A marvellous, restrained adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s novella Letter from an Unknown Woman, this 1933 Universal Pictures melodrama is commonly known as the luminous screen debut of the theatre star Margaret Sullavan, but remains an under-appreciated, almost obscure masterwork by John M. Stahl. The film unfolds almost entirely as a single long flashback about Mary Lane’s life. A one-night fling during World War I results in the young woman getting pregnant. Years later, during the Depression years, she meets the father of her child, Jim Emerson (John Boles) again. Now a successful businessman who doesn't remember Mary, he tries to seduce the single mother.

Set in the glorious roaring twenties, the film unites diverse strands of political and social backgrounds. But the historical shift that comes off as the most powerful is the change in gender roles, as announced by a suffragette: women "are not dependents any longer".

Filmmaker
John M. Stahl
Country
USA
Year
1933
Medium
35mm
Length
105’
Language
English
Producer
Carl Laemmle Jr.
Production Company
Universal Pictures International
Sales
Park Circus Limited
Writer
Based on a novel by Frederick Lewis Allen, William Hurlbut, Arthur Richman, George O'Neil
Cinematography
Merritt B. Gerstad
Editor
Milton Carruth
Production Design
Charles D. Hall
Sound Design
Gilbert Kurland, Joe Lapis
Music
Hermann Krome, C. Bakaleinikoff
Cast
Margaret Sullavan, John Boles, Edna May Oliver, Billie Burke, Benita Hume, Reginald Denny, George Meeker