The Lost Moment

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The Lost Moment
Poster of the movie The Lost Moment.jpg
Directed by Martin Gabel
Produced by Walter Wanger
Written by Henry James (novel)
Leonardo Bercovici
Starring Robert Cummings
Susan Hayward
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cinematography Hal Mohr
Edited by Milton Carruth
Walter Wanger Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • November 21, 1947 (1947-11-21) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,313,775[1]
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.


A publisher, Lewis Venable, travels from New York to Venice, seeking to buy the 19th Century love letters of the late poet Jeffrey Ashton (whose portrait looks suspiciously like Percy Bysshe Shelley) to a woman named Juliana Bordereau. He learns from a living poet, Charles Russell, that, amazingly, Juliana is still alive at 105.

Lewis assumes a false identity, not immediately announcing his intent. He is given lodging by Juliana and meets great-niece Tina, a pianist.

In time, he discovers that Juliana is in dire need of money, even offering to sell him a valuable painting. He also learns that Tina has a schizophrenic personality, at times deluding herself into believing that she is Juliana, and that Ashton's letters were written to her.

Charles tries to blackmail Lewis, revealing his true identity and purpose. Lewis comes to believe that Ashton was murdered and buried in the garden. Chaos ensues as he begins to leave, the house catching fire. He manages to save Juliana from the blaze, but the precious letters are lost, as is the old woman's will to live.



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".[2] Agnes Moorehead's makeover as the 105-year-old woman was the subject of magazine articles for months after release.[2] Occasional glimpses of Agnes Moorehead also add to the grotesque.


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."[3] 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."[2] The film has since 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."[4] David Thompson said that the film was "beautifully shot".[3]


  1. ^ a b c Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p444
  2. ^ a b c Crowther, Bosley (22 November 1947). "The Lost Moment (1947)". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  3. ^ 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. 1011. ISBN 978-0-14-102075-4. 
  4. ^ "The Lost Moment". Time Out. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 

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