Blu-ray Review: An Affair to Remember

20th Century Fox | 1957 | 115 mins. | NR

Director Leo McCarey’s An Affair to Remember has an interesting place in the history of film. First told in his 1939 classic Love Affair, in 1957, McCarey remade his own film, relying on the same basic screenplay. He renamed his movie An Affair to Remember. Starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, An Affair to Remember was a hit upon release, garnered four Oscar nominations, and often ranks 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.

An Affair to RememberAn Affair to Remember is an unapologetically romantic. Grant plays international playboy Nickie Ferrante. When Nickie boards a transatlantic cruise to meet his heiress fiancée (Neva Patterson) in New York, it makes the news programs around the world. Could the notorious gadabout really be serious about settling down?

Early in the trip, Nickie meets Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr), a former nightclub singer from Boston also sailing to meet her fiancé (Richard Denning). A proper girl, Terry is devoted to the rich businessman who enabled her to leave her life of singing in smoky bars behind. As such, it’s easy for her to resist Nickie debonair charms.  However, Nickie finds himself entranced by the red-headed beauty. After a sidetrip to meet Nickie’s adoring grandmother (Cathleen Nesbitt) during a stop in France, the two can’t deny it any longer. They also can’t deny that they are in a sticky situation as far as their mutual engagements. As such, they make a pact: after six months, if they are still in love, they will meet at the top of the Empire State Building. Nickie shows up, but while waiting something happens to Terry on the streets below…and the reunion never happens. Will their love truly bring them together again and make their affair one to remember?

Of course they will, this is a love story after all. Yes, An Affair to Remember gives into every romantic cliché—love at first, overwrought dialogue, a tragedy—nonetheless, the film works. The role of suave, debonair Nickie was tailor made for Grant, who seems to be playing a  watch, though I think the film belongs to the regal Kerr. I find her fascinating to watch in all her films, and this is no exception.

The film’s Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is replicated using the AVC codec. Color is nicely saturated without being overblown (though stock photography and rear screen projection looks a bit washed out). Flesh tones are spot on. Black levels aren’t very deep and are the weakest aspect of the transfer. Despite that, the transfer is very clean, with no visible scratches or blemishes.

The disc offers both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English encodes. The lossy soundtrack is somewhat louder than the lossless encode, but it’s a bit harsher sounding with the DTS-HD MA mix more refined and smooth. There’s a bit of a hiss in some of the early scenes, but it’s never intrusive to the listening experience. Apart from the music score, there isn’t much surround activity here. Dialogue is always easily discernible in the center channel.

The special features are ported over from the 2008 DVD Edition in 480i:

Audio commentary with singer Marnie Nixon (who dubbed Deborah Kerr’s singing voice) and film historian Joseph McBride. This is the only bonus on DVD 1. It’s a good track, with Nixon in particular talking about a job we don’t hear about that often.
“AMC Backstory,” a twenty-five minute program about the movie from the excellent series that used to run on the AMC cable channel.

We get the following featurettes:

Affairs to Remember: Deborah Kerr (5 minutes, 30 seconds)
Affairs to Remember: Cary Grant (9:50)
Directed by Leo McCarey (22:30)
A Producer to Remember: Jerry Wald (16:05)
The Look of An Affair to Remember (9:00)

These documentaries aren’t exclusively about An Affair to Remember. The two actor-focused pieces are entirely about their major relationships and are built on interviews with the spouses that survived them. The Leo McCarey piece is about the director’s life and career, with interviews from film scholars, including Peter Bogdanovich–the same folks who discuss the style of the movie in the last documentary. The Wald featurette is similar, featuring interviews with his sons, brother, and widow.

Photo, fact and trivia filled 25-page book.

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