I confess that I’m not all that fond of Leo McCarey’s An Affair to Remember (1957) — a film whose reputation has grown because of references to it in Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle (1993). The film is from McCarey’s late period when the director was suffering from drink and drugs. It follows the disastrous — and embarrassing — red-baiting movie My Son, John (1952), but McCarey had been slipping for years. Good Sam (1948) is almost unwatchable. Though Good Sam is not as bad as The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) — and is — a wheel-spinning sequel to Going My Way (1944). Artistically (not commercially) speaking, McCarey hadn’t made an entirely successful film since Love Affair (1939) — the original version of An Affair to Remember. (And I say that as someone who is reduced to tears by the last scene in Going My Way no matter how often I see it.) Love Affair was a smart, compact, emotionally moving film starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne in the roles inherited by Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. The original told the same story in 88 minutes that An Affair to Remember takes 119 minutes to cover. There was no need for an extra 31 minutes, but An Affair to Remember was a product of the 1950s — complete with Cinemascope and color (neither of which McCarey used particularly well) and the then obligatory theme song — and that meant a longer running time. (It was one of those things meant to convince folks that movies gave them more than TV.) As a result, the shipboard romantic comedy that turns serious and then tragic lumbers along at a much slower — and heavily padded — rate. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, because it’s not — Grant and Kerr are very good and very appealing (though Kerr suffers by comparison with Irene Dunne) and the story is still effective. But given the choice — and a good copy (there are scads of awful public domain DVDs out there) — I’ll take McCarey’s original by a huge margin.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show An Affair to Remember Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.