Lovely Blog Party Blogathon: “Favorite Movie Couples”

February is the month of Valentine’s Day. A month to celebrate romance. A month to celebrate love. Typically, in lieu of the regular romance movie routine, I personally like to watch movies about obsessive love, like Leave Her to Heaven, where the antagonist, Ellen Berent’s only problem is that “she loves too much.” That’s putting it mildly. For this blogathon however, I’m going to go the more traditional route with a salute to my favorite movie couples. No, it’s not the most unique idea, but I hope that my selections are unique. These are the couples you hope will end up together. Even if they don’t, if the relationship ends on a satisfying note, it can still be a relationship worth coveting.

Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca”

#1 Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund- Casablanca (1942). This isn’t a unique choice. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) are often held up as one of Classic Hollywood’s greatest romances; but for good reason. Rick and Ilsa’s goodbye scene at the airport is iconic. Who can forget Rick lifting Ilsa’s chin as she sobs, then delivering the iconic line: “Here’s looking at you, kid.” Yes he’s repeating a line that he says to Ilsa in Paris, but it’s this moment where the line is the most poignant. It’s the final callback to the passionate romance they shared before World War II changed their lives permanently. Yes, Ilsa was married to Lazlo (Paul Henried) while they were in Paris and she’s married to him throughout the film. But who cares about Lazlo? This is Rick and Ilsa’s romance. They fell in love in Paris. They were torn apart by the war when Ilsa discovers that her “dead” husband, Lazlo, is actually alive. They’re brought back together in Casablanca when Lazlo’s work with the French Resistance takes him to Morocco. Rick and Ilsa’s feelings for one another come back and it’s such a passionate romance, it’s almost a shame that they don’t end up together. But the ending allows Rick to be the bigger man and to find his place in the world, with Louis Renault (Claude Rains) by his side. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship, indeed.

Lauren Bacall & Humphrey Bogart in “To Have and Have Not”

#2 Harry Morgan & Marie ‘Slim’ Browning- To Have and Have Not (1944). I’d be remiss to forget about Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s iconic first film together. For not being known as a matinee idol, Bogart found himself part of many classic on-screen romances. In this instance, it was his appearance as Harry Morgan (Bogart), a fisherman working in the French colony of Martinique, a Caribbean nation. Because this takes place right after the Fall of France to the Germans during World War II, the island of Martinique is a mish-mash of Germans (due to the control possessed by the Pro-German Vichy France), sympathetic French, and other people trying to escape their lives. One of these people that Harry meets, is “Slim” (Bacall), a young American woman who is a bit of a wanderer and has found her way to Martinique. The sparks between Harry and Slim are obvious, especially after Slim teaches him how to whistle. Bogie and Bacall’s on-screen chemistry leapt off the screen and into real life as Bogie and Bacall fell in love and became one of Classic Hollywood’s most iconic couples.

Sandra Dee & James Darren in “Gidget” — Get it, girl!

#3 Frances “Gidget” Lawrence & Jeffrey “Moondoggie” Matthews-Gidget (1959). If there’s one type of movie I love, it’s the teen beach movie and Gidget is the all-time best teen beach movie, in my opinion. Part of the reason I love this movie so much is for Gidget (Sandra Dee) and Moondoggie (James Darren). In this film, Gidget (nicknamed bestowed upon Frances by the surfer boys, it’s an amalgamation of “girl” and “midget”) is a 17-year old incoming high school senior who feels inadequate next to her more physically developed, boy crazy girlfriends. At the beginning of the film, we see Gidget and her friends try to attract the surfer boys at the beach, with Gidget failing miserably due to her awkwardness. But there’s something endearing about Gidget. She’s genuine. She can’t muster up the ability to try and attract the boys, because it seems fake. She just wants to swim. She doesn’t want to play stupid games trying to get their attention. She ends up catching the attention of one of the surfer boys, Moondoggie. At first Moondoggie is standoffish, but it’s obvious that he’s doing so because he’s trying to keep up his “cred” with the other boys. But through being protective of Gidget and later having a chance to spend time with her one-on-one, he realizes that he really does like her. Gidget’s liked him the whole time. When they have a chance to be together, they are smitten. Frankly, they are adorable and I love them. In the end, Gidget’s friends are still single and Gidget’s hooked herself a hot college guy by staying true to herself. Get it, girl!

Joel McCrea & Jean Arthur in “The More the Merrier”

#4 Connie Milligan & Joe Carter- The More the Merrier (1943). Connie (Jean Arthur) and Joe (Joel McCrea) are adorable. They’re brought together by the meddling, Benjamin Dingle (Charles Coburn), a retired millionaire who sublets half of Connie’s apartment during the World War II housing crisis. When Sergeant Joe Carter shows up to answer Connie’s ad, Mr. Dingle sees an opportunity to fix the uptight Connie up with a nice young man. Mr. Dingle sublets half of his half of the apartment to Joe. After learning about Mr. Dingle’s arrangement, Connie is upset. Especially when the men start razzing her about her fiance, Mr. Charles J. Pendergast. Despite trying to impress the two men with Mr. Pendergast’s good points (he makes $8600/year and has no hair), it becomes even obvious that she’s matched up with the wrong man. By this point, Joe has a crush on Connie and wants to spend time with her. Later one evening, Joe and Connie find themselves alone together on the front stoop of their apartment building. What unfolds on the front stoop is one of the sexiest, romantic scenes in Classic Hollywood, and nobody had to lose any of their clothes. I love them together and hope that they lived happily ever after… without Mr. Pendergast.

William Powell & Myrna Loy in “The Thin Man” (1934)

#5 Nick and Nora Charles, The Thin Man Series (1934-1947). Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy) Charles are the power couple that everyone wishes they were. They are part of society. They have a beautiful home. They have an amazing dog, Asta. And, they solve mysteries together, thanks to Nick’s background as a detective. Nick loves the thrill of the mystery and Nora desperately wishes to be a part of the thrill. Nick tries to keep her at home and safe from the danger, but Nora always manages to horn her way in, by finding a vital clue or having an alluring thought about a potential suspect. At the start of the film series, Nick had retired from his detective career when he marries socialite Nora. Nick and Nora have such an amazing rapport and chemistry with one another, that the mystery almost takes a back seat to their relationship. William Powell and Myrna Loy are so amazing together, that one wishes they’d been married in real life.

Jean Arthur Blogathon: “The Devil and Miss Jones” (1941)

I love Jean Arthur. I feel like she gets a bad rap sometimes because of her unique voice. There are those who find her voice irritating or unbecoming. I am not one of those people. I think her voice is adorable and I love it. It’s one of the reasons that makes Jean so unique and makes her stand apart from her peers. Jean started her career in silent film, but didn’t really find that one part to make her a star. It was only when she transitioned to “talkies” that we were treated to her amazing voice. And then her star just rose from there.

While Jean never reached that echelon of star like that of her peers like Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant, she was a big star in her day. It’s unfortunate that Jean is hardly known outside of the classic film community. However, of those who do know about Jean, we know that she was one of the Golden Age’s finest actresses, who could do both screwball and drama.

Original movie poster

One of my favorite of Jean’s films is The Devil and Miss Jones from 1941. This film doesn’t seem to be very well known and rarely plays on TCM, if ever. I cannot recall this film airing on the channel recently. However, my friends at Olive Films have made this film available to the masses, which is how I saw it originally. I purchased it as a blind buy, something I rarely do, but because I love Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn, I wanted to see it. I was not disappointed.

In The Devil and Miss Jones, Coburn plays tycoon, John P. Merrick, a crotchety man who finds out that one of the employees at Neely’s, a department store that he owns, is trying to unionize the employees. Wanting to put the kibosh on the union, Merrick decides to go undercover as “Thomas Higgins” and apply for a position in the shoe department. He zeroes in on the shoe department as he’s heard rumors that that is where the union discussions are the most concentrated.

After almost failing a minimum intelligence test to even work in the department, Merrick gets a job in the children’s shoe department. There is a funny running gag that shows Merrick making a list of grievances that he has after encountering various policies and employees in the department. One particular grievance he has is with Hooper (Edmund Gwenn), the department manager, whose patronizing attitude does not sit well with him.

While working at the store, Merrick befriends a fellow sales clerk, the titular “Miss Jones,” i.e. Mary Jones (Arthur). Mary introduces Merrick to her boyfriend, Joe O’Brien (Robert Cummings) who is the instigator behind the union talks and has recently been fired from the store. As he spends more time with Mary and Joe, he finds himself feeling sympathetic with their situation and reasons for wanting to be part of a union. Merrick also finds himself starting to fall for Elizabeth Ellis (Spring Byington), another sales clerk.

This beach is ridiculous; but look at Jean’s cute outfit!

There is a funny scene where the group visits the beach at Coney Island. First of all, who in their right mind would want to go to this extremely crowded beach? You literally cannot see the sand because there are so many people there. I would be claustrophobic at this beach and want to leave almost immediately. Merrick brings an expensive bottle of wine from his cellar to share with his new friends. They don’t take to the wine and think that Merrick was tricked into buying cheap swill. They end up mixing it with soda (blech) and then dumping it into whatever inch of open sand that was next to them.

Jean Arthur wears a two-piece outfit with a crop top and it looks fantastic on her. Between this film and The More the Merrier, I always envy her fantastic figure. I always find Jean’s birthdate of 1900 fantastic, because she was one of the older actors of the Golden Age but she sure doesn’t look it. She would have been 40-41* in this film and I wouldn’t have guessed it. She has such a youthful, beautiful face. Do we ever see Jean Arthur smoke in a film? I cannot recall. Perhaps she didn’t smoke and that’s the reason behind her youthful look.

*After writing this, I realized that I’m only 4-5 years younger than Jean in this film, but apparently I think that someone who is 40-41 should look so much older. People looked a lot older back then, so that’s what I’m going with…

Robert Cummings as Joe and Jean Arthur as Mary in “The Devil and Miss Jones”

Anyway, after spending the day together in the beach, Merrick ends up almost being arrested after he tries to sell his watch to get money to call his house and chauffeur. The storekeeper and the police officer assume that Merrick has stolen the watch and take him in. Mary comes to pick Merrick up and it is assumed she’s in cahoots with Merrick and part of his thievery ring. Joe comes in to rescue Merrick and Mary and saves the day. Merrick begins to see Joe in a new light.

The main conflict occurs when Joe and Mary break up. As he disembarks from the subway, Merrick drops his identification card stating that “Thomas Higgins is employed in a confidential capacity.” Mary finds the card and concludes that Higgins is a spy. She arranges an emergency meeting with her co-workers and Joe. They decide to forge ahead with their union plans.

Charles Coburn as John P. “Thomas Higgins” Merrick and Jean Arthur as “Mary Jones” in “The Devil and Miss Jones.”

I really love this film. Arthur and Coburn have such a great rapport with one another, as shown again in The More the Merrier. Jean is so sweet and funny in this film. It is easy to see why everyone would fall in love with her. I highly recommend this film as well as all of Jean’s other comedies like: The More the Merrier, Talk of the Town, Too Many Husbands, The Whole Town’s Talking, Easy Living, and More Than A Secretary.

My favorite part of The Devil and Miss Jones are all the scenes with international treasure, SZ Sakall, and the sweet scenes between Coburn and Byington when she offers him some of her homemade tuna popovers. I also love the scene when Mary talks about “Higgins'” advanced age of 55 and how he seems to be in good shape and has his faculties about him, despite his age.

Now I want a tuna popover.

Happy Birthday Miss Arthur!
P.S. I love your shoes!

October 17th- A Birthday Trifecta!

I discovered recently that three of my favorite performers (Rita Hayworth, Jean Arthur and Montgomery Clift) all share the same birthday!

Rita Hayworthrita

Born: 1918, Brooklyn NY

Died: May 14, 1987, New York, NY

Best known for: Gilda Munson, Gilda

My favorite films of Hayworth’s: Gilda, You Were Never Lovelier, You’ll Never Get Rich, Only Angels Have Wings, The Strawberry Blond, Cover Girl and The Lady From Shanghai

 Jean Arthur jean

Born: 1900, Plattsburgh, NY

Died: June 19, 1991, Carmel, CA

Best known for: Connie Milligan, The More the Merrier

My favorite films of Arthur’s: The More the Merrier, The Devil and Miss Jones, Talk of the Town, Only Angels Have Wings, The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, A Foreign Affair

Montgomery Cliftmonty

Born: 1920, Omaha, NE

Died: July 23, 1966, New York, NY

Best known for: Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, From Here to Eternity

My favorite films of Clift’s: From Here to Eternity, A Place in the Sun, Red River, The Heiress, The Misfits and Suddenly Last Summer