An Affair to Remember (Blu-ray)
Directed by Leo McCarey
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 119 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Review Date: January 31, 2011
Oscar-winning director Leo McCarey remade his own smash hit 1939 film Love Affair in 1957 as An Affair to Remember. He once again hired big stars to carry the show, and they more or less delivered the goods that their predecessors did. But Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are weighed down in this film by a more elephantine production complete with Cinemascope, a children’s choir, and a running time a quarter-hour longer than the original with no good reason for it. All of the familiar scenes work just as well in this new production as they did before, but as is often the case, sometimes more is less.
International playboy Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) has finally gotten himself engaged to an heiress Lois Clark (Neva Patterson) when he meets and falls for pretty nightclub singer Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) while on a pleasure cruise. But she herself is engaged to magnate Kenneth Bradley (Richard Denning), and try as they might, they can’t avoid their feelings for one another. They give themselves six months after the boat docks to get their personal and professional lives straightened out before meeting on the top of the Empire State Building. On her way to the rendezvous, however, Terry is hit by a car and crippled and isn’t able to make their appointment leaving Nickie to wonder what to do with his life now.
An Affair to Remember finds director Leo McCarey working very unimaginatively with Cinemascope blocking scenes in the center of the frame and with almost no camera movement making for decidedly static shots in a movie with a lot of words. There is one moment of inspiration as a glass patio door on the extreme right of frame opens to reflect the Empire State Building as Deborah Kerr occupies the center of the screen, but that’s the film’s only bit of visual flair. It’s a very studio-bound film despite so much of it taking place on board a ship at sea, at a French seaside villa, and on the streets of New York, but McCarey seems content to let his dazzling stars and their amusing attempts to resist their attraction and then avoid curiosity seekers carry the day. And they would if he and fellow script writer Delmer Daves hadn’t dragged in a children’s chorus to perform two songs for the camera, both of which bring the film to a dead stop and the first, “He Knows You Inside Out,” very sloppily staged with some of the children not knowing the words to the song and some of them uninvolved with what they’re doing. The story’s big moments play well (and have been ingrained in our consciousness since Sleepless in Seattle reawakened interest in this movie) even when some of the staging (the ship’s passengers giggling en masse as the two lovebirds try their darndest to ignore one another) is self-consciously stagnant.
As he had with so many of his female co-stars, Cary Grant has irresistible magnetism with Deborah Kerr, and it’s easy to believe the pair is falling in love through the film’s first hour. They also handle all of the comic business with a deft mixture of awkwardness and earnestness. Their later dramatic scenes also play well even if the noble sentiment is laid on a bit thick. She’s isn’t very convincing as a nightclub singer (not because Marni Nixon is once again providing her singing voice as she did in The King & I, but because she just isn’t sultry or alluring enough for that kind of arena). She’s much more at home as a singing teacher even if that is the reason we’re stuck with that ineffectual children’s chorus for a couple of numbers. Cathleen Nesbitt as Grant’s Grandmother Janou makes the most of her meet and greet sequence with Kerr. Richard Denning and Neva Patterson do adequately as the spurned objects of previous affection for Kerr and Grant.
The film’s Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is replicated to perfection in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is nicely saturated without being overblown (though stock photography and rear screen projection looks much less impressive). Flesh tones, from the nut brown tan that Cary Grant sports to the peaches ‘n cream complexion of Deborah Kerr, are spot on. Black levels aren’t very deep and are the weakest aspect of the transfer. It’s very clean, however, with no visible scratches or blemishes, and sharpness is nicely achieved. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The Blu-ray 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 smoother. There’s a tiny bit of hiss in some of the earlier quieter scenes of the movie, 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 though it’s clear there was quite a bit of ADR work with the film soundtrack.
The audio commentary is provided by film historian Joseph McBride and vocal dubber Marni Nixon. They were recorded separately and their comments combined on one track. Nixon’s reminiscences about working with Kerr and about the art of voice doubling are interesting and worth hearing. McBride’s commentary is fairly mundane and uninteresting. He greatly prefers this film to Love Affair, but spends most of the later parts of the commentary discussing color choices and bits of staging without much enthusiasm as if he’s running out of things to talk about. He’s also too quick to describe what we’re seeing on screen making for a very lackluster commentary.
All of the featurettes ported from previous releases of the movie are presented in 480i.
“Affairs to Remember: Deborah Kerr” features Kerr’s widower Peter Viertel describing her unhappy marital state at the time of filming and their subsequent love affair and decades of marriage. It runs for 5 ½ minutes.
“Affairs to Remember: Cary Grant” is a 9 ¾-minute featurette with Grant’s widow Barbara Jaynes describing their life together first as friends and then as a couple.
“Directed by Leo McCarey” presents the life and career of the celebrated director by a handful of film historians including Peter Bogdanovich. It runs for 22 ½ minutes.
“A Producer to Remember: Jerry Wald” gives us a condensed discussion of the producer’s life and career as discussed by his brother, two sons, and his widow Constance. It runs for 16 ¼ minutes.
“The Look of An Affair to Remember” has film historian John Cork and others discussing the stagebound look of the film as McCarey’s choice for filming in this 9-minute featurette.
“AMC Backstory: An Affair to Remember” is another in the excellent series of behind-the-scenes looks at the making of a celebrated classic as originally broadcast on the AMC cable channel. This one runs 24 ½ minutes.
A Fox Movietone newsreel concerning the premiere of the movie on board a ship runs for 1 minute.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs for 3 minutes.
The disc comes packaged in a Digibook that features 24 pages of text about the story, the stars and the director, and also stills in color and (mostly) black and white.
4/5 (not an average)
An Affair to Remember is a sweetly sentimental romantic comedy-drama that features a lush production, big stars, and a Blu-ray package with plenty of bonus material to enjoy. Recommended!