It’s almost that time of year again . . . you all know what I’m talking about, so I won’t bother to elaborate . . . except to say that for all of those searching and hankering for a good movie to watch on Valentine’s Day, you’ve come to the right place!
As many of you know, romance isn’t my favorite genre in the world, but the movies below fit my strict criteria – sweet with minimal drama – and lots humor. So let us begin!
It Started With Eve (1941)
After Johnny Reynolds Jr. (Robert Cummings) arrives at the home of his very ill father, Jonathan (Charles Laughton), his father requests to meet his fiancée, Gloria. Unable to find her on short notice, Johnny desperately convinces a hatcheck girl and aspiring singer, Anne (Deanna Durbin), to pose as Gloria. Jonathan likes her very much, and, when his condition suddenly improves, Johnny is torn. If he admits the truth, he risks upsetting his father and his fragile health.
Aside from being perfect for Valentine’s Day, this is probably one of my favorite films; the humorous comedy of errors had me laughing out loud for almost the entire movie. Plus, it features one of my favorite actresses of all time. In my opinion, the lovely Deanna Durbin epitomized charm. kindness, and femininity; without compromising her uniquely quirky and feisty personality.
This movie is perfectly cast; there is no room for improvement whatsoever. Cummings has a wonderful charisma with Durbin, and is hysterical with every single character he encounters in the film. Durbin is of course lovely in every scene, perfect with every player, pulling off drama and humor with effortless charm, and Charles Laughton steals every single scene he is in with his bombastic and lovable personality. Even the bit characters – the horrible ‘Gloria’ and her even less appealing mother, the newsmen, the doctor . . . they’re all perfect . . . and perfectly hilarious.
On top of that we have a wonderful 1940s script, full of rapid-fire dialogue and one-liners that put modern scripts to shame.
But my very favorite part about this movie is a romance that might be overlooked by some . . . the father/daughter relationship between Deanna Durbin and Charles Laughton, and how a father and daughter – can indeed – be ‘head over heels’ for one another.
This movie is actually one of my Dad’s favorites, and because of the wonderful and lively father/daughter theme, I bought it for him for Father’s Day. My favorite scene in the whole movie is when Deanna Durbin and Charles Laughton dance the ‘La Conga’ – in my opinion, it is one of the best father/daughter moments ever committed to the silver screen, they’re joyous enjoyment of each other’s company – and their complete disregard for what everyone else thinks of them – never fails to make me laugh . . . .and yes, it does remind me a lot of my Dad and I.
This is a lovely movie that I highly recommend – it will make you smile.
Content: During one scene, Robert Cummings is angry at Deanna Durbin, so he tries to embarrass her in front of his father by chasing her around the room, occasionally catching her to either kiss her passionately, or pinch her. In another scene, Deanna Durbin and Charles Laughton go to a club, and several waitresses in skimpy outfits are shown; causing Charles Laughton to stare at them once or twice. There is also some social drinking and smoking.
I Love You Again (1940)
Larry Wilson (William Powell) is a wealthy businessman. He’s also so incredibly boring that his wife, Kay (Myrna Loy), wants a divorce. But when Larry gets knocked on the head, he discovers that he isn’t Larry Wilson at all. He’s actually George Carey, a con artist, and his life as Larry has really been a case of amnesia. Now back to his old ways, George plans a con to rob an entire town of their money. But George’s fiery ways make Kay reconsider the divorce.
Yet another wonderful 1940s script; a crazy scenario, eccentric characterization, crazy developments and witty dialogue. But not even the exceptional script could have worked without the superb cast. Nothing can beat William Powell’s and Myrna Loy’s interaction. There is a reason they were one of the most famous couples of the silver screen – their repartee is truly superb.
“How did you learn to dance like this?” Myrna Loy asks William Powell, snidely as he glides with her across the dance floor. He responds with studied casualness: “Oh . . . by mail.”
Only Myrna Loy could pull off a role that is really rather unlikable, and yet still seem like a worthy ‘prize’ for her husband to pursue, her pert humor is always spot on. Frank McHugh as William Powell’s partner in crime is hysterical, and the other side characters are well played, but no one can touch William Powell…he steals every single scene he’s in. He is the only actor I can think of that can spend 99 minutes groveling at a woman’s feet, and still have his charm and ego completely intact. He proved to leading men everywhere that suaveness does not exclude humor, or even slapstick.
The scenario itself is irresistibly funny – and the fact that the main character is trying to woo his wife, (instead of some random female) makes it sweeter. This film contains one scene in particular that had me laughing so hard I was sobbing, literally unable to breath, it was so ridiculously absurd. To quote the trailer: ‘The Laughs Come So Fast – You’ll Have to Watch It Twice To Catch Them All.’
Content: Some passionate kissing between a husband and wife. Myrna Loy wears several very low cut gowns through out the film. She is also contemplating divorce in this film and kind of has a ‘hopeful’ boyfriend who hangs around her all the time. They never outright romance one another, but he is present throughout the film as a rival for her affections. During another scene, she and William Powell go negligee shopping, and there is a small amount of innuendo involved.
Spring Parade (1940)
In this light and lovely romantic musical, a Hungarian woman Ilonka (Deanna Durbin) attends a Viennese fair and buys a card from a gypsy fortune teller. It says that she will meet someone important and is destined for a happy marriage. Afterward she gets a job as a baker’s assistant. She then meets a handsome army drummer (Robert Cummings) who secretly dreams of becoming a famous composer and conductor. Unfortunately the military forbids the young corporal to create his own music. Ilonka secretly sends one of the drummer’s waltzes to the Austrian Emperor with his weekly order of pastries. Her act paves the way toward the tuneful and joyous fulfillment of the gypsy’s prediction.
Is it saccharine? Yes – but the charming performances make up for it, more than that, they make this fairy tale believable. In my opinion, Deanna Durbin was closer to a living, breathing ‘Disney Princess’ than any other actress I have ever seen. Everything about her was perfect for fairy tale roles, her appearance, her personality, her speaking and singing voice . . . she’s lovely, an absolute treat to watch. The rest of the cast is perfect as well, Cummings as the goofy but lovable drummer, Stephenson as the kindly and genteel Emperor . . . and it even features two of my favorite B&W character actors, S. Z. Sakall as the huggable and grandfatherly baker that takes Durbin in, and Mischa Auer in a very brief role of the scoundrelly but dubiously charming shyster.
The filmmaker’s did an excellent job of making Vienna seem like a magical and fantastical location, this movie almost seemed like a live action folktale than a historical piece, and the rich backdrop is sweetened even more by the beautiful music. If I was forced to choose, Strauss would be my favorite ‘classical’ composer, and his music is woven seamlessly and beautifully throughout the movie . . . even the original songs pay tribute to the famous Viennese waltzes, sung only as Deanna Durbin could sing them . . . gorgeously. Like the Viennese waltzes featured in this film, this movie sweeps up the audience in a whimsical and energetic fairy tale that is sure to delight it’s viewers. It makes Cinderella pale in comparison.
Spring Parade is actually a very rare film – but you can watch it here on Youtube. It’s a little grainy and the sound is a little off in spots, but watch it on your phone! You won’t be able to tell it’s off. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed!
Content: Some kissing. Two mischievous little boys try to ruin Deanna Durbin’s relationship with Robert Cummings by telling him ‘rumors’, which are never really elaborated. Deanna Durbin’s character visits a ‘fortune teller’ in the beginning and receives a card predicting her future . . . predictably, things play out according to the card. This is such a light comedy, and the scenario is played out with such humor – i doubt it would bother many people.
And There You Have It! A B&W Valentine’s Day full of color!
What are some of your favorite romantic comedies? I would love to hear about them! Have you seen any of these movies before? Leave a comment! Are you planning on watching one or all of them? I can’t wait to hear what you think about it!