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Film / An Affair to Remember

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An Affair to Remember (1957), starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, is one of the all-time classic Hollywood romances.

A remake of Love Affair (1939) by the same director, Leo McCarey, An Affair to Remember tells the story of Terry McKay, a nightclub singer from Boston who's engaged to a rather wealthy fellow who wants to turn her into a proper lady of Society. Returning from a solo trip to Europe on an ocean liner, she meets Nicolo "Nickie" Ferrante, a notorious playboy who has just got engaged to the heiress Lois Clark. They begin to develop feelings for each other, but decide that they should avoid each other due to their respective engagements. After Fate throws them together time and again, the liner makes a stop in Villefrance, where Nickie invites Terry to come with him and visit his grandmother Janou. It is on this visit that Terry's eyes are opened to who Nickie truly is, an artist with a gentle soul who adores his Grandmother. As Janou plays the piano and Terry sings the title song (in French), their eyes meet, and they can't deny their feelings anymore. That night, on the deck of the ship, they kiss. On the last night they throw caution to the wind, dancing together on New Year's Eve. They move out to the deck, where they make plans to meet again in six months on the top of the Empire State Building. If they still want to be together, they'll find some way to make it work.

The six months pass, and Nickie arrives at the top of the Empire State Building. Terry, anxious to meet him, jumps out of the cab and begins to run, only to be mowed down by a passing car. Nickie, unaware of what has transpired, feels she has abandoned him and sinks into a depression. Terry, paralyzed from the waist down, gets a job teaching music. The latter half of the movie contains some truly heinous sequences involving singing children that most viewers skip over nowadays. One night, they run into each other at the ballet, each escorted by their respective significant others. They exchange an awkward "hello", which spawned one of the most immortal lines in film: "All I could say was 'hello'!" Terry laments.

A year after they first met, on Christmas, Nickie stops by to bring Terry his grandmother's shawl. Terry understands the significance of this... Janou had promised the shawl to her, and from this, she knows that Janou has passed away. Terry discovers that Nickie has been painting to support himself, and that he painted her wearing that shawl. He didn't want to part with it, he said, but a young crippled woman came into the shop and liked it, he said, so he gave it to her. As he says this, a flash of understanding crosses her face. Seeing it, and realizing for the first time that she has not risen from the couch, Nickie crosses the room and throws the door open, only to see the painting on the wall. Within seconds he has her in his arms, whispering, "Why didn't you tell me? If it had to happen to one of us, why did it have to be you?" in a line that, had it been delivered by anyone other than Cary Grant, would have been chock full of Narm. She tearfully responds, "Oh, darling, don't worry, darling. If you can paint I can walk... anything can happen, don't you think?"

Tropes Used:

  • Arc Words: Arguably, 'pink champagne' - symbolizing the glamour of their former lives and what they are giving up for each other.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Nicolo and Lois attend a ballet, and Nicolo looks like he wants to be anywhere but there.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Terry still can't walk and the couple has had to give up their old, fashionable lifestyles, but they're reunited by the end.
  • Book Ends: The opening credits of the film are played over a snowy shot of New York. The “The End” card is also placed over the same shot.
  • Dance of Romance: Terry and Nickie's romantic dance on the ocean liner.
  • Diegetic Musical: Not typically classified as a musical, but does contain multiple song sequences, sung in-universe, including the infamous children's choir sequences.
  • Disposable Fiancé: The opening scene establishes Nickie's engagement. Terry has a boyfriend of five years, and though he's never proposed to her, it's to the same effect.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Terry and Nickie meet on an ocean liner, fall in love, and decide to separate from their partners and marry each other in just a few days' time. They do agree to wait for several months before meeting up again, but their time apart doesn't sway either of them at all.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Terry is a redhead.
  • Honor Before Reason: Terry refuses to let Ken pay for her to get better and be able to walk again because she thinks Nickie wouldn't approve, she knows Nickie can't afford it, and she thinks it would be ungrateful of her to let Ken give her back her mobility and then go marry someone else.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Ken wants to inform Nickie of Terry's condition, but she shoots the idea down.
  • Kissing Discretion Shot: Their first, passionate kiss on the stairs.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Nickie is The Casanova who bounces around from woman to woman. Though he's not exactly in love with the woman he's going to be marrying, he falls fast and hard for Terry.
  • Nice Guy: Ken takes Terry's abrupt change of heart pretty well and just wants to help.
  • Pink Is Erotic: The movie's use of a pink opening sequence and pink champagne is used to emphasise the positive sensuality of Terry and Nickie's affair.
  • Pretty in Mink: Terry wears a few furs, including a mink coat and a chinchilla wrap. Lois at the ballet wears a white mink wrap with a dress that has a white mink neckline.
  • Shot-for-Shot Remake: It's an extremely well-done remake of Love Affair (1939). It itself was the subject of a remake, also called Love Affair (1994), which unfortunately... wasn't done quite so well.
  • Shout-Out: Features heavily in Sleepless in Seattle.
  • Stood Up: Nickie is stood up on the day he and Terry were supposed to meet. Of course, he has no idea she was hit by a car.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: Terry gets hit by a car, meaning she can't meet up with Nickie as promised. As these are the days before cell phones or rapid communication, Nickie thinks she's stood him up and departs.