—A Great Addition to Any Bogart Library—
Your Bogie Film Fix:
Director: Thornton Freeland
Carol Owen (Dorothy Mackaill) is a wealthy young socialite who falls for a local flight instructor (Humphrey Bogart), while at the same time keeping a rich older suitor (Hale Hamilton) on the side. Unknown to Owen and the flight instructor, the rich older suitor is also having a private affair with the flight instructor’s sister (Astrid Allwyn) who’s trying to swindle him out of enough money to stage a play.
What I Thought
I was more than pleasantly surprised by this film. Being Bogart’s first real leading role, and having heard very little about it, I expected that Love Affair might be a little bit of a mess. My copy came from the TCM Humphrey Bogart: The Columbia Pictures Collection, and it’s one of my favorite Bogart DVD purchases so far. The print is great, Ben Mankiewicz gives the film a nice introduction, and the overall quality of the film should offer plenty of entertainment to even the casual Bogart fan.
One of the biggest pros about the film, that could have easily become a major con, is the overly complicated plot. See if you can follow this – Dorothy Mackaill is kind of in love with Bogart while at the same time entertaining the idea of getting married to Hale Hamilton. Hamilton, on the other hand, has been seeing another woman on the side, played by Astrid Allwyn. Allwyn, though, isn’t really interested in Hamilton, she’s just using him so that she can get a payoff for a new play she wants to star in. Coincidentally, Astrid just happens to be Bogart’s sister. So Bogart’s sister is dating the boyfriend of the woman that’s dating Bogart. On top of that, there’s a side plot where Mackaill convinces Hamilton to secretly invest in Bogart’s plane engine, because Bogart refuses to take money directly from Mackaill. Oh! And Mackaill only thinks she’s rich, but it turns out that Hamilton has been secretly keeping her bank account afloat so that she doesn’t know that she’s really broke . . .
Catch all that?
It might seem complicated, but Director Thornton Freeland does a great job of keeping all of those balls in the air as he switches between plots, using fadeouts at the most critical moments of each scene just as we’re learning key information. It’s a little trick that works well to build the tension and keep us hooked from one storyline to another.
I also have to give kudos to the sound editor, as some of the early plane flight scenes have such great audio that I could feel the engine rumble in my chest on a subpar set of television speakers. I would have loved a little more flying, but it’s a minor complaint for a pretty good film.
The Bogart Factor
Bogart’s nice guy portrayal of Jim Leonard falls somewhere just short of 3-dimensional, but it’s far deeper than some of his other “nice guy” roles in films like Crime School and China Clipper. I truly enjoy hearing Bogart chuckle when there’s no intended menace behind it, and doggone it, the guy’s pretty charming when he wants to be.
Still in his early thirties, Bogart looks great, sounds great, and seems happy. With so many of his most famous roles still a decade away, it’s great to see him so vibrant and energetic.
Dorothy Mackaill plays Carol Owen, the wealthy young woman with a wandering eye for Bogart. I really liked Mackaill in the role, and even though it’s not a groundbreaking character, Mackaill more than capably pulls off the part with plenty of chemistry alongside Bogart. She has a real modern beauty, and I’m more than a little interested to see some of her other filmography, especially a more developed role.
Hale Hamilton plays Bruce Hardy, the wealthy older suitor to Dorothy Mackaill. It’s clear that Hamilton doesn’t have the looks or the youth to run with either of the women that he pursues in the film, but he’s allowed to openly acknowledge it in character and still come off as a fairly sympathetic “sugar daddy.” Hamilton grew on me more and more as the film went on, and his final confrontation with Bogart is played to an amiable, and very satisfying, end.
Astrid Allwyn plays Bogart’s younger sister, Linda Lee. The character’s thin, as her only motivations seem to be greed and ditziness, but that can’t be blamed on Allwyn. She’s fine in the role, holds her own against Bogart, and helps the plot move from point A to point B without detracting from the film.
Halliwell Hobbes plays Dorothy Mackaill’s butler Kibbee. It’s a tiny part, but he and Mackaill get a nice scene together at the end when Hobbes gets to help Mackaill follow her conscience.
Bradley Page plays Astrid Allwyn’s theater producer (boyfriend?) who’s helping her swindle money from Hale Hamilton. It’s another small part in the film, and it’s an underwritten character, but Page does fine as the sleazy bum who’s fast-talking his way to a quick buck.
Classic Bogie Moment
He’s young and looks sharp in everything from an aviator outfit to this suit:
Revel in the coolness of Bogart! The man never looked better.
The Bottom Line
The print looks great. The film is very watchable. Bogart is great. It’s the first really big role for Hollywood’s greatest actor. What’s there not to enjoy? It’s not Casablanca, but it should be on the list for any Bogart fan, and it’s plenty of fun for any classic film fan.