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Monday, January 6, 2014

A Romantic Interlude

Whatever happened to romance? I am quite a fan of movies, and I especially love watching older films. Just to clarify, by watching oldies, I don't mean movies form the eighties. I mean the real oldies, the movies that date as far back as the thirties. I'll freely admit that I love to check out the listings on the classic movie channel on cable, and filling up my DVR with movies that I haven't seen in a long time. I love newer, current movies as well, but I think that maybe the newer flicks don't have as much of a romantic heart and soul as the older ones. It certainly could be argued that this is a reflection of our loss of wide-eyed innocence, or that it is more of a reflection of reality. And some people would say that movies still contain romance. And some do. But I wonder if we have gotten to the point where we are confusing sex with romance. There is a difference, you know.

I'd like to share with you some movie moments that I think were incredibly romantic. Yes, they are very tame, and perhaps even quaint, by today's standards. Maybe that is part of their charm for me. I'd like to start with one of my favorites, Fred Astaire. Everyone thinks of him as an incredible dancer. Even though he didn't have a fantastic voice, many songwriters considered him one of the best singers they worked with, simply because of the charm and feeling he put into their songs. In the 1936 film Swing Time, Astaire sang The Way You Look Tonight, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. A man is singing a song about how lovely a woman is while she is in the next room washing her hair. She is looking less than glamorous, but he has made her feel beautiful and beloved. I still find it sweet and romantic. A man who finds you lovely when you are shampooing is romantic, indeed.

Some of the most romantic moments I have seen on film are in the movie The Best Years of Our Lives. This film, which won several Academy Awards, follows three men whose lives intersect as they are returning home to the same town after World War Two. There's Al, the banker with one child in high school, and another who is an adult; Fred, who was employed at the drugstore soda fountain; and Homer, who is engaged to the girl next door, and has lost both of his hands while in the war. Al has been married to his wife for more than twenty years. When he takes her out on the town the night he returns home, he has quite a bit to drink. While he is dancing with her, he stops and holds her at arms' length, squinting at her. He tells her that she's a bewitching creature, and that she reminds him a bit of his wife. She smiles and tells him that he never told her he was married. He goes on to say that he has a wife and kiddies back at home, but they decide not to let that bother them because they have each other tonight. Again, a charming little moment in which they make each other feel loved and special, and keep the romance alive in their relationship.

The scene in the movie that I think is the most beautiful love scene ever involves Homer and Wilma, the girl next door. He has been trying to avoid her since coming home because he is afraid that she will not want to be with a man who has hooks instead of hands. He wants her to feel free to move on with her life. But Wilma is a good young woman, and still loves Homer the same way she always has. To her, he is no less than he was before he left, and she still wants to spend the rest of her life with him. Late one evening, she sees that the kitchen light is on while he has a bedtime snack, and she comes over to confront him. Her family wants her to go out of town for a while, perhaps to get over him. He tells her that he wants her to see what happens, and what it's like when he takes off his hooks and goes to bed. 

He drops the hooks and wiggles into his pajama top, telling her that he is lucky, a lot of the boys don't have elbows. But he can't button his pajama top. She says, "I'll do that, Homer." The love positively glows in her face as she buttons his top and fixes the collar. He tells her that he is now helpless, because his hands are on the bed. He can't read a book, or open the door if it blows shut. He is as dependent as a baby that can't get anything unless he cries for it. He goes on to tell her that he supposes she doesn't know what to say, and that she should go home, and go away like her family says. Wilma drops down on her knees next to the bed and tells him that she knows what to say. She loves him, and she will never leave him...never. She embraces him, and he is finally able to put his arms around her for the first time since he returned home. She tucks him in, and places his hooks on a table. Homer's head is on the pillow in the semi-darkness, and you can see the tears rolling down the sides of his face as he smiles. He loves Wilma, and she still loves him. That, my friends, is a beautiful love scene. And no matter how many times I see it, I still cry, as I did while I wrote this. Yes, even though I profess to be the Meanest Woman in the World, I'm really a big softy. My secret is out.

So there you have it, the Lunatic's take on romance and love in movies. There are other romantic movie moments, new and old, that I could go on and on about. But I'd rather have you start thinking about the movies that melt your heart. Go on, grab some popcorn and some tissues (I'll grab a handkerchief), and put one on the tv right now. And enjoy your romantic interlude!