Saraband for Dead Lovers

Saraband for Dead Lovers
Directed by Basil Dearden
Produced by Michael Balcon
Michael Relph (associate producer)
Written by Helen Simpson (novel)
John Dighton
Alexander Mackendrick
Starring Stewart Granger
Joan Greenwood
Music by Alan Rawsthorne
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe
Edited by Michael Truman
Distributed by Eagle-Lion Films
General Film Distributors
J. Arthur Rank Film
Release dates
4 October 1948
Running time
96 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office 1,315,516 admissions (France)[1]

Saraband for Dead Lovers (released in the United States. as Saraband) is a 1948 British historical drama film directed by Basil Dearden and starring Stewart Granger and Joan Greenwood. It is based on the novel by Helen Simpson. Set in seventeenth century Hanover, it depicts the doomed romance between Philip Christoph von Königsmarck and Sophia Dorothea of Celle, the wife of the Elector of Hanover.

Jim Morahan, William Kellner and Michael Relph were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction - Set Decoration, Color.[2]

Plot summary

Sophie Dorothea (Joan Greenwood) seeks solace from dashing Count Philip Konigsmark (Stewart Granger) when her husband Prince George Louis (Peter Bull), later to become King George I of Great Britain, wants nothing to do with her. The lovers are brought down by a jealous Countess Platen (Flora Robson).



The novel was first published in 1935.[3][4]

Mai Zetterling was originally announced for the lead role.[5] She then asked to be excused "on account of a domestic incident" and Lili Palmer was going to play the role instead.[6] She was unable to make it to England in time so eventually Joan Greenwood played it.[7]

Stewart Granger later said:

Saraband was a sweet film... and it's one I'm quite proud of. But whereas Gainsborough loved stars, Ealing didn't like them; the production was the star. Saraband was their first big color film. I said I would do it, but I wanted Marlene Dietrich, whom I loved, for Clara. I felt I couldn't be brutal to Flora Robson. Flora was a great actress, but she'd never been beautiful and it was hard to be cruel to a woman who was never beautiful. That's why I wanted Dietrich for the part. The opening sequence was planning in great detail. Francoise Dosney wanted to rehearse... but in the end this wasn't used. You see, Koenigsmark, whom I played, was introduced as penniless, and this was cut out because it involved Jewish moneylenders.[8]

Filming finished in October 1947.[9]


George MacDonald Fraser, writing in 1988, said of the film,"Saraband tells the story [of Sophia and Konigsmark] with complete fidelity, and only the smallest of romantic touches, and makes an enthralling film of it. Stewart Granger (Konigsmark) was born for this kind of costume picture, and Joan Greenwood is an appealing Sophia. ... Best of all, the film conveys in a few brief scenes, the stifling monotony of court life in a pretentious little German state; in this too, Saraband is good history."[10]

Michael Relph later said "it was a magnificent looking film, but it wasn't a success at the time. We were trying to get away from the Gainsborough type romantic costume picture, which was totally unreal, and to do a serious historical epic. I think the public probably wasn't ready for it and also it ended up being a bit heavy."[11]

The acclaimed production design and art direction (nominated for an Academy Award) was complemented by the cinematography by Douglas Slocombe. Slocombe and the production team chose a muted style of colour filming, which was not universally praised: opinions variously described it as unusual and different, or pretentiously symbolic and leaving exterior and interior shots poorly matched.[12]


  1. Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  2. "NY Times: Saraband for Dead Lovers". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
  3. NEW NOVELS: People--Royal, Ordinary, and Odd The Scotsman (1921-1950) [Edinburgh, Scotland] 7 February 1935: 15.
  4. Wallace, M. (5 May 1935). Intrigue at court. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  5. LONDON HAILS A LADY OF 'GREAT EXPECTATIONS': Jean Simmons Acclaimed for Performance In Dickens Film--'Round the Studios By C.A. LEJEUNE.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 2 February 1947: X5.
  6. LONDON CHEERS PAULETTE GODDARD: Star Proves to Be Own Best Press Agent--Of Studio Activities By C.A. LEJEUNE. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 30 March 1947: X5.
  8. Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 231
  9. London Film Letter Bentley, Kay. The Times of India (1861-current) [New Delhi, India] 12 Oct 1947: 5.
  10. Fraser, George MacDonald (1988). The Hollywood History of the World. London: Michael Joseph Limited. p. 118. ISBN 0-7181-2997-0.
  11. Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 482
  12. Alan Burton; Tim O'Sullivan (2009). The Cinema of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 39–41. ISBN 978-0-7486-3289-3.
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