Watch This offers movie recommendations inspired by new releases or premieres, or occasionally our own inscrutable whims. This week, we’re looking back on films that romantically pair real star couples.
Love Affair (1994)
Even if you haven’t seen either of its two predecessors or caught the skyscraper ending of Sleepless In Seattle, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening’s Love Affair will feel immediately familiar. A remake of the 1939 romance starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne and directed by Leo McCarey, who later embarked on the same journey with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair To Remember, the film operates in broad strokes: Man and woman click despite meeting at the wrong time in their lives, and just as they prepare to throw caution and engagements to the wind, they hit—or rather, are hit by—a roadblock. When fate steps in again, it’s to reunite the pair. Roll credits.
Yet however much the Boyer-Dunne and Grant-Kerr pairings deserve credit for lighting this well-worn territory, the 1994 Love Affair is also informed by Beatty and Bening’s own courtship. The two stars met on the set of Bugsy, and for a long time insisted that they’d managed to keep things professional while on set. Beatty has said he called his manager after meeting with Bening for the first time to tell him that he was going to marry his co-star—big news, coming from the most confirmed of Hollywood bachelors (at the time), who had as many high-profile romances in his past as film credits to his name. But while they claimed they kept their distance until after Bugsy wrapped, Bening recently revealed that their relationship began during production, and there was nothing coy about Beatty’s opening move. Beatty and Bening have been married since 1992, and have four children.
When the couple reteamed on screen in 1994, they were essentially playing versions of themselves: Beatty as the notorious lothario Mike Gambril and Bening as the witty and vivacious musician Terry McKay. They’re both already engaged or soon-to-be engaged when they meet on a waylaid flight to Sydney, but they fall for each other while in a paradise inhabited by Katharine Hepburn and some ducks. That part’s artistic license, but all the gossip that Mike and Terry endure and paparazzi they avoid are straight out of the couple’s real life together. Beatty and Bening didn’t experience the same setback as their characters, but they did overcome extraordinary odds. And to celebrate, they got a studio to send them to Tahiti, where they hung out with a screen legend in her final film appearance.
The movie itself is a straightforward remake that takes us through the traditional highs and lows of a romantic drama. Beatty reportedly had to sweet talk cinematographer Conrad Hall, who went on to work with Bening on American Beauty, into sticking with the production, and the results are worth it. When the couple makes their way through the verdant Tahiti landscape on foot, motorbike, and speedboat, it truly looks like their own personal heaven. And it becomes clear that, rather than put a new twist on an old tale, Love Affair adds a chapter to a real-life romance.
Availability: Love Affair is available to rent or purchase through the major digital services, including Amazon Video.