Saturday, October 3, 2009
An Affair to Remember
Director: Leo McCarey
Starring: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning, Neva Patterson and Cathleen Nesbitt, among others.
I read in a review that you should prepare with a box of chocolate and lots of paper tissues before seeing this film. I can agree with that, but it also works, as in my case, with a cup of coffee and a warm blanket. The important thing is to prepare with cosiness - be ready to enter the world of the movies and allow yourself to let the story absorb you.
A famous playboy and painter, Nickie Ferrante (Grant) meets a careful, self-confident lady, Terry McKay (Kerr), on a cruise. Although they are both engaged to be married they manage to fall in love. They make an agreement - they will meet in the Empire State Building (at that time the nearest thing to heaven in New York) in six months, when they both have cleared up their personal lives. But fate comes in the way, and Terry can't keep their agreement. If they only had had cell phones then...
I am particularly fond of love stories concerning mature people. They are more sophisticated and calm, the persons involved has a past and are wiser than the in-love-for-the-first-time youngsters. This film manages to balance sophistication, humor and drama - it's truly amazing.
The ending of the film might not be unsuspected, but the way it's presented is original and surprising, simply ingenious. I haven't yet had the pleasure to see the 1939 version of which this is a re-make, Love Affair with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer (directed by the same McCarey), so I can't compare them. All I can say at this point is that An Affair to Remember without a doubt isn't that kind of a re-make that only brings in money using the same title as the original - there is a lot of heart and effort in the production, and the chemistry between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr is magnificent. They apparently impovised a lot of their scenes together, something that can explain why the film seems so natural and real. Cary Grant [post] is an actor that never disappoints me, and speaking for myself I think he only got better with age.
My favorite scenes are those filmed in France, where Nickie brings Terry to meet his grandmother. Grandmother Janou is played by an actress named Cathleen Nesbitt, and I would gladly adopt her for a grandmother. She lives in a little world of her own as a widow on a blooming height, something like her own Xanadu. When Terry remarks what a lovely place she lives in, she answers that it's a great place to live with your memories - but she has still to create hers. Isn't that too lovely?
Another great thing about this film that struck me almost immediately, is how much of of the story that isn't told by reading lines. Grandmother Janou never tells Nickie that she wants him to to marry Terry instead of the rich woman (Patterson) he is engaged with, but we know it by the way she looks at both Terry and him. And that was just an example of the brilliant, discreet way McCarey tells this story. It's a world between films like these and those made in Hollywood today, that seem to think that everything has to be spelled out in capital letters for the audience to understand.
The only complaint I've heard (or read) about this film is the songs. I guess the complaint doesn't include the theme song "Our Love Affair" that is the red thread through the entire film - sung in English, sung in French and played instrumentally. (What a lovely theme, by the way.) But the other songs in the film is two that is sung by a class of school children Terry is teaching, and they are not long. They are actually quite enjoyable, in my humble opinion. But I believe they are the only thing anyone could feel are out of place in this movie - otherwise An Affair to Remember is an indubitable classic for everyone to adore.
Providing the enchanting singing voice for Deborah Kerr is the soprano Marni Nixon, also dubbing Kerr in The King and I (1956), Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961) and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964).