An Affair To Remember Movie Review

The good thing about being an international playboy who looks and sounds like Cary Grant (well, one of the good things) is that there isn't much you have to do to pay for your fabulous jet-set lifestyle, except marry the occasional filthy-rich heiress (who's hardly bad-looking herself, so that doesn't hurt). So we shouldn't feel too bad for scandal-sheet regular Nickie Ferrante (Grant) when we're introduced to him at the start of the glossy, late-studio-period romance An Affair to Remember, at which point he's leaving behind his French lover, and presumably many years of others like her, in the interest of future security. Nickie's on an ocean liner steaming back to the U.S. to marry the heiress whose financial largesse will keep him in tuxedos and pink champagne for a good many years to come, when he runs into the woman he's fated to fall in love with, Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr), also no slouch in the looks department. But even after the fateful meet cute -- a nicely-framed bit with a cigarette case and some snappy quips -- and all the emotional and moral confusion it causes, there's little reason to feel bad for the guy.

Whether or not one should feel concern for Nickie's state of mind is important here, because director and co-writer Leo McCarey seems to have much more on his mind here than a simple romantic soufflé. The first half of the film takes place almost entirely on the ocean liner, and it's here that the film is at its best. Although both Nickie and Terry have significant others waiting for them on the pier in New York, they can't stop from engaging in some sharp romantic badinage, setting the tongues wagging among their entertainment-starved shipmates. The first sign that the film is moving into different territory, though, is when Nickie goes ashore in France to visit his grandmother and brings Terry along. It's a lengthy and overplayed sequence at a sleepy villa in which Terry, who had previously felt impervious to Nickie's attempts at pitching woo, gets a window into his soul via the grandmother and so falls for him. McCarey also introduces an overtly religious theme here (having Terry and Nickie pray briefly in the chapel) that will come back later in an even more heavy-handed fashion.

The hook of An Affair to Remember comes almost exactly at the halfway point, and while that's the thing most people remember about the film, it also marks the start of its downhill slide. Unable to bear parting for good, the two make a plan to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months' time -- by then, the idea is that Nickie will have made an honest man of himself. It's a decent enough device as such things go, and ultimately complicated by a melodramatic plot point that ensures a few tears by the time the credits roll, but its hardly well utilized here. Once Terry and Nickie leave the liner, all the fizz leaks out of the film and never quite returns. Their respective lovers find out about the seagoing flirtation pretty quickly but seem hardly put out by it, draining any possible tension out of what remains of this surprisingly tedious film.

McCarey knew his way with comedy, that's quite clear (he marshaled the chaos of the Marx brothers into Duck Soup, after all) but the sentimental religiosity of films like The Bells of St. Mary's ultimately overtakes his better instincts here. Having developed such a personable rapport between Grant and Kerr (they improvised a lot of their roomy dialogue, and it shows, nicely), McCarey then separates them and substitutes scene after scene of filler, the most egregious of which is a childrens' choir musical number that would have been cloyingly saccharine even if it hadn't been wedged into a supposedly urbane romance.

More champagne, fewer children.

The 50th anniversary edition of the DVD is a two-disc affair with an excellent widescreen transfer that shows off the studio-glossy, late-1950s CinemaScope color camerawork to good effect. The special features are a cut above most, with short documentaries on most of the principles, and a behind-the-scenes piece from AMC.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :

Starring : , , Cathleen Nesbit, ,


An Affair To Remember Rating

" Weak "

Rating: NR, 1957


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