Love Affair (1932): Thornton Freeland’s a Pre-Code Aviation Romanic Drama, Sarring Dorothy Mackaill and Bogart (Before he Became Star)

Thornton Freeland directed Love Affair, a Pre-Code aviation romance melodrama, based on Ursula Parrott’s short story of the same name.

Love Affair
Love Affair FilmPoster.jpeg

The tale follows an adventurous socialite (Dorothy Mackaill), who is in love with an aviation designer (Bogart).

Wealthy socialite Carol Owen decides to take up flying. Gilligan sets her up with a homely instructor, but she requests dashing Jim Leonard instead. Jim has some fun, taking her through some aerobatic maneuvers that leave her queasy, but still game. For revenge, she gives him a lift into town in her sports car, driving at breakneck speeds. They begin seeing each other.

Carol learns that Jim is designing a revolutionary aircraft engine, but cannot get any financial backing. She decides to give him a secret helping hand, persuading her skeptical financial manager, Bruce Hardy, to invest in the project. Hardy is only too pleased to oblige, as he has asked Carol numerous times to marry him.

Hardy keeps a mistress on the side, aspiring stage actress Linda Lee. Unbeknownst to him, she is Jim’s sister and in love with Georgie Keeler, a Broadway producer. Things become serious between Carol and Jim. He begins neglecting his work and eventually spends the night with her. The next day, he asks her to marry him. She realizes that she is distracting him from making a success of his engine and turns him down.

When Hardy asks Carol once again to marry him, she jokingly tells him she would only consider his offer if she were broke. He then informs her that she is. He has been paying all her bills for the past year. Hoping to help Jim, she agrees to wed Hardy.

Hardy tries to break off his relationship with Linda. This is what Georgie has been waiting for. He has coached Linda to extort $50,000 from Hardy to finance a new play in which Linda will star, but the businessman will only write her a check for $10,000. To try to pressure Hardy, Georgie has Linda lie to Jim about the relationship.

Carol has second thoughts and goes to break the news to Hardy. Before she can, Jim shows up and insists that Hardy marry his sister. When Hardy shows him the canceled $10,000 check endorsed to Georgie, Jim realizes Linda has deceived him. He apologizes and leaves.

Carol decides to kill herself by crashing an aircraft. However, as she starts to take off, Jim reads her suicide note.

In the happy ending, he clings to the fuselage, works his way to the cockpit, while the aircraft is flying, and reconciles with Carol.

Principal photography on Love Affair began on December 22, 1931 and wrapped on January 15, 1932.

Critics were more impressed with some of the film’s exceptional stunt flying, than with the narrative or characterization

Screen Image: Bogart’s Occupations

Bogart would play an aviator in four other features: Body and Soul (1931), China Clipper (1937), Passage to Marseille (1944) and Chain Lightning (1950).

Dorothy Mackaill as Carol Owen
Humphrey Bogart as Jim Leonard
Hale Hamilton as Bruce Hardy
Halliwell Hobbes as Kibbee
Astrid Allwyn as Linda Lee
Jack Kennedy as Gilligan
Bradley Page as Georgie Keeler
Barbara Leonard as Felice
Harold Minjir as Antone


Directed by Thornton Freeland
Written by Jo Swerling, Dorothy Howell, based on Love Affair 1930 story in College Humor by Ursula Parrott
Cinematography Ted Tetzlaff
Edited by Jack Dennis

Production and Distribution: Columbia Pictures

Release date: March 17, 1932

Running time: 68 minutes