Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: The recent teen weepie Me And Earl And The Dying Girl—as well as the emotional new Pixar movie, Inside Out—has us tearfully recalling movies designed to make you cry.
One thing that doesn’t get brought up enough about An Affair To Remember, one of the great tearjerkers of the Golden Age of the Cinemascope weepie, is that it’s incredibly funny. Laugh-out-loud funny, in fact. Writer-director Leo McCarey could appeal to emotion with the best of them (see: the devastatingly sad Make Way For Tomorrow), but he also had a knack for loose, semi-anarchic comedy. This is, after all, the guy who directed Duck Soup.
And in spite of the super-serious title and those iconic opening credits— pink cursive against a background of falling snow—An Affair To Remember is a funny movie. For the first hour, it’s a first-rate screwball romance, in which a notorious Euro playboy (Cary Grant) and an American passenger (Deborah Kerr) flirt their way through an ocean voyage. Grant and Kerr speak semi-improvised banter in Anglo-American accents; neither sounds like they’re from anywhere in particular, except maybe some indeterminate spot in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which is exactly where they happen to be.
In other words, they really seem like they belong here, in this collection of rear-projection screens and capacious interiors that is never remotely convincing as a cruise ship. They tease, they bond, they fall in love. And then they get to New York City, where they’re greeted by their respective fiancées in one of the all-time-great widescreen gags. They make a promise to meet at the top of Empire State Building in 6 months, giving them time to break off their engagements and start new lives. Time passes. He paints; she sings. Bittersweet sadness begins to creep in.
McCarey had tried his hand at this plot before, with 1939’s Love Affair, starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne in the Grant and Kerr roles. An Affair To Remember, which uses much of Love Affair’s original script, is longer and more luxuriant; it lets the viewer settle in with the characters and be won over by them, which makes the second half seem all the more heartbreaking. Laughs earn tears.
Availability: An Affair To Remember is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Netflix or possibly your local video store/library. It can also be rented or purchased through the major digital services.