Hello again! I’m hoping everyone had a safe and happy holiday, be that Christmas if that’s what you celebrate, or Hanukkah (belated). Or even Kwanzaa (which is still ongoing). I was just holed up here with Roommate Russ, and we coped with my broken knee and our broken oven by just ordering a bunch of munchy stuff to graze on, and we each had zoom calls with our families and opened a couple of small gifts. We also spent an exciting few days trying to track my parents’ package for me, which went awry in the postal system but seems to be once again on its way here…we’re expecting it to come sometime on Monday…
So are you all good as well? Any New Year’s plans?… haha…
(pause, shuffles feet)
Oh God, please don’t make me write about this film…
Mind you, it wasn’t bad. If it was truly terrible I’d have a much easier time with this, pouring out all kinds of rants and going full-on Dorothy Parker on it. It’s easy to talk about the really good films or the really bad ones. But for the vast, huge sort of meh spot in the middle, you don’t really end up with much to say, and I’m afraid that this fell into the meh spot for me.
It started far more promisingly. Cary Grant is “Nicky Ferante”, a sort of socialite himbo playboy who’s on a steamship from Europe back to New York, where he has finally agreed to marry another wealthy socialite. But while on board, he runs into the similarly-engaged Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr), a spunky and witty singer. Terry at first tries to insist on keeping Nicky at arms’ length – she’s heard of his reputation, and is trying to preserve her own – but the chemistry is too strong, and they get chummy enough that Nicky invites her along when the ship docks near the little French town where his beloved grandmother lives (Cathleen Nesbit) and he wants to pay a visit. Grandma also fawns over Terry, spotting their mutual attraction and recognizing the strength of their match. By the time the ship arrives in New York, Terry and Nicky are In Love – but agree they should give things a think first before chucking their respective existing relationships. They impulsively make a pact – if they each still feel the same in six months’ time, they’ll meet on the top floor of the Empire State Building.
And lo and behold, they do each feel the same six months later. And Nicky arrives for their meeting. Terry also sets out – but when she’s only one block away, she is hit by a car, suffering serious enough injuries that she is hospitalized with two severely broken legs. Nicky, meanwhile, knows none of this – and after waiting for Terry to show, finally leaves, broken-hearted.
….Now, if the movie had ended there, that’d be one thing. But it doesn’t – we instead have to sit through another several scenes of Nicky trying to get over his heartbreak, and Terry trying to recover from her injuries. Her old fiance Kenneth (Richard Denning) – now content to just be a friend – keeps urging her to contact Nicky and let him know what happened, but Terry keeps refusing – because she doesn’t want Nicky to feel obligated. She will seek Nicky out when she’s better, and that’s that.
And it’s one of the stupidest and most manipulative things I’ve ever heard.
Terry’s hiding from Nicky isn’t even the worst part – it’s not illogical, though, and I guess if I squint I can understand why someone would take that stance. But what’s even worse, for me, is that it totally changes her character, and totally changes the tone of the movie. Pre-accident, shipboard Terry is lively, feisty, and more than able to hold her own against Nicky’s antics. She not only recognizes his early smooth talk as flattery, she calls him out on it, thinking rings around him and poking holes in his act. It’s why Nicky is so enchanted – she’s not just another pretty face who falls for his usual act. Even better, the more he cuts the crap and lets his guard down, the more drawn to him she is – and the more he is drawn to her. They really are well-suited, and their shipboard chemistry is fun to watch. But then that all completely vanishes, and Terry is turned into a maudlin, sentimental martyr, primly taking a job as the childrens’ choir teacher at a church and sadly resisting the impulse to contact Nicky. She will worship him from afar, anonymously cheer him on as his career takes off – and otherwise stay back in the shadows, and if she loses him forever, so be it.
It is such a character shift that it’s obvious the whole post-accident hour is meant to draw out the audience anticipation and manipulate them into fretting about whether Terry and Nicky will ever be reunited. But it’s a romantic comedy from 1957, so I already knew they would – and so it instead came across as an hour of Terry wimping out. Shipboard Terry knew what she wanted and was determined to hang on to it – Post-Accident Terry is ready to give it up for the sake of pride or self-sacrifice. I like to think Shipboard Terry would have shaken Post-Accident Terry and told her to stop being such a wimp.
It was honestly the chemistry between Grant and Kerr in the movie’s first half which kept this from being a total loss for me; it’s lively, it has a good deal of chuckles, and it played on Grant’s familiar comic instincts. If only they had sustained it.