Director: Leo McCarey
Starring: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning, Neva Patterson, Cathleen Nesbitt, Robert Q. Lewis, Charles Watts, Fortunio Bonanova, and George Winslow
Academy Award Nominations (1958):
Best Cinematography: Milton R. Krasner
Best Costume Design: Charles Le Maire
Best Music, Original Song: Harry Warren (music), Harold Adamson (lyrics), Leo McCarey (lyrics) for the song ‘An Affair to Remember’
Best Music, Scoring: Hugo Friedhofer
“If you can paint, I can walk; anything can happen, don’t you think?”
Plot Synopsis: Charming handsome Nicky Ferrante (Grant) and glamorous nightclub singer Terry McKay (Kerr) are on the same cruise from Europe to New York where they will both be meeting up with their fiances. However, it’s love at first sight for Nicky and Terry. They spend every wonderful moment together and, when they stop off in the south of France, Terry even visit’s Nicky’s grandmother Janou (Nesbitt) with him. Before they reach their destination, they decide to test their love. They will meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months time and, if they are still in love, they will get married. However, fate stops Terry getting there on time.
This was Leo McCarey’s second go around with this story, as he had originally made it as Love Story in 1939. I haven’t seen that version, but from what I’ve read it’s fairly similar. An Affair to Remember has been remade a number of times, and there are elements of the story that have been replicated in other films. Love Affair (1994) is a retelling of the story with Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, and Kathatine Hepburn. Mann (1999) is also a Bollywood remake. The Muppets spoofed this film in the Muppets Take Manhattan (1984).
What is it about this film that makes it so appealing? Though the story itself by today’s standards is pretty typical of a romance film, An Affair to Remember is original and unique in the time it was originally released. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr set a golden standard for these two types of characters. Each of their acting abilities are undeniable: Grant had that strong swagger and had complemented the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and many others throughout his career, and Kerr had already been nominated for 3 of her 6 Leading Actress Oscars by this point. Of all the films I’ve seen Cary Grant in, I think this one is his best performance. Though he’s certainly a great actor, most of what I’ve seen him in has been screwball comedies, which for whatever reason I just haven’t been able to get into or enjoy.
There is a good balance of story and settings in this film. There’s just the right amount on the boat, visiting Nicky’s grandmother, and then in New York. There is also a certain amount of realism in this film after each character parts ways with their original fiance. Nicky wants to be a painter, and ends up having to do commercial billboard paintings to pay the bills. Likewise, Terry returns to singing in a nightclub in Boston after breaking up with her rich fiance. The romantic appeal of meeting at the top of the Empire State Building, and how Terry wasn’t paying attention and got into her accident, makes sense in a way.
Some of the most powerful parts of this film, in my opinion, took place at Nicky’s grandmother’s house. The romantic connection, though perceived to this point, is really brought to light, and in a way I’m a bit surprised that Cathleen Nesbitt wasn’t nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. I like the characters who act as a voice of reason and a respected outside observer adding that layer of perception and discernment.
The final scene when Nicky realizes why Terry didn’t make it to the Empire State Building, is very touching and well done. It’s not too drawn out, and though the audience knows everything, and can probably see where the story will go, Grant and Kerr complement each other nicely.
An Affair to Remember does a great job of making a somewhat predictable story seem interesting. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr complement each other well, and keep the story interesting without making it too sappy. I’d probably watch this every once in a while, and I’d definitely recommend it.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
And just as another layer of influence this film has had, compare An Affair to Remember‘s poster with Sleepless in Seattle: