Did romance exist before the movies? It must have, but you have to admit that Hollywood perfected it with sophisticated women and beautiful men trading witty dialogue. And filmmakers did it while overcoming artificial obstacles to the kind of rapturous love that only had to last until the words “The End” left us to imagine that they could keep it up for the ensuing lifetimes. And if not, well, there was always another movie to repeat the process.
For me, a perfect movie romance is always a romantic comedy. Who wants love if it doesn’t make you laugh? And while the genre isn’t entirely dead – you could do worse than to check your HBO schedule for Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore in last year’s Words and Music, especially if you harbor fond memories of the 1980s – it soared during the 1930s and 1940s.
I admit to being a Turner Classic Movies junkie. How I got by in those days when my cable company refused to program the channel, I don’t know. But we have it now, to prove on a daily basis how wrong that Paul Simon song is: Just about everything looks better in black and white. There’s not much playing in theaters right now that I could recommend for Valentine’s Day viewing. On the other hand, there are plenty of movies showing on TCM through VD that I can heartily recommend you record on DVR, TiVo or even VHS. A pizza, a bottle of wine and a Cary Grant movie – what could be better?
What could be better is a Cary Grant movie and two bottles of wine. For a perfect feature, record the 1940 film My Favorite Wife (12:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13). The romance reteams Grant and Irene Dunne (both were stars in 1937’s The Awful Truth) as a couple sundered not by divorce but by a plane crash. She’s been lost on a desert island for years and makes her way home just as her husband is preparing to remarry. Complicating this further is the fellow she was stranded with, a hunky colleague whom Grant refuses to believe was entirely honorable. Randolph Scott, Grant’s real-life roommate for years, plays said colleague. The two were often accused of being bedmates as well; whether you credit that or not, it’s hard not to watch him here and wonder what sort of children such a pair might have engendered given a different biology.
There are a few others to record and have on hand. Frank Capra’s Roman Holiday (10:15 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13) is set in Europe, with Audrey Hepburn as a runaway princess and Gregory Peck as a cynical newspaperman.
You can call it kitsch, but I’ve always had a soft spot for those Rock Hudson–Doris Day comedies. Lover Come Back (2:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14) replays the premise of Pillow Talk, with adman Hudson pretending to be a shy scientist in order to lead his competitor Day astray.
If you or yours insist on the kind of romance you watch with a box of Kleenex, there’s always the 1939 classic Love Affair (7:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 14). This is the original version of the story remade as An Affair to Remember and much later as Sleepless in Seattle, though in my opinion they got it right the first time.
If you can’t record movies in advance, make an early date on Thursday evening (6 p.m.) for Kiss Me Kate, with Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel as divorced performers appearing in a musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew. But be forewarned that the programmers at TCM pull a fast one later in the evening: There may be couples whose ideal Valentine’s Day date is watching Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly! (8 p.m.), but surely there can’t be many of them, can there?
On the other hand, it has to be a better night than going out to see Fool’s Gold.firstname.lastname@example.org