Out of all the Irene Dunne films I have seen Back Street has been her weakest although it was a big hit for Paramount when it was released in 1932. The film is a soap opera in every sense of the word and one that just gets more boring as it progresses. I think it might just be me though I hate stories where a woman loves a man so much that she will do anything for him and not live her own life. The ending put the nail in coffin for me not liking this it was so cheesy.
Dunne plays a woman named Ray Schmidt. Ray lives in Cincinnati with her father, step-mother and step-sister. She is a care free girl who can go out with any man she pleases and does. One day while bringing her friend Kurt to the train station she meets one of his friends a man named Walter Saxel. Ray and Walter begin to see each other even though he is engaged. Walter tells Ray that she must meet his mother and then they can be together instead of him marrying his fiancé. Unfortunately Ray gets held up and never gets to the bandstand where they are supposed to meet in time.
Five years later Ray and Walter meet again in New York. They still love each other and carry on a very long affair. He keeps her comfortable to where she never has to have a job so he can see her whenever he wants. His wife never finds out about the affair but everyone else knows including his children when they are older. Walter tells his son that Ray is the only person in his life that means something very special to him and no one else fulfills a place in his life more than she does and has. In the end his son comes to care for Ray.
Blah…. If I explain anymore I will bore myself all over again. The film is just a total 1930s woman, soap opera film. When I initially started the film I got twenty minutes in before I got bored and turned it off and when I continued it I could barely pay attention. I will say Back Street is interesting in concept but the acting was horrible and I hate saying that because Irene Dunne is amazing. She was not bad she was the only one who acted decently but everyone else was crap. John M. Stahl directed this film and he was known for his women’s films. Like Parnell it is as if he is not directing his actors he did not get the best he could out of them. I am beginning to think the only film the man made that was actually amazing is Leave Her to Heaven where he actually got something out of Gene Tierney because she was nominated for an Academy Award.
Back Street is not one of the best classic films I have ever seen. I felt like I wasted my time watching it and I hate it when that happens no matter what era the movie is from. The film was remade twice (poor Irene Dunne all her films get remade over and over again. No wonder no one knows who she is today) with the 1941 version with Charles Boyer apparently being the best one (the other was made in 1961 with Susan Hayward). Dunne’s version is very hard to find and with a good reason. I suggest watching Back Street only if you really, really like Irene Dunne otherwise just skip it.