“My father used to say that wishes are dreams we dream when we’re awake.”
A French playboy (Charles Boyer) meets an American singer (Irene Dunne) on board a ship and the two fall in love, despite being engaged to others. They agree to meet in six months at the top of the Empire State Building, but when tragedy befalls one of them, their plans are changed forever.
Leo McCarey’s classic tearjerker is perhaps best known as the original version of his later cult classic, An Affair to Remember (1957) — but it’s actually the better of the two films. While the storyline is undeniably hokey and contrived, Dunne and Boyer have enough star-power and genuine chemistry to make us believe in their shipboard romance, as well as their desire to reunite once/if the stars are aligned. Given that it’s almost impossible to discuss Love Affair without explicit comparisons to its remake, I’ll proceed by reiterating that this version is superior on nearly every account — except production design and cinematography. At just 87 minutes long, the storyline zips by at an appropriate pace, leaving us with blessedly little time to ponder the logistics of what’s happening, and instead simply enjoy the fine performances by Dunne (lovely and charming), Boyer (convincing as a smitten playboy), and Maria Ouspenskaya (as Boyer’s sentimental grandmother). While we can’t help groaning at some of McCarey’s narrative choices — would Dunne and Boyer’s previous lovers really take the betrayal so easily? would “the tragedy” really result in such a facile separation? — we’re rooting for Dunne and Boyer all the way, which is exactly the point in an escapist romance like this.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Irene Dunne as Terry McKay
- Charles Boyer as Michel
- Maria Ouspenskaya as Boyer’s grandmother
Yes, as a tearjerker classic.