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Posts Tagged ‘An Affair to Remember’


DeWitt Henry was the founding editor of Ploughshares. He’s published a novel, two memoirs, a story collection, and several anthologies. He is a Professor Emeritus at Emerson College and serves as a contributing editor to both Woven Tale Press and Solstice magazines. Plume Editions will publish a collection of his lyrical essays next year. For details see www.dewitthenry.com .

 

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER 

Sure, sure, we’ve got the star personalities of Kerr and Grant for starters (both English, both elegantly mannered, with a distancing wit perfectly poised with whole-hearted passion: Grant here will play the same charm he played in, say, Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief or in Bringing Up Baby with Katherine Hepburn; Kerr will play her repressed yet passionate King and I self).

Now for situation. We want the tension of adultery, of socially forbidden love, but a 1950’s mass audience will not celebrate adultery. We will tease the idea, to be sure, by using the word “affair” in the title. But let’s try this set up: both characters are engaged to publicly known rich fiances, while both themselves are relatively hardscrable and incompetent to earn a living (let’s make them both talented, but shy artists, she as a singer, he as a painter). We won’t press the matter, but both are freeloaders, planning to marry for money, social status, and security. The conflict, then, is that they fall in love, partly thanks to their ability to see through each other; two charmers charm each other; but if they indulge their love on ship board, like adulterous lovers, they will be witnessed and judged by society and lose their rich fiances and marital prospects. Let’s have them choose to pursue their true natures, not impetuously, but passionately. They will separate for six months, break with their fiances, and work hard as artists to separately earn a living. In other words, they give each other the purpose and confidence to fulfill their individual natures. Then they are to meet, compare notes, and marry. But, let’s see, what larger, O’Henry-ish obstacle can we contrive? Got it! How about if just as She is going to meet Him and is “looking up,” She is hit by a car, so He is left with the idea that she has decided against their marrying and has broken her promise. Yeah, yeah, the story can get away with this; cheap shot, yeah, but we’re not talking witty reparte anymore, we’re talking Love in the Hands of Fate (or perhaps an Angry God). (more…)

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