Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer in “Love Affair”

Love Affair (1939) is the original romance directed by Leo McCarey (The Awful Truth) starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer.

French painter Michel Marnet (Boyer) and American singer Terry McKay (Dunne) meet aboard a transatlantic ocean liner. Both are engaged, but they are attracted to each other and spend considerable time together. They quickly become the talk of the ship so the two try to be more discreet by eating alone and avoiding being seen together. The ship stops in Madeira where they visit with Michel’s grandmother Janou (Maria Ouspenskaya). His grandmother loves Terry and she wants Michel to settle down and marry her.

When they arrive in New York City, Michel and Terry agree to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months. Six months is the amount of time Michel needs to decide if he can drop the playboy life and support a relationship with Terry.

Remade with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as An Affair to Remember (1957) and although charming in its own right, it has nothing on the original, which is rarely seen. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actress (Dunne), Best Supporting Actress (Ouspenskaya), and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Mildred Cam and McCarey).

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.

Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer

Leo McCarey (1898 – 1969) was American film director, screenwriter, and producer. McCarey is perhaps most famous for his critically acclaimed and commercially popular comedies like Duck Soup (1933), The Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), and The Awful Truth (1937). Other popular films directed by McCarey include Going My Way (1944), The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), and Good Sam (1948). McCarey won two Best Director Oscars for The Awful Truth and Going My Way.

Irene Dunne (1898 –1990) was an American actress and singer who was one of the most popular movie stars during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She is probably best remembered for her comedic roles, though she first became famous playing in melodramas like Back Street (1932) and Magnificent Obsession (1935). In fact, Dunne was so popular as a star of melodramas that she was dubbed “The Queen of the Weepies” by the press. Her comedic breakout performance was in Theodora Goes Wild (1936) which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She would go on to make other comedy classics like The Awful Truth (1937) where she earned another Best Actress nod, and My Favorite Wife (1940). Dunne and Grant were one of the most popular screen teams in movie history. All three of their films were critical and box office successes. Dunne earned a total of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress but never won a competitive Oscar. The fact that the Motion Picture Academy never awarded her an Honorary Academy Award for her body of work is a travesty.

Charles Boyer (1899 - 1978) was a French-American stage and film actor. Boyer was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award four times. He became a major movie star in the late 1930s in films like The Garden of Allah (1936), Algiers (1938), and Love Affair (1939). He starred as the evil husband of Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight (1944). Boyer starred opposite most of the top female stars of the period including Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, Joan Fontaine, Katharine Hepburn, and Olivia de Havilland. As he grew older, Boyer played supporting roles in film and also starred on Broadway in Kind Sir (1953 - 1954) and The Marriage-Go-Round (1958 - 1960).

Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne

Love Affair trivia

  • The film popularized pink champagne and the champagne cocktail.
  • This is the favorite film of both Dunne and Boyer who were good friends in real life.
  • Due to the popularity of the Dunne and Boyer pairing, they made two more films together: If Tomorrow Comes (1939) and Together Again (1944).
  • Irene Dunne says to Charles Boyer, “Going my way?” Five years later, Leo McCarey would direct the classic Going My Way. Dunne and Boyer had no association with that Best Picture winner.
  • McCarey remade this film in 1957 as An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.

Click HERE to watch the film on YouTube.

Click HERE to join the online discussion on February 12, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions

  1. Did you think that Dunne and Boyer had on-screen chemistry?
  2. Irene Dunne was nominated for Best Actress for her performance (losing to Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind). Do you think she gave an Oscar-worthy performance?
  3. If you were Dunne’s character, would you have kept your accident a secret? Why do you think she did?
  4. If you’ve seen An Affair to Remember, do you prefer that version over the original?
  5. Did you have a favorite scene or piece of dialogue?
  6. In his review of the film in The New York Times, Frank S. Nugent said, “A less capable director, with a less competent cast, must have erred one way or the other—either on the side of treacle or on that of whimsy. Mr. McCarey has balanced his ingredients skillfully and has merged them, as is clear in retrospect, into a glowing and memorable picture.” Do you agree with this assessment?

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