Bitter Sweet (1940 film)

Bitter Sweet is a 1940 American Technicolor musical film directed by W. S. Van Dyke, based on the operetta Bitter Sweet by Noël Coward. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Best Cinematography and the other for Best Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons and John S. Detlie.[2]

Bitter Sweet
Title card
Directed byW. S. Van Dyke
Produced byVictor Saville
Written byLesser Samuels
Based onBitter Sweet
1929 operetta
by Noël Coward
StarringJeanette MacDonald
Nelson Eddy
George Sanders
Music byGus Kahn
CinematographyOliver T. Marsh
Allen M. Davey
Edited byHarold F. Kress
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 8, 1940 (1940-11-08)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.1 million[1]
Box office$2.2 million[1]

The film is based on Coward's stage operetta, which was a hit in 1929 in London. It was filmed twice, first in 1933 in black-and-white (in Britain, with Anna Neagle and Fernand Gravet in the leading roles). The 1940 film is much cut and rewritten, removing much of the operetta's irony. The opening and closing scenes are cut, focusing the film squarely upon the relationship between MacDonald's character, Sarah, and her music teacher, Carl Linden. The opening scene was a flash forward, in which Sarah appears as an elderly woman recalling how she fell in love. One reason for dropping this scene is that it had been appropriated for MGM's 1937 film Maytime. Coward disliked the 1940 film and vowed that no more of his shows would be filmed in Hollywood.[3] In 1951, he told The Daily Express, "I was saving up Bitter Sweet as an investment for my old age. After MGM's dreadful film I can never revive it" on stage.[4]


Set in late 19th century Vienna, the story focuses on the romance between music teacher Carl Linden (Nelson Eddy) and his prize pupil Sarah Milick (Jeanette MacDonald).[5]



  • "I'll See You Again"
  • "Polka"
    • Written by Noël Coward
    • Played at the party and danced to by the guests
  • "If You Could Only Come With Me"
    • Written by Noël Coward
    • Sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy
  • "What Is Love"
    • Written by Noël Coward
    • Sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy
    • Reprised at Schlick's
  • "Kiss Me"
    • Written by Noël Coward
    • Sung by Jeanette MacDonald
  • "Tokay"
    • Written by Noël Coward
    • Sung by Nelson Eddy and the patrons at the cafe
  • "Love In Any Language"
    • Written by Noël Coward
    • Sung by Jeanette MacDonald at the cafe
    • Partly dubbed by Ann Harriet Lee
  • "Dear Little Cafe"
    • Words and Music by Noël Coward with additional lyrics by Gus Kahn
    • Sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy
    • Reprised by Jeanette MacDonald
  • "Ladies Of The Town"
    • Written by Noël Coward and Gus Kahn
    • Sung by Jeanette MacDonald and 2 uncredited female singers
  • "Una voce poco fa"
  • "Zigeuner (The Gypsy)"
    • Written by Noël Coward
    • Sung by Jeanette MacDonald in the operetta finale

See also


  1. Turk, Edward Baron "Hollywood Diva: A Biography of Jeanette MacDonald" (University of California Press, 1998)
  2. "NY Times: Bitter Sweet". NY Times. Retrieved December 13, 2008.
  3. Dugan, Eleanor Knowles, John Cocchi and J. Peter Bergman. The Films of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, pp. 399–400, Grand Cyrus Press (2011) ISBN 0979099455
  4. Barber, John. "Now Noël Coward takes his bitter-sweet revenge on Hollywood", The Daily Express, November 29, 1951, p. 3
  5. "Bitter Sweet". allrovi. Retrieved August 14, 2011.
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