Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember.
An Affair to Remember is a classic in the sense that Cary Grant stars in it and timeless in that it is about love and not sex. It is part romance, part comedy, part drama, but mostly it is pure soap opera.
Grant and Kerr meet onboard a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Both are heading to New York and to people who love them. Grant and Kerr play gold diggers who are each in relationships with people who are rich and can take care of them. They fall in love with each other like nothing they have ever felt.
As the ship pulls into New York, they make a promise to meet on top of the Empire State building in 6 months if each is able to make their own financial way in life. Grant takes up painting again and Kerr returns to singing. The movie has plenty of songs, and is practically a musical as well. On the day of their reunion, Kerr gets hit by a car as she walks to the Empire State building. Grant, of course, thinks he has been stood up.
The ending is, of course, foreseeable from a mile away. But then most love stories are. The dialogue is often a bit flowery; "Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories." Kerr says to Grant at one point. Some of the comedy works very well though. While aboard ship, they try to avoid being recognized as a couple. They think they are fooling the other passengers but everyone knows they are in love and actually end up laughing at them as they try to avoid each other at dinner.
Tom Hanks, in Sleepless in Seattle, called An Affair to Remember a "chick flick." It is a good description, but to be more accurate I will call it an extremely sentimental chick flick.
Nickie and Terry fool absolutely no one by dining at separate tables.
Could a movie titled An Affair to Remember be anything but pure soap opera? Actually this is a fairly faithful remake of the 1939 classic, Love Affair, starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne as the pink champagne swilling, shipboard lovers. That movie was also directed by Leo McCarey. It would be remade yet again in 1994 under its original title and starring real life couple Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. This latest version would be memorable mostly for being the last screen appearance of Katharine Hepburn.
I agree that this movies’ legacy is greater than it deserves due to the many references made to it in Sleepless in Seattle. In the years immediately following the release of that movie some two million VHS tapes of An Affair to Remember were sold. When the AFI made a list of the 100 Greatest Movie Romances a few years back it came in at number five and was the highest ranked movie where the lovers end up together.
Cary Grant was at the height of his dashing charm, debonair good looks and incredible popularity in 1957. As Nickie Ferrante he is the epitome of what a Movie Star should be. Deborah Kerr is excellent as Terry McKay as well. She excelled at playing classy ladies with just a touch of earthiness in her demeanor. In this, their second of three movies together, they make a beautiful and very sophisticated screen pair.
Although their romance aboard ship is kept lighthearted and played mostly for laughs the second half of the movie turns tragic. The final scene will melt your heart if you are effected by highly romantic endings. Eric’s right, it can be seen coming from a mile away.
The original version runs just 88 minutes while this one is padded out to nearly two hours. Several songs are sung including two by the group of children Kerr gets a job teaching after her accident. These could easily have been cut since they slow the story down unnecessarily. Still An Affair to Remember is one of those quintessential classic films that every movie buff should see at least once.
Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember.
This old-fashioned, romantic melodrama definitely has its charms, but also a few flaws. The first hour is charming and funny as Grant and Kerr meet, flirt, and fall in love. It's in the third act that the plot starts to meander and lose its way, before finishing strong at their character's reunion.
As Patrick wrote, there are several scenes that feel like padding, most notable are the songs, particularly the ones sung by the children. Kerr's songs should have been cut as well, though. She was no singer in real life and her singing voice here was dubbed by the same woman who sang for her in The King and I, and yet the decision was made to make her character a singer anyway. The removal of all the songs would have increased my opinion of this movie by at least half a star.
The problem with the story (and I don't want to emphasize it too strongly, because I did enjoy this movie) is that it does such a great job of getting these two characters together that it then has a hard time throwing an obstacle in their way. Its silliest plot device being the decision for the two characters to separate for six months before meeting again. I can understand that they need to extricate themselves from their current relationships and that Grant's character wants to make a living as an artist before asking her to marry him, but why can't they see each other in the meantime? And Kerr's decision not to tell Grant about her accident is another silly plot point. She's in love with him, but she's willing to devastate him by making no attempt to contact him in the hopes that she'll eventually get better and that he'll forgive her in who knows how long.
It is the chemistry between Grant and Kerr that really makes it all work. Grant is the perfect Golden Age movie star and his charisma seemed to grow with age. I think he could have shared chemistry with a lamppost if he tried. Kerr, while not the most conventionally beautiful actress of her day, is a great match for his character, although I never really bought her as the nightclub singing, mistress type. She seems much too prim and proper for that. However, her relaxed relationship with Grant more than makes up for any such discrepancies in her character.
Some of the dialogue is a bit flowery, as Eric commented. In the world of this movie though, it works quite well. He mentioned the film's most famous line, "Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories", but he didn't finish it. That line ends with, "And we've already missed the spring." It adds poignancy because it's one of the few lines that acknowledges the character's ages. These aren't a couple of kids caught up in their first love. These are jaded, grown-up characters with plenty of life experiences between the two of them. My favorite bit of dialogue is this symbolic exchange that takes place onboard the ship after the two realize they're falling for each other. "We're headed into a rough sea, Nickie." "I know. We changed our course today."
The famous, and foreseeable, ending is a satisfying one. In terms of acting, it's one of the best in the film. The tension is underplayed beautifully. Grant tries to be flippant to hide his pain, while Kerr tries to maintain the facade that she can walk. Although it's quite dark, especially compared to the lighter tone of the first act, it ends on a hopeful note as Kerr declares, "If you can paint, I can walk. Anything can happen, right?"
Photos © Copyright 20th Century Fox (1957)