Saturday, October 3, 2009

An Affair to Remember (1957)

An Affair to Remember
Director: Leo McCarey
USA 1957
119 min
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).

Deborah Kerr is first in line to adore the film.


Diana. said...

I LOVE this movie X)

Anonymous said...

Ah...class,elegance, manners..the handsome voice of Cary Grant..yes I agree with your wonderful assesment of this timeless movie...remake or not!!
I choose a blankie and a glass of brandy for my viewing pleasure :)

Kim said...

This was my second Cary Grant movie (the first being House Boat)and this is what made me a fan. The last scene in the movie always gets to me.

I still haven't seen Love Affair either but I plan too because I love Irene Dunne. Even though I like Deborah Kerr a lot part of me regrets Cary & Irene couldn't have done this movie together since they had such amazing chemistry in the 3 films they did do together.

Kate Gabrielle said...

If they only had had cell phones then... - LOL!

I'm so glad you watched this!! It's definitely one of my favorites-- that scene when he sees the painting hanging up just makes my heart jump every time I see it.

I agree, too- Cary Grant definitely got better with age! His 50's movies are my favorites :)

I like the songs in the first film better (Love Affair) I'm not really fond of the 1950's kids, they're a little too bubbly and clean cut. The 1930's kids were more scrappy :)

Lolita said...

Mrs. Bee:
Oh, I like your idea of cosiness! My grandmother and -father came by a couple of days ago with home made dandelion wine (18%!) that I have taken in small doses every day since now - the bottle is almost empty now! Anyway, that was a perfect supplement to a nice movie!

I haven't seen House Boat yet, regretfully. I first fell in love with Cary in The Philadelphia Story, and for every movie I've seen him in since my devotion has just grown deeper. What a gentleman.

Kate G:
Haha, but think - if she just could have sent a message like "Hi! Sorry I couldn't meet you, I got hit by a car. See ya! <3" there wouldn't have been any misunderstandings! ;)

I've had the movie for quite a while, but for some reason never saw it until you made the recommendation - so thank you!

Cary Grant was that kind of a man who pulled off the mature man look - I think he was more handsome in his 50's and 60's than in his early 30's!

Aah, now I need to see Love Affair too!

Mykal said...

Lolita: I like this movie, too. Along with Brief Encounter, it is one of my favorite "mature" love stories (meaning a love story involving grown up people that have already walked around the block once or twice).

If you stop and think about it, I don't think a film like this could be made anymore. With all films slanted so heavily to the youth market, they would end up casting twenty-somethings in the leads and destroying the whole thing.

After all, who today could ever measure up to either Cary Grant or Deborah Kerr? Anyone? -- Mykal