A French playboy, Michel Marnet (Charles Boyer, Gaslight), falls for an American ex-singer, Terry McKay (Irene Dunne, I Remember Mama), during a transatlantic cruise. There is one minor problem; both are engaged to other people. They decide to give each other space and agree to meet atop the Empire State Building in six months.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Love Affair, finely directed by Leo McCarey (Duck Soup and Going My Way), is an old-fashioned romantic mood piece that has been overshadowed somewhat by its glossy 1957 remake An Affair to Remember (also directed by McCarey, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr). That’s really too bad because this is a sharp, touching, sophisticated dramedy.
Back in 1939 (often regarded as Hollywood’s greatest year), the film was hailed as a modern classic. It was also a big hit with audiences. However, next to other releases from that year — Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, The Wizard of Oz, etc. — it doesn’t look like much today. Still, Love Affair is a charming mixture of romance, comedy, and melodrama.
The script by Delmer Daves and Donald Ogden Stewart is a carefully calculated balance of humor and sentiment.. The first half is by far my favorite section of the film. Dunne has great rapport with Boyer. The sophisticated stars look great together, and even hammy Maria Ouspenskaya (The Wolfman), who plays Boyer’s grandmother, doesn’t spoil the fun. Later, the story moves into the territory of melodrama. It does get a bit mushy, but the genuinely poignant climax redeems the saccharine excesses.
This elegant RKO production was beautifully shot by legendary cameraman Rudolph Maté (The Pride of the Yankees and Gilda). The original Music by Roy Webb (Magic Town and Marty). Co-edited by future director Edward Dmytryk (The Caine Mutiny and The Carpetbaggers)
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
As I stated before, the 1957 is more famous, but the original doesn’t deserve to be ignored. The film ends on Christmas Day, so it is a nice film to watch over the Holidays. Get your handkerchiefs ready. It was remade one more time in 1994, with Warren Beatty, Annette Bening and Katharine Hepburn. Watch out for future Warner Bros. starlet Joan Leslie (Sergeant York and The Hard Way) and Bessie “Queen of the Hollywood Extras” Love. P.S. Love Affair is in public domain and a good-looking copy is hard to come by. B&W, 88 minutes, Not Rated.