The Lost Moment

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The Lost Moment
Poster of the movie The Lost Moment.jpg
Directed byMartin Gabel
Produced byWalter Wanger
Screenplay byLeonardo Bercovici
Based onnovella The Aspern Papers by Henry James
StarringRobert Cummings
Susan Hayward
Music byDaniele Amfitheatrof
CinematographyHal Mohr
Edited byMilton Carruth
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • November 21, 1947 (1947-11-21) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$734,357[1]

The Lost Moment is a 1947 film noir psychological thriller film with elements of horror directed by Martin Gabel and starring Robert Cummings, Susan Hayward and Agnes Moorehead.


The movie mirrors some details of its source material and the broad outline of its plot, but it radically alters the characters, adding schizophrenia, a murder, and a fire.[2]

A publisher, Lewis Venable, travels from New York to Venice, seeking to buy the 19th-century love letters of the late poet Jeffrey Ashton to a woman named Juliana Bordereau. He learns from a living poet, Charles Russell, that Juliana is still alive at 105.

Without announcing his intentions, Lewis assumes a false identity. He takes lodging at Juliana's and meets her great-niece Tina, a pianist.

In time, he discovers that Juliana is in dire need of money. She even offers to sell him a valuable painting at far too low a price. He also learns that Tina has a schizophrenic personality, at times believing that she is Juliana and the object of Ashton's love letters.

Charles tries to blackmail Lewis by threatening to reveal his true identity and his interest in acquiring the letters. Lewis comes to believe that Ashton was murdered and buried in the garden. As he prepares to leave, in a chaotic scene the house catches fire. He manages to save Juliana from the blaze, but the precious letters are lost.



The film was produced at Universal Pictures by Walter Wanger, from a screenplay by Leonardo Bercovici based on the novella The Aspern Papers by Henry James. The music score was by Daniele Amfitheatrof and the cinematography was by Hal Mohr. The film stars Robert Cummings and Susan Hayward with Agnes Moorehead, Joan Lorring, Eduardo Ciannelli and Minerva Urecal.

The eerie atmosphere in the Venetian home was achieved through "tenebrous lighting, solemn rhythms and emphasis in music and sounds".[3] Agnes Moorehead's makeover as the 105-year-old woman was the subject of magazine articles for months after release.[3]


The film recorded a loss of $886,494.[1] The film was not well received by critics upon release, "written off as being rather gloomily literary."[4] Bosley Crowther of The New York Times considered the film to be "little more than the average horror", believing that Robert Cummings and Susan Hayward had little chemistry, saying "Miss Hayward performs as the daft niece with a rigidity that is almost ludicrous, and Mr. Cummings has the unctious manner of a nice young undertaker as the publisher. Eduardo Ciannelli is professional, at least, as a priest."[3] Newsweek said: "Frankly, admirers of Henry James have cause for complaint, and the average moviegoer will probably complain of boredom." The New Republic said that "Robert Cummings gives a performance that is probably meant to be sensitive but turns out to be unctuous". The New York World Telegram called the film "ponderous, majestic and thoroughly dull".[5]

The film has sometimes been seen in a more favorable light. Time Out said that the film is a "remarkably effective adaptation of Henry James' The Aspern Papers, closer to the shivery ambience of The Innocents than to the oh-so-discreet charm of Daisy Miller or The Europeans."[6] David Thompson said that the film was "beautifully shot".[4]


  1. ^ a b c Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p444
  2. ^ Holston, Kim R. (2002). Susan Hayward: Her Films and Life. McFarland & Company. pp. 55ff.
  3. ^ a b c Crowther, Bosley (22 November 1947). "The Lost Moment (1947)". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  4. ^ a b Thomson, David (2010). 'Have You Seen...?': A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films Including Masterpieces, Oddities and Guilty Pleasures (with Just a Few Disasters). Penguin Adult. p. 490. ISBN 978-0-14-102075-4.
  5. ^ Tranberg, Charles (2007). I Love the Illusion: The Life and Career of Agnes Moorehead. BearManor. p. 118.
  6. ^ "The Lost Moment". Time Out. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
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