An unjustly forgotten classic … and a perfect date night film.

Years ago, folks went gaga for the romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle.  It was a nice film but his review really isn’t exactly about Sleepless in Seattle but about something mentioned in the film.  At one point, the two female leads are talking about great old romantic movies and they talk at length about how great An Affair to Remember was. As they did so, the film critic buried within me balked.  Why were they singing the praises of a film that was just a remake?   And, it was a really sappy remake at that!  Later, the ending of Sleepless in Seattle is strongly inspired by An Affair to Remember as the couples in BOTH films plan to meet at the top of the Empire State Building.  Sleepless in Seattle has managed to convince folks that An Affair to Remember is a truly great film—a romance you just have to see.  Well, I say don’t!!  Skip this film.  After all, it’s simply a glossy and soggy remake of a much, much better but forgotten movie called Love Affair—and Love Affair is a film to see.

One reason that Love Affair has been forgotten is that many people incorrectly believe that the only good films are recent films and films in color.  Love Affair is black & white and An Affair to Remember is in color, and people like this have naturally gravitated to the color film.  But insisting on color films is a huge mistake and you will miss so much.  A great example happened years ago when I was a history teacher.  At the end of the school year each year, I taught a unit on the history of films—and this included showing nothing but black & white movies—and many of them were silent.  Other teachers said that there was no way that teens would sit still for such films but not once did a student object to these films after they saw them.  In one case, a class made up mostly of supposedly tough inner city kids sat mesmerized as they watched Chaplin’s masterpiece, The Gold Rush!  A few even cried as they watched.  So don’t discount a movie that lacks color…this is highly overrated!

Another reason for it being a bit forgotten is that Love Affair came out at a horrible time—probably the worst possible time!  1939 is considered by many to be the best year that Hollywood ever saw.  In addition to Gone With the Wind, such notable films as Goodbye Mr. Chips, Gunga Din, Drums Along the Mohawk, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Of Mice and Men, The Women and Ninotchka appeared the same year Love Affair debuted.  Love Affair did manage to get the attention of the Oscars—and it received an amazing six nominations.  But, it was the year of Gone With the Wind—and Love Affair and these other great films didn’t stand a chance.

Love Affair is a terrific film that was directed by Leo McCarey—the same guy who later directed An Affair to Remember as well as several other great films such as The Awful Truth, Make Way For Tomorrow and Going My Way*.  Love Affair starred two exceptional actors—Charles Boyer (one of the screen’s great lovers) and Irene Dunne. In this film, the pair meet during a cruise and end up spending most of their voyage together.  To me, this is the best part of the film—seeing these young lovers as they tour Europe and share small-talk.  The dialog is clever and exceptionally romantic—as if you are somehow spying on two folks as they fall in love.  It is not rushed but handled expertly by McCarey—with a delicate touch and the best production values Hollywood could bestow on a film at that time.  It is simply exquisite from start to finish.  Exactly what happens to this couple is something I don’t want to spoil—just see it for yourself.  And, be sure to see it with someone you love…and with some Kleenex nearby.  Just be sure to see this BEFORE you see An Affair to Remember.  Plus, don’t mix it up with yet another remake, the 1994 remake with Annette Bening and Warren Beatty.  These aren’t bad films…but why look for a copy of a perfect original?!

*I didn’t mention this above because it might have confused my argument, but McCarey also is the guy who directed many of Laurel & Hardy’s best films as well as the insane Marx Brothers’ film, Duck Soup!  Now that’s versatility!!

Martin’s Grade: A

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer

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