The original story is the brainstorm of director Leo McCarey, who directed the first version and the second version of the screenplay, only 18 years apart. The first version with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer, called Love Affair (1939) and the second version with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant called An Affair To Remember (1957). He would hire screenwriters Mildred Cram, Delmer Daves and one of my favorites, Donald Ogden Stewart.
It’s a rare story when it becomes a favorite of almost everyone involved. The original was a favorite movie of both Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer and Leo McCarey liked it so much that years later when he had a chance to remake one of his previous films, he chose this one. The film is about a handsome playboy (Cary/Charles) who falls in love with American Terry McKay on board a transatlantic cruise ship. They arrange to reunite some time later, after (Charles/Cary) has had a chance to earn a decent living, only to have Terry not show up. They learn later that Terry has had a tragic accident, and can no longer walk. The character name for Charles and Cary are different, so that’s why I mention them instead of the character name whereas the name of the character for Irene Dunne and Deborah Kerr is the same, Terry McKay.
The scripts were the same for each movie, but in the second version, Cary and Deborah were given the opportunity to improvise and so several of these moments made the final cut. Interesting to note, the year before this film was made, Kerr played Anna Leonowens in The King and I (1956), also a role that had previously been played by Irene Dunne in the black-and-white classic Anna and the King of Siam (1946). “The King and I” is a musical based on the same book.
Now, An Affair to Remember was voted number 5 for Greatest Love Stories of all Time by the American Film Institute, but neither the original nor the 1994 version of Love Affair, made with Warren Beatty and Annette Benning, made the top 100 list. In my opinion, this is the way it should be, as the Warren Beatty version is awful. Although, a film that was inspired by An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle (1993) which was voted 45th on that list (but it ended up as #10 on the list of Romantic Comedies), I think is the best film of all four. I love that film as it really shows why An Affair to Remember holds up so well and is so beloved by so many people. So, as a perfect tandem, I would suggest seeing a Double Feature of An Affair To Remember 1st and then follow it up with Sleepless in Seattle. That is a perfect date night!