12 06 2008

“An Affair to Remember” 1957

Starring: Deborah Kerr, Cary Grant

Damn that “Sleepless In Seattle.” “An Affair to Remember” happens to be one of those remarkable classic love stories that I failed to catch as a youngster obsessed with the movies. Thanks to “Sleepless,” a film I did see, several times, I knew the whole plot line, start to finish, of the Grant-Kerr classic via Rita Wilson’s teary recount.

Luckily, “An Affair to Remember” didn’t need a flashy storyline to fall back on. I was too busy looking at the magnificent Cary Grant and the picture-perfect Deborah Kerr to worry about when and if they would fall in love/find each other/make up/live happily ever after together.

I’ve met men like Grant’s Nickie Ferrante in my life. None could quite match him in charm and sophistication, but the perpetual bachelor isn’t exactly a new idea. Throughout the film, I kept revisiting my gut suspicion that no man could fall so head-over-commitment-phobic-heels for a woman on account of loveliness alone. After all, he’s on the prowl for a woman with wealth on top of beauty, and he seems to have many more-than-adequate candidates to choose from. Yet we assume that none possess that certain spunk of Terry McKay (Kerr). She’s beautiful, without question. She’s also taken, making it that much more thrilling to observe his charismatic pursuit. We know that they will fall in love (we have, after all, seen a romance film before). Fortunately, that isn’t the point.

They both have their reasons for attempting to avoid one another. Security, they declare. Yet we know that neither one would be forced into a life on the streets if they found themselves suddenly single (and therefore plausibly available to date one another). In fact, it seems that both characters have become so acclimated to the cushy lifestyles provided and promised by their betrothed that they might just be inclined to sacrifice love. Great love.

Not so fast. There are certainly other factors interfering with their plunge into romantic bliss. Social grace, for one. It is curiously refreshing to peek into a time period where it was still important to behave with discretion in front of social acquaintances. So many people today have completely lost all sense of restraint, because spontaneity is considered a much more desirable attribute than courtesy or self-control. Yet the delay in gratification (for the couple onscreen and for the viewer) makes the ultimate fulfillment of desire so much sweeter. You’d think we’d have learned that much by now.





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