An Affair to Remember

 

An Affair to Remember

Written by Delmer Daves & Leo McCarey

Directed by Leo McCarey

1957


Cast:

Cary Grant

Deborah Kerr

Cathleen Nesbitt

Richard Denning

Neva Patterson


Studio:

Theatrical:  Jerry Wald Productions

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


Video:

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 44.04 GB

Feature Size: 37.73 GB

Avg. Video Bit Rate: 37.49 Mbps

Runtime: 119 minutes

Chapters: 20

Region: All

 

Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (original stereo)

French Dolby Digital 2.0

Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

English Dolby Digital 2.0 (commentary)

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, French & Spanish

 

Extras:

• Commentary by Film Historian Joseph McBride and Singer Marni Nixon
• Affairs to Remember - Deborah Kerr (5:32)

• Affairs to Remember - Cary Grant (9:47)

• Directed by Leo McCarey (22:33)

• A Producer to Remember: Jerry Wald (15:59)

• The Look of Affair to Remember (8:53)

• AMC Backstory: "An Affair to Remember" (24:27)
• Movietone Newsreel (1:00)

• Theatrical Trailer

• 26-page Digibook with photos and essays

 

Presentation:

Digibook Blu-ray case: BD x 1

Release Date: February 1, 2011



Introduction:

It’s a story that has captured the hearts of moviegoers since its first incarnation as “Love Affair” in 1939 with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne.  Eighteen years later the same director, Leo McCarey, who had made his mark with Duck Soup and the earlier discovery of Laurel & Hardy, remade his own movie, re-titled “An Affair to Remember” (with a knockout title song that, astonishingly, lost the Oscar to “The Joker is Wild,” which, as we know, lingers on the tip of everyone’s memory).  The 1957 version stars Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr and is arguably the best of the bunch.  As much as I adore Boyer and Dunne, you can leave out the “arguably.”  In 1993, Nora Ephron wrote and directed “Sleepless in Seattle.”  Cleverly based on An Affair to Remember, even if not exactly a remake, she gets around the now out of fashion idea that a marriage requires that the husband be its sole CFO.


     


The Score Card

 

The Movie : 8>6

They make quite a pair: Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr), a kept woman, and Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant), a kept man.  Nickie, a playboy of the western world, comes from money but he prefers to live off the attentions and kindness of wealthy women.  Terry enjoys the life that her boyfriend’s money affords her.  (For reasons we can probably surmise, he has never proposed to her.) Terry and Nickie and both sophisticated and damn attractive.  Not unimportantly, both have avocations - he, a painter; she, a singer, but neither has given more than a passing thought to making an honest living from them.


     


As the movie begins, Nickie is on his way on board the SS Constitution (the very same ship that Grace Kelly sailed on her way to her wedding) from Paris to New York where, as we learn from the contemporary equivalent of Entertainment Tonight, he is expected marry, at long last and for the first time, the exceedingly wealthy and not half bad looking Lois Clark (Neva Patterson).  He has lost a gold cigarette case given to him by his latest fling, and who should find it but Terry.  Theirs is a delicious game of cat and mouse, part of which game’s charm is that sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which or who is who.  Terry sensibly keeps Nickie at arm’s length despite, and because, of a keen interest in what may happen between them on the part of the entire ship’s company - passengers and crew alike.


     


What turns the tables on both of them, since neither is interested in much more than a flirtation, is an early port of call to Nickie’s grandmother on which Terry comes along as a dare.  But she is totally unprepared for this woman (a radiant Cathleen Nesbitt), who will likely have you in tears from her first embrace of Nickie as if it is her first and her last.  At first she mistakes Terry for his fiance, but is quickly corrected, though she sees just as quickly that Terry is the woman he should marry, and dons her matchmaker’s hat that she keeps next to piano to turn both their lives around.


While the next fifteen minutes affords some of its most charming and witty moments, as when the pair exchange knowing glances about their respective intendeds as the ship docks, the film adopts a keen sense of seriousness, an awareness of a fate that could spell their personal shipwrecks, which turns darker and bleaker as the story progresses.  The scene where Terry’s boyfriend (sympathetically played by Richard Denning) realizes that she is in love with Ferrante, is really quite devastating, especially for the breezy romantic comedy it has largely been up to then.


     


One thing about the screenplay that no doubt rang with considerable more authority in 1957 than anytime in past couple of decades is that, while both Grant and Kerr come out better persons for their faithfulness, Kerr is still expected to remain a kept woman, which is what she was with Denning, only without the sanction of marriage.


On a more critical note: I have never been entirely happy with McCarey’s re-telling of this story.  What begins as a smart, romantic, warm screenplay with moments so tender you could weep, and do, devolves into sentimental rubbish by the end.  I think the decline begins with one too many choruses of children singing their hearts out - the one around Terry’s bedside is just too much, throwing the film’s delicate balance way out of kilter. 


The final scene begins well enough, with some of the film’s best dialogue, as Nickie and Terry play a very different cat and mouse game, this time as they try to sort out how the other has been faring since 5:00 on that afternoon some six months ago when Terry did not show for her appointed rounds.  But Terry has set up an impossible situation for Nickie in this scene: she watches, in contrived helplessness, as his bitterness becomes so palpable a lesser man would behave badly. How could she infllict such punishment and still entertain any hope he would come back to her in the future!  It is only by accident that they are both saved from a fate worse than any loss of love could bear.  When Grant tells Kerr “If it had to be one of us why did it have to be you!” I don’t believe a word he says.  I even wondered if he does.  Give me Going My Way or Bells of St. Mary’s any day.


     

 

Image : 7/8

Not that memory could be of any help here, for I did not see An Affair to Remember in the theater when it first came out.  That said, I have a purely subjective opinion about how this movie should look that is at odds with Fox’s Blu-ray presentation.  Simply put, I feel the Blu-ray is too dark overall.  It lacks warmth or fancy.  There just isn’t the romance that I should have thought would be the filmmaker’s intention.  Black levels seem to be enhanced, and though never really black, they result in an image drearier than it should be.  The color suffers most in dark scenes where flesh tones become almost oversaturated.  Yes, we understand that Nickie should have a tan as befits his playboy image, but Cary Grant is unattractively dark, as if his tan were applied with a toner.  I suspect that the film’s lack of brightness accounts in part for its apparent lack of sharpness, which isn’t really poor, it just seems that way.  In other respects the image is artifact-free and minus distracting blemishes.


As for the aspect ratio, starting in 1953, CinemaScope permitted numbers as dramatic as 2.66:1, but had reduced itself to 2.35:1 by the time this movie came out in order to accommodate new soundtrack configurations.  In any case An Affair to Remember hardly needs any more width than it has.


     

 

Audio & Music : 6/9

According to the IMDB, the original mix for An Affair to Remember is “Stereo”.  However, the movie is also CinemaScope, and it was usually the case that this format was presented in four channels (two for the surround, not necessarily discrete).  In any case the movie to 5.1, while not far off the original intention, and unexpectedly I thought, results in a reedy Deborah Kerr that I found less than pleasant. I think that this is not due to the move to 5.1 so much as it is that the lossless track reveals the shortcomings of the original soundtrack which the Dolby Digital smooths over.  The Dolby Digital 2-channel audio track, while it lacks the nuance of the DTS-HD MA, will be more agreeable to some listeners for this reason. In other respects, for shipboard and traffic effects, and music (as when Grant and Kerr are in Grandmother Janou’s chapel and for the later boy’s choir) is very effective.  Marni Nixon’s dubbing for Ms. Kerr for her various songs is exquisite and, as always with Ms. Nixon, who also dubbed for the actress in The King and I, is totally convincing as a mime.


     

 

Extras : 7

All the Extra Features that appeared on the 2-disc 50th Anniversary DVD edition are here once again.  While still in 480i, some of them, particularly the documentaries on McCarey and Wald, look very good indeed upscaled by my OPPO onto a 104 inch screen.  The “Affairs of Gary Grant. . . and Deborah Kerr” are probably not what you might expect or hope for; they are hosted in turn by each of their respective real-life marriage partners.  The commentary could be more informative and more engaging than it is.  On the other hand, both “Directed by Leo McCarey” and “A Producer to Remember” are excellent biographies and should not be missed.


     

 

Recommendation : 7

I am of two minds about this new Blu-ray.  Given Fox’s priority Digibook presentation, An Affair to Remember is about as good looking and sounding as we expect to see it for years to come, and there is no doubt that, my reservations about color aside, this is the best version available.  Fox should be commended for their Digibook presentation: there are numerous photos and a few very nice, if brief, essays tossed in for good measure.


     


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

February 1, 2011


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