At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (WB ARCHIVES)

By • Jun 1st, 2017 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

Lucky Audrey. She got to play opposite the great stars of yesteryear, even if they were not what they once were. Gary Cooper, here, is four years away from losing his battle with cancer. She got Cary Grant (he retired 3 years later) in CHARADE, Fred Astaire (he stopped dancing that year – ’57, but put on his dancing shoes one last time for FINIAN’S RAINBOW in ’68) in FUNNY FACE, and Humphrey Bogart (he died two years later) in SABRINA (also directed by Billy Wilder). Grant, Astaire and Bogart at least looked fit. Cooper clearly was on the wane.

The scene a half hour in, when she upsets a jealous husband’s plan to murder Cooper, is photographed, without warning, as if we’d shifted genres from light comedy to film noir…faster than Kurosawa pulled it off in HIGH AND LOW. The film also kicks into high gear at this point after a sluggish, unimaginatively lit and staged first act. Everything suddenly looks better, has more energy, and Audrey and Coop have solid chemistry despite their vast (for the time) age difference.

It’s this odd casting (with new lines written, I assume, to cover for its potentially distracting nature) that sells the film through its second and third acts. Cooper (56) and Hepburn (32) were never meant to be. He really is too old for her to be comfortably, nonjudgmentally perceived as a sex object, and not only is he too old, but he also looks too old. And yet, that gap allows for some tangible melancholy between the frames that Wilder wouldn’t have been able to find without the offbeat casting. It becomes all about the subtext. And it makes the film unique…and collectible.

Even John McGiver, in a barely tolerable role as a jilted husband, suddenly comes to life when he joins the other two in that shadowy hotel set. He’s really funny, creatively directed. In Warner’s good-looking BluRay release all this is abundantly clear. It’s like an unexpected film production class where we can observe how direction, performance, production design, lighting and lenses can join forces to bring a film to life.

Maurice Chevalier, who dominates the first act but stays somewhat in the background thereafter, never gets the same break as these other three, who come under a magic cinematic spell in that hotel room. He, however, had plenty of cinematic life ahead of him. Still to come were GIGI, CAN-CAN, FANNY and MONKEYS, GO HOME!

Incidentally, McGiver, who comes across as an unmitigated doofus here, was completely different, serious and convincing, five years later in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE.

Fifteen years after LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON, Clint Eastwood directed a romantic flick called BREEZY. In it, Kay Lenz plays a 19-year old hippie, and William Holden is her love interest. Holden was depicted as being 50, but looked older than his 54 years. The film dropped out of sight, and we can probably guess why. Good film though.

So there was a 35-year age difference on BREEZY, 25 on LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON, 36 for real-life couple Charlie and Oona Chaplin, and 36 for Woody Allen and Soon-Yi. Both Charlie/Oona and Woody/Soon Yi have had long-lasting relationships: thirty-four years for the former, twenty and counting for the latter.

And finally, in a wonderful Billy Wilder interview book, with Cameron Crowe as the fan-boy interviewer, when asked what he thought about the age difference between Hepburn and Cooper, Wilder suggested that it was because Hepburn came across as so virginal, rather than putting it all on Cooper seeming too old.

To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection (www.wbshop.com)

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