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An Affair to Remember: Fox Studio Classics

While Leo McCarey's 1957 An Affair to Remember (a remake of his 1939 Love Affair) has become a favorite of romance fans over the years, it suffers from the stamp of two defects — for a film that runs almost two hours, there's only about thirty minutes of plot, and it takes a melodramatic turn in the second half that practically derails the entire production. That's not to say that An Affair to Remember is dull, because its most redeeming qualities are the result of the enormously charming Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. The lack of a narrative thread here seems to be a result of McCarey's desire to give his charismatic duo the opportunity to be, er — charismatic, which they manage nicely. Grant stars as painter playboy Nickie Ferrente, who is engaged to marry a wealthy heiress. However, while traveling by ocean liner from the Mediterranean to New York City, Nickie meets former nightclub singer Terry McKay (Kerr), who also is engaged, but before long the pair fall for each other. The first half of the film is consistently amusing, with Grant and Kerr flirting, verbally sparring, and trying to elude the watchful eyes of photographers and celebrity-obsessed passengers, and even a visit to the Rivera estate of Nickie's grandmother (Cathleen Nesbitt), while overlong, has its charms. Where the film goes dreadfully awry is in the second half, as the lovers arrange to meet at the top of the Empire State Building six months after they arrive in New York, but Terry is paralyzed by a car accident and breaks off her plans to marry Nickie, afraid of burdening him with her condition. It's hard for any film to recover when a solid hour of witty banter is replaced by treacly sentimentality of the worst order, and — while An Affair to Remember is understandably a product of the hyper-sanitized '50s — it's downright creepy to watch a film with a paralyzed leading character when the words paralyzed, handicapped, crippled, or paraplegic are never uttered (Kerr is never seen in a wheelchair either, but just sitting upright, suffering miserably and looking absolutely stunning at the same time). Comic relief in the second half comes from a children's choir that Terry coaches, but again the film shows its age. While McCarey doubtless wanted to give his audience some fresh-faced entertainment, the two songs the kids perform are flat-out clunkers, and the poorly coached mop-tops — who stare off into space and shuffle about when they don't have speaking lines — makes one wonder if Terry isn't actually teaching retarded children. Also starring Neva Patterson and Richard Denning. Remade in 1994 as Love Affair with Warren Beatty and Annette Benning. Fox's second DVD release of An Affair to Remember, part of the Fox Studio Classics series, has a great deal to offer over the original bare-bones disc. The anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) is much improved, with a source-print that isn't quite pristine but still crisp and pleasant, while audio is in DD 2.0 Stereo. Features include a commentary with film historians Marnie Nixon Joseph McBride, a 24-minute AMC "Backstory" documentary detailing the film's production history, a Fox Movietone News premiere newsreel, the original theatrical trailer, stills, and archive promos for All About Eve, Gentleman's Agreement, and How Green Was My Valley. Keep-case.

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