In the film, a chagrined Tom Hanks is describing a potential meeting his young son has arranged with a stranger (Meg Ryan) at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. Wilson immediately recognizes this rendezvous from the 1957 classic film, An Affair to Remember.
But as Wilson describes the touching 1957 movie, she becomes increasingly emotional. Soon she’s sobbing as she re-enacts a famous scene between Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. “It’s so amazing when he comes to see her,” she says, tears spilling down her cheeks.
Sleepless is Seattle is, essentially, a love letter to An Affair to Remember. In one scene, Ryan and on-screen friend Rosie O’Donnell are watching the 1957 classic and it’s clear they’ve seen the movie dozens of times. They recite several passages, including Deborah Kerr’s famous line: “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories.”
O’Donnell quips, “Men never get this movie.”
The film in question, An Affair to Remember, stars Cary Grant as an internationally-famous playboy whose engagement to an American heiress becomes worldwide news. As he sails from Europe to New York to marry his fiancé, he meets a fellow passenger (Deborah Kerr), with whom he falls in love.
This romance leads to a messy business once the pair land in New York. Grant needs to sort things out with his fiancé, while Kerr has to decide what to do about her boyfriend. As the ship pulls into port at New York, Grant and Kerr agree to meet in six months (on Valentine’s Day) at the top of the Empire State Building to see if they Have Something Here.
We have a confession to make regarding this film. For years we eschewed it because we feared it would be too schmaltzy. But when we finally watched it, we were charmed by its humour and some of its exquisite moments.
One such moment is the shot of Grant and Kerr walking down the stairs on the ship to New York. As they descend, Kerr suddenly stops and pulls Grant towards her. Look at the gif below, at the teasing way director Leo McCarey frames this intimacy:
Grant and Kerr have good chemistry, which is crucial because the film depends on it. They have to make you believe each would turn their world inside out for the other.
An Affair to Remember is a remake of the Academy Award-winning Love Affair (1939) – and when we say remake, we mean remake. Some of the scenes in the 1957 movie are shot identical with the 1939 film, so a viewer can’t help but make comparisons. However, director McCarey was at the helm of both versions, so you have to respect his pragmatism: If a scene worked well in ’39, why not recycle it in ’57?
We (as in, yours truly) prefer the 1939 movie to the 1957 version. The character of Terry, played by Dunne in the ’39 version, seems to have been written specifically for her. Dunne is especially winsome, and it’s easy to see why Boyer falls for her.
As for Boyer, in the role of the famous playboy, he has an exceptional scene late in the film, where he visits Dunne after a long absence. When he realizes the truth about Dunne’s situation, his performance nearly breaks your heart. You’ll find yourself rewinding this scene, just to study his method.
The themes in these three films are timeless, and they never fail to enchant – even if they are sprinkled with a little schmaltz. They are proof that good casting and witty dialogue make a story feel fresh, even decades later.
This post is part of the They Remade WHAT?! Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Click HERE to see the other fab entries.