The MovieMovieBlogBlog had a great idea for a holiday blogathon. Each post would present a movie to someone as a gift this Christmas season. As soon as I saw this, I knew exactly what movie I wanted to present and to whom.
Presenting An Affair to Remember to the love of my life, my husband Carl in memory of Gran.
An Affair to Remember, the 1957 movie directed by Leo McCary starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr is one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever seen. Some call is cheesy; some say it’s cliche. In it, I find beauty. It isn’t just the romantic love story that sets this film apart, though; it is the relationship that Carl Grant shares with his grandmother, beautifully portrayed by Cathleen Nesbitt, that elevates this film into magic.
Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) and Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) meet on a cross Atlantic cruise, both of them en route to meet wealthy fiancees. In spite of their commitments elsewhere, Nickie and Terry are attracted to each other, and one of the great love stories of film history begins. Because both are worried about their wealthier other halves finding out, the affair is conducted with the utmost discrepancy.
Aware of Nicky’s reputation as a playboy– He’s referred to in the press as a “Big Dame Hunter”– Terry is reluctant to admit her feelings for him; meanwhile, Nicky is unused to the sincere feeling that Terry has inspired in him. The longer they know each other, however, the more obvious it becomes that the two are destined, not for their currently intended mates, but for each other.
When the ship docks Madeira, Nicky invites Terry to go ashore with him. Terry is stunned when their destination is a lovely villa, the home of his grandmother, his janou (Cathleen Nesbitt). There, Terry discovers that Nicky is an artist a heart. She is touched by how much he loves his grandmother. This is the heart of the film, itself. Nesbitt’s performance is magical. As she plays the piano with her arthritis-gnarled hands, struggling with some of the trills, we see her fierce determination to continue to enjoy life, her valiant struggle against age. Grant’s and Nesbitt’s interactions convey pure love. The way janou looks at her Nicky, her concern that Terry will help keep him grounded speak truly of a grandmother’s love. In Nesbitt’s few moments on the screen, she transforms Grant’s character into a man the audience can care deeply about. The beauty of the home she has created stays with viewers throughout the rest of the picture. Nicky’s willingness to share such a precious place with Terry demonstrates the depth of his feelings for her as no words could. Several versions (before and after this) of this movie have been made, but none have come close to the poignancy captured in this scene alone.
After the meeting with Nicky’s janou, things change for the couple. They share their first kiss, to me the most romantic kiss ever put to film. As Nicky follows Terry up the stairs, the camera gives them their privacy, staying on the lower rungs, and we see only their legs. the privacy given to this kiss makes it far more tender and romantic than any kiss we voyeuristic movie-goers could gawk at.
Realizing that their relationship has changed, but still doubting true love, Nicky and Terry decide to meet in six months if they still love each other. During this time, Nicky will see if he can make a living with his art (or any way other than marrying money). If there is anyone who has not seen this film, the earlier incarnation, or later remakes, I won’t give away any spoilers. Of course, love does eventually win, but not without some mishaps along the way. Although the film does, perhaps, lag a bit after the voyage ends, I still love this movie for all of its positive attributes. I’m willing to overlook a few flaws in the last third. (And I do admit there are a few.)
In Nicky’s janou, I see my Gran. My Gran loved life every minute. She was my best friend until she passed away when she was 93 of congestive heart failure. She lived on her own, worked a vegetable garden, and cooked for us, delighting in feeding in the many birds in her yard. She refused to become an invalid, and every time I watch An Affair to Remember, I remember my Gran. Gran was the first person to welcome Carl into our family, seeing in him and in us the potential of our relationship.
Carl has always been a true gentleman. Cary Grant once said, “I’d like to be Cary Grant” meaning that in real life he wasn’t what his screen image portrayed him as. My Carl is every bit as romantic, classy, and gentlemanly as Grant’s on screen personas. In fact, he’s even as funny as Grant’s comedic roles. He’s my very own romantic leading man.
This Christmas season, I present An Affair to Remember to Carl in loving memory of Gran.