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Classic Hollywood: Movies with heart

Here are a few suggestions for DVDs that will pair up nicely for spending Valentine's Day with a loved one.

February 14, 2011|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times
  • Jean Arthur clings to Charles Boyer, left, as he tries to make her board a lifeboat in "History Is Made at Night."
Jean Arthur clings to Charles Boyer, left, as he tries to make her board a… (UCLA Film and Television…)

Everyone knows that favorites such as "Casablanca," "An Affair to Remember," "Ghost," and "Titanic" are perfect DVD fare for Valentine's Day. But there are other terrific, lesser-known romantic films that will have you swooning — and perhaps weeping — as you celebrate the day with a loved one (or even by yourself). Here are four films guaranteed to fire up your heart.

'The Clock'

Judy Garland is luminous in her first non-singing role in this lovely 1945 romantic drama. Garland plays Alice Maybery who meets an earnest soldier, Joe Allen (an equally poignant Robert Walker), on a two-day leave in Manhattan when she trips over his duffel bag at Pennsylvania Station and breaks the heel of her shoe. When Joe insists that a shoe-repair shop open its doors after hours to fix her heel, the two end up on an adventure that includes dinner, helping a milkman make his deliveries during the night, and, of course, falling in love.

Joe asks Alice to marry him the next day, but they go through all sorts of red tape before they say their "I Do's" in an impersonal civil ceremony. Alice doesn't feel married until they repeat their vows together at a local church. When Joe's leave ends, they bid goodbye at Pennsylvania Station so he can return to the battlefield.

Fred Zinnemann was the original director of "The Clock" but was removed after a month because the filmmaker and Garland weren't hitting it off and the early footage wasn't promising. Garland requested that Vincente Minnelli, her romantic partner who had directed her in the 1944 classic "Meet Me in St. Louis," replace Zinnemann. One of the improvements Minnelli made was to make New York City a major character, spending some $66,000 to replicate Penn Station on the MGM lot. The movie turned out swell — and Garland and Minnelli married soon after the production ended.

'The Enchanted Cottage'

Some cynics may hold their noses at this tender 1945 fantasy, but true romantics will devour it like a big bowl of popcorn with extra butter. Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire, who had scored a major hit with 1943's "Claudia," reunited for this endearing story of a young pilot (Young) who was disfigured during the war. He has rented a cottage from an older woman (Mildred Natwick) in order to hide from his mother and fiancée. McGuire plays Laura, the shy, homely maid who cleans up the cottage.

The two misfits fall in love and as they do, their appearances alter whenever they are together in the cottage. His war wounds have disappeared and she is strikingly beautiful to him. Laura believes the cottage is "enchanted" because it had been used previously by honeymoon couples.

'History Is Made at Night'

The Oscar-winning director Frank Borzage, who had an exceptional touch with romantic movies including 1927's "Seventh Heaven" and 1932's "A Farewell to Arms" is at the peak of his powers with this unusual 1937 production. It deftly mixes romance, comedy, drama, murder, suicide and a Titanic-esque ocean disaster.

Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur are the stars of "History," and their chemistry is palpable. Arthur plays Irene Vail, who is desperately trying to divorce her sadistic ship-magnate husband, Bruce (Colin Clive of "Frankenstein" fame). Bruce instructs his chauffeur to enter Irene's hotel room and force her into an compromising position. Bruce plans to catch them together and force her to drop the divorce proceedings. Things change when Bruce discovers a jewel thief (Boyer) in the room, who takes Irene's jewels and kidnaps her. The passionate scenes between Boyer and Arthur after the ship they're traveling on hits an iceberg are the highlights of this rarely seen classic.

'Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing'

Jennifer Jones and William Holden make beautiful music together in this lush 1955 romance that was nominated for eight Academy Awards including best picture and lead actress, winning three for Charles LeMaire's costumes, song for Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster's title tune and Alfred Newman's vivid score. Set in Hong Kong in1949-50, the melodrama finds Jones as Han Suyin, a Eurasian doctor who falls in love with handsome Mark Elliott (Holden), a married but separated American war correspondent. Their love affair encounters racial prejudice from Hong Kong society and her family.

In fact, when the book by Belgian-Chinese physician Han Suyin, which was a fictional account of her love affair with a British journalist, was published in 1952, the Production Code of America stated that "Love" wasn't suitable for a movie because it dealt with adultery and miscegenation. Finally, they let 20th Century Fox make the film as long as it was never suggested that their relationship was sexual. So how did their rapturous love scenes get past the PCA censors?


What legendary comedy superstar who romanced such leading ladies on the screen as Paulette Goddard and Hedy Lamarr has four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

Bob Hope


susan.king@latimes.com

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