Best of Warner Brothers: Romances

Posted on April 1, 2013 at 7:00 am

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Varied
Profanity: Some mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, war
Violence/ Scariness: Some violence
Diversity Issues: Divers characters, some older films reflect the prejudices of their eras
Date Released to DVD: April 1, 2013 ASIN: B00AIQKG2S

This is a must-have for every family’s library — the latest in Warner Bros series of collections is its Romance series, with 20 of the all-time greatest movie love stories: timeless love, unforgettable affairs, and modern romance, filled with passion, heartbreak, triumph, joyous reunions and tragic partings, comedy, drama, and tragedy.  The legendary studio celebrates its 90th birthday this week.  Coming soon: 20 Comedy and 20 Thrillers series

The collection includes:

Jezebel (1938): Bette Davis is a Southern belle in Antebellum Louisiana who puts her pride above her love for Preston (Henry Fonda).  When he will not do her bidding she humiliates him by wearing a bright red dress to a ball (unmarried ladies are supposed to wear only pure white).  When he leaves her, she learns that love is about sacrifice and generosity.

Gone with the Wind (1939): One of the biggest books of its time became one of the biggest movies of all time.  Scarlett O’Hara (Oscar winner Vivian Leigh) is a tempestuous Civil War-era beauty who breaks the hearts of all the men in Georgia, except for her match, handsome heart-breaker Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) — until they leave to join the Confederate Army and she becomes an indomitable survivor in the midst of loss and chaos.

The Philadelphia Story (1940) My all-time favorite movie has Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant as battling exes from high society Philadelphia families and Oscar winner James Stewart as the reporter who comes to write the story of her new marriage to the stolid but ambitious George (John Howard).  It doesn’t come any wittier, smarter, or more romantic than this.

Casablanca (1942): One of the screen’s greatest love triangles is the Best Picture Oscar winner about former lovers Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), married to Victor (Paul Henried) who meet in the title city while it is occupied by Nazi forces.  The all-star supporting cast includes Peter Lorre, Claude Rains, and Sidney Greenstreet, and there are too many classic lines to count, plus the unforgettable “As Time Goes By” theme song.  A perfect film in every category.

 Mrs. Miniver (1942): Greer Garson, Teresa Wright, and Walter Pidgeon star in this WWII classic about a brave British family trying to stay strong in the early days of the war.

Now Voyager (1942): Bette Davis plays Charlotte, the ugly ducking of a wealthy Boston family ruled by a domineering mother (Gladys Cooper).  She has a breakdown, and with the patient kindness of therapist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains), she begins to bloom.  On a cruise, she meets married architect Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid) and they fall deeply in love.  But he cannot leave his unstable wife.  Charlotte finds a deeply fulfilling a way to be of service to him, memorably telling him, “Don’t ask for the moon.  We have the stars.”


Annie Get Your Gun (1950): One of Irving Berlin’s most rollicking scores includes standards like “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better,” in this fictionalized story of sharpshooter Annie Oakley and her life as a performer.  In real life, her co-star and husband Frank Butler (Howard Keel) was completely supportive of her, but in Berlin’s version they are both very competitive.  “The Girl That I Marry” and “I’m an Indian” reflect the stereotypes of their era, but it is still a lot of fun.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951): Tennessee Williams’ classic is about about a fragile, disturbed woman (another Oscar-winner for Vivian Leigh) who disrupts the life of her gentle sister (Oscar-winner Kim Hunter) and her passionate, dominating husband (Marlon Brando).  Karl Malden also won an Oscar for his role as a kind-hearted would-be suitor.  This is the “director’s cut” version, restoring some scenes that were cut by the censors.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955): The ultimate classic of teenage angst features a galvanizing performance from James Dean, who is still the teenage icon, partly because he died a few months after this film was released, and so remains frozen in time, but partly because his performance in this film had – and has – ­such resonance for teenagers and for everyone else who feels unsure and angry, and unsure of why they feel angry. The title says it all: Jim is a rebel without the ability to put into words what he is rebelling against.  It co-stars Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood, and Dennis Hopper.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958): Elizabeth Taylor spends most of this movie wearing nothing but a slip trying to seduce Paul Newman as her husband as a party for her domineering father-in-law (Burl Ives) storms around his birthday party.  Taylor gives one of her best performances as Maggie, a determined survivor in a house filled with liars and cheaters.

Splendor in the Grass (1961): Warren Beatty became a star in this story of a doomed teenage romance in an era of repression and anguish written by William Inge, co-starring Natalie Wood.

Doctor Zhivago (1965): Omar Sharif plays the sensitive, idealistic title character in a love story in the midst of the Russian revolution.  Zhivago marries the daughter of the people who took him in after his parents died, but he loves Lara (Julie Christie).  The haunting theme music is by Maurice Jarre.

A Touch of Class (1973): A couple who planned to have an uncomplicated affair find themselves unexpectedly falling in love in this very 70’s bittersweet comedy starring George Segal and Glenda Jackson, featuring the new frankness permitted by the ratings system that allowed for more explicit material.

A Star Is Born (1976): This third version of the classic story of the young performer on the rise who marries a fading star has Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristoferson, with an Oscar-winning song, “Evergreen,” by Streisand and Paul Williams.

The Goodbye Girl (1977): Richard Dreyfuss won an Oscar as an aspiring actor working in a doomed production of “Richard III” who sublets an apartment only to find that it is already occupied.  Marsha Mason (then married to screenwriter Neil Simon) has the title role as a single mother who is vulnerable because she has been dumped by so many men.  

The Bodyguard (1992): Whitney Houston plays a pop star who has been threatened and Kevin Costner is her bodyguard.  They fall in love and Whitney sings the Dolly Parton song, “I Will Always Love You,” one of the biggest hits of the 90’s.

You’ve Got Mail (1998): Nora Ephron cleverly updated “The Shop Around the Corner,” about battling co-workers who don’t realize they are falling in love through an anonymous correspondence, to the era of email, and adds another timely note: Tom Hanks plays the chief executive of a chain of super-sized bookstores and Meg Ryan plays the owner of a neighborhood bookstore.  (In the next remake, the superstore will be closed down by Amazon.)  A witty script and the natural chemistry of the three-time co-stars makes this an ideal romantic comedy. 

Two Weeks Notice (2002): Hugh Grant is a feckless zillionaire and Sandra Bullock is the idealistic lawyer who goes to work for him.  Guess what happens?

The Lake House (2006): Sandra Bullock re-teams with her “Speed” co-star Keanu Reeves in this fantasy romance about a doctor and an architect who occupy the same beautiful glass lake house — two years apart.  Somehow, they are able to communicate with each other by leaving letters in the mailbox.  They begin to fall in love, but can they ever meet in the same moment?

Nights in Rodanthe (2008): Richard Gere and Diane Lane, who co-starred in “Unfaithful” and “The Cotton Club,” play a lonely pair who unexpectedly find love in this Nicholas Sparks story.  

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Valentine’s Day Movies to Share With Someone You Love

Posted on February 14, 2013 at 8:00 am

Some of my favorite movie romances are just right for Valentine’s Day.  Cuddle up with your valentine and a bowl of popcorn and enjoy these movies about how love makes us crazy and immeasurably happy at the same time.

1. Moonstruck Cher won an Oscar as the bookkeeper who has given up on love until she meets the brother of her fiance, who tells her:

Love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*.

2. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet find that they really don’t want to forget each other, no matter how painful love can be.

3. You’ve Got Mail This third version of the story of a couple who are at war in person, not realizing that they are tender lovers through the mail, updates the story to the computer age. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have so much chemistry on screen that we know from the first moment what it will take them the whole movie to discover — they are meant to be together.  Be sure to watch the earlier versions, The Shop Around the Corner with James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan and the musical In the Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and Van Johnson.

4. The Philadelphia Story On the eve of her wedding, socialite Tracy Lord’s ex-husband shows up with a couple of journalists and we get to watch three of the greatest stars in Hollywood history sort out their affections. This movie has everything: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart (who won an Oscar), George Cukor as director, wit, heart, and romance and an important lesson about how sometimes it is not about falling in love but recognizing that we have already fallen.

5. To Have and Have Not As tough guy Humphrey Bogart meets the even-tougher Lauren Bacall (only 19 years old when this was filmed), we get to see the real-life romantic sparks that gave the on-screen love story some extra sizzle. Watch her teach him how to whistle.

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Two PG Romances in One Week

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 11:41 pm

We don’t get many PG movies designed for general audiences but this week we have two, both sweet romances, “Letters to Juliet” and “Just Wright.” The first is the story of girl about to be married who helps a woman find the love she lost half a century before. The second is about a physical therapist brought in to help an NBA star get back into the game. While the films are not intended for or suitable for children and today’s PG is more like the PG-13 of ten years ago, it is still very nice to see Hollywood recognize that it is possible to tell a love story without a lot of nudity, bad language, or violence.
Also this week: “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, the latest in dozens of depictions of the gallant rebel who took on the corrupt on behalf of the downtrodden.

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