Cary Grant movies: 'An Affair to Remember' does sentimental justice to its title
Cary Grant excelled at playing Cary Grant. This evening, Dec. 8, '14, fans of the charming, sophisticated, debonair actor – not to be confused with the Bristol-born Archibald Leach – can rejoice, as no less than eight Cary Grant movies will be shown on Turner Classic Movies, including a handful of his most successful and most popular star vehicles from the late '30s to the late '50s.
The evening begins with what may well be Cary Grant's best-remembered film, An Affair to Remember. This 1957 romantic comedy-melodrama is unusual for a couple of reasons:
- It's a more successful remake of a critical and box office hit: the Academy Award-nominated 1939 release Love Affair.
- It was directed by the same man who handled the original: Leo McCarey – Best Director Oscar winner for the screwball comedy The Awful Truth (1937) and for the sentimental blockbuster Going My Way (1944).
So, who says that remakes are invariably inferior to the originals?
The closest place to heaven
In An Affair to Remember, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr (purportedly in place of original choice Ingrid Bergman) meet and fall in love while aboard an ocean liner. One problem, however, is that Grant is engaged to filthy rich heiress Neva Patterson. (No, that's not an inside joke hinting at Grant's second wife Barbara Hutton; the rich heiress is also found in the 1939 original.) Another problem is that Kerr is about to get married to Richard Denning.
McCarey's movie features witty lines, a fateful car accident, the Empire State Building (so the non-mountain-climbing lovers could be as close to heaven as it was earthly possible back in the late '50s), and several plot elements seemingly lifted from the 1932 Warner Bros. release One Way Passage.
Donald Ogden Stewart scratched out
The screenplay for the 1957 remake was reportedly the same one used for Love Affair, with enough “updates” to grant McCarey co-screenwriting credit along with 1939 co-writer Delmer Daves (later a director of classy Westerns and tawdry melodramas). Additionally, McCarey and Mildred Cram received “original story” credit on both films.
Now, screenplay credit on Love Affair went to Daves and Donald Ogden Stewart. So, why wasn't Stewart listed in the credits of An Affair to Remember as well?
That's because the screenwriter – whose oeuvre included Dinner at Eight, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, and Kitty Foyle – had been blacklisted as a result of the anti-Red hysteria of the post-World War II years. (Not helping matters, McCarey was an ardent right-winger.)
Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in solid form
Back to the pretty stuff: helping to keep the story's ever-threatening mushiness mostly at bay, both Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr deliver first-rate performances in the film's lighter moments. (Grant loses points in the more dramatic scenes.)
An Affair to Remember also boasts stylish color cinematography (courtesy of Milton Krasner) and art direction (Jack Martin Smith and Lyle R. Wheeler), and a melodious music score (Hugo Friedhofer). Kerr's singing of the Oscar-nominated ditty “An Affair to Remember” was actually performed by Marni Nixon, who had dubbed her the previous year in Walter Lang's The King and I. The song would become a major Vic Damone hit.
'An Affair to Remember' ancestors and descendants
Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne starred in the 1939 Love Affair. Dunne was nominated for that year's Best Actress Academy Award, but lost to Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind. Fifty-five years later, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening teamed up in Glenn Gordon Caron's poorly received remake, also titled Love Affair.
The character played by Cathleen Nesbitt in An Affair to Remember had been originated by Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Maria Ouspenskaya in 1939 and would be revived by Katharine Hepburn – in her last feature-film appearance – in the 1994 remake.
And finally, Tay Garnett's comedy-melodrama One Way Passage stars William Powell and Kay Francis as two passengers who meet and fall in love aboard an ocean liner – but who are, at least in this world, to be kept apart by fate.
'Topper': Cary Grant and Constance Bennett as sophisticated ghostly do-gooders
In Norman Z. McLeod's Topper (1937), Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are scrupulously attired ghosts out to help out the title character played by Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Roland Young. See, poor Cosmo Topper is bossed around by his bird-like wife Clara (Billie Burke) and he sure needs all the help he can get.
“Supporting actor” Young is actually as much a lead in Topper as Grant and Bennett, and even though he was the one shortlisted for the Oscars, Constance Bennett is easily the most enjoyable cast member. It's too bad that by then her film stardom was all but over, following years spent suffering in the hands of heartless men in a series of insufferable, brainless RKO melodramas.
Yet Topper was successful enough to spawn two sequels:
- Topper Takes a Trip (1939), featuring Bennett and Young (but not Grant).
- Topper Returns (1941), featuring Young and the ghostly presence of Joan Blondell and the fleshly one of Carole Landis.
Neither one is as enjoyable as the first film.
A misguided 1979 made-for-TV remake starred Kate Jackson, Andrew Stevens, and Jack Warden in the roles originally played by Bennett, Grant, and Young. There was also a 1950s television series starring the real-life husband and wife team of Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys, in addition to Leo G. Carroll as Topper.
Keep your eyes open: A Hal Roach production released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, according to the IMDb Topper features a number of silent film performers in bit parts, among them Jack Mulhall, Kenneth Harlan, and former MGM leading lady Claire Windsor. A pre-stardom Lana Turner can supposedly be spotted in a bit part as well.
'Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House': Not quite a Dream Comedy
H.C. Potter's Selznick release Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) is a perfectly watchable “family comedy” – in that it's indeed about a family – but funny ha-ha it isn't.* Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and particularly Melvyn Douglas are all highly likable, and that's what makes this somewhat meandering movie at least moderately entertaining.
Adapted by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama from Eric Hodgins' novel, the plot has Grant, Loy, and family moving from New York City to a deceptively peaceful rural community. In case that reminds you of another movie, that's because Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is very similar to Universal's just as commercially successful – but more banal – Chester Erskine-directed 1947 comedy The Egg and I, starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray.
As an aside: Directed by Steve Carr, and starring Ice Cube and Nia Long, a widely lambasted remake of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House – Are We Done Yet? – was released in 2007.
* As a result of a special arrangement involving the services of former David O. Selznick employee and RKO head-of-production-to-be Dore Schary, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, a Selznick-RKO coproduction, was originally distributed in North America by the Selznick Releasing Organization. In 1953, rights to the film reverted to RKO.
'The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer': Shirley Temple as family friendly stalking teen
Also on Turner Classic Movies this evening is another major Cary Grant-Myrna Loy box office hit of the late '40s: Irving Reis' The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947). This mundane, unfunny comedy follows a teenager (Shirley Temple) who falls in lust with an older man and all-around playboy (Cary Grant) – never mind that this sort of plot device had become by then a tired Deanna Durbin Movie cliché.
Anyhow, as luck would have it, the playboy falls in love with the teen's legal-minded sister: Judge Myrna Loy. Who could blame him?
Featuring loads of juvenile situations, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer wastes everybody's talent – except that of scene stealer Harry Davenport, best known for playing Dr. Meade in Gone with the Wind.
'The Talk of the Town': One of Cary Grant's best movies
Far superior to The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer – and, for that matter, to Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House – is George Stevens' The Talk of the Town, one of the best movies of Cary Grant's career.
Co-starring Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman, both of whom steal the show from their co-star, this thought-provoking 1942 comedy-drama features Grant as – are you ready? – an escaped prisoner (purportedly an arsonist) and political activist.
Ronald Colman plays a stuffy judge while Jean Arthur's somewhat eccentric teacher is the object of desire of both the man-on-the-run and the man-on-the-bench. As a plus, The Talk of the Town features former Warner Bros. scene stealer Glenda Farrell in a memorable supporting role.
Two movies with Betsy Drake
Wrapping up Turner Classic Movies' Cary Grant evening are two films starring Grant and his third wife, Betsy Drake:
- Don Hartman's fluffy comedy Every Girl Should Be Married (1948), in which Drake is desperately trying to find herself a husband.
- Veteran Norman Taurog's Room for One More (1952), which revolves around married couple Grant and Drake's decision to add orphans to their already large family.
Cary Grant and Betsy Drake weren't married when they co-starred in Every Girl Should Be Married. Their marriage went from 1949 to 1962.
And finally, in Mr. Lucky (1943) Cary Grant finds himself unwillingly falling in love with Laraine Day. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House director H.C. Potter also handled this one – one of RKO's biggest box office hits of the year. See also:
- “Cary Grant Classic Movies.”
- “Cary Grant and Randolph Scott: Gay Lovers?”
- “Cary Grant and Randolph Scott marriages.”
Cary Grant movies: TCM schedule (PT):
5:00 PM AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957). Dir.: Leo McCarey. Cast: Cary Grant. Deborah Kerr. Richard Denning. Neva Patterson. Cathleen Nesbitt. Robert Q. Lewis. Charles Watts. Fortunio Bonanova. Voice: Marni Nixon. Uncredited: Dorothy Adams. Minta Durfee. Matt Moore. Color. 115 mins. Letterbox Format
7:00 PM TOPPER (1937). Dir.: Norman Z. McLeod. Cast: Constance Bennett. Cary Grant. Roland Young. Billie Burke. Alan Mowbray. Eugene Pallette. Arthur Lake. Hedda Hopper. Virginia Sale. Theodore von Eltz. J. Farrell MacDonald. Elaine Shepard. Doodles Weaver. Uncredited: Betty Blythe. Irving Bacon. Ward Bond. Hoagy Carmichael. Dorothy Christy. Claire Du Brey. Kenneth Harlan. Crauford Kent. Bess Flowers. Jack Mulhall. Lana Turner. Claire Windsor. B&W. 98 min.
9:00 PM MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948). Dir.: H.C. Potter. Cast: Cary Grant. Myrna Loy. Melvyn Douglas. Reginald Denny. Sharyn Moffett. Connie Marshall. Louise Beavers. Ian Wolfe. Harry Shannon. Jason Robards Sr. Lurene Tuttle. Nestor Paiva. Lex Barker. Uncredited: Emory Parnell. Charles Middleton. Will Wright. B&W. 94 min.
10:45 PM THE TALK OF THE TOWN (1942). Dir.: George Stevens. Cast: Cary Grant. Jean Arthur. Ronald Colman. Glenda Farrell. Edgar Buchanan. Charles Dingle. Emma Dunn. Leonid Kinskey. Tom Tyler. Rex Ingram. Uncredited: Lloyd Bridges. Leslie Brooks. Don Beddoe. Gino Corrado. Clarence Muse. Clyde Fillmore. Edward Hearn. Lee Phelps. Jack Shea. Dewey Robinson. Dan Seymour. B&W. 117 min.
12:45 AM THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER (1947). Dir.: Irving Reis. Cast: Cary Grant. Myrna Loy. Shirley Temple. Harry Davenport. B&W. 95 min.
2:30 AM EVERY GIRL SHOULD BE MARRIED (1948). Dir.: Don Hartman. Cast: Cary Grant. Franchot Tone. Betsy Drake. Diana Lynn. B&W. 85 min.
4:00 AM ROOM FOR ONE MORE (1952). Dir.: Norman Taurog. Cast: Cary Grant. Betsy Drake. Lurene Tuttle. B&W. 95 min.
5:45 AM MR. LUCKY (1943). Dir.: H.C. Potter. Cast: Cary Grant. Laraine Day. Charles Bickford. B&W. 100 min.
Cary Grant movies' cast info via the IMDb.
Source for the Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House distribution agreement: Richard B. Jewell and Vernon Harbin's The RKO Story.
Top Cary Grant image via carygrant.net.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House trailer: RKO / Warner Bros.
Image of Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember: 20th Century Fox.
Image of Constance Bennett and Cary Grant in Topper: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.