Sixty years later, a big part of the reason the Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr romantic flick is remembered is due to the 1993 Nora Ephron romance Sleepless In Seattle. The later film was not just an homage to Affair but part of Ephron’s apartheid: The idea that not only do men and women enjoy different movies, but that they must enjoy different movies. It’s probably not her fault but in her wake, the romantic-comedy became “chick flick” country whereas it had, in the past, been more for general audiences. Romances, too, used to be not the exclusive domain of women, unlike now, in what we might call the “Nicholas Sparks era”.
I mention this because I had never seen this movie before and I loved it.
Directed by Leo McCarey whose career spanned the silents before hitting such highlights as Duck Soup and The Awful Truth, this isn’t a screwball comedy or even a romantic comedy. It’s just a straight-up romance from a time when that meant keeping the audience entertained in-between the heavy petting (the audience’s petting, I mean).
Grant and Kerr meet on a cruise, the former playing a ladies’ man who’s finally (and famously) decided to settle down and the latter also being engaged to a staid character who has sent her on a cruise because, holy cow, who knew Cary Grant would be there? Our previously timid about commitment characters discover, however, that they are wildly (and deeply!) attracted to each other but also unwilling to do anything rash and stupid, and so decide to split up for six months to take care of their (ahem) situations and then, if they still feel the same way, meet on top of the Empire State Building.
It’s actually a pretty decent and sensible thing, and you find yourself liking our heroes because of it, and not just because they’re Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant.
Well, things go wrong, of course, and our characters (now single in the world but pining for each other nonetheless) drift about in the second half of the film where misunderstandings and lack of information conspire to keep them apart.
A good romance has suspense, you know? This has suspense. One presumes that the conventions of the genre will get our characters together but it’s not safe presumption, and most importantly, it doesn’t feel safe. There could be a tragic outcome.
And I suspect, if I saw it again, I would still be unsure what the outcome would be.
I liked it. The Flower liked it. The Boy liked it. A good movie’s a good movie, folks. Don’t let your chromosomes define you. At least as far as what movies to watch. Maybe for what bathrooms to use, but you do you.