Classic Movie Review: An Affair to Remember (1957)

Title: An Affair to Remember
Release Date: July 19, 1957
Director: Leo McCarey
Production Company: Jerry Wald Productions, Inc.

Celebrity playboy Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) is finally going to settle down and get married. Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) is also in a long-term relationship but traveling in Europe on her own. They meet aboard a transatlantic ocean liner to New York City, and initially the movie plays like a romantic comedy with a series of meet cutes and shipboard antics.

It makes a big shift when the ship docks at a hill-town in the French Riviera and Nickie invites Terry to visit his grandmother Janou (Cathleen Nesbitt). This extended sequence is the best part of the movie as the trio spend a lovely afternoon together and Nickie and Terry form a stronger bond. Upon arriving in New York, the pair make a pact that if they still feel the way they do about one another in 6 months, they will break off their prior relationships and meet at the top of the Empire State Building.

On that day, Terry is hit by a car and severely injured, and Nickie assumes that she stood him up. This is where the movie goes downhill, because Terry assumes that she’s undesirable since she can no longer walk. The movie is steeped in every worst stereotype of people with disabilities, and it’s just awful to watch. Also, the movie gets very corny with Terry directing a chorus of precocious children (which rather progressively for the era includes Black children) while Nickie takes up painting. The sentimentality and mawkishness just get to be too much and I don’t find the conclusion all that believable.

Still, if you can find a way to just watch the Janou scene, it’s a great depiction of human warmth and joy, and an example of Leo McCarey at his best.

Rating: **