Sunday, February 20, 2011

Love Affair (1939)

French painter and renowned playboy Michel Marnet (Charles Boyer) is on his way to America to meet with his fiance heiress Lois Clarke (Astrid Allwyn). He meets American singer Terry McKay (Irene Dunne) who is involved with a rich man herself, Kenneth Bradley (Lee Bowman). Since Michel’s escapades are always newsworthy, Terry tries to avoid him on the ship but when they stop at Madeira, she agrees to go with Michel to visit his grandmother Janou (Maria Ouspenskaya). Janou approves highly of Terry, she reveals that Michel is a great artist and needs the right kind of woman to lead him in the right direction.

As they resume their cruise, Michel and Terry, through clandestine meeting aboard, eventually fall in love. Michel and Terry agree on a six month time limit to prove to themselves and one another that they can make it on their own. They make an appointment to meet six months later on top of the Empire State Building. Michel goes on to become a great painter and Terry works in a nightclub as a singer.

Six months later, as Terry is hurrying to get to her destination, she is struck by a car and informed that she may not be able to walk again, that the doctors won’t know for certain for several months. Not wanting to be a burden to Michel, she does not contact him, preferring to let him think the worst.

Meanwhile, Michel goes back to Madeira to find that Janou has passed away but left a beautiful lace shawl for Terry. The same shawl that Michel painted her in from his memory of that day in Madeira with Terry. Back in America six months later, he meets Terry by accident at the theater. Though he does not really speak to her, he finds out where she lives and confronts her. Through their conversation it is revealed that the painting of her was given to a woman who had little money and was crippled. Finally putting two and two together, Michel goes into the next room and finds the painting on the wall. He then assures Terry that no matter what the diagnosis, he will be by her side.

I will have to compare it against McCarey's later version An Affair to Remember however, I thought Love Affair was mildly entertaining. There are some very interesting cinematographic shots in the film and Dunne even stepped outside of her realm of operatic singing and to perform Sing My Heart, a wonderfully modern song for it's time. Other than that, I wasn't really moved by any of the performances or even the story.

Oscar Trivia:

Irene Dunne was nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performances in Cimarron, Theodora Goes Wild, The Awful Truth, Love Affair, and I Remember Mama.

Charles Boyer received four Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for his performances in Conquest, Algiers, Gaslight, and Fanny. However during WW II he became active in encouraging French-American relations and established the French Research Foundation, for which he was awarded a special Academy Award for "progressive cultural achievement".

Maria Ouspenskaya was nominated for Best Supporting Actress twice in her career for her performances in Dodsworth and Love Affair.

Leo McCarey was nominated seven times in his career for various categories: Best Music, Best Writing, Best Original Story, and Best Director. He won twice for Best Director for the films The Awful Truth and Going My Way.

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