An Affair To Remember: A Beloved Romantic Classic

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair To Remember. Courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

Despite being a remake of 1939’s Love Affair, Leo McCarey’s An Affair To Remember remains a beloved romantic classic to this day.

“Oh, it was nobody’s fault but my own. I was looking up. It was the nearest thing to heaven. You were there.” – Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr)

If you watch the film right after the 1939 original, it is going to look and sound very familiar. This is because the script is more or less the same. McCarey finds room for improvisation between stars Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. But otherwise, it is more or less the same. I mean, they do have to make some changes in order to justify a difference of nearly 30 minutes in its run time. Honestly, this is the part that surprises me the most! Obviously, the technology improved during the 20 year period. That just goes without saying. If you live in New York or find yourself in Manhattan on October 22, you should plan to be at the Empire State Building! The film is playing as a part of Movie Nights at the Empire State Building.

Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) meets nightclub singer Terry McKay on an ocean liner. Both are going from Europe to New York City where Lois Clark (Neva Patterson) and Kenneth Bradley (Richard Denning) are waiting for them, respectively. What Lois and Kenneth don’t know is that the duo fell in love that December. Prior to departing, they promise to meet each other on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building in six months if they still feel the same way about each other. Nicky is already up there but just like in the original, Terry rushes from her cab but gets into a car accident before they can meet. Kenneth ends up taking care of Terry because she does not tell Nicky. Neither see each other again until they’re at the ballet.

There are some key differences between the two films. Where Irene Dunne’s Terry McKay taught music at an orphanage, Kerr’s McKay teaches at a school. While the film more or less ends in the same way, the songs of choice during the film are different.

Grant and Kerr are just phenomenal. They play well off of each other in their performances. It should go without saying that Grant is always a snappy dresser. Is it just me or does he hardly ever not wear a suit of some kind when he’s on screen. They definitely don’t make them like they used to!

Given Joseph Breen’s enforcement of the Production Code, it’s a wonder that the 1939 film got a theatrical release. They had to rewrite the script in order to appease Hollywood censorship at the time. After 1934, there was strict enforcement of the Code, which had previously seen lax enforcement. Production Code enforcement was changing by the late 1930s but the film’s adultery is why Terry ends ups getting paralyzed. Where the original picked up six Oscar nominations including Outstanding Production, the 1957 remake earns Oscar nominations for Cinematography, Costume Design, Score, and Song.

An Affair To Remember would become even more popular as a result of its appearance in Sleepless in Seattle. Not surprisingly, a 1994 remake stars Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, and in her final on-screen appearance, Katharine Hepburn. What is a surprise is that the film is nowhere to be found at all in AFI’s top 100 films of all time. It’s considered one of the best romantic films of all time, coming in at #5 in the AFI 100 Years, 100 Passions list. The original is a fine film and both Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne turn in solid performances. But for right now, I’m only reviewing the 1957 remake. After all, they are the same film aside from changing some character names, run time, and film stock.

An Affair To Remember works a fine line between comedy and drama but Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr keep audiences entertained.

SCREENWRITERS: Delmer Daves and Donald Ogden Stewart and Leo McCarey
CAST: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, with Richard Denning, Neva Patterson, Cathleen Nesbitt, Robert Q. Lewis, Charles Watts, Fortunio Bonanova

20th Century Fox released An Affair To Remember in theaters on July 19, 1957. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.