London, 1919. The war is raging on, but nurse Doris Kendall (Constance Bennett) still finds time to fall in love when she meets Captain Barry Craig (Joel McCrea) of the American Army Air Corps.
When Barry proposes to Doris the day before he’s supposed to ship out, she refuses because marriage would mean that she would be sent back to America. They spend the night together with hopes of marrying when Barry returns from combat.
This plan is thrown off of the tracks when Doris receives a letter saying that Barry has gone missing in action and is assumed dead. Complicating things even further, Doris discovers that she is pregnant.
Paul L. Stein directs Born to Love, a 1931 RKO drama also known as Lost Love. Starring alongside Bennett and McCrea are Paul Cavanagh as Sir Wilfred Drake, Frederick Kerr and Louise Closser Hale as Lord and Lady Ponsonby and Anthony Bushell as Leslie Darrow.
I watched this film during November when TCM was showing Constance Bennett’s films for their Star of the Month feature. With a pretty fuzzy picture and low contrast, this one could stand a good restoration.
Visual flaws aside, Born to Love is an interesting film that explores gender roles and divorce in early 20th century England.
The film is quite melodramatic, with many moments of sadness stemming from war, death and the complications of romantic relationships. It’s a gloomy little film, much heavier than I was expecting when I decided to record it.
Heavy as it may be in terms of content, a lot of the mood comes from the fact that the performances make it very easy for the viewer to become emotionally invested in the scenarios that occur.
Constance Bennett in particular tugs on the heartstrings of the viewer. The film’s script hits on our human compassion for mothers in peril, and Bennett’s character ends up in a struggle against unfair laws.
Bennett’s facial expressions become a bit too exaggerated at a few points throughout the film, but this isn’t terribly problematic, and in general her performance is effective.
Just as wonderful as Constance’s performance is Joel McCrea and the chemistry that the two have together. This, too, does a lot to bolster the viewer’s investment in the film. (Of course, I’m biased because I love Joel McCrea in anything.)
Born to Love is a tearjerker best paired with a peppy comedy afterward to boost your mood back up. The fact that the viewing experience is so emotional is a sign of the film’s effectiveness. The score: 3.8/5