Love Affair (1939) – The Original Affair to Remember

Gah! This film got to me! It got me like stab to the heart and straight to the tear ducts at the end. So good, might even be better than the 1957 version. But that’s the magic of this story, it can be done in any age with any kind of cast, and work like clockwork to the heart strings every time because the story is so good. The original short story was written by Leo McCarey, the director, and Mildred Cram, the latter who was a famous novelist and who everyone should thank for writing this story that has become a classic one for the ages.

Summary, because I guess I should, but honestly – don’t we all know the story already?:

American singer Terry McKay and a French painter Michel Marnet meet on an ocean liner going across the Atlantic Ocean. They are both engaged to other people, but they form a connection and fall in love. When the trip ends they promise to meet in six months time on top of the Empire State Building, since its enough time to get both of their lives in order.


This is a lovely film. Simple, showcasing the conversations between the characters and their growing love that comes so naturally it is inevitable from their chemistry from the start. In black and white, with soft focus and lack of melodrama in an otherwise a melodramatic plot makes this something of a quiet film that stays with you after its done. It’s glamorous in that late 1930s way, simple and sharp, but also very, very human.

Irene Dunne as Terry McKay is truly a star. Her natural acting is revolutionary at a time when melodrama  was the usual way to go. She isn’t a star playing a role, but a free spirited, strong woman, who makes hard choices out of love not out of pride. Her moments of melancholy are introspective and beautiful. The movie indeed focuses more on her than Charles Boyer, giving us a sense that she has a life and is coping and is not put down by what happened to her.

Charles Boyer as Michel Marnet is actually French. He doesn’t have the stereotypical suave, yet he is utterly charming and a good person through and through. His love for Terry is soft and passionate and he gazes at her adoringly. Sometimes shy and joking Boyer makes you love this man as much as Terry does. In the end (I honestly don’t think I’m spoiling everything, since we all know the end) when he realises Terry’s situation it’s not dramatic anger that comes over his face, but silent shock as he looks around and sees his painting on her wall. His characters best virtue, and why I think he is so attractive in any age, is that he isn’t angry or raw. He is good, simple, gentle and honest. Is there nothing more attractive than that?

There is something attractive about the way it all builds up. From friendship to love in such a brief period and we see it grow from moment to moment. Their distance diminishing as personal space becomes a shared one. The way they both look at one another and the awkwardness of meeting the others fiancé’s at the dock briefly tells you all you need to know.


I highly recommend this movie. It’s sad, happy, hopeful and just good people being good to one another as they try to achieve happiness. It’s not grand, glamorous or over the top. It’s human, in a way that we can understand why love happened and makes us wish for the same kind of affair. Indeed this is the most famous affair with all the remakes done of it to a point of parody. But, this simple film of human emotions and love is I think one of the best of them.

It’s also free to watch on YouTube! So get to it! You will cry at the end so bring tissues!!

Thank you for reading!


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