Saturday, October 24, 2009

Love Affair (1939): A New Favorite!

I watched Love Affair on Wednesday. I apologize for this entry being short, but it took the words out of my mouth. It was a beautiful, heart-wrenching movie that has sadly fallen through the cracks, being one of so many great films made in Hollywood's greatest year.
It tells the story of Terry and Michel, who meet on an ocean liner and hit it off right away. Unfortunately, they are both engaged and not quite ready to make such a sudden decision about their futures. Terry smartlydevises a plan: the will re-evaluate their lives, and at the end of 6 months, they will meet at the top of the Empire State Building. Even though it's pretty obvious that they will both go, it makes them feel better about tying up loose ends.
July 1st comes, and Michel is there early. Terry does not show. She was so excited to get there that she did not look before crossing the street to the building. The doctors know where she was going and encourage her to tell Michel what happened, but she refuses. She will not tell him until she can run in to his arms.

I don't want to give away everything, so I will stop there. I do want to highlight a couple of beautiful scenes. First, they visit Michel's grandmother in Madiera soon after they meet. Grandma Janou is played beautifully by Maria Ouspenskaya. Terry sees her life and the beauty in her mind, and knows instantly that this is the life she wants, and that Michel must be a part of it.

Another musical number in the film (out of 3) is when Terry teaches three orphan girls a song she wrote based on Michel's words about wishing. The sisters are played very sweetly by the Brian Sisters, who unfortunately never reached the fame that the boswell sisters saw. This video also shows when all of the orphanage sings it later in the film. The voice leading in the larger version is truly angelic (the audio is not good in this video, but you will get the idea).

Now, wipe away your tears and read just a little longer.
This was the second pairing of Irene Dunne and director Leo McCarey, who first directed her in my all-time favorite movie The Awful Truth (1937). Both Dunne and Boyer consider this their favorite of all their films, and I can see why. McCarey frames them beautifully in every scene. Apparently he was fun to work with too: Boyer noted that he would work his tail off to memorize long speeches from the script, only to have McCarey order all lines paraphrased. Like all his films, he worked with a lot of improvisation, and encouraged the actors to talk over one another. This gives Love Affair a wonderful realistic touch among this amazing romance.

With six Oscar nominations and no wins, this film has fallen in to obscurity. It is now in the public domain, and I hear that the DVD print is in remarkably poor condition. The print used for the TCM broadcast is okay, but the black and white changes to a bluish tint during the middle section. Hopefully once I am a preserver of classic films, I can restore this gem to its 1939 beauty.

"Wishes are the dreams we have when we're awake".


  1. I've been wanting to see this since I saw An Affair to Remember, which I adored. Seems like Leo McCarey liked his original film, the remake seems to follow the scenes pretty exactly. Lovely review, thanks!

  2. This film is beautiful. What is about 1939. We remember the musical, the drama and the comedy. Oz, Wind, Smith. and that's it.

  3. Don't forget the western: Stagecoach. Unfortunately, there were so many fantastic films made that year that many have fallen in to obscurity, even though many were better than Gone With the Wind, which personally gives me some problems.

  4. I'd love to see this movie, since AATR is one of the most beautiful films i've EVER seen in my life. (: Reading your review I have no doubt that 'Love Affair', the original, must be a gem as well!