Hollywood has a bad reputation for churning out B-rom coms for Valentine's Day. This year, pour yourself a glass of Pinot, crack open a box of Russell Stover, and treat yourself to a classic throwback or two.
Any film buff will tell you that, over the years, the quality of the genre known as the "Romantic Comedy" has steadily declined. It's only recently that the film industry has made a comeback with gems like "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" or "Crazy Rich Asians."
Nevertheless, if you find yourself craving a rom-com this Valentine's Day and you're at a loss for what to watch, consider traveling back in time to the Golden Age of Hollywood, where everything currently considered "romantic cliche" was still unexplored territory.
Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins, and Herbert Marshall m.media-amazon.com
Trouble in Paradise (1932)
Starring: Miriam Hopkins, Herbert Marshall, Kay Francis
This rom-com heist from 1932 stars Hopkins and Marshall as two con artists in love, with Francis playing their latest target. While it's arguably more comedic than romantic, the film centers around a heist, tied together by Hopkins' sheer goofiness, Marshall's wit, and Francis' charm in an uproariously hilarious love triangle.
Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert m.media-amazon.com
It Happened One Night (1934)
Starring: Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable
Rarely do romantic comedies win multiple Oscars anymore, but this one took home FIVE major Academy Awards; Colbert won Best Actress for her portrayal of an heiress-turned-runaway bride who seeks the aid of Gable's Peter Warne, a reporter who sees her escapade as the perfect fodder for his next story (the role won him Best Actor). The film also won Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture.
Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn m.media-amazon.com
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant
James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Katherine Hepburn, and Cary Grant m.media-amazon.com
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart
Hepburn stars as Tracy Lord, a judgmental socialite and divorcee who - in the chaos surrounding her wedding weekend - finds herself attracted to three different men: her wealthy fiance George, magazine reporter Mike, and ex-husband Dexter. When her mixed emotions threaten to throw her wedding off the rails, Tracy starts to understand the importance of offering a little grace before passing judgment.
James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan m.media-amazon.com
The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
Starring: Margaret Sullivan, James Stewart
Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart play Klara and Alfred, two coworkers who constantly butt heads with each other, all the while not realizing they've been carrying on an anonymous romantic correspondence via letters for months. If the plot of this film sounds a little familiar, that's probably because it was the inspiration for Norah Ephron's "You've Got Mail."
Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn m.media-amazon.com
Woman of the Year (1942)
Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy
In this tale of "opposites attract," international affairs journalist Tess and sports writer Sam fall in love against all odds and get married. However, they struggle with the demands of married life - particularly Tess - and argue over whether their careers or their marriage should take precedence. While it sounds somewhat dated, the ending has a surprisingly feminist reconciliation.
Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine m.media-amazon.com
The Apartment (1960)
Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon
In yet another multi-Academy Award winner, Lemmon and MacLaine star as Bud - a low-level insurance agent - and Fran - the elevator operator in his building - trying to make more out of their stagnant jobs in New York City. Their lives intertwine when Bud lends his apartment to his boss for a fling in exchange for a promotion, only to discover that the mistress is Fran herself. As their paths continue to cross, Bud and Fran begin to question their current pursuit of happiness.
Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn m.media-amazon.com
How To Steal A Million (1966)
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole
Nicole - the sweet daughter of a successful art forger - finds herself in cahoots with a mysterious and handsome art thief named Simon after he tries to steal one of their paintings. Determined to protect her father, Nicole teams up with Simon to "reclaim" one of her father's fraudulent antiques from a Parisian museum before it can be tested for its authenticity.
Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard m.media-amazon.com
Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard
There is a reason why Audrey starred in so many rom-coms in her day; her undeniable, relentless charm makes her the perfect Holly Golightly, and the perfect foil for Peppard's sullen and serious Paul Varjak. Holly's society-chasing, husband-hunting lifestyle shocks and charms Paul, a struggling writer. The unlikely duo finds that they bring out the best in each other, as Holly forces Paul to enjoy the silly things in life while Paul forces her to pull her head from the clouds every now and again.
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant
The chemistry is hot between translator and fabulous widow Regina Lampert and the mysterious-yet-suspicious Peter Joshua. After the sudden death of her wealthy husband and the disappearance of a large chunk of his fortune, Regina enlists Peter's help in eluding her late husband's former partners-in-crime, while struggling with her mistrust of Peter. While the film certainly has edge-of-your-seat action, the banter between Hepburn and Grant keeps it from turning into a gritty mystery.
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Breaking down the bias of comfort films.
With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.
Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.
Rivera's "Glee" character was not just important, she was groundbreaking.
As a young queer girl growing up in the south, I was lucky that my parents weren't homophobes.
My parents believed that people were sometimes born gay, and while they wouldn't "wish that harder life" on their children, they certainly made me and my sister believe that gay people were just as worthy of love as anyone else. I was lucky.
Still, in my relatively sheltered world of Northern Virginia (a rich suburb near Washington D.C.), homophobia wasn't as blatant as hate crimes or shouted slurs, but it was generally accepted that being straight was, simply, better.
In high school, it wasn't uncommon to use "gay" as an insult or for girls to tease each other about being "lez." While many of us, if asked, would have said we were in support of gay marriage and loved The Ellen Show, being gay remained an undesirable affliction.
Even more insidious, I was instilled with the belief—by my church and my peers—that if gay and lesbian people could be straight, they would. But since they were simply incapable of attraction to the opposite sex or fitting into traditional gender roles, we should accept them as they are as an act of mercy. At the time, this kind of pity seemed progressive and noble. Those in my close circle of family and friends weren't openly dismissive or condemning of gay people, but we saw homosexuality as a clear predisposition with no gray areas.
Specifically: Gay men talked with a lilt, giggled femininely, and were interested in things that weren't traditionally "masculine." Meanwhile, gay women dressed like men, had no interest in makeup or other traditionally female interests, and probably had masculine bodies and features. In my mind, before someone came out as gay, they did everything in their power to "try to be straight" but were eventually forced to confront the difficult reality that they felt no attraction at all to the opposite sex. I viewed homosexuality not as a spectrum, but as a black and white biological predisposition that meant you were thoroughly, completely, and pitiably gay.
As a child, when I began to experience stirrings of attraction for other girls, I would reassure myself that not only had I definitely felt attraction for men in the past, but I also liked being pretty. I was a tomboy as a child, sure, but as I got older I recognized that my value was increased in the eyes of society if I tried to be a pretty girl. As it turned out, I even liked putting on clothes that made me feel good, I liked applying makeup, and I liked some traditionally "feminine" things. In my mind, this meant that I couldn't be gay, because gay women didn't like "girl" stuff.
As a teenager, I began to learn more about the difference between gender and sexuality, and the fluidity of both. I began to let myself feel some of the long-suppressed feelings of queer desire I still harbored.
Still, in the back of my mind, the instilled certainty of sexuality as an extremely rigid thing sometimes kept me up at night. What if I was gay? Would I have to change the way I looked? Would I have to give up some of the things I liked? In my mind, being gay meant your sexuality was your whole identity, and everything else about you disappeared beneath the weight of it.
But then, Santana came out as gay on Glee.
GLEE - The Santana 'Coming Out Scene' www.youtube.com
If you didn't watch Glee, than you might not know the importance of Naya Rivera's character to so many queer young women like myself. Santana was beautiful, she was popular, she had dated boys, she was feminine, she was sexy, and she was gay. There's even evidence that Santana had previously enjoyed relationships with men.
But the character came out anyways, not because she had to or because it was obvious to everyone around her that she was gay, but because her attraction to women was an aspect of her identity she was proud of. It wasn't an unfortunate reality she simply had to make the best of; it was an exciting, beautiful, aspect of her identity worth celebrating.
Before Santana, it had never really come home for me that being gay wasn't an entire identity—that it wasn't an affliction or disorder, but just another part of a person. She also didn't suddenly start wearing flannels or cutting her hair after coming out. She was the same feminine person she had always been. I had never realized that being a gay woman didn't have to look a certain way. Santana and Brittany's gay storyline showed two femme-presenting women in love, and for me, that was a revolution.
If it wasn't for Naya Rivera, we may never have had that important story line.
"It's up to writers, but I would love to represent [the LGBTQ community] because we know that there are tons of people who experience something like that and it's not comical for them in their lives," Rivera told E! News in 2011. "So I hope that maybe we can shed some light on that."
While Rivera herself wasn't gay (the importance of casting gay actors in gay roles is a separate conversation), she understood how important her character was to the queer community. "There are very few ethnic LGBT characters on television, so I am honored to represent them," Rivera told Latina magazine in 2013. "I love supporting this cause, but it's a big responsibility, and sometimes it's a lot of pressure on me."
Rivera wasn't just a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community on screen. In 2017, she wrote a "Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community" for Billboard's Pride Month. In it, she wrote, "We are all put on this earth to be a service to others and I am grateful that for some, my Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays may have given a little light to someone somewhere, who may have needed it. To everyone whose heartfelt stories I have heard, or read I thank you for truly enriching my life."
Now, as we mourn the loss of Naya Rivera, at least we can take comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on—that the light her Cheerios ponytail and sassy sashays gave us won't go out any time soon.
Excuse me, I have to go weep-sing-along to Rivera's cover of landslide now.
Glee - Landslide (Full Performance + Scene) 2x15 youtu.be
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