For Reel

Born to Love (1931)
July 18, 2012, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Paul L. Stein

A quietly affecting wartime melodrama, Born to Love stars Constance Bennett as a woman whose thought-to-be dead lover returns soon after she has already married another man. Director Paul L. Stein – along with cinematographer John J. Mescall (he of Bride of Frankenstin) and editor Claude Berkeley – skillfully evokes the chaos of wartime London in the very first minutes of the picture in which the carefree patrons of a nightclub are interrupted by quick cuts to a blaring siren. In walks Bennett as an American army nurse, her eyes fixated on the sky with curiosity, before Joel McCrea, an American pilot, whisks her away to safety. The way their relationship unfolds in only twenty minutes, culminating with an idyllic boat ride and a scene of off-screen intimacy, is an impressive feat of economical storytelling, packing just enough romance that it is genuinely heartbreaking to watch Bennett hear the mistaken report that McCrea has been killed in combat. Even if unwed mothers and ill-fated romances were not particularly new devices at the time, Born to Love is distinguished not only by one of Bennett’s best performances of the early-1930s, but by Stein’s handsome and understated direction. A mourning Bennett is proposed to on the occasion that the streets of London celebrate their victory, and as she reluctantly gives in to her future husband’s request, the cheers slowly fade in to the soundtrack, both establishing a sense of entrapment and reminding her of the war that she believes to have claimed her man.

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