Sunday, July 02, 2017

A Love That Would Not Be Denied

"There must be something between us, even if it's only an ocean."

Nickie (Cary Grant)

I'm not the kind of person who is interested in romantic movies.

But, as a writer, I do appreciate a good story, even if it is a romance — and "An Affair to Remember," which made its debut on this day in 1957, was both.

It was such a good story that more than 35 years after it was playing in theaters, it was mentioned frequently in "Sleepless in Seattle," sparking something of a revival. How much of a revival? Well, sales of the video tape went up by some 2 million copies.

Make no mistake, though. "An Affair to Remember" was melodramatic, and the story might not seem as good if someone remade the movie, scene for scene, today. You would certainly have to make some concessions. The world of 1957, after all, was quite different in many ways from the world of 2017, but I think it could be done.

In some ways, it might even be better.

Take, for example, the addiction so many people have to smartphones. Every day I see people walking along on sidewalks with their eyes glued to their smartphone screens, completely oblivious to what is going on around them. Late in the movie when Deborah Kerr's character was struck by an automobile while she was crossing the street, the reason that was given was that she was in a hurry to her meeting with Cary Grant at the Empire State Building and simply wasn't paying attention. It would certainly be plausible for her character to be so engrossed in her smartphone that she walked into oncoming traffic — but it might imply that the woman was more interested in her smartphone than the rendezvous she was on her way to keep.

(Actually, "An Affair to Remember" was a remake of a 1939 movie starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer, "Love Affair.")

Yes, an updated story could be an improvement, but how could you top the casting of Grant and Kerr? Actually, Grant might have been paired with Ingrid Bergman or Doris Day. Both were considered for the role — and both would have been good, although their interpretations of the role would have been different. And "An Affair to Remember" would have been a different movie.

As it is, the American Film Institute judged it to be the fifth–best movie love story of all time — behind "Casablanca," "Gone With the Wind," "West Side Story" and "Roman Holiday."

Based on that, you would have to conclude that the right casting choices were made (Bergman, of course, was the female lead in "Casablanca").

To modern audiences, the story must seem almost laughable. Grant and Kerr met on an ocean liner. Although each was involved with someone else, they developed a friendship that quickly evolved into something deeper.

Upon their arrival in New York, they agreed to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in six months — if they had split up with their significant others and embarked on new careers.

On the appointed day Kerr's character was struck down by a car and taken to a hospital. In the meantime, Grant's character waited at the top of the Empire State Building for hours, finally conceding that Kerr wasn't coming.

Eventually, I suppose, the moral of the story was that love will find a way. Grant and Kerr were reunited at the end, pursuing professional interests both had suppressed for years.

"An Affair to Remember" was nominated for four Academy Awards — Best Original Score, Best Original Song (sung by Kerr's character in the movie but actually dubbed by renowned singer Marni Nixon — who also dubbed for Natalie Wood in "West Side Story"), Best Costume Design and Best Cinematography — and lost all four.