Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Back When Romantic Movies Were Romantic Movies

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “An Affair to Remember” (1957).

Deborah Kerr was the Kate Winslet of her day. “An Affair to Remember” was her “Titanic”. Fortunately her Leonardo di Caprio was not Leonardo di Caprio. It was Cary Grant. The great Leonardo can only wish he was Cary Grant.

In “An Affair to Remember”, the boat does not sink. But two strangers, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, meet and fall in love. It is a pretty straightforward story. Yet there is something not your usual romance about this story. Maybe it’s the actors who play the couple.

This couple is not an early twenties couple. This is a couple in their late twenties, early thirties. They’ve had relationships. Nothing serious. Cary is currently engaged. But that doesn’t seem to be serious. He is going into that marriage, basically kicking and screaming. How the woman talked him into marriage is anybody’s guess.

The reason he’s on the ship is not the reason he is really on the ship for. He’s looking for one last fling. Then he meets Deborah Kerr and there’s magic. He is smitten and so is she.

I usually am not a fan of romantic films. They always seem too too mushy for me. But “An Affair to Remember” shows that a romantic movie can be a superb example of the art form. Maybe it is because of the deft directorial hand of Leo McCarey. This 1957 gem is one of the last of his 107 films.

Like so many successful directors of the fifties, he had come up through the studio system, a system that gave a director a chance to do every genre. A director would finish a horror movie on Friday and come back Monday to work on a comedy. Also a director was given chances to fail.

Today, if a director doesn’t make a profit with his first job, he need not ask to direct another. Maybe that is why we get so much crap. Directors (and producers) play it way too safe. They are scared of screwing up.

I look back on the movies produced in the fifties and I am amazed at the truly great ones. Everything from Sunset Boulevard to Ben Hur to 12 Angry Men to The Searchers. Again and again American audiences got quality from Hollywood. Much of it was because the director’s had spent long years learning their craft.

Then there is Cary Grant. Here is a guy who had romanced some of the most beautiful women in the world, including Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman several times. Here is an actor who was one of Hitchcock’s favorites. Just to say his name is to have an image of suave and sophisticated. Any woman who won his heart, then broke it must have been something.

That actress was Deborah Kerr. She had already kissed some of the biggest names in Hollywood: Stewart Granger, Robert Taylor, Alan Ladd and Yul Brynner. And that scene with Burt Lancaster in “From Here to Eternity” was, shall we say, WOW. So she was ready for Cary. Big time ready. And don’t let me forget the theme song, “An Affair to Remember”.

Like so many movies Hollywood has produced over the years, this one is a remake. The original was “Love Affair”, directed by the same director. It was released in that most famous of Hollywood years, 1939, and starred Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne. A second remake came in 1994, thirty-seven years after “An Affair”. Hollywood’s Golden Couple at the time, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, were looking around for something they could do together. They called it “Love Affair” after the original. It was Katherine Hepburn’s last film.

But “An Affair to Remember” is the one with the magic. So as you can see, Uncle Bardie thinks this one has a great script, great directing and great cast. It’s got romance on the high seas. It’s good. Even better, it’s Uncle Bardie good.

What is your favorite romantic movie?

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8 thoughts on “Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Back When Romantic Movies Were Romantic Movies

  1. I watched this so long ago and I believe I was forced by my mother, so I think it’s due for another look! She also forced me to watch Same Time Next Year, which, to my surprise, I was quite taken with. Although, I recall making fun of the song, “Hello, I don’t even know your name…”

  2. These days, the best art is created by digital companies like HBO, Starz and Netflex. Game of Thrones aside, most of the filming is, like the old studio days, filmed in a studio with characters speaking lines.

    This has devastated Hollywood because you can buy a month’s worth of premium viewing for the cost of a single theater ticket. What does an HBO subscription cost? $12? The only way Hollywood can respond is to produce billion dollar films with a lot of special effects and scripts that can be easily dubbed into Chinese, Arabic and Spanish.

    • But quality movies with great stories still get made. Just this last year there was The Big Short and Spotlight. In 2014 there was The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. So good movies with great stories can be made. As The King’s Speech proved, there is still an audience who will actually go to the movie theaters and watch great story movies.

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