The swoony romantic melodrama An Affair to Remember doesn't touch the depths of a Douglas Sirk picture, but it has its selling points. A prime slab of '50s beef directed by veteran Leo McCarey (Duck Soup, Make Way for Tomorrow, The Awful Truth), the picture includes CinemaScope photography and four gratuitous songs, including "An Affair to Remember (Our Love Affair)," sung by Vic Damone over the opening credits. But the real reason An Affair to Remember escaped from cable purgatory (no, not its celebration in Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle) is the pair of top-billed actors: Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.
With this remake of 1939's Love Affair, McCarey decided not to fix what weren't broke, making few changes to the original script by Delmer Daves and Donald Ogden Stewart (McCarey and Mildred Cram get credit for the new screenplay). Grant plays Nickie Ferrante, the archetypal international playboy. When the film opens, Ferrante is taking an ocean liner from Europe to New York, where his fiancée awaits to finally make an honest man of him. But fate intervenes when he can't seem to avoid fellow passenger Terry McKay (Kerr), who also happens to be engaged. Since Ferrante and his engagement are big news, people begin to talk, and even though Nickie and Terry make every effort to be apart, they keep comically—and publicly—colliding.
Drawn to each other's wit and charm, the two decide to spend some platonic time together away from prying eyes, as Nickie visits his grandmother (Cathleen Nesbitt) during a stopover in the French Riviera. Well, seeing Nickie with his dear old grandmother and learning of his sensitive soul prove too much for Terry, and Nickie, too, knows he's met one in a million. So the pair agree to meet in six month's time at the top of the Empire State Building, giving them enough time and decorum to dispatch with their romantic commitments, assuming of course they don't change their minds. But just as fate had a funny way of bringing them together, it has a tragic way of keeping them apart, with circumstances further complicated by shame and self-doubt.
The light farce of the film's first act is so deft that the picture's midsection inevitably sags, and the forced charm of Terry's classroomful of choir students singing the corn-syrupy "The Tiny Scout (He Knows You Inside Out)" is an all-too-transparent attempt at an "eleven o'clock lift." But Grant and Kerr are terrific together (their easy charm coming in part from an invitation to improvise a bit), and whenever they share the screen, all is forgiven, never more so than in the devastating emotional nakedness of the film's final moments. "Weepies" may not be high art, but for those who love them, An Affair to Remember is the Mona Lisa.
Fox's handsome Digibook Blu-ray release for An Affair to Remember gives the picture a substantial A/V upgrade: the film looks and sounds outstanding in hi-def. Short of a full film restoration, An Affair to Remember won't look much better than this. The source is clean, the contrast quite fine, and the color attractive (though you may notice it waver on occasion), and the overall impression is a noticeable improvement from standard def DVDs bothered by compression struggles. The Blu-ray also comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that takes advantage of the film's original surround-sound design: while no barn-burner, the mix maximizes the film's impact.
All previous bonus features from this key Fox catalog title have been retained, starting with an audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride, with singer Marni Nixon.
"Affairs to Remember: Deborah Kerr" (5:34, SD) sits Kerr's husband Peter Viertel for a brief interview about their relationship.
"Affairs to Remember: Cary Grant" (9:48, SD) does the same with Grant's fifth wife, Barbara Harris.
"Directed by Leo McCarey" (22:33, SD) examines McCarey's career with film historians including director Peter Bogdanovich.
"A Producer to Remember: Jerry Wald" (16:06, SD) gives an overview of Wald's life and output.
"The Look of An Affair to Remember" (9:01, SD) examines the design and photography of the film.
"AMC Backstory: An Affair to Remember" (24:27, SD) discusses the film's path to the screen, highs and lows of production, and the film's reception and legacy.
"Fox MovieTone News: An Affair to Remember Shipboard Premiere Attracts Celebrities" (:56, SD) is a bit of vintage newsreel promotion, and we also get the film's "Trailer" (2:53, SD).
The Digibook adds value with twenty-five pages of info (including cast bios) and full-color photographic illustration, but the main thing here is the special edition disc giving the film a lift into high definition.
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