An Affair to Remember (1957)
An Affair to Remember (1957)

Genre: Romantic Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.

Release Date: July 19th, 1957 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Leo McCarey Actors: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning, Neva Patterson, Cathleen Nesbitt, Fortunio Bonanova

 


 

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ews outlets across the world pick up the story of Niccolo “Nickie” Ferrante (Cary Grant), the big dame hunter, who is finally going out of circulation with his upcoming wedding to industrial heiress Lois Clark (Neva Patterson). Sailing from Europe to New York, he’ll join his fiancee shortly, much to the dismay of a long list of former flames, who are angered to learn of the existence of a soon-to-be bride. “I cheat; it’s an addiction,” Nickie warns about a game of bridge, though he’s dually referring to his track record with women.

“We ought to take advantage of every moment.” During the sea voyage, Nickie runs into Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr), a beautiful woman traveling alone, who makes for a prime target for his well-rehearsed pick-up lines. But his sizable ego is no match for her experience with flirtatious men seeking momentary conquests. Nevertheless, she dines with him that evening, analyzing his wily ways, while also arranging additional time the following day to discuss her upbringing and her steady boyfriend. “Right or wrong, people will talk,” Terry asserts, suggesting that they keep their distance for the remaining few days on the ship – though that will be difficult, considering their close proximity, their shared plans to avoid all the gossiping people on board, and their unavoidable attraction toward one another.

The more they try to stay apart, the more they’re drawn together. Such is the nature of this ’50s romantic comedy, which begins with gaiety, laughs, and plenty of lightly seductive banter (along with Vic Damone’s title tune). But it’s not long before they’re madly in love, rather spontaneously forgetting their lengthier entanglements back in the States. During a brief stopover at Ferrante’s grandmother’s home, viewers get to learn a few more details about the couple, though it’s a touch one-sided, attempting to exonerate Nickie from his moderately negative portrayal as an insuppressible playboy; he’s the one who needs to appear more wholesome and trustworthy, in order for McKay to be comfortable with her dalliances.

Slowly but surely, the comedy wanes, replaced by the heavier, dramatic notes of true love stifled by existing relationship complications. Partly due to the conservativeness of the era, and partly thanks to some impressive artistry, Nickie and Terry’s first kiss takes place halfway offscreen – a terribly romantic, significant union that comes to symbolize the restraint and intricacies in having an affair, especially when fame keeps prying eyes perpetually present. Amusingly, both Nickie and Terry are the beautiful yet impractical people about to wed wealthy counterparts, which is vocalized when they discuss having to work for the first time in their lives; all the fancy things they’re accustomed to have been provided by others. But with real love on the line, a few months of hard work might just be manageable.

“He’ll never be able to support you!” And so, famously, the couple makes a pact to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months, giving them time to sort out their personal lives and to determine whether or not their feelings have endured. At this point, the straightforward humor all but vanishes, materializing in its place the discomfort of two couples who are perfectly wrong for one another, struggling to extricate themselves back into connubial freedom.

Moments for painting and singing stretch out the running time, but as the fateful rendezvous nears, there’s the nagging sense that something unexpected might interfere at the last second. Although a startling contrivance does indeed intervene, it’s the sort of plot device that other films would end up borrowing in the years to come for their own nail-biting hiccups in romance; here, there’s still an acceptable freshness around what could have been a detrimentally dubious twist. By the end, with a looming confrontation to straighten out – or to reunite – the two lovers, the lulls (including far too many musical sequences) are easy enough to forgive; the finale is absolutely breathtaking and tearjerking.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10