Wednesday, February 9, 2011

5 Favorite Romantic Movies

Films that make you go: ...sigh!

Besides KING SOLOMON'S MINES, that is. Warning: Stand by for overblown language. Romance and overblown often go together - at least in my mind. I'll be writing about 5 more films later this week when I get my second wind. Got things to do today, so 5 will have to suffice for now.

1) Jean Cocteau's LA BELLE ET LA BETTE (1946)
Starring Jean Marais and Josette Day.

I consider this the most romantic film of all time. At least, my own favorite romantic film of all time. In its expert, occasionally startling, visualization (the film often looks as if it takes place inside a darkened snow globe minus the snow), Cocteau brings us what I call an enrichment of gorgeousness (does that make any sense?).The film has dazzling imagery, inventiveness and best of all, the gift of a rampaging imagination capable of visualizing 'romance' as no one else ever had or has. If this is too overblown for you, my language, I mean, then so be it. I run out of superlatives.

(And for God's sake, if you haven't seen it and choose to do so, please see it in French with subtitles. The language, the sound of it, is part of the mysterious presence of the film. Though, of course, if you speak French, I imagine this would be less so.)

Starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

An unique film that refused to leave my conscious/sub-conscious thoughts for days and days when I first saw it. Even now, I can still visualize certain scenes and some of the spare, bitter dialogue. (This is one of those films that you just never forget.) But I can't bring myself to watch it, except very occasionally, because the sadness of it will overwhelm me again. This is a story of thwarted love that, at any moment, might have been otherwise had 'society' been otherwise. It is a tragedy which leaves you, in the end, feeling as if you've been struck repeatedly about the heart with a mallet.

It is the story of two young men, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, dirt-poor, end of the road Wyoming sheep herders, wannabe-be cowboys, and the summer on Brokeback which indelibly marks them for the rest of their lives. Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger are both fearless actors. Annie Proulx's short story is quietly and honestly told (not a single wrong note) by master film maker, Ang Lee. Despite the huge sadness at its core, it is a lovely, lovely film.

When was the last time you saw a film and simply ached for the characters? BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is my all around favorite film of all time mostly because of the lasting impression it made on me.

Starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert

At the height of their attractiveness and screen power, there was no one like Gable and Colbert. And to think they hated making this picture and thought it would be the biggest flop of their careers - instead they all (film-makers included) won Oscars. One of the very few times a comedy has been so honored in Hollywood.

I saw this recently and again was struck by how well it holds up. The charm of it never grows old. Colbert is perfection in her part as the confused, spoiled, rich (but intelligent) runaway heiress who comes to rely on reporter Gable (she doesn't know he's a reporter) to guide her through the tricks and traps of the everyday world of folk who work. She's come crashing down from her high tower (jumped off a yacht on her wedding day) and must now learn to navigate in a world she knows little about. Wise-cracking Gable has rarely been better. He is superb as the reporter who sees Colbert as his meal-ticket to journalism big time. The film is scattered with the kind of superb character actors this era is noted for. Stand-outs: Walter Connolly as Colbert's rich, financier father. This guy made a career out of playing rich fathers. He exemplified them. I think he was born playing one. I love him. And of course there's also, Roscoe Karns about whom very little needs to be said. This guy was born with a wise-crack in his mouth.

4) MOONSTRUCK (1987)
Starring Cher and Nicholas Cage

Who would have thought that songstress Cher could act? Could carry a whole film on her shoulders? Could fashion the movie slap heard round the world? Not me, that's for sure. But Cher is unstoppable, unsinkable. The unflappable Miss Cher became a movie star in this film.
(She won an Oscar too.) And rightly so. I'll never forget her showing up at Lincoln Center, all dolled up to meet Nicholas Cage, the loony bread-maker with the leather hand, to see the opera, LA BOHEME. After playing most of her part with graying hair and little make-up, she's a knock-out. Sigh. Of such stuff are dreams made. (I'm a woman and I'm not gay and yet I still felt the tug of her allure.)

It's not only Cage that falls in love with Cher in this movie. She is radiant. Matter of fact, it's the only film in which I've EVER liked Nicholas Cage. The very satisfactory ending round the kitchen table in Cher's Italian family's brownstone in Brooklyn, is just perfect. And by the way, this one of those films that makes the simple allure of family (even if some of them are nuts) devoutly to be wished for. And another by the way, this film introduces some of us to the elderly and charming Italian actor Feodor Chaliapin, who plays the eccentric grandfather in the film with very little spoken language, followed about by his gang of about 8 smallish dogs. The entry scenes of the dogs and the grandfather are highlights in the film.

Starring Johnny Weismuller and Maureen O'Sullivan

I've seen all the Tarzan films over the years - the Weismuller ones and others - but this remains my very favorite and, to my mind, the most romantic of what is, essentially, a series of jungle romances. (When they try to be anything else, they fail.) Though TARZAN THE APE MAN (the first in the series) could give this one a run for its money. If it weren't for the nude underwater scenes shot as if they were ballet (in TARZAN AND HIS MATE), I'd switch the numbers around. These scenes were censored when the film was originally aired on TV and for many years thereafter. Then, finally, they were returned to their rightful place. (Thankfully they weren't destroyed.) The last two times I've seen the film, the sequence was there.

The film also implies that Tarzan and Jane have, somehow, gotten married in the interim between this film (second in the series) and the first. But of course, we know better. I mean, who was there to marry them? They live on the freakin' Mutea Escarpment where the only neighbors appear to be blood thirsty cannibals and other assorted unpleasant native tribes.

Well, either/or, this time out, Jane's friend Harry Holt, from the earlier safari which brought her to Tarzan's attentions and a rather unscrupulous type, Martin Arlington, played by Paul Cavanaugh (in need of the fortune the cache of ivory in the elephant's burial ground would bring) head back to the Escarpment, a perilous journey every step of the way.

This film is notable for several things. The gorgeous nude underwater scenes. Maureen O'Sullivan (at least it looks like her, not a body double, though you never know) and Johnny Weissmuller, he in only his Tarzan regulation loin-cloth. They swim for several beautiful minutes, all underwater. (He has ripped a dress off her just before they jump in the water.)

The gown (among several outfits, dresses, hats, shoes etc.) was brought from England by Harry and the vile Martin in hopes that Jane, as a woman, would be shallow enough to be swayed by fripperies into returning to England with them. Do these men know women or what?

They've even brought a wind-up record player which, by the way, scares the hell out of the bearers and transfixes Tarzan. The lascivious Martin, openly drooling over Jane who has tried on one of the gowns, dances openly with her. Tarzan should have dealt with him then.

Otherwise, Jane's fetching little jungle outfit is the scampiest it will ever be. Between this and the third film, the censorship board came into being and Jane shows up in later films in this ridiculous neck to mid thigh outfit that just used to make us laugh. She became then and forever, Jane the mom.

There is also, unaccountably, one nearly nude scene in the film's beginning when Martin strips for a bath in a portable tub while having a conversation with Harry Holt. The only thing that prevents us seeing Martin's spare parts are a timely arrival of a servant who steps in front of the camera for a second - if I'm remembering correctly. Lots of nudity going on here. But all tastefully done. It does make you wonder, though...What? Oh sorry, my mind...uh, wandered.

A fun film. And never has the magic attraction between Weismuller and O'Sullivan been more apparent. I love it.

So, been thinking romance this week? What are your five favorites? In truth, Valentine's Day is just another day for me, but I enjoy making a fuss.


  1. I'm so glad you included Brokeback Mountain in your list - I, too, find it difficult to not think about it at times, and also find that the sadness of it is just too overwhelming. I knew it would be a good movie, but I had no idea how good it would be.

    It Happened One Night & Moonstruck - *love these*

  2. Coffee and a Book Chick: We agree on three of the films, so far. Good enough. I'm so glad to meet another BBM fan. What a truly special film.

  3. Brokeback Mountain broke my heart. I cried, couldn't help myself, by the way things ended between them. One of my greatest fears has alwasy been love thrawted by outside influences.

    My 5 favorite romantic films are:

    1. Simply Irresistable - with Sarah Michelle Gellar. She plays a stuggling chef that through some magic saves her cafe and finds the man of her dreams.

    2. Christmas in Connecticut - I can never say enough about this. It makes me believe in love at first sight.

    3. The Proposal - I didn't think I would like it, I'm not a huge Sandra Bullock fan, but I ended up loving it.

    4. Mannequin - Cheesy fun but so sweet at the same time. How can you not love a story about a boy who despite what everyone else thinks of him, allows himself to fall in love with a mannequin.

    5. Straight Talk - I love Dolly Parton. Don't judge me.

  4. Ryan: I shed buckets of tears over BBM. Welcome to the club. :)

    I saw THE PROPOSAL - fun movie. I was amazed by how much I liked it. I think I'm going to get the dvd one of these days.

    And of course, I've seen and enjoyed CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT. Another fun film.

    The other three films you list, I haven't seen. Hey, I wouldn't make fun of you or judge you for loving Dolly.
    Well, I might judge you just the tiniest bit....Just kidding. We love who we love.

    Look at me with my fetish for Rory Calhoun. HA!

  5. I think the Bogart/Bacall films are my favorites among vintage romances. Even though they might not be characterized as "romances," they were.

    "Dark Passages" sure was. "To Have and Have Not," is the film where they fell for each other, which one can clearly see--the famous "whistle" scene. Even "Key Largo" they clearly were going to be together.

    Otherwise, I have to think hard about past movies.

  6. Kathy: No pressure. This is all meant to be fun. I'm not as big a fan of Bogart and Bacall as is the rest of the world. Though I loved DARK PASSAGE, SABRINA (No Bacall there.) and recently, my brother reminded me how fabulous PASSAGE TO MARSEILLES was. I liked CASABLANCA, did not love it. I liked THE MALTESE FALCON, did not love it.

  7. Oh, to add to romances, I'd add, though it took awhile to get there, "Notorious," with Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant, one of my favorite Hitchcock films. And "Casablanca," for the romance and the principles at play.

  8. So difficult to list five romantic movies.
    I have to put at number one
    1)Notorius. And not only for THE kiss between Cary and Ingrid. It's the hottest.
    2) The quiet man - When they were real men
    3)The Philadelphia Story . Okay, more Mr Grant
    4) Minnelli's Some came running -the dramatic side of the rc.
    5)Gone with the wind. I would be hypocrite not to mention it.

    May I go on?

    6) Irma la douce. Adorable
    7) To catch a thief - Hitch made love films, not thrillers.
    8) Singing in the rain -
    9) Love me or leave me - Doris Day and Cagney made a wonderful couple.
    10) Serendipity ex aequo Sleepless in Seattle

    I'm sure I forgot at least 20 among my fave, but this is what came out now en passant from the back stage of my mind.

  9. Kathy: NOTORIOUS, great film. Grant made himself practically unlikeable in this. My heart just went out to Bergman.

  10. Viv: Hi!! You finally made it over here. Great.
    Oh I just broke the list up for convenience' sake. I did 5 more today and 10 runner ups. I am indefatigable. HA!

    I do like NOTORIOUS. I was never a major fan of Bergman, but I like her in this.

    I liked GONE WITH THE WIND very much. I would have added it to my runners up runners up. :)

    THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is a good one too. One of my favorite Jimmy Stewart films. I'm afraid I was also NOT a major Jimmy Stewart fan. So, sue me. But he was great in this. LOVED Grant and Hepburn. But I picked a different film of theirs.

    I have SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE on my runners up list today.

    Now, don't be a stranger, Viv. ;)

  11. I LOVE Moonstruck! And I thought Cher was so much more beautiful as the 'before.' I loved the way she dressed, and the way her hair was. I like people to look like they are - no dyes, no makeup, no plucking. I think true beauty lies inside, and in the way the person 'really' looks.

    I love the movie, A Walk in the Clouds. Beautiful, beautiful scenery and great story. And an older one, Two for the Road - a love story and a rather real look at a particular marriage. And always, always You've Got Mail. And a Christmas movie which isn't all about love, but features an older couple with a great screen relationship - Holiday.

  12. Nan: I liked Cher both, before AND after. LOVED that dress she wore to the opera. I've been to the opera, I didn't dress that way. Didn't see many there who did. Still, it was nice to see it in the film. I think the 'before' of Cher was meant to show that she was a person who had 'given up' on herself. But I agree, inner beauty - without it: nothing.

    I don't dye my hair, never have. But I'm lucky, it's still a great salt and pepper. Mostly pepper. Ha!

    A WALK IN THE CLOUDS?? Keanu Reeves. Yes. I saw it. Gorgeous film. Reeves also made another good love story: THE LAKE HOUSE with Sandra Bullock. Have you seen that? I enjoyed it.

    I've been meaning to watch HOLIDAY. It's available instantly on Netflix.

    Good choices, Nan.

  13. I absolutely adore Moonstruck, and like you Yvette, it is the only movie where I can stomach Nicholas Cage. I also loved the appearances by Feodor Chaliapin, who reminded me of my father-in-law and Olivia Dukakis. The glimpses of Brooklyn Heights in the movie always make me smile, and actually I have seen people in gowns and tuxes for the opera but only on opening night!

  14. Pat: Yeah, Nicholas Cage is not a habit I ever got into. Ha! Oh, Chaliapin practically steals the movie. Remember the scene with him and his pals and the dogs and the moon? So wonderful.
    I'm not a big fan of Olympia Dukakis, but I liked her in this. A very patient woman. :)

    Oh yes, the scenes of the Heights...sigh! When I went to the opera it was NOT, I assure you, opening night. We dressed up, but, in truth, I'm not a 'dressy' sort. ;)


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