Billy Wilder Bosley Crowther - Essay

Bosley Crowther

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder have been happily disinclined to wax morose about the problems presented by occupation—and by "fraternization," specifically. Rather these two bright filmmakers have been wryly disposed to smile upon the conflicts in self and national interests which proximities inevitably provoke. And in … "A Foreign Affair," they have turned out a dandy entertainment which has some shrewd and realistic things to say….

[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….

Of course, they have made these observations in a spirit of fun and romance. And the shame of the captain's indiscretion is honorably white-washed in the end. But there is bite, nonetheless, in the comment which the whole picture has to make upon the irony of big state restrictions on the level of individual give-and-take.

Under less clever presentation this sort of traffic with big stuff in the current events department might be offensive to reason and taste. But as handled by the Messrs. Brackett and Wilder … it has wit, worldliness and charm. It also has serious implications, via some actuality scenes in bombed Berlin, of the wretched and terrifying problem of repairing the ravages of war.

Bosley Crowther, "'A Foreign Affair'," in The New York Times (© 1948 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 1, 1948 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews: 1939–1948, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1970, p. 2264).