Romance has been around a lot longer than movies have, even longer than St. Valentine. The movies just elevated it to a new height -- or at least a very old, Olympian height. The ancient Greeks worshipped gods and goddesses who wooed each other with immortal fervor. So too, the gods and goddesses of the silver screen enthralled audiences in their cinematic romances.
Certain movie moments seem a part of our own experiences. Many of us can recall not only our first date or first kiss, but Bogey standing in a Paris train station with a farewell note soaking in his hand; Gable kissing Vivien Leigh against a bright red Southern sky; Paul Henreid lighting two cigarettes in his mouth and handing one to Bette Davis; or Dustin Hoffman pounding on a church window while Katharine Ross marries someone else.
Some movie stars are easy to picture in pairs: Fred and Ginger, Bogart and Bacall, Tracy and Hepburn, William Powell and Myrna Loy. The following videos would make perfect valentines. The Thin Man (1934, MGM, $24.95) -- MGM's breezy adaption of Dashiell Hammett's detective classic created a stir in 1934. It showed that an entertaining relationship didn't necessarily end after marriage. William Powell and Myrna Loy sparkle, along with lots of champagne, as Nick and Nora Charles. The mystery takes a back seat to their affectionate fencing. This movie is what TV's "Moonlighting" tries hard to be -- light, sophisticated couple-sleuthing. Swing Time (1936, RKO, $19.95) -- Now it can be told: Fred Astaire was a much better dancer than Ginger Rogers. But she holds her own off the dance floor in this witty, fast-paced, screwball romance. And if great star chemistry and incredible dancing aren't enough, try the beautiful and timeless songs by Jerome Kerm and Dorothy Fields. They include "A Fine Romance," "Pick Yourself Up" and "The Way You Look Tonight." Woman of the Year (1942, MGM, $59.95) -- Tracy and Hepburn's terrific first film together seems even more relevant in the '80s. Kate plays a feminist superwoman who meets her match in down-to-earth sportswriter Tracy. The sparks start flying the instant they lay eyes on each other. Directed with uncanny comic timing by the great George Stevens, from a screenplay by Ring Lardner, Jr. A brief sequence shows the Washington Redskins long before the Super Bowl. To Have and Have Not (1944, MGM, $59.95) -- It takes a tough woman to tame Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall is made for the part. Bogey learns how to whistle in Howard Hawks' engrossing blend of heroic adventure, male bonding and sizzling romance. The stars married shortly after the film was completed. Unfortunately, they also inspired a lame early-80's rock ballad ("We had it all, just like Bogart and Bacall ..."). Lover Come Back (1961, Kartes, $19.98) -- Male chauvinist Rock Hudson keeps topping rival advertising executive Doris Day. That's because she appeals to a client's virtue while he caters to vice, proving that businesswomen still had much to learn in the '60s. The decade's quintessential screen couple is hilarious, as is Tony Randall as Rock's neurotic boss.