Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
USA, 1957. Jerry Wald Productions. Screenplay by Delmer Daves, Leo McCarey, Donald Ogden Stewart, from a story by Leo McCarey, Mildred Cram. Cinematography by Milton R. Krasner. Produced by Jerry Wald. Music by Hugo Friedhofer. Production Design by Jack Martin Smith,Lyle R. Wheeler. Costume Design by Charles Le Maire. Film Editing by James B. Clark.
Deborah Kerr plays a woman engaged to be married to a wealthy New York businessman, traveling from Europe to the Big Apple on an ocean liner when she meets world-class playboy Cary Grant. They fall in love, partly because Kerr is the only woman who doesn’t fall flat on her back when she sees Grant, which to him signifies a challenge. His fame and her marital status require that their romance be kept a secret so that neither of their fiancees find out, then when they reach harbour decide to meet after six months, to see if they really do want to be together, and even pick a romantic meeting spot: the top of the Empire State Building (those of you who are thinking, Wow that’s just like Sleepless In Seattle, well you’re right, but you’ve got it backwards).
There’s a sappy, pat happy ending that is all Hollywood and makes me want to throw up (after I dry my eyes, I hate this movie but it always makes me cry). Leo McCarey directs this remake of his own Love Affair, filming it in queasy colour (disgusting, overly bright colour which was the fashion for CinemaScope romances in those days), extending the running time as well. The best part of any version of this story is Grant taking Kerr on a trip to the coast of France to visit his widowed grandmother (Cathleen Nesbitt, Maria Ouspenskaya in the original 1939 version, Katharine Hepburn in the 1994 version where the scene took place on a South sea island instead of France).
It’s a testament to Kerr’s profound powers as an actress that she can take a character who could potentially be a complete ninny and make her a vibrant and passionate woman who maintains stately poise without compromising any inner passion. All in all it’s a film so purple it’s scary, but it seems to deserve its status as the most famous romance film from its time. It has all the trappings it needs: tragic story, beautiful actors, full-throated monologues, and not a hint of believability. If you have the patience, grab a Kleenex box and dive on in.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Cinematography; Best Costume Design; Best Scoring; Best Song (“An Affair To Remember”)