People get married for a variety of reasons, the most noble and happy of them is love. But there are also the financial benefits of getting hitched. That whole what’s-yours-is-mine line can often be one sided, but a pretty face can help that balance. In Leo McCarey’s Love Affair, we have Terry (Irene Dunne) and Michel (Charles Boyer) who meet and fall in love on a ship sailing from Europe to New York. The catch is that they are both engaged, and their current engagements are just ways to keep them financially safe. Michel, once a budding painter, is on his way to marry a rich heiress and Terry was once a lounge singer who now has a supportive fiance.
The setup just described could have easily become another farce of the thirties, I was partially expecting it when reading the Netflix envelope. While the film is entertaining and even has some moments that border on cute, it never ventures into anything remotely in the realm of a farce. Wonderfully enough, it just doesn’t need that extra element to keep us engaged.
You see, Terry and Michel keep well aware of their situation and keep it serious. When they first meet, there doesn’t seem to be much to worry about. Just two adults, traveling alone to meet their respected partners on the next shore, why not enjoy a little company and conversation along the way? And they don’t keep their relationship statuses secret, in fact they’re upfront about it, nothing juvenile there. But then they realize the hot water they’ve stepped in, a mutual attraction is growing. They’re smart about this too, and casually agree not to sit together at dinner anymore. Ah, but the fates seem to keep them together and seeing them seated at separate tables but right next to each other is perfectly wonderful.
The final night of the voyage, they decide to meet up in six months if they still want to be together. That seems like a reasonable time length to see if their current engagements match up or if their fire was just a fling. But a tragic twist of fate can jeopardize their happiness, if you don’t want that spoiled for you, don’t read the entire Netflix envelope.
Love Affair is a film that visually doesn’t have anything more special than the lead actors and a lightning effect, but holds all its merit in the engaging story. At first, I was put off at how grainy the film quality was, it’s hard to believe this is the same year as The Wizard of Oz, but as I became more engaged by the characters, the visual quality was not of my concern. For a smart love story that doesn’t turn to mush or silliness, check out Love Affair, but be aware of the film’s low quality.
“Right or wrong though, people like to talk.”