Thursday, December 20, 2012

Affair to Remember Paintings

Affair to Remember painting
I love An Affair To Remember just because it's such a sweet movie. Critics will say that it is not as masterfully done was the film it was based, almost scene by scene on, Love Affair-but I say- what the heck- it's incredibily enjoyable. I love the colors, the sets, the stars and the music. And I also love An Affair to Remember for its incrediblely beautiful artwork that is only shown in fleeting scenes.

By the way- if you've never seen the movie, it's a classically unrealistic romance. A playboy, Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) and a singer, Terry McKay(Deborah Kerr) meet on a cruise ship. Although they're both engaged to other people, they fall for each other. They meet Nickie's sweet grandmother, they play some music, and viola- they're in love. Before they go their seperate ways- they promise to meet in six months time at the top of the Empire State Building- "the nearest thing to heaven"- with all their previous ties broken and prepared to embark on a new adventure with each other. Terry goes back to singing, Nickie begins painting again and slowly the pieces begin falling in place for a beautiful relationship. The biggest lesson you can learn from this movie is to look both ways before you cross the street- but no big deal.

So- in fact- we have a film with an artist, or at least an aspiring artist, as one of the main characters. Despite this, facts are few on the art that appears in the movie. I'm still looking, but, to date, I could not find a single reference to who created the works seen in the movie. No offense to Cary Grant, but none of them are too intricate or amazing, so it's very likely some starving artist painted them in Hollywood and just never received credit. If you know anything, let me know.

Still, I can go through the artwork that appears in the film for analyzing. There are a few distinct pieces seen. On a whole though, the artwork seen in the film, with a few exceptions, represents love, especially the love of one who is not present.

This is apparent in the first work. Here's the background. The ship stops for a quick break and Nickie and Terry go ashore to see Nickie's grandmother, Janou. Bearing gifts in hand, they enter her beautiful villa, her sanctuary, and she gives beautiful advice to Terry. While talking, Janou points out a landscape supposedly done by Nickie.
Affair to Remember painting

Terry is amazed at Nickie's artistic talents. To me, it looks like a fairly basic, primitive landscape. It kind of reminds me of some of Cezanne's work. But, I'll digress.

Affair to Remember painting

Later, Nickie comes in, and gives his gift to Janou. It's a beautifully rendered portrait of his deceased grandfather, painted from memory. It's a beautiful painting and a beautiful gesture, and it's appreciated. Plot-wise, it establishes Nickie as a more sensitive and family-oriented character than the audience would assume. Here's the portrait.
Grandfather Portrait
Despite the obviously French subject (look at the mustache), the work lacks the delicacy of 19th century French portriture as well as the avante-garde nature of much of contemporary French work.  This painting reminds me of society portraits of the 20s and 30s. Which means, a painter who may have done actor portraits in Hollywood may have painted this. But, who knows. More importantly, early on it establishes a theme of artwork in the movie. This piece represents a loved one, his grandfather, who is no longer with the artist (Nickie). It is a piece created out of love, in an attempt to forever capture one's love.

 Later in the film, we get a glimpse of Nickie's studio. His agent is examining a piece- one that is not shown- but a still life of fruit is the background. Perhaps it's because it is a still life of fruit, but it strongly reminds me of the simple still lifes done by Cezanne (again.) You can judge for yourself.


Finally, the last piece seen is the most important piece. It's a painting of Terry and Janou (who is now decased) in a mirror image, wearing the same shawl. Essentially, it's a painting of the two women Nickie loves most. It occurs during the climax of the movie, when Nickie confronts Terry for not following through with the promise. Gradually, throughout their discourse, after he remembers a certain painting that a poor woman was given b y his dealer, he enters the bedroom...
Janou Terry Painting
He sees the painting in a mirror, and the camera focuses on his reaction to realizing that Terry does not not love him anymore. It's a beautiful, poignant scene, as his composure changes, he realizes the truth, rushes to Terry and happily ever after.

Yet, for an important work, there's very little focus on it. The camera focuses on it for mere seconds before it turns to Nickie. In fact, it's never even shown straight on-it's a mirror image of the painting. From what you can tell, it appears crude, but full of emotion and therefore intentionally a little rough to convey the sadness the painter felt.

I assumed that there would be a ton of information on this piece as it provides the turning point of one of the classic romance films in movie history- but alas! I can find nothing! I'm assuming a Fox studio artist created this, perhaps a storyboard artist. This could explain the roughness in some of the works. Nothing is super refined, which leads me to believe that the artist was not super refined.

Still, I love the movie, and despite my snobby criticism, I do love this movie and I do love the art in the movie. Also- this is one of those great movie that's not a Christmas movie but takes place during Christmas. The title and credit scenes are shown over a beautiful New York snow scene. So, I'll end my post with a Merry Christmas to you (my non-existant?) readers and that beautiful scene.


  1. Do you follow the 'Keeping Up With The Kardashinans' Show? I do not... but I am embarrassed to say that the one episode that they were trying to identify a Modigliani that was found in their house as a real or fake interested me. Art experts were confirming that it was authentic... but alas the paint was too modern to have existed during Modigliani's active years.... WELL, Mystery solved. The 'fake Modigliani' was a PROP painting, painted for the movie "An Affair To Remember" with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. If you look closely at the 'television interview' scene at 1:04 into the movie the painting appears in the background. Also, seems to still be in the same, or similar, frame. The rich woman that Cary Grant is supposed to be marrying is an art collector so the Modigliani would be a good artist to use. It is the same image. I have been a prop painting artist for several years and I am sure after filming those props float around and end up with people that believe they have found the 'real thing'.

  2. I love your comments and criticisms on art works in movies. I am a Cary Grant fan and I noticed in his movies, there are a lot of paintings. One such painting I noticed was the once they used in That Touch of Mink (1962). And when I saw that painting, it was the same painting that Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock was looking at when they were in the set of To Catch a Thief (1955). I think it was also used in the movie as a decor in the house of John Robie (Cary Grant). I have been searching who made that painting but no luck.


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