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4.4 out of 5 stars
Love Affair [VHS]
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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
The depth and charm of Leo McCarey's 1939 film, Love Affair, places it far above most love stories and miles ahead of his own remake in later years. Irene Dunne would certainly have taken home the Oscar in any other year as she had many fine performances which were deserving. A fine script by Delmer Daves and Donald Ogden Stewart takes us from sparkling wit to bittersweet love with ease, thanks to McCarey's fine direction and the performances of Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer.

Terry McKay (Dunne) and Michel Marnet (Boyer) are aboard the S.S. Napoli on an ocean cruise contemplating their impending marriages; she to a decent fellow who is more a friend than anything, and he to a very wealthy industrial heiress who doesn't excite him much but can afford his playboy lifestyle. They meet by chance when she reads his cablegram to a girl other than his fiance by mistake and teases him about it. They must avoid prying eyes aboard ship when a charming romance takes shape, as his engagement is in all the society papers.

Dunne is a witty hoot as the American girl from New York, Terry McKay, and Boyer gives a very charming performance as Michel Marnet, a man with talents who spends most of his time living it up rather than doing something with his life. Terry gets a glimpse of what he might be when she meets his charming elderly grandmother on a stop in Porto Santo, Madeira.

A beautiful rose covered villa with a chapel which makes Terry want to whisper is Janou's home. She and Janou make a connection when the old woman sees that she may be the good woman who could make Michel's life right. She fears a bill may be coming for all Michel's living which he can not pay. There is a beautiful scene in the chapel Michel will paint from memory when the two part.

But they promise to meet in six months on top of the Empire State building at 5:00 to see if Michel can earn a living through his painting and be worthy to ask her hand in marriage. But he waits until midnight in the pouring rain and Terry does not come. What he doesn't know is the sirens he heard below at 5:00 were for Terry, who had been struck down crossing the street and crippled, perhaps for life.

Terry doesn't want Michel to know her fate and he returns to his former life in a half-hearted attempt to drown thoughts of what might have been. Terry, who was a singer, falls into a job as music teacher for the orphanage next to the ward where she was treated and tries to make a life for herself. Michel sees her in a theatre not knowing a wheel chair outside the theatre doors is the reason she did not meet him.

When his grandmother passes on, he uses the gift she wanted Terry to have as an excuse to track her down and discover why she abandoned their chance at love. Terry keeps a shawl over her legs but a painting he had only recently decided to sell because the buyer was poor and crippled will bring things all into focus.

A love story of rare beauty, this is a neglected treasure in American cinema. Most prints of this film are decent but it would be wonderful to see it restored to the original luster it must have had when released to theatres in 1939. Dunne sings "Spring in My Heart" and the Oscar nominated "Wishing" is sung by her group of orphans. A nice score by Roy Webb enhances the mood of another RKO classic. A memorable romance with charm that is perfect for a rainy day.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2000
Format: DVD
I have to agree that these are bad prints. I bought 5 of these Madacy DVDs and will return all of them. I am not usually very picky about quality. A good VHS tape is just wonderful to me. These DO NOT COME CLOSE TO VHS!
The sound quality is so bad, I couldn't get through the film. The hiss is not only audible, it drowns out the soundtrack. The picture has weird artifacts that I have never seen before. I could have tolerated them, but the audio hiss gave me a headache. My guess is that the publisher bought a $2.99 VHS tape of these movies and transferred the tape to DVD. No noise reduction whatsoever. Its like listening to a cheap cassette on a $5.00 walkman--I kid you not! You could do just as good a job in your basement with a VHS tape player and a DVD writer. Come on Madacy, you could have at least suppressed that hiss!
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Later remade multiple times, "Love Affair" is a semi-forgotten little romance movie from an earlier age of moviemaking. The plot is as simple and sweet as the title, with its tale of true love found, disrupted, and found again -- the sort of love affair we all wish we could have.

Playboy Michel (Charles Boyer) encounters nightclub singer Terry (Irene Dunne) and flirts with her, but backs away when she says that she's engaged. He is too. But they keep bumping into each other, and their friendship grows as their feelings do. As the voyage ends, they promise to meet in six months at the Empire State building, to see if Michel can be a responsible husband.

In the six months that follow, he does become a successful sign painter -- then a portrait artist. But on the day they're supposed to meet, Terry is run down by a car and may be crippled for life -- and the heartbroken Michel thinks she has dumped him. It will take another twist of fate to bring them back together.

"Love Affair" has been remade at least three times, including as the classic "Affair to Remember" and the blockbuster "Sleepless in Seattle." But though the original is the least known, it's still the most enchanting -- you can almost forget that you're watching a pair of actors doing their job. Most onscreen romances can't boast that.

The charm of their love affair is that it's so simple. They talk awkwardly, visit Michel's kindly old grandmother, and even pounce on a paparazzi who photographs them. The are obstacles, but director Leo McCarthy doesn't throw any strained artificial twists into the storyline. The whole crippled-by-a-car thing could have taken the movie into soapy-melodrama territory, but it's handled pretty matter-of-factly.

And Boyer and Dunne really make this movie. They actually act like a couple falling in love despite themselves -- awkward, a little chattery, thinking just of each other. As the movie wears on, they grow more comfortable with each, and it becomes clearer why the feisty American girl and the idle Frenchman are falling for each other. Both do an amazing job, especially Boyer in the final scene, when he realize.

It should be noted that there aren't currently ANY good prints of this movie available for purchase, and this is no exception. It desperately needs to be cleaned up, remastered and reissued, but until that happens, expect somewhat blurry pictures and slightly crackly sound. Iy's a credit to the movie that its enjoyability isn't affected by the bad copies.

"Love Affair" is one of those really magical love stories, with its simple story and amazing acting. Romantic, beautiful and sweet, this is definitely a must-see.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
LOVE AFFAIR is one of many films whose theme is that love does not adhere to imposed schedule. What distinguishes this movie from other and similar ones is what the actors do and say after they realize this. Terry McKay (Irene Dunne) and Michel Marnet (Charles Boyer) are each romantically involved with other people when they meet and fall in love on a sea voyage to New York. This sort of thing happens often enough in real life but their reaction to their new emotions reveals their basic decency and depth of feeling. They agree to meet months later on the top floor of the Empire State Building to cement their relation. Thus far, the tone is one of light, romantic comedy. However, LOVE AFFAIR takes an unexpected tragic detour as Terry is crippled in a car accident. Other movies have often dealt with issues in which one lover grows ill or crippled, but in this film, one of the lovers (Terry) makes things worse by hiding her condition by running away from Michel. For most of the second half, Terry and Michel are apart physically but connected emotionally. Each copes with the separation as best as they can. Michel's grief is probably the easier to cope with since he feels that he was unjustly jilted so what can he do about that except heal. Terry's grief is more multi-faceted since she has to live with a series of complicating factors, only one of which (her being confined to a wheelchair) is beyond her control. She must reconcile her present unhappiness with the unpleasant realization that she could have tossed away a life of bliss with a man who might not have been scared off by the prospect of a wheelchair bound wife. Miss Dunne was a deserved nominee for Best Actress as she manages to hide her misgivings about her decision to break off the relation beneath smile and song. Charles Boyer is convincing as a man who loses his love, does not know why, and then must face the consequences of factors totally beyond his control. LOVE AFFAIR is not your three hanky sobber. Rather it is an intelligent exploration of love gone astray, a condition exacerbated when one of them discovers that this love sometimes needs a healthy dose of honesty and confidence to keep it on track.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2002
Format: DVD
The quality of the DVD is good enough to be able to enjoy the movie. No white outs, black outs or pixalation. On the other hand it is not what you can call great. I noticed a sound problem for a few minutes but I could tolerate it. This DVD is adequate until someone puts out a restored version. I prefer movies on DVD even if the VHS version is better. The story and actors are just great. In short don't pay too much and don't expect too much and you can enjoy a great old movie. That said let's hope someone restores it.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Directed by Leo McCarey, this 1939 romantic classic is the first and best version of the old warhorse of a fateful shipboard romance between an aimless playboy and a nightclub singer, both engaged but appearing to be destined to reunite on the top floor of the Empire State Building. The elaborate, shot-for-shot 1957 remake again directed by McCarey with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr is much better known, and Warren Beatty even saw fit to remake it yet again with his wife Annette Bening for a 1994 update featuring an 87-year old Katharine Hepburn in her last film role.

But it all started with this more modest film starring a smart, luminous Irene Dunne as Terry McKay and Charles Boyer all continental charm as Michel Marnet. The story is as contrived as ever, but the script co-written by McCarey, Mildred Cram, Delmer Daves and Donald Ogden Stewart is full of clever dialogue to go with the soap opera elements. It's too bad the print condition is so bad given that it has fallen into the public domain, but you can still get a strong sense of the craftsmanship behind the film, especially Rudolph Maté's soft-focus cinematography.

Even though Maria Ouspenskaya gives her most sympathetic performance as Grandmother Janou (she was wonderfully malevolent in "The Wolf Man"), it's really the chemistry between the two stars which keeps this afloat, especially Dunne who was so dexterous in comedy and drama in her prime that she is far superior to either Kerr or Bening. She even gets to sing two songs most winningly, one a Harold Arlen gem called "Sing My Heart". Even though you are likely to know every scene by heart from the 1957 remake, it's still quite worthwhile to enjoy the antiquated charms of the original.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
"An Affair to Remember" makes me sick with it's overt sentimentality, but "Love Affair" doesn't. Why? Because Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne keep it from becoming too maudlin. Plus for some reason, it seems simpler and more forthright than the later versions. Probably because it was made before WWII. Whatever the reason, this version is much more satisfying.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 1999
Format: DVD
Another gem from that sterling year of 1939. Noted for the fact that the script was constantly changing almost daily with additions/improvements; the result is a remarkably seamless and engaging love story. A multi-kleenex weepie inspired countless romantic dreams of true love atop the Empire State Building. An excellent example of a subtle blend of comedy/drama, it's witty at first then becomes more subdued with plenty of romance and drama during the second half; yet it never cloys. The song "Wishing", (which is heard in the children's ward scene) was nominated for best song of 1939 ("Over the Rainbow" won) Leo McCarey remade this as "An Affair to Remember" which is better known--but it's essentially the more artificial and glossier version--any film buff will tell you that this is a much better movie!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer star as a pair of sophisticates who meet and fall in love while on a cruise. They are both engaged to marry other people but are willing to cut off their respective engagements for each other. They decide that if they still feel the same about each other in six months time, they will end their engagements and pursue their romance further. Six months pass and they still feel the same about each other, but a heartbreaking tragedy strikes one of them and changes everything about their relationship. This is a first rate film and one of the best films from 1939 as well as from the decade itself. Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer are in top dramatic form and give excellent performances. Also stars Maria Ouspenskaya. This is definitely a must see!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2001
Format: DVD
'Love Affair' is rightly remembered as one of Hollywood's greatest romances - Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne make such a wonderful, witty, loving couple; and the central sequence at the grandmother's, where the 'real world' is replaced by a timeless, fairy-tale, transformative one, is literally magical. But 'Love Affair' proves how sophisticated Hollywood used to be - look at the way the film moves from public to private, from cynical public marriages and affairs to true private love; and the way its themes are expressed through art - Dunne is a singer, Boyer a painter - which similarly moves from public exploitation to private truth-telling and reconciliation. What makes this such a moving masterpiece, however, is its tacit elegy for a world plunging into totalitarian barbarism, with the dying grandmother and refugee Boyer as the fragile keepers of a terrifyingly vulnerable European culture.
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