An Affair to Remember (1957)

Directed by Leo McCarey

I recall reading something by Doris Lessing years ago. At least I think it was Doris Lessing – let’s assume I’m right. Anyway … She said every book has its time. I took this in two ways (and applicable to movies as much as books – applicable to any artistic work).

A book or movie has its time publicly, meaning the entire culture, and it has its time privately, meaning the individual. Sometimes these may coincide. A book has significance for the society, or an individual, at a particular time in its, hers or his life. For example, there were books I read and re-read when I was younger but which today I find difficult to get past the first few pages. The works haven’t changed; I have.

In the case of An Affair to Remember, I’ve watched this movie many times. Each time I do, I get to the end and think, “What was all the fuss about? Why is it so popular?” I’ve never been able to watch this movie and get much more from it then a feeling that it was just okay. Sometimes I’ve simply found it dull.

But I keep going back to it, maybe because I’ve always loved Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr (not in the movie but their overall work). The other day I watched it again and … it finally clicked. I really enjoyed it.

For some reason, I was in the right zone for the movie. It finally worked for me. It was the perfect movie for whatever mood I was in when I watched it.

Having said that I also have to say I think it’s sentimental tripe. I don’t care what anyone says or how much they enjoy it, this is not a good movie. It’s over the top, it’s manipulative, and it commits the unpardonable crime of giving Grant and Kerr some of the worst lines of their careers.

(I feel so awful for Cary Grant at the film’s end with some of the rubbish he has to say and the anguished filled look on his face as he says them – the poor bastard.)

The first half of the movie works best, before it gets to its horribly melodramatic final act. Although it plods along, it’s saved by Grant and Kerr and the wonderful way they work together. They quip back and forth briskly and move around one another, almost dance, in a magnificently entertaining and engaging way.

In fact, they’re almost too good. Everyone else in the film, and every scene, appear to be static in comparison. It’s not that the pair are necessarily moving a lot in the film. It’s more a feeling of movement they create by the way they interact simply verbally. The film’s pace is almost all in their dialogue.

It’s not surprising, then, that the movie nose dives when the plot requires that they be separated. Once that happens, the sense of plodding melodrama becomes acute.

When they are finally reunited, at the end, they are forced to articulate lines the equivalent of really bad Hallmark cards. It’s wretched.

Still, for some reason I finally watched it and enjoyed it.

To be honest, this isn’t saying much. There are some nights when I’ve even enjoyed appalling television shows. There are days when you just need to see some crap in order to turn off your brain.

But it doesn’t shut down forever. An Affair to Remember is essentially soap opera. It hopes to capitalize on cheap emotion. The overall look is pedestrian (what a dull visual look it has!).

I don’t think I would mind so much if I didn’t like Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr the way I do. This film is just so … ughhh! I like romantic comedies. I like romance period. But not when it has the credibility of a three dollar bill. And not when it has absolutely no sense at all for subtlety.

On Amazon:


  1. Pingback: Piddleville » Blog Archive » When is a movie a Christmas movie?

  2. Pingback: Even big stars can’t bring sense to a muddle | Piddleville

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *