This post is about my favorite Deborah Kerr movie and one of the best Cary Grant ones, in my opinion. I originally published this on September 30, 2010, which was coincidentally Deborah Kerr’s 89th birthday.
An Affair to Remember (1957)
This movie is one of those tragic love stories which has been retold at least 5 times (this is actually the second telling of the story, the first being Love Affair in 1939) and is heart-breaking and heart-warming all at the same time. Gentlemen, this one might seem like it’s for the ladies, and hey, maybe it is a little, but rest assured that there is something for everyone.
Playboy Nickie Ferante and nightclub singer Terry McKay meet on a European cruise heading to New York during the Christmas and New Years season, both engaged to partners back home. At first they are incredibly irritated by one another, but they quickly develop a romance. When they dock, they know they must be apart, but they agree that if they’re still in love in six months, to meet at the top of the Empire State Building. Fate and bad luck seem to get in the way, but the story of their love is one for the ages. Sounds cliché, but I’m totally serious.
Why You Should Watch:
This story was brilliantly written by Mildred Cram and Leo McCarey, who directed this film version – McCarey also directed Duck Soup (1933) as well as winning three Oscars and a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. McCarey and Cram’s story was first adapted as a screenplay by Delmer Daves and Donald Stewart. The first act is a unique romantic comedy, but a pivotal scene nearly halfway through starts a series of tragic events, adding an unexpected challenge to their relationship. Moreover, it really displays the acting range of Kerr and Grant, who are both great comedians and dramatic actors.
Leo McCarey was nominated for Director’s Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement. The film was also nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and two Best Music categories: Best Song for “An Affair to Remember” – a song which quickly became a jazz standard – and Best Score.
Basically, the best reason I can give you to watch this movie is summed up in the Nora Ephron film, Sleepless in Seattle (1993), where Tom Hank’s character’s sister explains the ending to An Affair to Remember and what happens after they are supposed to meet at the Empire State Building. Now, I might be a classic film buff, but I have a very soft spot for Nora Ephron. THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS, DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU! Basically, my reaction to the ending of this movie was exactly like hers, but with a little less tears – I don’t really cry at movies that much.
Scenes to Look Forward To:
Pretty much the entire first half of the movie on the ship is an epic win. The second half is so overwhelming and wonderful that you sort of need to see it in order to fully understand. Cary Grant is charming and Deborah Kerr is beautiful. But I need to be constructive and pick some highlights!
I like the scene where Nickie invites himself into Terry’s room and they talk about their fiancés back home. Also the scene on the lido deck where they get their picture taken unawares. Also the scene with the pink champagne martinis. It sounds like I’m being vague, but you’ll thank me later for not spoiling it.
Obviously, the scene where Nickie takes Terry to meet his old French grandmother, wonderfully played by Cathleen Nesbitt, when they briefly dock on the French Riviera. Well acted, so aesthetically beautiful, and actually shot on location! Also, all of the scenes with the children’s choir are perfectly placed to give the audience a little pick-me-up after crying your eyes out. They sing a song called “The Little Scout” and it is adorable.
Lines like “And all I could say was, ‘hello’”, “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories… we’ve already missed the spring!”, and “I was looking up… it was the nearest thing to heaven!” mean nothing out of context, but mean everything after seeing the film.
Please do yourself a favor and watch this one: it’s great all year round, but especially great around Christmas time and New Years. I know you’ll love it.