My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 1939: Irene Dunne in "Love Affair"

When one thinks of love that begins on a boat, the Empire State Building and a wheelchair, then mostly these thoughts come up: An Affair to Remember! Cary Grant! Deborah Kerr! Handkerchiefs!

The remake has clearly overshadowed the original from 1939 with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne who ironically, like Deborah Kerr, is one of Oscar’s biggest losers.

In Love Affair, Irene Dunne plays Terry McKay who falls in love with Charles Boyer’s French womanizer Michele Ferrante during a boat trip. They agree to meet on the top of the Empire State Building 6 months later but tragedy prevents Terry from making the appointment.

Irene Dunne is certainly one of the bright stars of Hollywood’s golden age. She brings warmth and humor to her characters, has a lovely singing voice and can combine comedy and drama with ease.

Her talent for witty one-liners and sarcasm are very well used at the beginning of the movie when Michele and Terry first meet. As every other woman in the world, she is enchanted by this famous Frenchman but she holds her own against him. She is playful and charming, out-spoken, a bit sassy but also honest and loving. Irene always shows Terry as a woman with brain and heart. She is a complete opposite to the visible arrogance of Michele and their unlikely pairing becomes even better because of that.

Despite the thin screenplay, Irene is able to make a full-flesh human being out of Terry, shown in so many scenes like when she says Michele that she doesn’t want to be seen with him anymore or the wonderful scenes with his grandmother.

Irene gives an intelligent performance of a romantic character which is no small feat.

Despite that, I am not blown away by her which is mostly the fault of the movie. The story seems very rushed, making Terry often a hard to understand character. They meet and without any real story they are already in love, they want to wait 6 months until they have taken care of things like their other relationships which is never shown, tragedy happens and the end follows. The speed of the movie somehow affects the performances and I must say that I never really see or feel any chemistry between Dunne and Boyer. Sadly, Irene is also not able to keep her character as interesting as it was in the first few minutes of her performances. After a while, she turns into an average love interest. And even though I love Dunne’s soprano, I think that she is seriously miscast as a night club entertainer.

After her accident, Dunne gets a little more to do and she handles her dramatic scenes like the one in the hospital beautifully. Also impressive is the scene in the theatre when Michele and Terry meet again for the first time since their boat trip. Irene convincingly shows Terry as a strong, good-natured woman who is never broken by her tragic fate. She never looses her lively personality and that way Irene Dunne is able to prevent the movie from becoming too sentimental. She never turns her scenes into schmaltz but instead stays true to Terry’s personality. I also like that she never tries to get the audience’s sympathy: Terry is strong and accepted her fate but she doesn’t do it in a ‘saintly’ way that makes her look like a tragic heroine.

She also has some nice close-ups during the scene with the children who sing about “wishes”.

And her final, famous scene is also done very nicely even if she is overshadowed by Charles Boyer (who, up to that moment, was rather disappointing, mainly because there is something so cold about him as an actor that makes it impossible for him to appear as a loving person).

Overall, Irene Dunne gives a lovely, romantic and intelligent performance that gets

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