch five star rating from me and is not to be missed.
Special Feature: From Berlin to Hollywood: Wilder and Dietrich’s Foreign Affair  [1080p] [1.78:1] [22:47] Here we have an audio commentary Essay by Kat Ellinger and talks in-depth about the actress Marlene Dietrich, especially from her early childhood and was named Marie Magdalene "Marlene" Dietrich and was born on the 27th December, 1901 to a loving and secure family in Schöneberg is a locality of Berlin, Germany, where she enjoyed a sheltered life, even without her Father Louis Erich Otto Dietrich, who was a police lieutenant, who died in 1907, and she was only 6 years old in her life. Then later on in her life decided to change her name to Marie Magdalene "Marlene" Dietrich, who decided she want to be a sexual renegade, libertine, provocateur, symbol of woman’s sexual liberation, cabaret star, stage star, film star, and icon. Her mother, Wilhelmina Elisabeth Josephine, was from an affluent Berlin family who owned a jewellery and clock-making firm, who eventually and sadly fell on less affluent time in widowhood following World War One, and Marlene Dietrich gave great credit to her Mother, for giving her a loving childhood, even though they were quite poor, and her Mother never spoilt Marlene Dietrich, which kept her grounded throughout her career. Wilhelmina Elisabeth Josephine wanted Marlene Dietrich to train as a concert violinist, and by all accounts had a great talent, and did take vigorous lessons in that field, but wanted to set her sights to other fields, like the stage. Marlene Dietrich tried to respect her Mother’s wishes to be moderate in her manor, but in reality wanted to be noticed. But later on Marlene Dietrich was reborn as a sensually liberated woman with a spirit, especially through the nightlife of Berlin, even with the decadence period in Berlin and the political turmoil. But to Marlene Dietrich she felt Berlin was her true Mother, and sold her soul to the city long before films had evolved, and this is when Marlene Dietrich really evolved, especially as a model, and was quickly followed by her experience in the risqué cabaret venues, the stage and film, and Marlene Dietrich had finally arrived. But of course living in Berlin in 1923, again there was tremendous political turmoil, that was of course heading for disaster, massive inflation that was at a record heights, where the Deutsche Mark currency had to be carried around in a wheel barrow, and people were wallpapering their homes with the Deutsche Mark, burning them to keep warm and even used it for toilet paper. Poverty, despair, political unrest and rioting was everywhere in Germany, because of frustration and anger. So to find solace, Marlene Dietrich concentrated on her stage performance, because Marlene Dietrich wanted to stay out of politics, to immerse herself in her hedonistic lifestyle, to escape reality, and headed for the limelight. But at the same time Berlin was a city consumed by decadence and sin, and of course sex was everywhere and the energy attracted Europe’s brightest intellectuals and physiological minds, and some of its talented artists. But of course author Christopher Isherwood told of his own personal experiences with the novel “Goodbye to Berlin” about his experience in this city and of course the novel was eventually turned into the film ‘Cabaret.’ Then there was ‘Babylon Berlin’  where the series takes place in Berlin during the Weimar Republic, starting in 1929. It follows Gereon Rath, a police inspector on assignment from Cologne who is on a secret mission to dismantle an extortion ring, and Charlotte Ritter, police clerk by day, flapper by night, who is aspiring to become a police inspector. Although Berlin had Marlene Dietrich, where at the same time in America they had the “IT” actresses, who consisted of Lillian Gish, Marion Davies, Gloria Swanson, Janet Gaynor, Louise Brooks, Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer and Eleanor Boardman. But in 1926 Billy Wilder travelled from his native home of Austria, to find fame and fortune in Berlin, and jazz was his most passion, and took work as a journalist. And there was plenty to report on, but sometimes he had to sleep rough, so to get by, he wrote several articles about life of dancers for hire, also about the seedy life of a gigolo, and have very great wit, which was helpful towards later on with his screenwriting, and of course eventually got a foothold into the German film industry, and started to make his mark, especially on his first silent German film documentary ‘Menschen am Sonntag’ [People on Sunday]  and was the start of his career in the film industry, and especially helped him to escape with the rise of Nazi German and made finally made it to America. But just before that while in Berlin, Billy Wilder became a very close friend to Marlene Dietrich, but when in America and especially Hollywood their friendship blossomed. But after a period of marriage bliss for Marlene Dietrich and being a mother, yearned to go back to her previous life and had a lot of affairs with both sexes, and her husband also had a mistress, but when her husband died, Marlene Dietrich said that her husband was one of her best friend she ever had. Then for Marlene Dietrich to get a foothold into films, got a part in the Josef von Sternberg film ‘The Blue Angel’ (German: ‘Der blaue Engel’)  and the director was bowled over by her attitude especially in her film test, because of her strong sexual attitude, and when Paramount Pictures saw her performance in that film, offered her a contract and the film ‘Morocco’  and the rest is as they say is history. In the Second World War years Marlene Dietrich and Billy Wilder became American citizens. The idea for the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ came to Billy Wilder while he was editing the ‘Death Mills’  which is an American documentary film directed by Billy Wilder and produced by the United States Department of War. The film was intended for German audiences to educate them about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime and at the same time he hoped of returning Germany for the assignment and also to learn about the whereabouts of his Mother and Grandmother and at the time could not convince then to go to America with him, sadly via the Red Cross, they both perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Billy Wilder wanted to make a film of post war Germany to eradicate Nazi ideology and at the same time to make a film that is entertaining, and this is how the premise for ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ came about and of course Marlene Dietrich was offered the part of Erika von Schlütow, but initially turned down the part, and worried her character would be taint her image, but eventually could not refuse Billy Wilder’s offer. As to the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR,’ it is a complex beast, and shows Berlin defeated by battle, and also in ruins, and the home grown Jean Arthur who was very naïve about life outside America, and was also totally Right Wing Republican and finds life very black and white, especially in Berlin, but of course it is the art of survival in Berlin and having Marlene Dietrich as Erika von Schlütow, evoked the spirit of Berlin. In 1948, Marlene Dietrich’s star had started to fade, but shone so brightly when she arrived in Hollywood, and some say that the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ was homage to Marlene Dietrich, and it certainly resurrected her to stardom once more, and especially when Marlene Dietrich sings her first number “Black Market,” which is very similar to the one in the film ‘Morocco,’ where she sings to some soldiers about selling some apples, which is a reference to prostitution. Billy Wilder does not make the film with “rose tinted glasses,” but instead shows how the actual city of Berlin and the corrupting influences all that is left is young men gathering in beer cellars, and the city is totally seedy, rotten to the core and hungry, and now the gloss has come off, and all you are left with is Erika von Schlütow and a product of the city, and is not a throwback to some romantic nostalgia and the only love Billy Wilder has for Berlin, is the light that shines through Marlene Dietrich. So ends quite an interesting look at the heart of Berlin, Marlene Dietrich, Billy Wilder and ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR.’ As you view this special feature, you do get clips from the film, also lots of black-and-white publicity photographs of Marlene Dietrich, Billy Wilder and some still images from the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR.’ At the very end of the audio commentary Kat Ellinger says this Essay is a dedicated homage to Marlene Dietrich, Billy Wilder and of course the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR.’ All in all, this is quite a nice and informative audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, who has certainly done a thorough in-depth investigating into the lives of Marlene Dietrich and Billy Wilder, but also in the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR,’ and is well worth listening to. POST SCRIPT: Kat Ellinger is the editor in chief of Diabolique Magazine and co-host of their “Daughters of Darkness” and “Hell's Belles” podcasts. Kat Ellinger’s writing has featured in a number of publications, including Scream Magazine, Fangoria, and Senses of Cinema.
Special Feature: NBC Theater Presents a Screen Directors Playhouse of ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ Episode #9  [1080p] [1.78:1] [52:45] The NBC Theater presents the Hollywood Screen Director’s just under an hour-length production of ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ starring Rosalind Russell, John Lund, Marlene Dietrich, Millard Mitchell and introducing the director of the film Billy Wilder as a waiter. Life in Berlin is becoming very complicated indeed for Captain John Pringle, because he has joined the congresswoman Phoebe Frost in tracking down the American army officer who’s been having an affair with Erika von Schlütow, a nightclub singer and former girlfriend of Nazi, Hans Otto Birgel. The task is proving to be an unusually frustrating one for the captain since he happens to be the man Phoebe Frost is looking for. Original Air Date was 6th March, 1949.
Special Feature: NBC Theater Presents a Screen Directors Playhouse of ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ Episode #92  [1080p] [1.78:1] [60:01] Sponsored by Chesterfield Cigarettes, Anacin and RCA. The NBC Theater presents the Hollywood Screen Director’s just under an hour-length production of ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ starring Lucille Ball, John Lund, Marlene Dietrich, Millard Mitchell and guest screen director Billy Wilder. Life in Berlin is becoming very complicated indeed for Captain John Pringle, because he has joined the congresswoman Phoebe Frost in tracking down the American army officer who’s been having an affair with Erika von Schlütow, a nightclub singer and former girlfriend of Nazi, Hans Otto Birgel. The task is proving to be an unusually frustrating one for the captain since he happens to be the man Phoebe Frost is looking for. Original Air Date was 1st March, 1951. As a bonus, you get to hear Bob Hope and Bing Crosby doing a rare radio advert for the Chesterfield Cigarette Company that is sponsoring the Screen Directors Playhouse of ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR.’
Special Feature: Billy Wilder on ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’  [480i] [1.37:1] [10:10] This documentary interview is taken from the three-part documentary, “Billy, How Did You Do It,” that was directed by Volker Schlöndorff and was originally aired on the BBC soon afterwards and against Billy Wilder's wishes. So in the fascinating interview, Billy Wilder talks about how devastating Berlin looked after the Second World War, and when we see the first scene flying over the bombed out city of Berlin, was filmed by his cameraman friend, who he does not name, and we get to see some actual black-and-white home movie footage while driving around the bombed out city of Berlin, to look for locations for the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR.’ We get loads of really bad quality clips from ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR.’ We finally get to see the director of this interview Volker Schlöndorff asking Billy Wilder questions in German, but luckily there is English subtitles, and asks, “So when the documentary approach failed . . . you help up a different mirror to the Germans. You are and entertainer AND a moralist. ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ shows the decline of Germany. For instance, the scene with the father and son . . . total submission to authority. Maybe fiction can be stronger that fact.” Billy Wilder replies, “That you have to show philosophy with chocolate coating and in a feature film you cannot show concentration camps. Again the director asks Billy Wilder, “If when he wrote the script, you thought of Marlene Dietrich?” and Nilly Wilder replies, “Yes Berlin and Dietrich are one. The Friedrich Hollaender song “Black Market,” and I knew her from Berlin when I was a journalist. She was an unknown actress playing bit parts, and later bigger roles. Then of course with the director Josef von Sternberg . . . ‘Blue Angel’ . . . ‘Morocco.’ Dietrich had also returned from the Front, where she spent more time at the Front than I did . . . and of course more than Dwight D. Eisenhower [34th U.S. President]. We were great friends during her years with Erich Maria Remarque [Novelist] and Jean Gabin [French actor]. We were great friends.” At the end of this short Billy Wilder interview, we get to hear for Hellmuth Karasek [Actor and Writer] and talks about the scene in ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ where Marlene Dietrich is escorted out of club by the MP’s, and talks about the fact that Erika von Schlütow had been involved with the Nazi, Hans Otto Birgel, and the way Billy Wilder shows that scene, is the way the German director Ernst Lubitsch would of filmed it, especially with the first two MP’s who escorts Erika von Schlütow, then other MP’s follow them in case Erika von Schlütow seduces the first two MP’s and Billy Wilder makes sure it is not too moralistic ending. POST SCRIPT: The full documentary interview can be found on The Masters of Cinema Series release of Billy Wilder’s ‘The Lost Weekend.’
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.37:1] [1:01] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR,’ and although it does not really promote the film, it is quite a jolly and enjoyable trailer.
PLUS: Beautiful reversible printed double sided Blu-ray cover.
BONUS: FIRST PRESSING ONLY: A beautiful 24-page collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Film Historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas entitled GIRLS TO THE FRONT ADMIST THE RUINES OF BERLIN. A new essay by critic Richard Combs entitled ADMIST THE RUINS OF BERLIN aka Billy Wilder and ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR.’ Plus archival photograph material. VIEWING NOTES and SPECIAL NOTE.
Finally, ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ was no doubt a cathartic experience for Billy Wilder, allowing him the opportunity to exorcise his inner torment over the Holocaust by bringing the Nazis to justice in the cinematic forum. In Billy Wilder's sophisticated satire of ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR,’ where IOWA congresswoman Jean Arthur is sent to postwar Berlin to check on things, and runs into a thriving black market, corrupt G.I.’s and a seductive Marlene Dietrich who's having affairs with an American army captain and a former Nazi. Not for nothing is Jean Arthur's character called Phoebe Frost and the question is, will she melt? ‘A FOREIGN AFFAIR’ is brimming with great lines. But its strength is Jean Arthur's brave performance and an equal performance is John Lund as the US soldier. Director Billy Wilder's take on the ruins of the city of Berlin he once lived in. Only he could have toured the bomb sites and included the song “Isn't It Romantic?” on the soundtrack. Comedies comes no blacker, harsher and hilarious tongue in cheek humour than this brilliant film. Very Highly Recommended!
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