DVDs: Bonus Points Movies

A Look at 10 Modest Movie Marriage Proposals

By JEN CHANEY
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009

When most of us imagine the typical Hollywood movie marriage proposal, we envision a scene with a string quartet, hundreds of flickering tealights and rose petals sprinkled as far as the camera can shoot. But surprisingly, plenty of characters have popped the question onscreen in casual, realistic and occasionally even awkward ways.

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, a holiday that many consider the perfect, Hallmark-ready time to get engaged, I offer the following list of unique film proposal moments. All 10 of them can be viewed on DVD, and each one may inspire your own pitch to that potential spouse ... or, perhaps, provide a solid example of how not to ask for someone's hand in marriage.

This is by no means a complete list; in fact, plenty of memorable movie proposals haven't been included here. So feel free to give shout-outs to your favorites during this Friday's online discussion of movies and DVDs at 12:30 p.m. ET.

"Rocky II" (1979)
In this first of many sequels, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) proposes to his beloved Adrian on a wintry day at the Philadelphia Zoo, in the most self-deprecating way possible: "I was wondering if you wouldn't mind marrying me very much." Hey, give Rocky some credit. He managed to pop the question without using the word "Yo."

"Gone With the Wind" (1939)
Rhett Butler was never a subtle sort. That's why he gets down on one knee and insists that a drunken Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) should become his wife -- shortly after the funeral of her second husband, mind you -- in this sweeping Civil War saga to end all sweeping Civil War sagas. When Scarlett refuses, Rhett (Clark Gable) responds by smothering her with a smoldering kiss: "I want you to faint. Itís what you were meant for. None of the fools you've ever known have ever kissed you like this, have they?" Well, what woman could say no to that?

"You Can Count on Me" (2000)
This beautifully observed film is really about the complicated relationship between a sister (Laura Linney) and her perpetually flaky brother (Mark Ruffalo). But it also contains a profoundly uncomfortable attempt at engagement when an on-again, off-again beau tells Sammy (Linney) he's "tired of fooling around" and wants to marry her. Sammy, shocked, says she wants to think about it. As you might imagine, that's not a good sign.

"Sense & Sensibility" (1995)
Virtually every Jane Austen adaptation contains a stellar proposal scene -- or, in the case of "Pride & Prejudice," two. But I had to go with Ang Lee's "Sense" because of Emma Thompson's performance as Elinor. When she realizes that Edward (Hugh Grant), the man she has pined for in lengthy, reserved silence, is finally free to marry her, the tidal wave of emotion she releases is enough to make any viewer a little weepy.

"His Girl Friday" (1940)
In this Howard Hawks-directed classic, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell play a pair of formerly married journalists who are destined to marry again. How do we know that? Because they bicker in perpetually pithy fashion, which means they're obviously in love. The banter between the two clips along at such a rapid pace that they basically skip over the formal proposal part, speeding directly to the all-important honeymoon plans.

"Wedding Crashers" (2005)
After years of hopping from reception to reception, Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) announces to Gloria (Isla Fisher) -- the "kooky redhead who makes him feel alive inside" -- that he's ready to take their relationship "to the next level." Of course she initially misunderstands, in classic R-rated comedy style. But she ultimately agrees to walk down the aisle, setting up the perfect opportunity for Owen Wilson to make a corny speech about love in the middle of their wedding.

"Tootsie" (1982)
Poor Charles Durning. He takes soap opera star Dorothy Michaels to dinner, confesses that she is the first woman he has loved since losing his wife and offers her a ring. Naturally, Durning's character doesn't realize that Dorothy is actually a man -- Dustin Hoffman, to be precise -- in drag, which makes his/her response ("Oh, oh no!") both funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

"Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994)
When Hugh Grant embraces Andie MacDowell (in the pouring rain, of course) after leaving his bride-to-be at the altar, he asks the question every woman longs to hear: "Do you think you might agree not to marry me? And do you think not being married to me might be something you could consider doing for the rest of your life?"

"High Fidelity" (2000)
After reconnecting with several ex-girlfriends and making way too many top five lists, John Cusack's Rob Gordon finally broaches the "m" word with his longtime love, Laura (Iben Hjejle), in heartfelt but clearly exhausted tones. When she asks if he honestly expected a yes to such a lame proposal, he says, "I don't know, I thought asking was the important part." It's a response that suits this honest, wry rom-com -- based on the equally superb novel by Nick Hornby -- just perfectly.

"Moonstruck" (1987)
This Academy Award winning comedy -- written by John Patrick Shanley, the man responsible for this year's Oscar-nominated "Doubt" -- is bookended by a pair of marriage proposals. Both take place during meals. Both questions are popped by offering the same ring. But only one prompts Cher to declare, "Ma, I love him awful." (Want to see which one? Click to watch "Moonstruck" in its entirety, online, for free. And happy Valentine's Day.)

Also Available This Week

If you can't get to New York to watch Will Ferrell pretending to be George W. Bush, then check out Josh Brolin doing his version in "W.," on DVD today. For more DVD-viewing options, peruse this full list of the week's debuts.

Coming Next Week

Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe team up in the fine thriller "Body of Lies" on DVD next Tuesday. For a full calendar of what's coming in the weeks ahead, click here.

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PHOTOS: 'Gone With the Wind' -- Warner Bros; 'Sense & Sensibility' -- Columbia Pictures; 'Wedding Crashers' -- New Line; 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' -- MGM Via Reuters; 'Moonstruck' -- Sony; 'W.' -- Lionsgate

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