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An Affair to Remember: 50th Anniversary Edition DVD Review

An Affair to Remember movie poster An Affair to Remember

Theatrical Release: July 11, 1957 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Leo McCarey

Cast: Cary Grant (Nickie Ferrante), Deborah Kerr (Terry McKay), Richard Denning (Kenneth Bradley), Neva Patterson (Lois Clark), Cathleen Nesbitt (Grandmother Janou), Robert Q. Lewis (Himself), Charles Watts (Ned Hathaway), Fortunio Bonanova (Courbet), Marni Nixon (singing voice of Terry McKay - uncredited), Brian Corcoran (5-Year-Old Boy - uncredited)

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By Aaron Wallace

An Affair to Remember has as long a lineage as nearly any film. The story was first told in Leo McCarey's 1939 classic Love Affair. Nearly twenty years later, McCarey remade his own film, relying almost entirely on the very same screenplay. He renamed his movie An Affair to Remember and remembered it has been indeed. With screen legends Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in the starring roles, the movie was a hit upon release, garnered four Oscar nominations, and often ranks highly among the most beloved romantic films of all time.
1993's Sleepless in Seattle paid homage to the movie and the very next year, Warren Beatty adapted, produced, and starred in a big budget remake alongside wife Annette Bening and Katharine Hepburn. The retelling popularized the story once again but it is the 1957 version that remains the most visible today.

The story finds famed philanderer Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) traveling alone on a cruise, having just revealed to the world his engagement to a prominent socialite. A chance encounter introduces him to Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr), a woman who is similarly engaged but unaccompanied on the ship. The pair takes an immediate liking to one another, but aware of gossip-eager passengers, they try their best to keep apart. Boats are only so big, though, and the two are repeatedly drawn to each other by some twist of fate and desire. When the trip draws to an end, they have fallen in love. Needing to first attend to their impending marriages, Nickie and Terry vow to reunite in New York when both are free. Their plans are foiled, however, when life takes an unexpected turn.

"An Affair to Remember" centers on Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) and Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant), two newly engaged socialites who meet on an ocean cruise. Having their backs against a common wall doesn't help quell the rampant gossip about Nickie and Terry.

The movie's parts are better than its whole. For starters, the acting is superb. Given the leads, that goes without saying. Cary Grant brings his trademark charm to the role, coming off as almost too likable to be believed as a playboy. Keeping pace every bit of the way is Deborah Kerr who manages to portray a woman both assertive enough to balance a hotshot like Ferrante and yet innocent enough to lose her way in love. Both stars bring a tremendous sense of reality to their characters, a truly impressive feat in an unabashed romance. This is aided by the improvised exchanges captured on the screen but is in no small part a credit to their acting prowess. Cathleen Nesbitt, who plays Nickie's grandmother, brings a lot to the table too, giving a memorable performance despite her relatively limited screentime.

Director Leo McCarey's considerable visual sensibilities are among the film's strengths as well. A number of the CinemaScope shots are astounding, even if obvious. When Terry tells her fiancée she's in love with another man, the glass door swings open to cast a reflection of the Empire State Building -- a symbol of her approaching reunion with Nickie -- standing tall beside her. Visually, this is perhaps the most stunning moment in the movie, but skillful direction and cinematography are on hand from beginning to end.

Musical duties aren't evenly divided as Terry sings, Grandmother Janou (Cathleen Nesbitt) plays piano, and Nickie just watches. Terry shares the screen with the reflected Empire State Building in one of the film's most striking shots.

But in spite of its various merits, An Affair to Remember just isn't very compelling. There's nothing especially remarkable about the story; two people meet, fall in love, and miss each other when apart. The fact that both were engaged in the beginning and that an unexpected pitfall strikes them halfway through does little to spice up the mix. Fifty years after its release, the conventions of the romance film are even more tired today than they were in 1957. So while the movie is as good as many other forgotten oldies, it's remarkable that it has persisted so long.

I suspect its longevity is largely attributable to the ending, a masterfully acted scene that packs a powerful punch. In that alone, the movie locks up its status as an all-time chick flick. I hate to reduce a film of this status down to those two easy words but I can't imagine this movie having significant appeal beyond the female demographic that ate up The Notebook in 2004. Otherwise, there's a lot to appreciate and the ending alone makes a viewing worthwhile, but the movie won't keep its hold on you after the credits roll.

First released on a single-disc DVD in 2003, An Affair to Remember is reissued this week in 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's new 50th Anniversary Edition. The moniker is about a half-year off, as the movie was released in the summer of 1957. Nevertheless, fans will welcome the new 2-Disc set, which is profiled below.

Buy An Affair to Remember: 50th Anniversary Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital Stereo (English, French),
Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: January 15, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 & DVD-5)
Standard black keepcase with cardboard slipcover


The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, enhanced for 16x9 screens. The picture is beautiful and, for a movie of this age, nearly flawless.
Very occasional and very mild edge enhancement turns up but won't be noticed without effort. Colors are bright and for the most part, nicely contrasted. The biggest problem is that the colors sometimes appear unnatural, which is to some extent expected. Without the previous DVD release in my possession, I can't make a proper comparison, but research suggests that there is only the slightest improvement on this new edition, not the kind that would warrant an upgrade alone.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and I viewed it on a stereo system, where it sounded quite good. Though sometimes restrained as older films tend to be, the dialogue is usually very easy to hear and volume levels are consistent. A stereo French track and mono Spanish track are also offered.

Cary Grant's fifth and most recent wife, Barbara Grant Jaynes, talks about the lessons she learned from her superstar husband, who was a half-decade older than she was. Director Leo McCarey with the legendary Cary Grant on the set of "An Affair to Remember." "The Look of 'An Affair to Remember'" demonstrates director Leo McCarey's hesitance to position characters outside the boundaries of the Academy Ratio.


Disc 1 offers a single bonus feature, a feature-length audio commentary by film critic/historian Joseph McBride and Marni Nixon, the singing voice for Terry McKay (and the leads in My Fair Lady and The King and I, for that matter). Though Nixon is unquestionably the better known of the two (even if the case misspells her rarely credited name), McBride overwhelmingly dominates the commentary, which is pieced together from separately recorded sessions with each.
While a dull tone and lack of inflection keep this from being an easy listen, the track is filled with some truly brilliant observations from McBride and worthwhile memories from Nixon.

Disc 2 begins with a series of short documentaries. "Affairs to Remember: Deborah Kerr" (5:34) and "Affairs to Remember: Cary Grant" (9:48) profile the respective stars in brief, though it's not their career that is highlighted, but rather their personalities. Neither actor lives today but the most recent spouse to each is on hand to talk about what made them special. Deborah Kerr died only a few months ago; her husband's passing followed only a few weeks later, so the interview must have been among the last while they were still living. This DVD is a fitting tribute (and an example of why studios shouldn't put off commemorative interviews with aging legends) but casual fans will probably lament the absence of a career retrospective in favor of the personal reflections approach taken here.

The next two documentaries strike just the opposite disposition, emphasizing filmographies in "Directed by Leo McCarey" (22:32) and "A Producer to Remember: Jerry Wald" (16:06). As they're more relevant to works that viewers might be familiar with (namely, the TCM crowd), they're more satisfying than the Kerr and Grant biographies. It's not every DVD that goes out of its way to cover a director, let alone a producer, so kudos to Fox for doing it here.

"The Look of An Affair to Remember" (9:01) is a more substantive featurette that deals directly with the movie, considering its cinematographic techniques and the virtues thereof. Particularly interesting is the talk about McCarey's transition from the Academy Ratio to CinemaScope filming. There's a little overlap with the commentary but there's still enough revelation here to make it worth watching.

Rosie O'Donnell and Meg Ryan recite the dialogue of "An Affair to Remember" in "Sleepless in Seattle", as seen in the AMC Backstory episode. A young Shelley Winters arrives to the premiere of "An Affair to Remember" alongside Tony Franciosa, as seen in the DVD's Movietone newsreel. Cary Grant knocks at Deborah Kerr's door in Disc 1's static, muddy-colored main menu.

By far the best thing on either disc is "AMC Backstory: An Affair to Remember" (24:26). While not too lengthy, it's the most all-encompassing of the disc's featurettes.
The episode provides a nice overview of the film's origins, production, reception, and legacy.

"Fox Movietonews: An Affair to Remember Shipboard Premiere Attracts Celebrities" is a vintage 1-minute Movietone newsreel that covers a few celebrity arrivals at the film's premiere, held on an actual ship. Among the stars seen are Celeste Holm and Shelley Winters. Fox gets kudos here again for including something that might not have been expected but is certainly appreciated.

The theatrical trailer (2:53) is included as well, though it plays out more like a promo piece than any conventional preview. It's always fascinating to look back at how popular films were marketed to the public in their time and this is no exception.

Finally, the disc offers two image galleries which are oddly found outside the Special Features menu, located instead on Disc 2's main menu. "Poster Gallery" offers only two images (and a giggle when you realize that's all there is). "Still Gallery" fares better, with thirty images that include images from the movie (most of them black-and-white) and behind-the-scenes production photos. Spreading this modest collection into multiple sections and sticking them on the main menu seems like an effort to make the disc seem fuller than it really is, but the images are nevertheless welcome.

The DVD carries over everything from the previous DVD release, less a handful of trailers for other movies. The four documentaries, cinematography featurette, and poster gallery are all new to this edition, as are some of the images in the larger gallery.

For its main menu, each disc offers a 16x9-enhanced still screen, disappointingly featuring no animation whatsoever. The same bit of score plays over both, but submenus are silent. The screens don't look bad but one might expect more effort from a double-disc 50th Anniversary Edition.

The discs come inside a black keepcase that is housed inside a cardboard slipcover. The case and the sleeve feature the same picture, only the case is intentionally more colorful. The discs feature the very same picture as well, again with one being given more color. Inside is a four-page scene selection insert that also features a short article about the movie. Next to that is an envelope with four snazzy black-and-white reprints of An Affair to Remember lobby cards inside.

For some moments in life there are no words. Nickie and Terry's bar neighbors perk up in the hopes of obtaining juicy gossip.


An Affair to Remember is actually pretty easy to forget. The acting and cinematography sustain a viewing, but it's story that stays with an audience more than performances or technical achievements. The ending scene aside, this film isn't strong enough to justify its lofty standing among cinema's romances. Fans of that genre, however, have clearly formed a bond with the movie so suckers for a sob story should probably see it. For everyone else, the narrative isn't universally interesting enough to satisfy.

Fox's 50th Anniversary Edition DVD offers some improvement over the previous release, but not much. Carrying over everything, offering no significant upgrade in picture or sound quality, and adding only a couple of decent bonus features, the new release isn't destined to replace anyone's existing DVD unless they're diehard fans. If you've never bought the movie but suspect that it might strike your fancy, the supreme video transfer and a couple of entertaining featurettes should be sufficient to gratify you.

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Related Reviews:
Funny Face: 50th Anniversary Edition (1957) • When Harry Met Sally...: Collector's Edition (1989)
Old Yeller: 2-Movie Collection (1957-63) • The Graduate: 40th Anniversary Edition (1967)
Esther Williams Collection, Volume 1 (1944-53) • The Princess Bride: 20th Anniversary Edition (1987)
Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & MagicThe Hustler: Collector's Edition (1961)

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Reviewed January 15, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1957 20th Century Fox and 2008 Fox Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.