Irene Dunne plays Terry McKay, a woman who is engaged to her boss and sailing back home from a business trip to Europe. Charles Boyer is Michel Marnet, a French playboy looking for amusement and excitement before his impending marriage. They find each other grand company over pink champagne and promise by the end of the voyage that if they can both make a go of things with real jobs that they will meet on top of the Empire State Building in six months.
My favorite part of the film is when Terry and Michel go to see Michel’s ‘leetle’ grandmother (Maria Ouspenskaya). In just a short amount of time, so much is learned about the characters, where they see themselves in the future, and a bit of the past.
The serenity of the grandmother’s home comes across so well over celluloid. There are lovely moments between McKay and Marnet when they’re in her family chapel. The music is a beautiful compliment to the pathos and silence restrained only by it’s walls. Michel asks his grandmother to play the piano and Terry accompanies her by singing a lovely lilting rendition of Plaisir d’Amour. The conversation the two women have while Michel is gone reminds me of fleeting moments of quality conversations I’ve had with people whether it be a stranger or a relation before they somehow vanish–be it because of death or paths that never cross again.
Irene Dune sings two other songs as well–“Wishing Will Make it So” by Buddy G. DeSylva and “Sing My Heart” by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. The songs are placed seemlessly into the plot line. They never seem intrusive, it never feels a bit like a musical. It just naturally heightens the scenes and always thrusts the progression of Terry McKay’s character forward.
An Affair to Remember crosses well over the line to over-dramatic and saccharine in true 50s fashion. It takes itself far too seriously. The film feels a bit more tawdry than it’s predecessor. The 1994 film with Katharine Hepburn in the role of the grandmother falls flat, she’s really the only saving grace. Irene Dunne’s Terry McKay is strong. She makes light of the darkness and is perfectly willing to make sacrifices even though she really doesn’t have to.
As the building block for every related film to follow, it distresses me that if you look at reviews for the films to succeed it that there is rarely a mention of the film. It’s hard to believe this is so when Love Affair is public domain and readily available. It’s unfortunate that so many of Dunne’s films were remade in the 50s and 60s and hers were lost out of fear by the studios of competition–clearly Irene’s films were far superior to the remakes. As I’ve said, Love Affair is no exception to the rule. t’s a beautiful, witty, elegant film that I shall give you no excuse for missing.
You can watch the entire film hosted by Archive.org below.