Friday, October 14, 2011

An Affair to Remember.

An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey, 1957)

Another friendly reminder: the blog will be appearing on the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions on Friday, November 4. Sad movie blog John Jeopardy handsome beard sweater skinny tie. Hellooooo stalkers ladies.

Category: Sad original version of the Tracy Jordan film A Blaffair to Rememblack, which, incidentally, is up there with Fat Bitch among my favorites in the Jordan oeuvre.

Nobutsrsly, this is a classic sad movie. We haven’t delved too much into the classics here on the blog, which I consider one of the blog’s shortcomings. (Feel free to submit your opinions on the blog’s shortcomings in the comments. I’ll be happy to not take them under advisement.) As often happens in history, the classic tearjerkers of old really laid the groundwork for the weepies of today. Their success established the viability of this particular niche of films. So essentially what I’m saying here is that this film is directly responsible for The Last Song. Thanks a lot, Cary Grant.

Specifically, this is a sad movie about star-crossed lovers, which the blog has been all about lately. Maybe it was seeing the end of Romeo + Juliet (the Leo/Claire Danes version of course) on TV a few weeks back, maybe I’ve been reading the Craigslist “missed connections” section too much lately, or maybe I’ve just been enraptured by the Michaele Salahi-Neal Schon from Journey affair. Whatever it is, the blog is in “doomed romance” mode these days.

My familiarity with this issue: I have not yet been referred to as “classically handsome.” I’m sure it’s just an oversight, though.

I was first made aware of this film, and its status as a classic tearjerker, while watching this scene in the 1993 classic Sleepless in Seattle:

A few things to note here:

1)   Tom Hanks is just the most likeable guy in the history of everything. I would forsake all other FsOTB in order to form a wolfpack with him, Rob Lowe and Jon Hamm. (I am clearly the Justin Bartha of that group.)
2)   Devotees will recall my hatred of most child actors, but that kid is actually not terrible in that movie. He’s not to be confused with the similar-looking kid from The Santa Clause, who was terrible.
3)   So I basically know the plot of An Affair to Remember. Although some of it is hard to make out over Rita Wilson’s blubbering. It does sound like your standard archetypal sad romance film, but it’s OK for classic movies to be standard and archetypal. That’s how we get standards and archetypes, people.

I also just learned that An Affair to Remember is in fact a remake of the 1939 film Love Affair by the same director. (Remaking your own movie seems like a weird way to spend one’s time, by the way.) Both of these were remade again as the 1994 Warren Beatty-Annette Bening version of Love Affair. A little confusing, I know, but the point is: this film’s got legs, baby! (Due to overwhelming popular demand, I plan on talking like an old-timey Hollywood producer in the blog with much greater frequency in the coming weeks. It's the bee's knees!)

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: "Handsome playboy Nicky Ferrante and beautiful night club singer Terry McKay have a romance while on a cruise from Europe to New York. Despite being engaged to other people, both agree to reunite at the top of the Empire State Building in six months. However, an unfortunate accident keeps Terry from the reunion, and Nicky fears that she has married or does not love him anymore. Will he discover the truth behind her absence and reunite with his one true love, or has fate and destiny passed them by?"

What I thought of the movie: It’s generally quite pleasant, interspersed with some sad moments. You can tell why the chicks love it: it’s all about true love and soul mates and overcoming pride and car accidents. Real chick stuff. And while the film occasionally shows its age, that just made it more fun for me along the way. Quite pleasant, I’m telling you.

The film opens with a thoroughly weird montage: news reporters in the United States, Italy and England comment on the fact that Cary Grant’s character, this famous playboy (like George Clooney without the acting? The male 1950s version of Kim Kardashian? I don’t really know) is heading from Europe to America on an ocean liner to get married to a wealthy heiress. To me, this seems to indicate that the news media has been terrible long before the 24-hour news networks got started. This is news? All over the world? A bachelor dandy (and possible drinker of brandy) traveling by boat to get married to some rich broad? I’m very confused.

So he meets Deborah Kerr on the boat and oh my goodness before I could finish typing this sentence he’s invited himself to her cabin! This (engaged) man doesn’t waste time. But she’s engaged (and so is he) so he semi-backs off. What a cad! They hang out though (aww cruise friends!) but then, since he’s on every news program in the WORLD, everyone knows who he is and that the broad he’s chillin’ with ain’t his fiancée, so it gets awkward. They resolve to leave each other alone, but then they jump into the same swimming pool at the same time, so they figure what the hell, might as well hang out purposefully, the gawkers be damned.

They go to visit his French grandma, and she discovers his hidden talent for painting and stuff (which he abandoned because he was too critical of himself, and thus fell into the inexplicably viable field of internationally famous playboying), and he discovers her hidden talent for singing (hidden in that she has not yet sung anything in the two days that they have known each other, nor has she said, “Oh by the way, I sing and stuff”). And so of course during this visit Deborah Kerr sees his more sensitive, artistic, grandson-ish side, and totally falls in love with him. This part reminded me of when Julie Taylor falls in love with Matt Saracen on Friday Night Lights when he sings “Mr. Sandman” to his ailing grandma and hold on I gotta go cry because I just thought about that scene.

So they come up with the famous plan to break it off with their fiancé(e)s, try exercising their secret artistic passions, and meet on top of the Empire State Building in six months. It’s actually a good plan. I bet people get rather easily carried away during a one-week cruise. I can’t imagine how many poor investments have been made because “it seemed like a good idea on the cruise.” Give it some time, some perspective. Walk around on land for a while. Don’t necessarily break off your engagement until you’ve seen if you can remember your cruise friend’s name in a week. Good advice for all of us.

But really they only wait until later that day. Whoops! Five months and thirty days to go before they can hang out again, because them’s the rules. Her breakup is particularly crushing, by the way: this poor sap quickly discerns that she’s fallen in love with Cary Grant, and tries to talk her out of it. He says, “Can’t you see I’m in love?” And she responds, “So am I.” OHHHHHH SNAP. JEEZ. You’re already breaking this dude’s heart, Deborah Kerr, you needn’t be so PITHY.

He gives it a go as a painter, she sings in a nightclub in Boston, six months pass, and, as Rita Wilson predicted, boom car accident. It’s not Hathaway-esque, but I’d imagine to audiences who were unfamiliar with the original film, it was quite surprising. She hallucinates in the hospital, imagining she’s back on the boat with C. Grant, but never gets lucid enough to say to a nurse, “Oh yo call him up and tell him I was in a car accident.” Cell phones would really help here. She could have shot him a quick text from the ambulance: “may be delayed for a bit. hit by car. poss crippled. sry bro.”

So she ends up in a wheelchair and becomes a music teacher. He gets sad and goes to France, and paints some more. (The movie wastes about fifteen or twenty minutes with a lot of faffin’, including a long, pointless musical number with her and her students. Fun fact: in the 50s, every single movie that was released needed to have a bunch of cute kids doing a perfectly choreographed musical number.) Then finally he runs into her at the ballet (each with their respective ex-fiancé[e]s; nice that they all managed to stay friends and such), but she’s sitting so he doesn’t notice the crippledness, and then he comes by her place, and you all know how it ends. It takes too long to get to that point, and when it does come it’s only a few minutes until you start pulling your hair out and yelling at the screen “UGH JUST TELL HIM ALREADY.” But she’s too proud and all that. Finally he figures it out and it’s real emotional.

How I, John Krizel, related to the movie: A lot of the stuff in this movie is out of my reach. The first thing of note here is the cruise, which seemed very nice and all. Making cruise friends, having nice dinners, looking out of portholes: all of that is dandy. But my crippling fear of the ocean and the fact that George gave away all my cruise wear to Rudy’s Antique Boutique mean that I will probably continue to be a landlubber for the foreseeable future.

The Empire State Building stuff threw me off as well, due to my paralyzing fear of heights. If I had to choose a place for a super-romantic meeting with a secret paramour, I’d probably pick a Starbucks, because usually they’re no more than two floors high. You do then run the risk of having the girl go to the wrong Starbucks, what with their ubiquity and all, but of course, cell phones and such. Basically it’s a lot easier to have a romantic rendezvous these days. And safer!

I was also quite confused by the many topical references early in the film; in certain scenes I had pretty much no clue what was being discussed. And as a result of this, I suddenly became worried about the fact that, when this blog is read fifty years from now (bear with me), people will undoubtedly be as baffled as Herman Cain in a high school algebra class TOPICAL ZING.

How I felt after the movie ended: As I said to FOTB Allie Hagan while watching the film, “Cary Grant is one smooth m*****f*****.” He has the rare ability to seem cool even when you know he’s upset about stuff. It’s disarming. And if the opposite of “disarming” is “arming,” then you could definitely describe my incessant whining when things aren’t going my way as quite arming.

It is still kind of annoying that there’s no real reason for her not to tell him about what happened other than “her pride.” It’s not like he was mean to her, or hated her, or whatever. He was kinda bummed! I’m sure he would have appreciated knowing about it. But obviously there’s no movie if she tells him right away, so there’s that. In the end, the other logistical flaws and frequent dead patches of the film fade away, leaving only Cary Grant’s overall smoothness and his sadness while waiting for her on top of the Empire State Building. And a real sense of relief over the fact that I live in the era of cell phones.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh...john. You're just too young and get it. One of my favorite tear jerkers. It works best because I only need to watch the last 5 minutes to be a sodden, soggy mess. (And yes, I checked your blog as soon as Jeopardy was over tonight)