Dec 29, 2014

Review: Love Affair (1939)

Love Affair is one of those old classic movies that have been remade multiple times in ensuing years. One of those remakes was even by its own director, Leo McCarey. That would be An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr and it's definitely the more popular version of the two. Following that, there was a 1994 remake with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening as well as a Bollywood remake called Mann with Aamir Khan.

The reason why I'm watching Love Affair is because I want to work my way to Sleepless in Seattle which was inspired by An Affair to Remember apparently. Christmas is also part of the plot but not overly so, which should make these movies a good way to ease out of December before a short foray into New Year's movies. 


Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Leo McCarey
Produced by: Leo McCarey
Written by: Delmer Daves, Donald Ogden Stewart
Music by: Roy Webb
Running time: 88 minutes
Production company: RKO Radio Pictures
Distributed by: RKO Radio Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures Argentina, Hollywood Classics, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English, French
Budget: $860,000
Box office: $1,750,000 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lee Bowman, Astrid Allwyn, Maurice Moscovitch 



Infamous French playboy Michel Marnet (Charles Boyer) is on a ship to New York and has recently been engaged to a rich heiress named Lois Clarke (Astrid Allwyn). He meets American Terry McKay (Irene Dunne) who is also engaged. Despite their respective barriers, the two begin spending a lot of time together when they can. Due to Michel's fame, they attract the attention of other passengers on board which prompts Terry to try and cut ties with Michel. It's an effort that's in vain however since the two are quite obviously in love.


Despite being released in 1939, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Love Affair has aged. It's a pretty talky film, but it helps that the dialogue is well-written and interesting to boot. The story in general is well written and it makes for some pretty good romantic escapism. (Spoilers) How can anyone not love the idea about meeting again in six months at the top of the Empire State Building? (End Spoilers)

Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer do a great job at being natural in their roles. Their reactions to different events struck me as completely realistic which I really liked. (Spoilers) Take for example the climactic scene when Michel realizes that he unknowingly gave his painting to Terry. It's a beautiful moment that also just feels very real because of Boyer's acting. (End Spoilers) There are also some great awkward scenes as well which are meant to be that way, but at the same time don't go overboard either.

There's also an adequate amount of time that's dedicated to developing the budding relationship of Terry and Michel which shows off the comfortable chemistry between Boyer and Dunne. Besides just being natural, they play off each other very comfortably. This is especially demonstrated in some pretty humourous scenes that both actors deliver quite nicely. That's another aspect that shows just how well Love Affair has aged.

Love Affair for the most part stays out of cheesy territory except for when it comes to its big crisis. (Spoilers) As Terry is on her way to meet Michel at the Empire State, she gets hit by a car at an intersection and might never be able to walk again. Michel doesn't know what's happened and thinks that he'd been stood up. There's a scene in particular where Terry is in bed, lamenting her missed appointment with Michel. (End Spoilers) This is where the film descends into tearjerker/melodramatic territory before quickly reemerging out of it. Fortunately, it doesn't come close to ruining the film.

With a strong romantic story punctured here and there with some humour, Love Affair is perfectly watchable even today. It's talky nature might turn off certain people, but a little patience never hurt anyone. It;s a movie that touches upon Christmas very lightly which makes it OK to watch pretty much any time of the year. I'd still recommend it more as a December movie for sure though. With wonderfully natural acting from Dunne and Boyer, you can't do too much better than Love Affair for some classic romance.



Related Reviews:

An Affair to Remember (1957) 
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Mann (1999) 

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