For a young man whose face is his fortune and who hitherto has starred as the answer to a maiden’s prayer, Robert Taylor shows surprising ability to act in the tense drama and poignant tragedy of Twentieth Century Fox’s His Affair [later This Is My Affair], even more so perhaps than in those romantic scenes of love where he is so seasoned and polished a performer.
Though crime and its motifs provide the lurid and passionate settings to this remarkably vivid film, free from that morbid taint which has marred so many fine pictures recently. It is entertainingly diverted, for example, to the presentation of songs and dances of 1901. In that year President McKinley was assassinated, leaving the young naval lieutenant whom he had recently commissioned to track a gang of bank robbers convicted of complicity and about to be executed without ability to prove his secret agent’s commission. Even admitting that Taylor as the debonair young detective went a great deal further in love and in war than his commission warranted, the story rings true. The director spares no one’s feelings in the scenes portraying the condemned cells where Taylor, still confident in his mission, forces the simpleminded giant (Victor McLaglen), murderer and robber, to reveal the name of the State official who keeps the gangsters so well informed. Taylor, in fact, rises to McLaglen’s histrionic heights in one of Hollywood’s finest achievements.
There is said to be a real-life romance between Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck, and certainly they make love on the screen with enthusiasm. She is dazzlingly beautiful in this film, streamlined despite the early century costume, and with the massed ringlets of hair in the coiffure of that era enhancing her charm. It is true that she sings, but many a crooner has done no better without being half so decorative. Frank Conroy is impressive as President McKinley, and there is a dynamic portrayal by Sidney Black as Theodore Roosevelt, with his vivid teeth and picturesque phrases. The anticlimax is a triumph for the director in a film of many successes.