Ah Valentine’s Day is here and I’ve been wanting to make this sort of post for a while so forgive my timing in line with with this kind of imperious Hallmark card holiday that corporatizes love (because I’m that kind of dude) and I shall eschew my intro to behold…
MY TOP 5 MOVIE CHARACTER COUPLES
Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) in The Thin Man (1934)
A couple practically lifted from original novel author Dashiell Hammett’s own relationship with Lillian Hellman, I must admit that when I read the book I was pretty underwhelmed by its charming dialogue or the incidental aspect of its mystery. But give these lines over to William Powell and Myrna Loy, a couple so good at their repartee that audiences believed they were actually romantically involved. And could you blame with such verbal chemistry, with hit after hit back and forth between sipping martinis. Frankly reading the book is too slow, The Charles’ aren’t exactly straight out of His Girl Friday, but they’re an infectious pairing right down to the presence of their dog, Asta.
Annie Starr (Peggy Cummins) and Bart Tare (John Dall) in Gun Crazy (1950)
I’m sure everybody has their preferential screen-couple that’s a gun-toting law-breaking pair on the run – Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands, True Romance, Natural Born Killers, etc. – and here’s mine. Does it end badly? Certainly. Is Annie manipulating Bart? Well, yes and no. This isn’t exactly the most attractive couple, but the spark they have for each other is real (and really dangerous) and Bart knows there isn’t much better holding out for him. Besides, sharing a proficiency with guns is still something. For all the women-demonizing we can hold the noir genre out for, there’s still the fact that if there isn’t a sexual charge between their leads, the idea of the femme fatale all goes to hell and the sexual symbolism of the pistol can only go so far (and Cummins takes it very far). In the end, this is possibly the only noir screen couple that can pull off that seductive charm better than anything the legendary Barbara Stanwyck ever did.
Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) and Emmi (Brigitte Mira) in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
For all the Fassbinder scholar knows that Salem was a violent brute to many (including Fassbinder, who was his boyfriend at the time of shooting), it’s bittersweet how he could tone his flaws down to present such a tender romance between him and the just as incredible Mira. Just looking at a picture, it’s easy to see what’s alienating about their romance in the 1970s (making it just as radical as Fassbinder wanted it to look), but there’s also nothing about the two of them in motion together that doesn’t move the viewer like any other Douglas Sirkian romance. Than Salem and Mira are able to portray humans ignoring how schematically the movie attempts to be a social study of culture shock, xenophobia, and the difficulties of life in Germany for an elder woman and a foreigner and only mix those into the pot of their chemistry is only the better.
Jeannie Bueller (Jennifer Grey) and Garth Volbeck (Charlie Sheen) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Just like we knew Charlie would end up. It’s brief as hell but it’s the most naked kind of sudden young jumping into each other’s faces that 1980s teen cinema would have, right down to Volbeck (and I swear I’m not making up the character name) somehow having enough skeeved out wisdom to tell Jeannie what’s up with her and her brother. There’s no reason for them to be making out by the end, but it’s funny to me.
Man, why couldn’t my holdings be like that?
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in the Before series (1995-2013)
Ah, Jesse and Celine. Every nine years, it is a privilege to be in their company as we watch how their interactions with each other and the world around them evolve and function over a 24 hour window. Find what they’re trying to hide, what they can’t communicate, what they know and what they think they know. And sometimes the look is optimistic in the future for them, sometimes it’s uncertain, sometimes it’s cynical and they always seem to map perfectly onto their age and onto each other. I dunno, I feel like I’m rambling but the Before series (Linklater’s masterpiece in my opinion) feels like watching Brief Encounter without having dry your eyes afterwards from the fact that they’ll never be able to meet each other again… and with the accident of falling in love with each character just as well.
And there you have it. What are your favorite screen couples? Are you gonna get lucky tonight with your significant other? I don’t wanna know!