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The Swoon Button

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Loy and Powell, Bergman and Grant--they are just some Valentine Day's inspirations.

February 13, 1997|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Amour. Toujours l'amour.

Friday is Valentine's Day, so romance is in the air--and on video. Here are a few perfect films for examining the affairs of the heart.

William Powell and Myrna Loy may be best known as sophisticated sleuths Nick and Nora Charles in "The Thin Man" movie series. But they made several other films together, including the wacky comedy "I Love You Again" in 1940 (MGM/UA, $20). Powell plays a straight-arrow businessman about to be divorced by Loy. But after he accidentally hits his head, he discovers he's had amnesia all these years and actually is a con man. He doesn't remember Loy--but he instantly falls in love with her.

Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur make a wonderfully romantic couple in Frank Borzage's underrated melodrama "History Is Made at Night" (1937) (Warner, $20). Arthur plays an unhappily married woman who flees her jealous husband (Colin Clive) and falls madly in love with Parisian waiter Boyer.

Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant, oh-so-romantic in Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious" (1946) (Fox-Video, $15), are equally blissful in Stanley Donen's bright romantic comedy "Indiscreet" (1958) (Republic, $15). Grant plays a playboy American diplomat in London who falls for a beautiful actress.

Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper become fascinated with each other in Billy Wilder's engaging "Love in the Afternoon" (1957) (FoxVideo, $15). Hepburn plays the daughter of a Parisian detective (Maurice Chevalier) and falls in love with a playboy American millionaire. Coop is too long in the tooth as the rich rogue, but Hepburn and the Parisian locales make this worth watching.

"City for Conquest" (MGM/UA, $20) is a drama from 1940 starring James Cagney in a dynamo performance as a boxer--devoted to helping his younger musician brother (Arthur Kennedy)--who goes blind and ends up selling papers at a newsstand. Ann Sheridan is Cagney's former girlfriend who hooks up with an unsavory partner (Anthony Quinn) and sets out on a dancing career. The finale, in which Cagney and Sheridan reunite, is a real tear fest. Directed by Anatole Litvak.

Clifford Odets ("Golden Boy") wrote the scrumptious romantic drama "Humoresque" (1946) (MGM/UA, $20). John Garfield is perfectly cast as a brilliant but struggling violinist who finds a patron in a wealthy, married woman (Joan Crawford). The two become lovers, but the affair turns tragic when Crawford becomes obsessed.

Beefy, burly and brooding, Jean Gabin was one of France's top actors for many years. He hit matinee idol status with his heartbreaking romantic turn in "Pepe Le Moko" (1937) (Nostalgia; Video-yesteryear, $20). Gabin plays a tough gangster hiding out in the Casbah who emerges from his safe haven when he falls in love with a beautiful woman (Mireille Balin).

One of the most romantic scenes ever put on celluloid has to be the "Moonglow" dance between William Holden and Kim Novak in "Picnic" (1955) (Columbia/TriStar, $20). It's worth watching a couple of times. Josh Logan directed this popular version of William Inge's hit play about a drifter who arrives in a small town and falls for the beautiful girlfriend of an old friend (Cliff Robertson).

The same year he starred in "Picnic," Holden made females swoon in the four-hankie wallow "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" (FoxVideo, $20). This seductive romance finds Jennifer Jones as a beautiful Eurasian doctor in post-World War II Hong Kong who falls in love with a handsome married American war correspondent. The film won Oscars for best song, score and costume design.

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