Love Affair (1939)

87 or 89 mins | Romance, Drama | 7 April 1939

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HISTORY

The working title for this film was Love Match . According to modern sources, two weeks before the film was set to go into production, the French embassy, which had been consulted on historical information pertaining to the script, informed RKO that it would not allow the film to be made because it portrayed an illicit affair between a French man and an American woman. The French embassy felt that, because of the war, France could not afford to alienate American sympathies for its people. The embassy threatened to have Paris protest to Washington if the picture went into production. As a result, production was abandoned and a new script was written by Delmer Daves, who transformed the story into a bittersweet comedy about two lovers who meet on a ship. Modern sources also note that Irene Dunne's character was based on a woman Daves met on a ship returning from Europe. The woman was reportedly wisked off to Europe to stave off a scandal resulting from her affair with a government official in a small town. According to a HR pre-release news item, production on the picture was suspended on 29 Nov 1938 to give writers Daves and Stewart time to polish the script, and to allow Dunne and Boyer to rehearse their final scenes. A biography of Charles Boyer notes that once filming began, much of the day-to-day production routine was characterized by last minute script alterations and Boyer's ad-libbing. Boyer considered this to be his favorite among all his American films. The Boyer biography also notes that Buddy DeSylva's song "Wishing," which was performed by ... More Less

The working title for this film was Love Match . According to modern sources, two weeks before the film was set to go into production, the French embassy, which had been consulted on historical information pertaining to the script, informed RKO that it would not allow the film to be made because it portrayed an illicit affair between a French man and an American woman. The French embassy felt that, because of the war, France could not afford to alienate American sympathies for its people. The embassy threatened to have Paris protest to Washington if the picture went into production. As a result, production was abandoned and a new script was written by Delmer Daves, who transformed the story into a bittersweet comedy about two lovers who meet on a ship. Modern sources also note that Irene Dunne's character was based on a woman Daves met on a ship returning from Europe. The woman was reportedly wisked off to Europe to stave off a scandal resulting from her affair with a government official in a small town. According to a HR pre-release news item, production on the picture was suspended on 29 Nov 1938 to give writers Daves and Stewart time to polish the script, and to allow Dunne and Boyer to rehearse their final scenes. A biography of Charles Boyer notes that once filming began, much of the day-to-day production routine was characterized by last minute script alterations and Boyer's ad-libbing. Boyer considered this to be his favorite among all his American films. The Boyer biography also notes that Buddy DeSylva's song "Wishing," which was performed by Dunne, along with the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir, became one of the most popular songs of 1939. Although HR pre-release news items list actors Marian Folsey, Mary Bovard and Helene Millard in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.

       According to the file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA strongly objected to an early version of the treatment, and stated that it was "so violently in conflict with both the spirit and the letter of our Production Code" that it could not be approved. In a letter to RKO, dated 15 Sep 1938, the PCA called Love Affair a "low-toned, sordid story of gross sexual irregularities, without even a semblence of what we call 'compensating' moral values." Two weeks later, after examining a refurbished treatment, the same PCA official called the story "satisfactory," but expressed reservations about the portrayal of "Terry" as a kept woman. The PCA later insisted that in order to receive a Production Code seal, the film must adhere to the Code's establishment that the "immoral conduct of these people must not be condoned, nor justified, nor made to appear right and acceptable." In addition, the PCA reminded RKO that "both immoral parties must by punished." Further recommendations from the PCA came in Dec 1938, when it suggested that the final scene of the film include a shot of "Terry" walking up the road with a cane "to add some flavor of tragedy into the ending." According to a Feb 1939 PCA memorandum, director Leo McCarey wanted to restore a scene that he had previously agreed to remove. The scene had to do with "Terry" being visited in her penthouse apartment by the man who had been keeping her. The memo also indicates that the film was given a preview showing "out of town" on 18 Feb 1939, with the scene in question left in, in order to test its importance to the film. Six days after the preview, the PCA reported that the scene would not be included in the picture. In the end, all references to illicit sex were removed from the film.

       The film received Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Best Picture; Best Original Story (Mildred Cram and Leo McCarey); Best Actress (Irene Dunne); Best Supporting Actress (Maria Ouspenskaya); Best Interior Decoration (Van Nest Polglase and Al Herman); and Best Song ("Wishing").

       Irene Dunne and William Powell were featured in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of Love Affair on 1 Apr 1940; and Dunne and Boyer starred in a 6 Jul 1942 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story. Love Affair was remade by McCarey for 20th Century-Fox in 1957 as An Affair to Remember , with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Mar 39
p. 1, 3
Film Daily
13 Mar 39
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Oct 38
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 38
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 38
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 38
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 38
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 38
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 38
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 39
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
15 Mar 39
p. 7.
Motion Picture Herald
5 Nov 38
p. 27.
Motion Picture Herald
18 Mar 39
p. 49, 52
New York Times
17 Mar 39
p. 25.
Variety
15 Mar 39
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Leo McCarey Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
WRITERS
Story
Story
Contr to scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
SOURCES
SONGS
"Wishing," music and lyrics by B. G. DeSylva
"Sing My Heart," music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Love Match
Release Date:
7 April 1939
Production Date:
6 October--29 November 1938
and 13 December--late December 1938
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 March 1939
Copyright Number:
LP8757
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
87 or 89
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
4778
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Internationally renowned French artist Michel Marnet, who is engaged to marry American industrial heiress Lois Clarke, meets Terry McKay aboard a ship sailing from Naples to America, and falls in love with her. Though Terry, a nightclub singer, is engaged to Kenneth Bradley, the man who saved her career, she falls in love with Michel. To prevent scandal at home, Terry avoids being seen publicly with Michel, but when the ship docks at Madiera, Michel's grandmother, who lives on the island, tells Terry that she, not Lois, is the right woman for Michel. Having received the grandmother's blessing, Terry and Michel's romance flourishes, and before docking in New York, the two make a pact to meet six months later on top of the Empire State building, after they have made successes of themselves. During their separation, Terry moves to Philadelphia and is successful singing in nightclubs, while Michel paints. Both dream of the day when they will be reunited, but tragically, Terry is struck by a car on her way to the rendezvous. In the hospital, she is told that she may be crippled for life, but that her fate will not be known for certain for another six months. Because of her condition, Terry decides not to tell Michel what happened and does not contact him at all. While recuperating, Terry gets a job at an orphanage. One evening, while attending a theater performance, Terry and Kenneth see Michel with a female companion. Terry and Michel greet each other, but do not acknowledge each other as recent lovers. Kenneth expresses interest in getting Terry back together with Michel, but she insists ... +


Internationally renowned French artist Michel Marnet, who is engaged to marry American industrial heiress Lois Clarke, meets Terry McKay aboard a ship sailing from Naples to America, and falls in love with her. Though Terry, a nightclub singer, is engaged to Kenneth Bradley, the man who saved her career, she falls in love with Michel. To prevent scandal at home, Terry avoids being seen publicly with Michel, but when the ship docks at Madiera, Michel's grandmother, who lives on the island, tells Terry that she, not Lois, is the right woman for Michel. Having received the grandmother's blessing, Terry and Michel's romance flourishes, and before docking in New York, the two make a pact to meet six months later on top of the Empire State building, after they have made successes of themselves. During their separation, Terry moves to Philadelphia and is successful singing in nightclubs, while Michel paints. Both dream of the day when they will be reunited, but tragically, Terry is struck by a car on her way to the rendezvous. In the hospital, she is told that she may be crippled for life, but that her fate will not be known for certain for another six months. Because of her condition, Terry decides not to tell Michel what happened and does not contact him at all. While recuperating, Terry gets a job at an orphanage. One evening, while attending a theater performance, Terry and Kenneth see Michel with a female companion. Terry and Michel greet each other, but do not acknowledge each other as recent lovers. Kenneth expresses interest in getting Terry back together with Michel, but she insists on waiting until she is well. After having tracked her down, Michel pays Terry a visit at her apartment, where he discovers her condition, forgives her silence, and assures her that they should always be together regardless of her condition. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.