Films to Love: "You Want To Be In Love In A Movie."
In the romantic comedy classic Sleepless in Seattle, Becky says to Annie,
Of course, they happen to be watching An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, which might be one of the most romantic movies ever made (not to mention Cary Grant’s swoon-worthiness), so you can understand why Annie would want to be in love in that movie. However, I thought of this line as I was thinking of this blog post. As it’s the last Monday in February, I wanted to share with you, dear readers, some of my favorite romances immortalized in celluloid. (I’m well aware that we are now in the digital age and that celluloid hasn’t been used for decades, but some of my favorites were actually filmed on that transparent plastic.) I could very happily volunteer to be in love in any one of these cinema favorites.
I suppose we should start with An Affair to Remember, as it is stellar. I won’t go into great detail on the plot because I want to encourage you to rent it and watch it if you haven’t already. If you have seen it and loved it as much as I do, then I have good news for you. An Affair to Remember is actually a remake of a 1939 film starring Irene Dunne (another favorite of mine) and Charles Boyer (possessor of best bedroom voice outside of Jonathan Schwartz) titled Love Affair. It’s difficult for me to pick which of these is my favorite, so I won’t. They are both superb and wildly romantic.
If last week’s post about fairy tales inspired, then I offer Ever After with Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott. This particular take on the Cinderella story is my favorite one, even more than the Disney one which I watched ALL THE TIME as a young girl. (I blame Cinderella for my shoe obsession.) During my college days, when I spent hours and hours working on my art projects, this movie, with its gentle soundtrack and tender love story, was my company.
In the vein of books turned to movies, I have to mention Possession, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Echkart, Jeremy Northam, and Jennifer Ehle. Possession is based on the A.S. Byatt book of the same name. Now, I’ve read the book, and I did enjoy it because it was so full of poetry, but I must confess to enjoying the movie ten times more. We travel between two times- modern day and the mid-1800s- following two contemporary scholars (Paltrow and Ackhart) as they uncover the unlikely and incendiary romance that unfolded between two pre-eminent poets, Randolph Henry Ash and Christobel LaMotte (Northam and Ehle). I enjoy stories where uncovering the past helps to shape and set characters free in the future. This movie is just such a movie.
If you enjoy a little bit of the supernatural, where time is not linear but cyclical in nature, then I have to mention The Lake House. There are two reasons I love this film. First, Keanu Reeves (see post here). Second, Persuasion (see post here). This film is a remake of a Japanese film (which I have not seen). It pairs Reeves with Sandra Bullock once again, and their chemistry is just as strong here as it was in Speed. The Lake House is an actual lake house, a home designed and built by Alex Wyler’s (Reeves) father. Set two years apart, Reeves and Bullock find themselves in a wrinkle in time. Kate (Bullock) is in 2006 and Alex is in 2004. They correspond through letters they exchange in the lake house’s mailbox. Their love is more real than any they have known, but is it strong enough to transcend time and space? This movie is about second chances, belief in the impossible, and hope. The greatest of these, of course, is hope.
And, as I have mentioned Keanu Reeves, he happens to be in another of my favorite love stories: A Walk in the Clouds. This is a period piece set in the wine region of California post-WWII. Reeves plays Paul Sutton, a soldier home from the war. He’s married, but his wife doesn’t get him. In fact, sweet though she is, she hasn’t opened a single letter he sent to her in all the time he was away. He wrote to her nearly everyday he was gone, and while she kept them all (trunkfuls), she doesn’t understand him. She sends him off to sell speciality chocolates up and down the coast. In the course of his travels, he comes across a woman at the side of the road, sitting on her suitcase, and weeping. She’s in a great deal of trouble, returning home to her very traditional family in the family way without a husband. She’s distraught, and in a heroic moment akin to his character, Paul volunteers to play the part of her husband, meet her family, and then leave. However, things don’t go according to plan and in short order, Paul finds himself part of a family. This is an incredibly tender romance in the style of the 1940s. It belongs in the category of They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore.
Another one in that category is The Age of Adaline starring Blake Lively. This one is quite magical, dealing with phenomena outside of the plausible. However, love is such a phenomena, and, in this movie, love is what saves Adaline. I’m not going to offer a synopsis for this one because the plot it too convoluted and I don’t want to give anything away, but Adaline Bowman is a character who could stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the black and white greats like Audrey Hepburn.
Speaking of Audrey Hepburn, I have to mention Roman Holiday. It was Hepburn’s first film and she captured the heart of the world. Gregory Peck was also swoon-worthy and their love story is gentle and heartbreaking, but oh so worth the watch. (And, as it has a homage to Roman Holiday in it, honorable mention goes to Only You, starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.)
A romantic great who I believe hasn’t gotten a fair shake is Harrison Ford. He has a role in The Age of Adaline, and even in his twilight years, he’s a tour de force of passion. However, my favorite romantic lead with him is in the 1995 remake Sabrina. (I know, I know. I like it more that the Hepburn/Bogart one, which to some may be sacrilegious, but there it is.) Ford is Linus Larrabee, the straight laced, business centered billionaire who has no time for love. However, in an effort to thwart his capricious and lovesick brother David from fouling up his engagement, Linus pretends to woo Sabrina, the chauffeur’s daughter who has always had a tendre for David and has returned from her collegiate years abroad all chic, sophisticated, and impossibly endearing. But suddenly, pretending isn’t pretending anymore and the world’s only living heart donor finds he does possess that incommodious organ after all. But, he’s dug himself quite the hole. How can he tell Sabrina the truth and not lose her? Harrison Ford adds panache and wry humor to this role. Not to mention, in his quiet, unassuming way, he’s radically romantic.
Now these last two films rank highest on my list. They are black and white and were both released in 1942. It was a very good year, as Sinatra would say.
The first is Now, Voyager, starring Bette Davis and Paul Henreid. (Remember him? See post here.) Perhaps one of the reasons I enjoy this movie so much is because it showcases how versatile Bette Davis could be. So many of us remember her in those ball-buster roles like All About Eve or Jezebel or What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? However, she could play roles that were tender and vulnerable and broken with equal aplomb. In Now, Voyager, she plays Charlotte Vale, the dispirited, dominated daughter of a virago who has a nervous breakdown, requiring treatment at the hands of a compassionate doctor played by Claude Rains. Charlotte discovers herself, and slowly, gains in confidence enough to stand up to her mother. When her fortunes shift, she travels, and, on one of her voyages, she meets Jerry Durrance (Henreid). They fall in love, but there are complications that mean they can never be together. Yet, love transcends. (I won’t tell you how. That would just spoil it all. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s a true romantic melodrama that touches on every facet of the human experience.)
Finally, my absolute favorite romance on film: Random Harvest. There are so many reasons why I love this movie. The story is fantastic and very involved. It is full of rapture, heartbreak, fortitude, resilience, sacrifice, and hope. The cast is superb. Greer Garson- well, when I grow up, I want to be her; she’s strong and beautiful and compassionate and tender; she’s both a fighter and a lover. And, then, there’s Ronald Colman (possessor of a magnificent moustache- see post here). Aside from his whiskers, he also has one of the best voices, not to mention his eyes. They are fathomless and deeply emotive, expressing sorrow and joy and love eloquently without the single utterance of a word. Since the plot of this film demands the element of surprise, I won’t go into detail. It’s just wonderful. Spanning decades, it’s a testament to the unbreakable bonds of true love. (It also happens to be based on a book by James Hilton, which is on my TBR pile.)
Well, you’ve seen my favorites, now it’s your turn, dear readers. What are your favorite romantic movies?