DATELINE: Nearest Thing to Heaven
You cannot judge An Affair to Remember by any normal standard of film-making. Since its 1957 debut, Leo McCarey’s dinosaur storyline and archaic approach passes for classic movie-making.
The film has anachronisms abounding, but cast that aside. It is the cast he assembled and has given them reins of control. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are at the peak of their careers, slightly past the middle-age that would soon have them by-passed by a new Hollywood.
The film’s plot is a trifle, yet elegant, charming, sophisticated, and sentimental. Your stars are clearly not typical American celebrities, and they play social climbers way ahead of their social standing, ready to plunge into high society by means of deceptive façade. Any fault in this movie does not lie in the stars.
On a ship voyage to the United States, Cary and Deborah have a frothy, light comedy of interplay, under the watchful eye of paparazzi and gossip. It’s a pink champagne tale. Engaged to money, they both eschew this for true love before it’s too late.
Interspersed here is a small role by Cathleen Nesbitt as Cary’s grandmother. She’s closer to the age of his real mother, but no matter. The trio of actors know something about loss: Nesbitt in her youth was engaged to marry the beautiful poet Rupert Brooke when he was killed in World War I. Grant went through multiple marriages and gave up Randy Scott.
Add a melody that remains an emotional stake in the heart, replayed constantly to put tragedy next to love. It isn’t a mid-life Tristan and Isolde, but it will do.
The film may cause you to weep through a box of Kleenex. If not, you are a victim of Medusa’s stony glare. You cannot watch the final 15 minutes of the film and not find two actors in better form anywhere.