“An Affair to Remember” with Cary Grant & Deborah Kerr

An Affair to Remember movie poster

Remember the classic 1957 Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr movie An Affair to Remember? I knew it was a tear-jerker, but I had forgotten how funny it is, too, until I watched it again today. The first half plays like a romantic comedy–the second half becomes more like melodrama (keep the tissues handy!).

It begins with playboy Nickie Ferrante meeting a former lounge-singer named Terry McKay on a cruise ship. They are both engaged to wealthy people who provide lavish lifestyles for them that they couldn’t possibly maintain on their own. Neither Nickie nor Terry has held a job for a long time. They are traveling alone and meet when Terry finds Nickie’s cigarette lighter.

I bet you can guess what happens next, right? They fall in love…

I like this scene where they realize they are sitting back-to-back in booths in the dining room. They’ve been trying to avoid each other in public, but it isn’t working. Everyone in the room is watching them. And the ship’s photographer is covertly snapping photos of them to sell to the other passengers.

Just had to take a photo of the pool. Look at those colorful chairs! And Terry’s yellow suit!

When the ship docks somewhere along the French Riviera, Nickie goes to visit his grandmother who lives there. He takes Terry with him. This is the view from Grandma’s front steps. Not shabby!

Grandma’s garden:

Nickie finds his grandmother praying in her own private chapel on the estate:

Terry admires Grandma’s white shawl. Grandma says, “I will give it to you someday.” (We call this “foreshadowing,” kids.)

Grandma plays the piano and Terry sings. They hit it off immediately. Grandma tells her, “You’re not like the other girls he’s brought home to see me.”

When the ship arrives in NYC, the lovers make arrangements to meet at the top of the Empire State Building in 6 months if they both feel the same way about each other, and if Nickie can find a way to support the two of them in the manner they’ve become accustomed. Kind of a tall order considering he has never had a real job.

Nickie goes to his fiancee Lois Clark’s house. She is a famous millionaire heiress-type person.

Surprise! A television reporter is there to interview them about their fairy tale romance and upcoming wedding. It’s a bit awkward for Nickie, who was planning to break up with Lois. This is her living room:

It’s also awkward for Terry, who watches the interview from the lovely apartment that her fiance pays for. When the reporter (Robert Q. Lewis, playing himself) asks Nickie, “When are you planning to get married?” he looks into the camera and says, “In a little over 6 months’ time.” Get it?

Terry gets the message and promptly breaks up with her handsome millionaire fiance. (I like this apartment. Must’ve been hard to give it up! I think I would’ve asked the housekeeper to come with me, at least.)

After breaking off the wedding, Terry goes outside onto the balcony and stares up at the Empire State Building. Kind of cool how we just see the reflection in the door and know what she’s staring at. (Can you count how many times images of it appear in the movie? Or at least in these photos I took from it?)

Nickie has never worked a day in his life. Like Terry, he has been “kept” by a series of wealthy lovers. The only skill he has is painting. He promptly gets himself an artist’s garret and goes to work. An art dealer takes a look at his work and pronounces it “very good.” He might even be able to sell some of it. Hooray!

Terry resumes her singing career. Here she is after 6 months of singing, winging back to NYC to meet Nickie at the appointed hour at the Empire State Building.

I like this shot of NYC streets. Do you ever wish you could go to New York in the 1950s and walk around and see what it was like then? No? It’s just me, then? Never mind.

Nicky waits. And waits. But Terry never shows up. We find out she got hit (off screen) by one of those taxicabs in the photo above. She is in a hospital. Paralyzed. Weeping. Hysterical. “But I have to get to the Empire State Building! I have to!”

She goes home. Starts to recover. A minister gets her a job as a music director leading a children’s choir. (Doesn’t this apartment look like something out of my 1956 Better Homes & Gardens decorating book that I always show you photos from?)

It’s Christmas Day. Terry is alllll alone in her apartment. But she’s not feeling sorry for herself. No. She’s a stiff-upper-lip type of gal.

Her neighbor checks on her. Terry is wearing a lovely red suit and is in full hair and makeup to spend the day alone, paralyzed, on her sofa. Which is a good thing because the door rings and–guess what! It’s Nickie! He has tracked her down. He’s bitter and angry that she never showed up, but he wants to give her the shawl that his grandmother left to Terry after she died a few months earlier.

Terry pretends everything is normal. She doesn’t tell him about the accident. She says she’s sorry if she hurt him. He pretends he didn’t actually go up to the Empire State Building and she’s surprised. He asks why she doesn’t get up–is she sick? No, she says. Just resting. For several months now.

Nickie says he painted a picture of her and didn’t want to sell it. But his art dealer said that a woman in a wheelchair had come in and admired it so much that he let her have it. She didn’t have the money to pay for it. They took pity on the poor crippled lady.

Wait a minute!

Nickie suddenly has an epiphany. It was a WOMAN IN A WHEELCHAIR. Terry hadn’t moved from the sofa since he arrived. Something was up here. Also, she was living in a very modest apartment compared to what he had expected. He notes that she doesn’t have a very good view outside her window.

He’s suspicious now. He starts to look around. Then he goes into her bedroom, and there it is. The painting of Terry and his grandmother, hanging on her wall. I love how the director shows the reflection of the painting in the mirror but focuses on Nickie’s face when he sees it.

He rushes into her arms. “Why didn’t tell me, Darling?” “Because I didn’t want you to love me out of pity,” or something like that. To tell you the truth, I was sniffling too loudly to hear every word they said.

I felt just like Rosie and Meg as they watched the end of “An Affair to Remember” in the 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle (see pics of it here). Pass the tissues!

An Affair to Remember was actually a remake of Leo McCarey’s 1939 film Love Affair, starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. (Irene Dunn is another one of my favorites!) Here they are, making plans to meet in 6 months at the top of the Empire State Building. Doesn’t it look like they’re up in the clouds instead of down on the water?

A Little Movie Trivia:

  • An Affair to Remember premiered in 1957 and was nominated for 4 Academy Awards.
  • The movie was remade again and called Love Affair in 1994 with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.
  • After the movie was mentioned in Sleepless in Seattle, the VHS tapes of An Affair to Remember sold over 2 million copies.
  • Producer Leo McCarey originally planned to reunite Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in this movie, who had starred so successfully together in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Notorious. When Bergman turned down the role, Deborah Kerr was chosen instead.
  • They were originally planning to film on location, but due to budget cuts ended up doing everything on elaborately decorated soundstages.
  • Deborah Kerr’s singing in both this film and The King and I was dubbed. The real singer was Marni Nixon.
  • Producer Leo McCarey feared that New York as a movie setting had gotten to be too much of a cliche and decided that the couple should meet at the Golden Gate Bridge instead. Cary Grant insisted that the Empire State Building be used, however, and got his way in the end.

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  1. says

    Almost funny, we just finished watching An Affair to Remember. One of my favorites.

    I’m a Cary Grant fan, still need to get a few of his movies though.

  2. says

    Julia, first, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed chatting with you and the other girls Friday night. It was so good to meet you!

    And second, Sleepless in Seattle is one of my FAVORITE movies, but I haven’t seen An Affair to Remember…even though one of my very, VERY favorite scenes is when Rita Wilson is trying to make the guys “get” An Affair to Remember. It cracks. me. up. I can’t believe I’ve never seen it. I’m about to put it on hold at the library right now. Thanks so much for the review! It made me want to see it that much more!

    Heathahlee’s last blog post..Weekend News

  3. says

    An Affair to Remember has always been one of my favorite movies. As is Sleepless in Seattle. I also love Love Affair, but I’ve only seen the remake with Warren Beatty and Annette Benning.

    Thanks for sharing! I have to go watch it now! I think I’ll get it on DVD though, since I only had it on VHS. That’s why I haven’t seen it in years!

    Amber Filkins @ {ae filkins}’s last blog post..Why God Made Moms

  4. says

    Julia why girl you are such a great story teller! What a recap of that ole movie-good job I was nearly in need of some tissue myself! LoL! And I would love to time travel-how cool would that be!?!?! Way fun post! Have a wonderful week~Smiles~tam!

  5. Kellye says

    Don’t feel badly, Julia. I’ve always wanted to go back in time in NYC, but in the 30s and 40s, not really the 50s.

    I love this movie and was just talking about it yesterday. Deborah Kerr is one of my all-time favorite actresses, as is Irene Dunne. I’ve seen all versions of the movie, but I did not like the latest. Here’s some more trivia:

    **”An Affair to Remember” was almost a scene-by-scene remake of the original “Love Affair.”

    **The scene where Kerr is on the staircase and Grant keeps circling was an ad-lib because they forgot their lines, but it was kept.

    **Maria Ouspenskaya, who played the grandmother in the original “Love Affair,” was my grandfather’s cousin. :)

  6. says

    This movie is a tie for my favorite movie of all time (it’s tied with Roman Holiday!), although I’ve seen it many, many times – I always cry! Great post!

    Kristen’s last blog post..Tilapia with Spicy Corn

  7. says

    Julia, Sounds like everyone had a great time at Blissdom. Can’t wait to see your pictures. I agree about going back in time. Especially in a big city. Everyone dressed to the nines and hustling and bustling. Whenever I watch a movie like this I long to visit the past. I would love to stroll downtown Cincinnati in the 30’s, 40’s or 50’s, even early 60’s when I used to go with my mom and grandma. They always wore gloves, hat, heels and make up and jewelry no matter what day of the week. Although the lifestyle is much more casual now I think we lost some of the fun of being a woman in this day and age. Oh well there are always old movies (thank goodness for DVDs) Thanks for posting so many great movie locations, Pam

    Pam’s last blog post..Make Over Monday Guilt

  8. says

    What a great movie! Do you know what movie I would love to see you do? It’s an old horror movie called Burnt Offerings and it’s all about the crazy ghost and “the house”

    Jen R Sanctuary Arts’s last blog post..Les Petites Images

  9. says

    Julia you are an absolute Gem.

    Of course, I saw the movie when it was first released. I loved movies then and now. Every Saturday, I was at the movies. Matinee double feature with short subjects and cartoons, for the princely sum of 25 cents. Popcorn was a nickel. We sometimes went to movies on Sundays. I should write about the time I thought the Lord had come to the Lyric Theatre in Lebanon Missouri, to escort me to Training Union, personally, one Sunday evening. The movie? Battle Cry!

    Thanks for another great post!

    Pat’s last blog post..~A Rural Missouri Day Trip~

  10. says

    Julia, would you believe that I have never seen this movie? (Shame on me!) I absolutely loved reading your thoughts about it though…it looks beautiful.

    And can I just say how excited I was to meet you at Blissdom? You are even more lovely in person than you are in your blog, if that’s possible. I hope we’ll get to see each other again sometime. :)

    theArthurClan’s last blog post..I ? Faces Week 5 – "Silly"

  11. says

    Hi Julia! Thanks for another great movie post. It must take you forever to go through and get all those great screen shots.

    I had a tough time scrolling that picture of the steps in the Riviera off the screen. I could have stared at that for awhile! I love bougainvilla (fun word to spell, hope I nailed it) and the ones in that scene …anyway I could write about the whole picture forever too! I’ll leave it with..Thanks again!

    Remodeling Guy’s last blog post..Close-Up Video: Creating a Relaxing Bathroom

  12. says


    I loved meeting you! Wish we could have hung out more. I am such an early to bed kind of girl and on top of that I was all sick and snotty in the nose and well, you get the idea. Love you!

    The Nester’s last blog post..Total Bliss

  13. says

    Lover the technicolor stills! Where ever did you get them?
    I’m partial to the early version “Love Affair” made in 1939 with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer.
    xo xo

    Visual Vamp’s last blog post..The Dinner Party Reveal

  14. hookedonhouses says

    Visual Vamp–
    I took these photos while watching the DVD. I can never find the photos of movies I want, so I take them myself!

    Love you, too! -J :-)

  15. says

    I am so renting this movie this weekend now. OOh, just in time for Valentine’s Day:) I’ve seen Sleepless and I’ve seen Love Affair, but never the movie that started it all, An Affair To Remember. It’s a must now.

    BTW, thought you might be interested… we are GIVING AWAY A FREE FRAME on our blog in celebration of our 1 year blogiversary. Come by and enter to win:)

  16. says

    Oh yes Juila! o would love to return to the NYC of yesteryear…wouldn’t it be wonderful? Aw heack, NYC is wonderful in any year!

    Love this movie, loved this post!

    Sue’s last blog post..A Sweet idea

  17. says

    Hi Julia. I love this movie! And I love how it is used in Sleepless in Seattle, too, so thank you for including that scene! What a fun way to kick off a countdown to Valentine’s Day. ~Arleen

  18. says

    Ahhhh, the mother of all chick flicks-I so wanted to be Deborah Kerr! And yes I would love to have been in NYC in the 30s (without that pesky depression), 40s or 50s. Another favorite of mine Streisand and Redford in The Way We Were. It’s rainy and cold today, maybe I should just watch love stories all day.

  19. says

    Has anyone else ever noticed the similarities between the Grandmother’s villa and Brian Keith’s ranch house in Carmel from “The Parent Trap”? Is it the same set with modification?

  20. hookedonhouses says

    Derek–I hadn’t noticed, but I haven’t seen the original Parent Trap in YEARS. Makes me want to rent it again and look. It very well could’ve been the same soundstage. -Julia

  21. says

    Ah the good old movie, that were real movies. I love this one, although it has been a while since I last watched it. But then I watched the original Sabrina the other evening, after you had mentioned the remake. Still good as well.

    boysmum2’s last blog post..Good Mornings

  22. Indraraj Pawar says

    Dear Julia. We friends, here in India, were discussing (in writing) couple of points on Hollywood`s Best Romantic movies. There were lots of (more than 50….) submissions written in beautiful manner, on different examples, mostly with movies of Julia Roberts and of course Ingrid Bergman, Julie Andrews, Monroe et al. But what attracted my attention was a single line from one admirer. I quote him, “I just never wish to forget “An Affair To Remember” of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. Others were writing pages after pages including myself; but this single line was enough to move me to know more about this special Cary Grant movie which I had missed. While googling, I found this page and article with photographs from you….and wow, this is surely Gem, nothing less. The way in which you have narrated this story (which is not only romantic but a full bucket tear jerker) it dawned to me that I surely have missed watching a true poem of love. Especially when I concentrated on those photographs!!!! Hats off to you. Terry’s expression in “I just don’t want you to love me out of pity….”; no wonder you were sniffing uncontrollably. Thanks and thanks on behalf of all those who always wish to have their hearts get filled with this kind of surprise from you.
    Raj….from India.

  23. says

    Hi Julia,
    A sweet person just came and told me that there were niches in the movie, Father of the Bride, similar to what I posted about last Monday on my blog. So naturally, I knew right where to come to see them. :-) I left her the link in a message so she could come check out your post, too. :-)
    While here, I can never resist visiting your other wonderful movie houses. I LOVE this movie…the ending is just soooo romantic! ~~sigh~~ And I love the way you tell the stories in the movie. You cracked me up with the full red suit and make up for a day on the sofa, paralyzed. Now, Julia, we aren’t supposed to use logic. LOL
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Welcome to the 55th Tablescape Thursday! =-.

  24. Richard Orton says

    You know the scene where they are sailing up the Hudson and the Empire State Building comes into view in the distance? The building with curved corners almost at the river’s edge in the same shot, is Martha Stewart’s headquarters today.

  25. Jim says

    My wife was in the mood for a love story. So, we chose “An Affair to Remember”. Of course, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr were perfect in their performances and yes, the tears came when the grandmother died and at the end when romance was perfected in their coming together “for eternity”. Then I had to remember that genuine love pursues the ultimate goal of romance in marriage through total commitment of one’s self to the other as this film portrayed. Thanks to my wife who has wonderfully portrayed the reality of that gift through marriage to me!

  26. says

    Funny, I just watched “Love Affair” with Warren Beatty and Anne Benning, this morning at 7:00AM. Didn’t they get married after this film? The house in this remake (aunt’s house) is beautiful. I am just loving you r site!
    .-= colleen´s last blog ..BEAUTIFUL WINDOW IDEAS!! =-.

  27. Pam Byers says

    It’s not just you, I wish I could walk through New York and many other places in the 50’s too! Since we can’t, watching the old movies will have to do.
    Just found your site and I love it!
    Thanks so much,