What an Affair to Remember Taught me About Life

An Affair to Remember taught me to look both ways before crossing the street. Except I already knew that. I’ve known to look both ways, and not only at the big red Stop sign, since I was three years of age. My child already knows to do the same, which doesn’t warrant me any kind of medal as he’s fourteen. But I ought to remind him because now that he’s a teenager  I need to make it very plain to him that not even love is a good excuse for running into traffic, “Unless,” because I can always think of an “unless” that defies absolutism, such as if I looked into the street and there was my child chasing a red balloon into it. “What if it was someone else’s child?” Now, see? (And let’s not continue in this vein because this isn’t a blog on ethics and personal responsibility.)

There very well may be possible scenarios for trying to outrace the Checker Cab, but not as an excuse for a feeble plot line for what has been dignified by the American Film Institute as the fifth most romantic film of all time, simply because its incomprehensible leads have zero communication skills which means nothing in that post plot household will ever get done. No one in that post plot household will certainly ever answer the phone because neither Deborah Kerr nor Cary Grant have ever comprehended the utility of one. Well, at least not their unfortunate characters. And by unfortunate I mean written so that they have not enough personality between them to bind a cheap “I heart NY” tourist magnet to a refrigerator, yet somehow this pair manages to be one of the most romantic couples in the history of celluloid because they spend the entire movie doing all they can to avoid either talking to each other or being seen together. Not even Deborah Kerr appeared convinced of the necessity of her running into the street for sake of romance and a possible academy award nomination. When she parted with her ex-fiancee for supposedly the last time and first went the wrong way in search of her rendezvous at the Empire State Building, and, regaining her compass bearings, had to pass again by her ex fiancee and plead, “Look at me, see how addled I am by the prospect of sexing Cary Grant, who is so much better than you, you can’t begin to imagine”, she appeared unconvinced,  flinching reflexively away from the off-screen screech of brakes and scream that would soon follow. She knew as well you don’t run into traffic, not even if you’re hell bent on suicide, it’s impolite to ruin the life of the innocent driver, take pills instead. Her mother was at her right shoulder, grabbing her little three year old arm, yelling, “Don’t you ever step into the road without looking both ways!”

“I’m confused. When does Cary Grant turn into Rock Hudson and become a surgeon,” I asked my husband.

“Wrong film.”

“Right, that’s Magnificient Obsession. I’ve never seen that one all the way through. Isn’t Jane Wyman hit by a car in that one, too?”

“I think so. But that one has that long philosophical talk.”

However I made it to 2011 without ever watching An Affair to Remember is diligence combined with pure dumb luck, I guess. Then a house dropped on me in the form of a stomach bug, which meant no once-a-year family reunion get-together today, because I was instead near comatose in bed yet determined to force some structure upon my misery that didn’t have only to do with rousing myself every so often to empty my son’s upchuck bucket, pat his head, and then collapse again beside my husband who was at least able to talk and compare symptoms with me. Nickie Ferrente (Cary Grant) and Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) will never be able to do this because they don’t exist, not even in their very own film that is supposedly about them and their nonexistent relationship. All the better to enjoy the sets and costumes, except I saw nothing that made me wish for a screen grab function on my old television. I never once said, “Oh, I’d like to walk through that room.”

Cary Grant looked alternately embarrassed by his lack of character and horrified by plot development.  In search of an identity for Ms. Kerr, the director and writers decided to do a revue and dragged along the masks of  more than several of her prior roles, including the beatific Sister Angela of that year’s Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, and the teacher, Anna, of  The King and I from the year before. If I only note those two films it’s because somehow today I managed also to catch the last ten minutes of  Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, perhaps on the same channel, that detail is lost, and Irene Dunne in Anna and the King of Siam. Irene Dunne also played Terry McKay in Love Affair, of which this film was a remake. Was that a better film than this one? I’ve no idea. I’ve not seen it. Seems the public and the American Film Institute didn’t think it was a better film or else Love Affair would be the fifth most romantic film of all time and not An Affair to Remember. Irene wasn’t able to plead under the recent veil of St. Angela that her wheelchair was a mete and right exchange for a blush with godly bliss, as, “I was looking up into the sky. You see, it was the nearest thing there was to heaven, because you were there.”

When people, however, say the movie ended on a hopeful note, Terry announcing to Nickie that, “If you can paint, I can walk,” then they must have missed the joke, because, Nickie can’t paint. Not at all.  Everyone involved with An Affair to Remember knew Nickie couldn’t paint or else they wouldn’t have had his paintings always either barely glimpsed, or in the soft focus distance.

When Terry said, “If you can paint, I can walk,” they all laughed and laughed over that one.

Except for Nickie Ferrente.

Note: I was thinking about starting a new blog at blogspot and so put this up there but then realized I would never ever use that blog so I’m reposting here.

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

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