Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) and Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) are heading to New York City on the same transatlantic ship, where they meet and have a love affair. Ranked #5 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Passions, An Affair to Remember is a remake of another one of McCarey’s films, Love Affair (1939), and it is as endearing as it is heartbreaking. But An Affair is not just a sigh and sob film, it’s also a clever portrayal of a censurable relationship, tiptoeing on the intricate balance between comedy, romance, and melodrama whilst trying to arise compassion for the two lovers – and at all that, it succeeds, thanks to a series of wise decisions.
First of all, it’s set on a luxurious ship, half a world away from home: a dreamlike scenario, but also a confined space, one they can scarcely ever escape. No matter how much they try to avoid each other, the two are bound do meet every now and then, which makes it harder to resist temptation. Even so, they (well, mostly she) try not to get involved – in fact Terry won’t give in until attraction turns into actual love. The secrecy of the affair is also emphasised not only And to keep our minds off of the loved ones waiting at home, there’s nothing like avoiding the topic. None of this is cheating if the story is honest, and An Affair to Remember is as candid as they come: both characters are sincere, flawed, and human, and the situation they find themselves in is believable, even retable.
Graced with that Old Hollywood spell that makes a single touch or kiss the most thrilling experience one can feel, it’s not only a testament to the talent of two brilliant actors, it’s also one of the greatest love stories of all-time.