An Affair to Remember

Leo McCarey, USA, 1957, Théâtre du Temple


This excerpt captures the exact moment that two characters, Terry – played by Deborah Carr and Nickie – played by Cary Grant, fall in love with each other. It is thanks to a third character, Nickie’s grandmother, that the fledgling couple has to come to visit the South of France from their native America on a stop-over, whilst on a cruise. The Grandmother’s house is situated at the top of the town in Villefranche. It is her place, it contains all of her memories, her life, her past, including that of her late husband, and also, Nickie’s childhood memories. It is during their visit that Terry discovers Nickie’s unexpectedly sensitive, arty side. While the Grandmother plays the piano and Terry sings there is a pronounced interplay of affectionate glances, signalling the burgeoning love between Nickie and Terry, and the approval of the grandmother, signalled by the music. The distant sound of the cruise-liner’s horn signals the boat’s impending departure for another place and indicates the separation between the aged grandmother and her grandson. This also signals that this may be the last time they see each other, as he lives on the other side of the Atlantic. Once outside, Terry stays anchored and alone in the garden and frame, as the others have headed for the gate, and then joins them, entering the shot at the edge of this very precisely defined world. We see the stairway that leads to the place, as well as to the wide world below – the village, the sea and elsewhere beyond in the limitless expanse of space, which the Grandmother no longer seems concerned with. She identifies that “It’s the limits of my little world”. It’s almost the same shot as when they arrived (see extract II/A). The reverse of the shot shows the garden in the background like the last time, as we are seeing it from Nickie’s point of view. The grandson and grandmother pretend that they’re just saying a simple good bye. On the other side of the shot, looking out to sea, the couple and the grandmother are each on either side of a dividing line, Terry and Nickie turn several times, they can’t leave this ‘little world’ until Terry and the old lady have hugged for one last time. The marriage of the fade with the sound of the boat’s horn in the distance signals very simply, and with a degree of cruelty, a distance – the boat is already far away, as is the inevitability of their separation.