Monday 11 February 2013

Movie Review: An Affair To Remember (1957)

A romantic drama unapologetically celebrating the magic of unexpected love, An Affair To Remember occupies the idyllic space where fate brings two hearts together and individual destiny is redefined.

International playboy and professional womaniser Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) has announced his engagement to the extraordinarily wealthy Lois Clark (Neva Patterson). Travelling back to the United States from Europe on board a luxury ocean liner, Nickie meets the disciplined Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr), also travelling alone. He immediately attempts to romance her, but she initially holds him off, protecting her committed relationship with businessman Kenneth Bradley (Richard Denning).

But as the voyage continues they are gradually but surely drawn together, Nickie realizing that Terry may be the one woman for him and Terry discovering for the first time the thrill of true romance. A stop-over to visit Nikkie's grandmother (Cathleen Nesbitt), living in a village along the Mediterranean coast, turns into an enchanting experience for both. They arrive in New York and commit to meet each other in six months at the observation deck of the Empire State Building, allowing time for each of them to break-off their current relationship and Nickie the opportunity to establish himself as an artist with a source of income. The magical meeting day arrives, but a tragic accident intervenes, separating the lovers and potentially destroying their heavenly relationship.

An Affair To Remember is a heartfelt ode to the power of love, and the irresistible forces that can draw two people together in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Director Leo McCarey takes his second crack at the same Delmer Daves script, having already helmed 1939's Love Affair. The theme song An Affair to Remember (Our Love Affair), sung over the opening credits by Vic Damone and reprised a couple of times during the movie, helps to set the romantic stage.

Neither Nickie nor Terry are looking for a long-term relationship when they first meet, and indeed both are happy with their current partners. Despite the disapproving stares and wagging tongues from a boatful of people, their relationship catches fire and develops a warm glow. Grandmother Janou adds the intangible elixir that changes a potential fling to blessed serendipity.

Despite the prevailing alchemy, An Affair To Remember struggles in its final third. After the accident Nickie and Terry are given little to do except wait for the stars to realign. Significant stretches of the film are occupied by rather tiresome children singing their way to short-lived screen careers, as Terry accepts a job as a music teacher. The film rebounds with a sovereign final scene, the lovers reuniting to once again reshape their future, although the dismissive attitude to the struggle that still awaits Terry borders on crass disregard.

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr make for an appealing couple. Nickie Ferrante is at the outer edge of Grant's screen persona, a man initially living off his charm and not remotely interested in settling down with any woman or to any actual job. But the relationship with Terry brings out the caring, dedicated, dependable, and resourceful Grant, a man willing to change and sacrifice for the sake of his one true love. Terry McKay is a perfect fit with Kerr's strengths, a confident woman who does not succumb to overt advances, but with a true desire burning deep, waiting to be awakened.

Richard Denning and Neva Patterson bring to life the abandoned lovers on either side of Terry and Nickie, and both deserve credit for mature performances that remain faithful to friendship without fully abandoning the pining for a lost love.

An Affair To Remember glimmers with the promise of blissful love forged in the heavens, two souls that belong together finding each other on the open ocean, and refusing to buckle under life's mundane physical challenges.

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  1. I first saw An Affair to Remember in 1957 with my parents when I was five years old, and I've remembered it and cherished it ever since. I was captivated by the theme song, and I can whistle it even now, and the scenes with Janou are just so sweet and enchanting. The end, where Nickie see the painting and realizes that Terry is crippled has me in tears every time, even now just thinking about it. It is one of my favorite movies of all time, and has been for sixty-six years.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for sharing those memories!


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