An Old-Fashioned Love Affair

The surprise success of The Artist at the box-office this year should really come as no surprise at all. It simply provided the two things most audiences want to see in a romantic comedy; romance and comedy. Somehow, most modern efforts in the genre seem to have overlooked this simple concept in favour of corny storylines, clichéd dialogue and bland star vehicles. But there was a time when romantic comedies remembered how to be truly funny and romantic, with good jokes, interesting characters and genuinely comic situations. As we approach Hallmark Day Valentine's Day this Tuesday, why not seek out some old-fashioned love affairs to have you laughing and swooning in each others arms? Here's five to get you started, which will hopefully have you reaching for the ice bucket, instead of the sick bucket.

A gem from the brilliant writer-director Billy Wilder, who fashions comedy gold from a fairly seedy premise with superb plotting and writing. Jack Lemmon is a lonely bachelor who rents out his apartment to married men so they can carry on affairs with their mistresses, whilst his own love life is restricted to an unrequited adoration for fellow misfit Shirley MacLaine, who works in his company. Both turn in endearing performances in a story that will tug at the heartstrings and tickle the funny bone, yet isn't afraid to tackle some serious issues along the way. And it's a rare romantic comedy indeed when the two lovebirds don't even get to kiss, yet still fall in love.
Sample Pillow Talk:
"You hear what I said, Miss Kubelik? I absolutely adore you."

His Girl Friday (1940)
Regarded as one of the classic screwball comedies, this is a frenetically paced movie, with dialogue so fast a second viewing is probably required to appreciate all the witty asides, plot intracacies and clever in-jokes. Terrific performances from Cary Grant as a newspaper editor and Rosalind Russell as his ace reporter and ex-wife, whose constant bickering and put-downs can't really hide the fact they are still madly in love with each other. It's such good fun, it's only after it ends that you might reflect the two leads aren't particularly nice and probably deserve one another.
Sample Pillow Talk:
"Oh Walter, you are wonderful. In a loathsome sort of way"

The Thin Man (1934)
Amateur sleuths Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) investigate a missing person case, but still take time to drink, flirt and cheerfully insult each other along the way. Think Hart to Hart, only good. The brilliant chemistry between Powell and Loy that elevates the film to something a bit special, as they swap wisecracks, quaff cocktails and martinis at every opportunity, and never miss a chance for a good old innuendo. The perfect building blocks for any strong relationship. Genuinely funny and effortlessly charming - you'll go a long way to find a modern screen couple with the same appeal.
Sample Pillow Talk:
- "All right! Go ahead! Go on! See if I care! But I think it's a dirty trick to bring me all the way to New York just to make a widow of me"
- "You wouldn't be a widow long."

- "You bet I wouldn't!"
- "Not with all your money..."

Ninotchka (1939)
Ernst Lubitsch's splendid comedy of manners features Greta Garbo in her best role as the glacial Russian Bolshevik Ninotchka, who gradually thaws under the influence of romantic Paris and the attentions of dapper suitor Melvyn Douglas. The terrific script features some sparkling dialogue, with Garbo's withering put-downs in the first half of the film especially fun. And beyond the broad comedy, there's also some barbed comments directed at the Communist regime which lends it a distinct edginess. If you consider yourself in a classy, sophisticated relationship, this is the film for you.
Sample Pillow Talk:
- "Must you flirt?"
- "Well, I don't have to, but I find it natural."
- "Suppress it."

City Lights (1931)
Charlie Chaplin in his famous ‘Little Tramp’ role falls in love with a blind flower-girl who mistakes him for a millionaire. Not wanting to disappoint her, he keeps up the charade, whilst working odd-jobs to raise enough money to pay for an operation to restore her sight. The laughs come thick and fast due to Chaplin’s superb physical and slapstick comedy, but the enduring appeal of the film lies in the touching romance between two shy and awkward characters. So good, you’ll not even notice you haven’t heard one word of dialogue in the whole film.
Sample Pillow Talk:
"                                          "

Marvellous stuff. A reminder that true romance is about much more than offering tacky, unoriginal presents and shouldn't just be confined to one day a year. Right, I'm off to buy some chocolates. If she's lucky I might even let her have one.

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