Saturday Night at the Movies

My Funny Valentine: 4 Romantic Comedies For Valentine’s Day

 

Three Smart Girls (1936)

Three sisters scheme to reunite their divorced parents before their wealthy father marries a conniving gold digger.

 

Think ‘The Parent Trap’ with 1930s class and wit.  Plus an older group of girls that fall into the “the trap of love” themselves!

 

The 30s style costumes are yet another treat in this movie.  

 

Anybody with sisters or girlfriends will appreciate the fun banter and endless scheming of the three girls.  And for once, the boyfriends of the two older sisters are actually real people with personalities.  That, in and of itself, is revolutionary and refreshing.  The fact that they actually move a lot of the plot forward and are interesting characters outside of their girlfriends is a double win.  And finally, enough with the stupid ideas of guys needing to “back off” – these guys are real men and pursue their romantic interests with inexorable determination and suavity.

As usual for many black and white romantic comedies, the intricate plotting of this comedy of errors is hilariously complicated.  They just don’t write them like this anymore!  The girls’ hilarious attempts to submarine their father’s girlfriend “Precious” is a special highlight, as well as the case of mistaken identity that brings the bewildered, but intrigued Ray Milland into the madcap situation.

 

THREE SMART GIRLS, Mischa Auer, Ray Milland, 1936

Ray Millands classy improvisation for the sake of love is truly side-splitting. Who is the real Count?

 

Of a special note, of course, is Deanna Durbin’s glorious singing, and one of the sweetest “romances” of all; a father falling head-over-heels in love with his daughters.

 

Maid’s Night Out (1938)

A millionaire’s son works as a milkman for a month to win a bet with his father. While delivering milk he falls in love with a young debutante whom he mistakes for a maid.

 

It can be a little, zany, a little silly—but it’s still great fun!   As I said, the 1930s could pull off mistaken identities and comedic mix ups like no one else!  Even if we are blinking a little at the hero’s goals—by the end of the film we are cheering him on and sitting on our hands as he races to complete the wager in a sequence that is both hilarious and nerve-wracking.

 

 

The fact that the heroine assists him in this eccentric relay makes the ending even more sweet. Bickering couples can be fun—and this couple starts out that way—but if you want to hit a romance out of the ball park, your characters ought to eventually BELIEVE IN ONE ANOTHER.   That’s the secret ingredient—and this film nails it.

 

Louisa (1950)

Grandma Louisa (Spring Byington) begins dating grocer Henry Hammond (Edmund Gwenn), much to the disgust of her son Hal (Ronald Reagan) and the rest of the family. To make matters worse, Hal’s boss, Mr. Burnside (Charles Coburn), also becomes a rival for Louisa’s affections.

 

Enough with the silly drama of young people’s romances!  Who says mature people—or even the elderly—can’t fall in love?

This adorable movie defies cliches and convention and gives us an adorable movie that will keep us laughing—and perhaps groaning—throughout as we wonder whom Louisa will end up with.

 

She can’t decide . . . 

 

This is one of the few love-triangles that really kept me guessing through the whole thing and had me rooting equally for everyone concerned.  Not only that, the ending is satisfactory for everyone, I think!  A rare thing indeed for a love-triangle!

So many books and movies give characters like Louisa the standard “grandma attributes” and then stop, as if she is no longer a person. What I love about this film is that Louisa is bursting with personality.  I also love movies where characters are shown wholeheartedly engaging in antics, without caring what other people think.  Who says grandmas can’t limbo?

 

I.Q. (1994)

Edward Walters, an auto mechanic, falls for the intelligent and beautiful Catherine Boyd. It is love at first sight. There is, however, a problem, she’s engaged to the idiotic James Moreland. Fortunately, Catherine’s uncle likes Ed, and with his friends they scheme to make Catherine fall for Ed. The comedy in this movie stems from the fact that Catherine’s uncle is none other than Albert Einstein, who’s portrayed as a fun loving genius, as are his three, mischievous colleagues. 

 

I literally started squealing as I started writing this review.  One of my favorite romantic comedies of all time – easily in my top three.  It’s one of those rare movies where I wouldn’t change a single thing.  The story, the dialogue, the acting – it’s fabulous.

This film beautifully and sensitively tackles what it means to be smart.  Too many people categorize intelligence one way – when that is simply not accurate. There are many different kinds of intelligence.

It’s one of the sweetest romantic comedies I have ever seen because it feels real.  Catherine and Ed aren’t perfect but together, they are extraordinary.  It’s more than just physical attraction – it’s two wondering souls, two excited, curious minds coming together to share an adventure.

 

 

What could be more delightful than having Albert Einstein playing match maker?  BEST. IDEA. EVER. Walter Matthau’s acting is absolutely outstanding as he tackles the brilliant, absent-minded, loving, wonder-filled scientist who is determined to see his niece find the right man.  Liebknecht, Podolsky, Gödel (Albert Einstein’s three colleagues) are fall-over hilarious.  Again, we get to see how you can’t be smart in everything as Einstein introduces them as:  “Three of the most brilliant minds in the universe, but between them they can’t screw in a light bulb.”

If you can imagine a German Jewish, mathematician take on the three fairy’s from Sleeping Beauty – you might be close to describing this darling trio.  The endless shots of their feet shuffling along as they try to break Ed and Catherine’s romance down into mathematical equations are truly priceless.

 

 

Dare I even to say that this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen?  The plot, the characters, the dialogue, EVERYTHING is perfect.  Theme, especially, comes out strong in this movie and gives the film the heart that so many other storytellers lack – great foreshadowing and payoff.  From the moment in the opening when we hear Albert Einstein playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on his violin, we are being shown a special theme.  When we see Catherine making plans to see Boyd’s comet – for the most beautiful reasons – we know, something special is going to happen.  When we see the scientists matchmaking plans start growing wildly out of control, we are groaning as we see the political scandal unfold.  But get ready for the brilliant culmination!

Additional tidbits.  The movie is scored by Jerry Goldsmith, one of my favorite composers and one of the most versatile ones I have ever listened to.  His perfect blend of wonder-filled strings, doo-wap harmonizing and tinkling bells scores this movie exquisitely.  And then we have Meg Ryan’s fabulously adorable wardrobe which WILL make you yearn like crazy for these fashions. Lastly, we have that wonderful 1950s feeling – diners, greasers, motorcycles, the Cold War, early space race, and BEAUTIFUL CLASSIC CARS.

 

I.Q. has a joyous feeling, a vibrancy in its normalcy, a theme about embracing life, embracing people and exploring new possibilities.

It’s about having fun – no matter who you are, or what you do.

And essentially that whole feeling and theme can be boiled down to one of the most memorable and lovely moments I have ever seen in film.

An auto mechanic taking Albert Einstein for a joyride on a motorcycle.

Because, as Albert teaches his niece and young friend, nothing is more important then keeping your sense of wonder.

 

 

 

And that wraps up this post?  What are some of your favorite romantic comedies?  Do you have any films that you watch every Valentine’s Day?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

And hurry up – we’re wasting time!  🙂  

 

I.Q. Scene: 

*Einstein’s three colleagues are playing badminton*

Gödel:  We’re wasting time! Serve already!

Podolsky:  That’s ridiculous!  How can you waste something that doesn’t exist?

Gödel:  Time doesn’t exist? Since when?

Podolsky:  I wouldn’t know. If time doesn’t exist, then there is no ”when”.

Gödel:  You hear, Liebknecht?  Another crazy theory!

Podolsky:  Then teII me the correct time—now.  You see?  You can’t!  Because as you’re teIIing me, the future has become the past, therefore there is no present, therefore time doesn’t exist!

*Podolsky accidentally bats birdie up into a tree*

Podolsky:  Oops!

*Podolsky flings racquet into tree, hoping to dislodge the birdie.  Both of birdie and racquet are definitely stuck*

Liebknecht: Now your racket doesn’t exist!

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “My Funny Valentine: 4 Romantic Comedies For Valentine’s Day

  1. Ah, Valentine’s Day . . . *grins*

    Here’s the funny thing about romantic comedies: I almost never feel the urge to watch one. And when I HAVE watched them, I usually don’t like them, and sometimes I really loathe and despise them (looking at you, Charade). Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut . . . my all-time favorite film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is definitely a romantic comedy. So I have no idea how that works 😛

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s made me Feel Things. On a very deep level. It’s an exquisitely beautiful story. I don’t want to re-watch it, though–not for many many years, anyway. I just want to remember how it was when I experienced it for the first time.

    1. Haha – yeaaaah – I’m kind of indifferent to Valentine’s Day myself. #shhh But jumping on the bandwagon here with some fun movies. 😛

      I really, really like the genre if it’s done WELL – but this genre seems to make a lot of people that they can “cheat” and just produce any old, weak writing. #NOSIR

      Actually, Charade wasn’t strictly romantic comedy, really – it was more of a psychological thriller vibe with some romantic comedy. “whispers” I love it – but you know I’m fascinated by different perspectives!

      Aww – that’s so cool! I have a movie sort of like that – something that woke something especially exquisite inside – and it kind of hurts to watch Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium repeatedly!

      1. *glares at people who think romance is an excuse for lazy writing* No sir, indeed!

        Hmmm, I suppose that’s true–I guess Charade more counts as a thriller; but when I tried to watch it, I was so bored that I turned it off half an hour before it ended . . . so I guess you could say I was emphatically not thrilled??? I don’t know why! I just remember feeling really really frustrated because the plot kept asking me to care about stuff that my brain didn’t actually care about at all. I didn’t WANT to know who stole whatever-it-was or who was going to die. In fact, I don’t think I would’ve been very upset if they all died in the end.

        *shakes head at self* I should probably just stay away from thrillers, eh?

        Exactly!! Some movies are like a really fancy dessert; you only want to eat it a FEW times because it’s such a special treat 🙂

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