Dec 30, 2014

Review: An Affair to Remember (1957)

There seems to be a fair amount of disdain for An Affair to Remember because of the role it plays in the 90's Nora Ephron directed Sleepless in Seattle with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I haven't seen that movie yet, but apparently it's partially inspired by AAtR and it makes references to it multiple times. That's enough for it to have been given the ultimate chick flick moniker, but I'm not so sure that's really fair. There are definitely other movies I'd put ahead of it on that list, but that's just me.

I still find it pretty amusing that Leo McCarey directed a remake to his own movie. Eighteen years separate Love Affair and An Affair to Remember and there could be several reasons as to why he wanted to do a remake. Maybe McCarey didn't think he did the story justice the first time, or maybe he thought that it'd be cool to do the film in colour. Either way, I was interested to see what could be done with an updated version.


Genre: drama, romance
Directed by: Leo McCarey
Produced by: Jerry Wald
Written by: Delmer Daves, Donald Ogden Stewart, Leo McCarey
Music by: Hugo Friedhofer
Running time: 119 minutes
Production company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Jerry Wald Productions
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Centfox, National Broadcasting Company, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English, French
Budget: $2,120,000
Box office: $3,800,000 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning, Neva Patterson, Cathleen Nesbitt, Robert Q. Lewis, Charles Watts, Fortunio Bonanova



Infamous playboy Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) is on his way to New York to meet up with his fiance Lois Clark (Neva Patterson). By chance, he meets another passenger who he instantly takes a liking to. Terry McKary (Deborah Kerr) is a little more cautious due to Nickie's reputation as well as the attention he brings since she herself is engaged to a certain Kenneth Bradley (Richard Denning). Despite trying to cut herself off from him, they continue to meet by chance which takes things even further.


From the start, it becomes very clear that An Affair to Remember is a much richer production compared to Love Affair. The sets are more detailed, more effort is put into the establishing shots and as a whole the cinematography has matured a great deal. It also doesn't hurt that everything is in colour now, making everything have a lot more visual pop. That doesn't mean Love Affair is aged to oblivion, because it definitely isn't. It can't be denied though that AAtR is more acceptable by today's standards for a movie.

The story is exactly the same as it was in Love Affair and I'd say about 70-80% of the dialogue is the same as well. Watching LA and AAtR back-to-back was totally fine though because as I had said in my review for LA, the dialogue is a big plus. Hearing the same lines again didn't both me because there are some really great ones that are like old friends now after hearing them a second time.

Even the comedic scenes are the same, but this is where I found a bit of a weakness in McCarey's directing. This is because of two scenes which are stretched out way too long as they were in LA. One finds Nickie and Lois in the ship's restaurant at single tables back to back as everyone watches and laughs at them while the other is the arrival in New York as both characters awkwardly wave and smile at their fiances. They seemed a little stretched originally, but McCarey bloats them even further in AAtR which makes these scenes a whole lot less funny.

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are both quite good though and they successfully take the place of
Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne. Their acting is maybe a bit more cinematic than the natural takes of Boyer and Dunne, but that suited me just fine. Both are great actors who play off one another and are good in their more comedic scenes as well.

When it comes to romance, it's not really a surprise that An Affair to Remember has it in spades. There are some great moments that anyone can appreciate from the early relationship development of Nickie and Terry to the climactic scene between the two. The ending is without a doubt the film's strongest portion in the romance department and it successfully stays away from cheesy territory.

Like Love Affair though, there's one scene in particular that's just a little too melodramatic. (Spoilers) Terry finds herself in a hospital after presumably being struck by a car on her way to meet Nickie at the top of the Empire State Building. Instead of lamenting about how beautiful it all could've been, she's ranting and raving like a lunatic which makes it all a little hard to take very seriously. (End Spoilers)

At the end of the day though, the better production values of An Affair to Remember make it a better constructed film with the same great and undeniably romantic story. I don't consider myself the hardest critic to satisfy as far as romance goes, but I think An Affair to Remember deserves its place among the best of the best of the genre. It's moving when it should be, mostly on point as far as comedy and it's only bolstered further with good performances from Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.



Related Reviews:

Love Affair (1939) 
Sleepless in Seattle (1993) 
Mann (1999) 

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