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I can't believe that this film is so forgotten by the film viewing
public. This film is one of the better romances of the 1930s but,
thanks to a mention of AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER in the movie SLEEPLESS IN
SEATTLE, AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER is now considered a "classic"--But how
can this be...?! After all, LOVE AFFAIR is the original and AN AFFAIR
TO REMEMBER is a by-the-numbers and relatively boring remake. Charles
Boyer and Irene Dunne are wonderful in this film. And, the direction
and writing were excellent. However, doing NEARLY the exact same film
two decades later seems pointless. I like Cary Grant and have nothing
in particular against Deborah Kerr--but they just aren't as good as the
Do yourself a favor. If you haven't seen either film, watch this one first. And, if you have seen only AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, see this film and find out how beautiful and well-made this film is. Also, if you like LOVE AFFAIR, try seeing another great romance, SMILIN' THROUGH (1932). It has a lot in common with LOVE AFFAIR and you can even see that the writers of this later film "borrowed" one of the plot twists from SMILIN' THROUGH.
I'd always been curious about this original version of the romantic
1957 hit, "An Affair to Remember" which was a bona fide box-office
success, made so memorable by the classy pairing of Cary Grant and
Deborah Kerr. That CinemaScope remake in Color by DeLuxe, of this
black-and-white original, was also co-written and directed by Leo
McCarey, a man who wasn't afraid to regularly mix genuine sentiment
with some fairly gloppy sentimentality in the same (admittedly tasty)
I join those who prefer the original, thanks mostly to the restrained and very professional performances of a quite young-looking Charles Boyer and Miss Irene Dunne, who looks quite ravishing throughout (modelling some gowns that are as chic today as the first time this film was shown). And what a set of pearly whites she had... the better to charm the stuffing out of us with that glowing smile!
Anyway, Turner Classic Movies showed it the other evening and I couldn't believe the terrible condition of the print. Scratches, skips, muddiness, sound problems, every possible defect seemed to be in appalling evidence! Apparently the DVD now in circulation is every bit as bad. Hey! Come on guys! This film is considered one of the better ones during a year (1939) when Hollywood studios unleashed a cornucopia of goodies. How about giving us a version worth watching, for heaven's sake!
"Love Affair", the fabulously romantic film of 1939, is the model in
which two other remakes were fashioned, yet, this classic film stands
out in our memory because the great chemistry between Irene Dunne and
The stars of "Love affair" exuded charm and sophistication, as well as good looks. It's easy to see why Michel falls for the beautiful Terry on board the luxury liner that is bringing them back to New York. The passengers' curiosity play well in the ship sequences. It's a great fun to watch Michel and Terry fall madly in love with one another, yet they must resolve their own entanglements with other people in order to be able to be together. Fate gets in their way.
Irene Dunne was an exquisite woman that played everything with enormous panache. Charles Boyer matches his co-star as the suave playboy who suddenly finds the love of his life. It's a joy to watch these two actors filling the screen. They made it so easy that their acting seems effortless.
In minor roles Maria Ouspenskaya, is seen as Michel's grandmother Janou, a lady who saw in Terry the perfect woman for her grandson. Lee Bowman is Kenneth, and Astrid Allwyn is the elegant Lois.
Thanks to Leo McCarey, this is a timeless film that will bring joy to audiences forever.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the most moving films from Hollywood's Golden Age. It is
moving because of its beautifully simple plot. This plot is divided into
three parts: the meeting and developing relationship of the central couple;
the trip to Michel's grandmother; and the heartrending sequence of planned
happiness, fate, despair, betrayal, hope.
The first and third part work so well because the characters are so sympathetic, we watch them believably transform from amiably superfical loafers to genuinely loving adults. This transformation is believable because the raw material was pretty good to begin with: Michel might seem almost intolerably playboy material, the archetypal French lover that only exists in non-French imaginations, all corny lines and cynical intention, but the trip to the grandmother's suggests his true value.
However, he needs more life lessons than Terry. Maybe this is because Irene Dunne's persona, in films like 'Cimarron' or 'Show Boat', was based on moral transformation, on the difficult negotiation of the road to adulthood through life. Charles Boyer, well, he's French, isn't he? So whereas Terry is completely transformed by the visit, Michel has more difficulty in letting go of his ego. Terry's failure to meet the appointment is a personal affront: he never once asks why she mightn't have made it. Because he is French, and a playboy, he is cynical about women and their motives, can't take anything on trust. This is what makes the final scene so truly moving - two lovers who really need to be together are reunited, yes, but also, Michel finally comes to full moral awareness, full maturity.
It is, ironically, his own painting that reveals the truth to him (his artform in her territory). The romance narrative is framed in terms of art: Michel is a failed/abandoned painter and poet; Terry is a singer - the transformation scene occurs over the grandmother's piano player (her artform on his territory). The couple meet again at the theatre.
This is part of a wider dialectic about public roles and private desire. The film opens with various global radio gossips announcing Michel's engagement: his personal life is conducted in public, complete with groupies, autographs, paparazzi. His developing relationship with Terry is similarly framed, the audience on the boat eagerly watching it like a soap opera.
The first appeal of the grandmother's house is its quiet, its distance from the world. It is also the place we first learn that the protagonists are artists. it is at this point they begin the inexorable, but slow and obstacle-laden, road from public to private, from an agog dancing hall to a solitary apartment. Art helps them express their personal essences apart from their public reputations, but it also must go through the public mart before it can express private truths - Terry becomes a nightclub singer, then an orphanage instructor; Michel paints on billboards, than for clients.
It is only when art is made private - when Terry accompanies the grandmother; when Michel sees his painting in Terry's bedroom - that is truths are revealed. This last revelation is brilliantly framed by McCarey: we see the painting in a mirror, continuing a visual and structural pattern leading the heroes to self-awareness.
For me, the film is moving for another reason. The grandmother scene is obviously the crucial one. Although we first meet her in a chapel, she is more like a witch, or fairy godmother, her home an enchanted realm. It is her mischievous suggestion that breaks both friends' pre-destined course: after her purpose is achieved, she vanishes. Waiting to die to return to her husband, we are reminded of Charles Boyer's biography and are doubly moved.
But there's more. Both Terry and Michel seem equally lightweight until this visit, but immediately we see Michel connected to a culture, a family, a religion that goes back centuries, that has seemingly unbreakable roots, while Terry, an American, has 'nothing' but a wise drunken father. This is a central stop of a trip from Europe to America; here Terry acquires European culture, a depth her own country doesn't have.
This is one reason the piano sequence is so powerful. But there's another. Although the film never mentions events in Europe, we don't have to look too hard in this tale of a rich European intellectual doing menial work in the States, in this film full of refugees and travel: when the cultured widow of a French diplomat dies in 1939, we are losing more than an old woman.
When a film gets done three times for three generations, I guess you
have to concede it's definitely got something going for it.
Lovers Charles Boyer/Irene Dunne, Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr, and Warren Beatty/Annette Bening all have their different appeal, but I think the story is universal. What woman who's seen this film hasn't dreamed of an ocean voyage where she will meet the love of her life?
Earnest and hopeful Irene Dunne goes on an ocean voyage where she meets continental playboy Charles Boyer. He's definitely a love 'em and leave 'em type, but there's something about Irene that keeps drawing him back.
It doesn't help that both are involved with different people. But this is the movies and we all know how things work out on film.
Mention should also be made of Maria Ouspenskaya as Boyer's beloved grandmother. She's a grand old lady and you know when I guy takes a girl home to meet granny, it's a sign he's hooked.
Lee Bowman is Irene's involvement and he's such a good guy, I kind of feel sorry for him he's getting dumped.
Leo McCarey directs these romantic films with a sure hand. For lovers of romance of all ages.
This is the best of the two films (Love Affair, An Affair To Remember). I
love the two stars; Boyer has never been so charming and Irene so darn
loveable. The song "Wishing" by the 3 little girls gets to me every time.
Just so sweet. And Irene sings two lovely songs herself. The scene at the
end when Boyer looks at his painting and realizes what has happened to keep
his love from him is so much more true than when Grant does the same in
"Affair" that it makes all the difference. I always think Grant is too
obviously acting, and it just doesn't ring true. But Boyer does it just
The story has been reviewed many times here so I won't do it again. Just say that the spell cast by the film is perfect for all romantics. Just watch and enjoy.
Love Affair is one of my favorite movies. Irene Dunne is a lovely lady, who sings beautifully. Charles Boyer is a subtle, elegant actor who wins my heart every time. Maria Ouspenskaya is lovely as Boyer's grandmother. I understand from Boyer's biography, that he suggested the scene with her as a method of making his character more sympathetic. What an addition to the film! I prefer this version of the story to the later one. Watch the scene near the end when Boyer realizes that his painting was given to Dunne and understands what happened the night he waited at the Empire State Building. What acting!
I didn't really intend to watch this whole movie--it was on the channel
my satellite dish was tuned to, when i turned off my DVD player after
watching another movie, late at night. But after only a couple scenes,
i was glued to it! I was so impressed with the characterization and the
witty humor (unlike other films of its era, the humor was not corny at
all, and was genuinely funny), and I just HAD to keep watching, even
though I wasn't looking forward to the tears that this film (and its
later version, An Affair to Remember), is reputed to bring to all who
The humor centering around the nosiness and gossip among the other cruise patrons, was especially funny and timeless.
I found Irene Dunn's character (Terry) to be extremely appealing and likable, with a very expressive and beautiful face (and, as someone else mentioned, those pearly whites are stunning!). Boyer (Michael), was quite believable as a playboy experiencing true love for the first time. You could see the love in his eyes when he looked at Terry, and when he listened to her sing. And all of his other emotions throughout the movie, whether happy or sad, were readable via his expressive eyes alone--no need for any other expression!
Of course, the children at the orphanage were too good to be true (typical for old movies), but they were so adorable and likable, and I could just feel the love and pride that Terry felt while working with them. It really seemed genuine.
I had always thought of these old movies as corny, but this one changed my perspective! Highly recommended for all ages!
What a year that was... 1939! So many great movies produced in a 12 month
period! And this ranks up there with any of them. especially if you are
looking for a romance.
Irene Dunne is wonderful in her role, her expressive face conveyed her emotions and reactions so well it is like reading her mind. She ws beautiful and charming and perfect in her part. Charles Boyer as the quintessential French gadabout, seemingly unfeeling toward women but true love melts his heart.
Yes this indeed was the original "Meet me at the top of the Empire Stae Building" film and it sets a standard hard to beat.
Recommended highly, would make a great triple feature with "An Affair To Remember" and "Sleepless In Seattle". (in that order)
This is a film of two genuine moods. The first half or so is a romantic
story in the fine 1930s comedic tradition. The dialogue is witty, the
characters charming, and the developing romance a joy to watch. The second
half is a drama which is deep and engaging. The dignity with which the
characters act through trying circumstances is wonderful, and a marked
contrast and relief to the hysterical characters found in contemporary
movies. To have two such different moods both handled with such extreme
skill in the same movie makes this a rare gem.
The acting is superb; both Dunne and Boyer play with believable subtlety and emotional power. They drew me in so I cared enormously. Maria Ouspenskaya is, as always, superb. Compare her performance here with her blistering performance in her similar-but-opposite role in Dodsworth. The direction is very straightforward in its service to the story, with only the occasional standout moments: look for the superb shots of the couple's first kiss, of the reflected empire state building, and of the double headline. With a story and acting as strong as this, that's exactly as it should be.
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