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Video: The real-life story behind “The Vow”

TODAY contributor
updated 2/13/2012 11:43:29 AM ET 2012-02-13T16:43:29

In a family built on determination and faith, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter have learned that love not only conquers all, it also fills seats in movie theaters.

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The Carpenters' heart-tugging real-life story — Kim pulled out all the stops to make his wife Krickitt fall in love with him again after she lost her memory in a car crash — proved to be box-office catnip for moviegoers. The film "The Vow," starring Channing Tatum and four-hankie queen Rachel McAdams, earned nearly $42 million in its first three days.

Video: The real-life story behind “The Vow” (on this page)

Kim is thrilled the movie is a runaway hit, he told TODAY Monday, because it tells a story he's wanted the world to hear.

"We live in a society where vows are constantly broken...Years ago, till death do us part meant the death of a soul mate; today it's the death of a marriage that society has accepted," he told Ann Curry in a live interview alongside Krickitt, crediting "two very faithful sets of parents that took great care of us" for their determination towards commitment. "Accompany that with our faith, that's what you do. You do the right thing."

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For Kim Carpenter, the right thing was to hold a marriage together despite his spouse's inability to recall a thing about him.

The pair met in 1992. Kim, living in New Mexico at the time, called a sporting goods store in California and became enamored by the voice on the other end of the phone — Krickitt's. He kept calling, with more than basketballs on his mind. A few months later, he traveled to the Golden State to meet Krickitt face to face, and sparks flew. Just two months after their first meeting, the couple were engaged; three months later, they married.

Story: Channing Tatum takes on McConaughey on 'SNL'

In November 1993, just weeks into their marriage, they were traveling to Arizona for Thanksgiving when they were involved in a horrible car accident. "I heard 'Watch out!' and the most blood-curdling scream," Kim told NBC's Kristen Dahlgren. "I heard Kristen just gasp; I thought it was the last breath of air she could get."

Kim was told Krickitt was beyond medical help, given less than a one percent chance of survival. But in a story laced with miracles, she survived the crash, and made astounding progress in two months. She could remember her parents' names, but when asked about her husband, she told doctors, "I'm not married."

Story: ‘The Vow’: A true story of love and enduring commitment

She moved back in with Kim, but still had no recollection of him. Kim told NBC's Dahlgren he tried everything to jog her memory. "I wanted my wife back," he said. "I became obsessed with putting pictures of us...anywhere. She couldn't sit down in the bathroom without seeing a picture."

But nothing would jog Krickitt's memory. Finally, a therapist told Kim what he needed to do — make Krickitt fall in love with him all over again. Kim began taking his wife out on dates, wooing her like it was their first go-around, and popping the question for a second time. Two and a half years after the crash, Kim walked Krickitt down the aisle in a re-dedication ceremony that Krickitt would remember as her actual wedding day.

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"It was exciting that I had a memory to hold onto," Krickitt told Curry Monday. "I chose to love him, and obviously my love grew for him and he's a wonderful husband. You have to stay committed, and you know, you have trials in your life and you have to keep persevering."

Image: Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams star in Screen Gems' THE VOW
Kerry Hayes  /  2011 Vow Productions
Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams star in "The Vow," inspired by the true story of Kim and Krickett Carpenter.

The Carpenters' amazing love story gained national traction along the way. A book, "The Vow," was released in 2000, and among their promotional appearances was a TODAY interview with Curry. The Carpenters were so touched by their conversation that they named their daughter Lee-Ann, after Curry and another TV host they befriended, Leeza Gibbons.

Kim told Curry she's now a part of their family. "We look forward to continuing to get to know you more through the years, and you've been a blessing," he said.

Story: 'The Vow' romances moviegoers to win box office

And while Kim is amused at seeing himself played on the big screen by a bonafide Hollywood hunk, much more, he's grateful that their children, Lee-Ann and Danny, can see their parents' story captured on celluloid.

"It's the greatest compliment to be able to let those kids see the enamor, the glitz and attention for doing the right thing," said Kim. "Those kids get to see what mom and dad did and all the attention you're getting, it's the greatest life lesson you could really have.

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"Hopefully, this will be a real memory for them to carry on."

Kim and Krickitt have also just released an updated book version of "The Vow" that adds details from their lives since the original 2000 release.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: Most memorable kisses of all time

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  1. Most famous kisses

    Happy Valentine’s Day! A day filled with love, flowers, hugs and kisses. Kisses are the declarations of love that make us laugh, cry and swoon. Check out some of the most famous ones from the movies, TV, fine art and the news.

    'From Here to Eternity'

    Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr share one of cinema's most legendary embraces in the 1953 movie. The iconic beach scene was shot at Halona Cove, Oahu, Hawaii. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'Gone with the Wind'

    "You need kissing badly," Clark Gable, as Rhett Butler, told Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara in this 1939 epic. "You should be kissed, and often. And by someone who knows how." While proposing to the twice-widowed Scarlett, he proves he's the man for the job. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'The Fraternal Kiss'

    This painting by Dmitri Vrubel is one of the best-known of the Berlin Wall graffiti paintings. Created in 1990, it depicts Soviet and East German heads of state Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in a fraternal embrace, reproducing a photograph that captured the moment in 1979 during the 30th anniversary celebration of the foundation of the German Democratic Republic. The painting was destroyed in March 2009. (Steve Eason / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 'Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville'

    In 1950, French photographer Robert Doisneau created his most iconic work: "Le baiser de l'Hôtel de Ville (Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville)," a photo of a couple kissing in the busy streets of Paris. It became an internationally recognized symbol of young love in Paris. (©Robert Doisneau/ Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 'Brokeback Mountain'

    This 2005 romantic drama film starring Heath Ledger (right) and Jake Gyllenhaal, depicts the complex romantic and sexual relationship between two men in the American West. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Al and Tipper Gore

    Al Gore and wife Tipper kiss after his speech on opening night of the Democratic National Convention, July 26, 2004 in Boston. The energetic smooch drew widespread media attention. In 2010, the Gores announced they were separating after 40 years of marriage. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 'Ghost'

    In the 1990 supernatural romance "Ghost," the love between Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze transcends death itself. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 'It's a Wonderful Life'

    In the 1946 classic, James Stewart plays a small-town man whose life seems so desperate he contemplates suicide. He marries his childhood sweetheart Donna Reed and is stopped from jumping off a from a bridge by his guardian angel, who shows him what life would have become had he had never lived. () Back to slideshow navigation
  9. KISS

    Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of KISS. You can't do a slideshow of most famous kisses without including this American rock band well known for its members' crazy costumes and face paint. (WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. 'Lady and the Tramp'

    Pampered cocker spaniel Lady falls in love with the Tramp, a mutt who lives on the streets. Their kiss happens as they share the same spaghetti noodle: a beautiful and touching moment. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Britney Spears and Madonna

    The two singers shared an infamous smooch during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Spears (left) said the kiss was Madonna's idea and that she had butterflies about it. (Frank Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'

    Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) jumps from her taxi to smooch her love (George Peppard) in the rain at the climax of this classic 1961 film. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. 'The Princess Bride'

    Cary Elwes and Robin Wright's unrequited love finally fulfilled in the winsome 1987 film. The narration put it nicely: "Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind." (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 'Planet of the Apes'

    Filmdom's first interspecies smooch may have been in this 1968 sci-fi classic. Chimpanzee psychologist Dr. Zira (Kim Stanley) meets injured astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) and helps nurse him back to health. Before Taylor departs, they share a goodbye kiss. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. 'An Officer and a Gentleman'

    Richard Gere appears suddenly in a Navy dress uniform at Debra Winger's lunchbag factory at the finale of the 1982 hit. He kisses her, sweeps her up in his arms, and walks out to the applause and cheers of her coworkers. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. 'The Empire Strikes Back'

    Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) find the Force of mutual attraction in the second Star Wars film. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'The Notebook'

    Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) kiss passionately in the rain after seven years apart. A disapproving family and a devoted fiance can't keep them away from one another in this romantic fave film from 2004. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rodin's 'The Kiss'

    "The Kiss" is an iconic 1889 marble sculpture by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. It was inspired by the tale of Paolo and Francesca, lovers entwined for eternity in Dante's Inferno. http://www.vibrationdata.com/Rodin.html (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Roseanne Barr and Mariel Hemingway on 'Roseanne'

    One of the first TV series to openly advocate for gay rights, "Roseanne" aired a 1994 episode entitled "Dont Ask, Don't Tell" in which Roseanne and Mariel Hemingway shared a kiss in a gay bar, one of the first lesbian kisses on TV. (ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Will and Kate

    Britain's Prince William kisses his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, after their wedding service on April 29, 2011. An unimpressed flower girl became an Internet meme. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Kirk and Uhura on 'Star Trek'

    In her role as Lieutenant Uhura, Nichols famously kissed white actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the November 22, 1968, Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren". The episode is popularly cited as the first example of an interracial kiss on U.S. television. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. 'Sixteen Candles'

    In this 1984 classic, everyone forgets Samantha's (Molly Ringwald) 16th birthday. Fortunately, at the end of the film, she shares a romantic kiss with the guy of her dreams (Michael Schoeffling) over a cake lit with 16 candles. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. 'When Harry Met Sally'

    The New Years' Eve kiss shared by Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) is the highlight of this 1993 romantic comedy classic. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. 'Spider-Man'

    Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire), is heels over head in love with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) in this 2002 super-hero saga, which has one of the most recognizable movie kisses ever. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. V-J Day in Times Square

    Probably one of the most recognized kisses of all time is this one between a sailor and a young nurse in Times Square, shortly after the surrender of Japan in 1945. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt caught the joyful moment. (Alfred Eisenstaedt / Time & Life Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen

    One of the most talked-about moments of the 2007 MTV movie awards was when actors Will Ferrell (left) and Sacha Baron Cohen liplocked after accepting their award for "Best Kiss." (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. 'Titanic'

    Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) share a kiss aboard the doomed ship in the1997 hit "Titanic." Winner of eleven Oscars, it was the first film to earn more than $1 billion worldwide. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. 'Sleeping Beauty'

    Princess Aurora is doomed to die on her 16th birthday in this animated Disney classic from 1959. Thankfully, a good fairy uses her spell to have the princess fall asleep until she is awakened with a kiss. In the end, Prince Phillip removes the curse with the Kiss of Awakening, and yes, they live happily ever after. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Chilean miner rescue

    Miner Osman Araya kisses his wife Angelica after being brought to the surface on Oct. 13, 2010 at the San Jose mine in Santiago, Chile. Araya was the the sixth miner of 33 to be rescued after a record 69 days deep underground. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. 'Twilight'

    Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson exchange a steamy smooch in the 2006 hit "Twilight." There is crazy chemistry between their characters: Vampire Edward longs to kiss Bella tenderly, but must overcome his unfortunate impulse to, well, drink her blood. (Summit Entertainment) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. James Bond and Pussy Galore

    In this 1964 scene from the third film in the James Bond franchise, "Goldfinger," James Bond, played by Sean Connery, has a passionate embrace with the villainous Goldfinger's personal pilot Pussy Galore, played by Honor Blackman. Is there any James Bond movie where 007 doesn't kiss the Bond girl? (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. 'The Godfather Part II'

    "I know it was you, Fredo -- you broke my heart." So says Michael Corleone (Al Pacino, right) to his traitorous brother (played by John Cazale) before kissing him fiercely in a key moment from the Godfather saga. (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. 'Casablanca'

    "You must remember this: A kiss is just a kiss" goes "As Time Goes By," played throughout the 1942 drama that many consider one of Hollywood's greatest romances. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman portray lovers torn apart by the tides of World War II (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Klimt's "The Kiss"

    "The Kiss" is probably the most famous work painted by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918). It depicts a couple, in various shades of gold and studded with symbols, sharing a kiss against a bronze background. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. ‘Vancouver kissing couple’

    Riot police patrol the street as a couple kiss amid the chaos on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. The city broke out in riots after their hockey team the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. (Rich Lam / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. "Nerd Kissing Supermodel"

    Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli and actor Jesse Heiman locked lips in this GoDaddy.com commercial during the Super Bowl for a long, drawn out kiss that had viewers alternately cringing and laughing. The blonde beauty kissing the nerd was supposed to represent GoDaddy's combination of sexy and smart. (TODAY) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. The president and the first lady

    Barack Obama shares a tender kiss with wife Michelle on the night of his historic election as the nation's first African-American president in 2008. (Jae C. Hong / AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Willie Geist and Al Roker

    TODAY's Willie and Al Roker got a little closer than unusual while testing out a new lip gloss. (Peter Kramer / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
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