The Passionate Stranger

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The Passionate Stranger
"The Passionate Stranger".jpg
UK 1-sheet poster
Directed byMuriel Box
Produced byPeter Rogers
Gerald Thomas
Written byMuriel Box
Sydney Box
StarringMargaret Leighton
Ralph Richardson
Music byHumphrey Searle
CinematographyOtto Heller
Distributed byBritish Lion Films
Release date
26 February 1957 (UK)
27 August 1957 (U.S.)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Passionate Stranger (U.S. A Novel Affair) is a 1957 British drama film, directed by Muriel Box and starring Margaret Leighton and Ralph Richardson. It uses the film within a film device, with the "real" part of the plot shot in black-and-white and the "fictional" element in colour. The interior scenes were shot at Shepperton Studios, with location filming taking place at Chilworth, Surrey.

Box stated that the film was intended "to debunk the sentimental novel...a mild satire on romance as opposed to reality, and the unhappy consequences of confusing the two".[2] New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther understood the intention, but described the premise as "thin and even tedious" and felt that the lengthy central fantasy sequence "is so ponderous, and it so completely outweighs the little black-and-white whimsy that surrounds it, that it drags down the whole idea." He did however concede that "thanks to adroit performances by Miss Leighton and Sir Ralph...this little bit of nonsense from Muriel and Sydney Box is not quite as flimsy and pretentious as it may at first sound."[3]


Judith Wynter (Leighton) is a novelist who pens torrid escapist romantic fiction for the popular women's market, although in real life she is a respectable, unassuming woman, happily married to husband Roger (Richardson) who has been stricken with polio that leaves him immobile. She uses people she knows and situations she encounters as the raw material for her fictional flights of fancy. Recovering from a bout of writer's block, Judith pens the rough draft of her latest novel. Titled The Passionate Stranger, her latest work is a lurid tale of a bored and unsatisfied woman with a pompous disabled husband she despises/ The heroine embarks on a wild affair with her Italian chauffeur and finds herself expecting his child. The husband dismisses the chauffeur, who vows revenge, and matters escalate melodramatically towards a deadly conclusion.

The Wynters' new Italian chauffeur Carlo (Carlo Giustini) stumbles on the manuscript, reads it, and jumps to the conclusion that it is wish fulfillment on Judith's part. Assuming that she harbours a repressed passion for him, he begins trying to signal to her that he knows and understands. To Judith's bewilderment and horror, he starts to attempt to recreate situations and conversations from the novel. Feeling extremely uncomfortable, she brushes off his attentions and he becomes confused and angry. Meanwhile, Roger, fully aware of the situation, revels in the amusement of his wife's excruciating embarrassment and Carlo's absurdly misinformed assumptions.


Critical reception[edit]

Allmovie described the film as "something of a comic precursor to The French Lieutenant's Woman";[4] while Sky Movies noted, "Ralph Richardson delivers more than the script can reasonably expect."[5]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Sydney Box Spicer, Andrew. Manchester University Press, 2006, p.162 ISBN 0-7190-5999-2
  3. ^ The Passionate Stranger Crowther, Bosley. New York Times, 28-08-1957. Retrieved 30-10-2010
  4. ^ "A Novel Affair (1957) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast". AllMovie. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  5. ^ "The Passionate Stranger - Sky Movies HD". 8 August 2003. Retrieved 25 June 2014.

External links[edit]