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The Way We Were...
by Christa Cannon

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"What?! No SCRUNCHING?!"
*sigh* The ol' romantic comedy...the dreaded movie men feel they must take their dates to see...movies filled with women looking cute and adorable and the men are usually scruffy or just plain jerks.

Now, I like my fair share of romantic comedies. I admit it, though you will never find me actually watching them at the theatre! (I'd rather spend my money on more hearty fair!) You just can't beat Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks together (unless it's JOE VS. THE VOLCANO). When I feel like getting a warm fuzzy, I'll pop in a Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts movie, and all is good.

But why do they always have to have the same plot? And the same stars? Or the same types of characters?

That wasn't always the case, though, was it?

It used to be that men could go to a romantic comedy without groaning...that a woman could admit to liking them without being embarrassed. Why is that? I wouldn't say that our writers and actors have gotten worse through the years, though I'm tempted to. But I don't think that's it. I think Hollywood just feels we want a light comedy, without having to do much thinking. They don't feel we want the witty repartee that was the staple of a great Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn movie. They obviously think we'd prefer to watch Renee Zellweger scrunch her face for two hours than listen to intelligent banter.

Let's go through a few of the old greats, and try to figure out what made them so...shall we?

Probably the best romantic comedy ever made. First, it stars Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart. Those are ingredients for a fine movie right there. Written by Philip Barry for the stage, tweaked by Donald Ogden Stewart for the screen, directed by George Cukor. What can go wrong? Well, nothing. Except that Ms. Hepburn was labeled "Box Office Poison" at the time...but they went ahead and made the movie, poison and all. No scrunchy-faces, no mooning over boys...just witty, intelligent humour. Plus, it's got one of the best-named characters ever! Cary Grant as C.K. Dexter Haven. Here's a taste:

1) C.K. Dexter Haven: Sometimes, for your own sake, Red, I think you should've stuck to me longer.
Tracy Lord (Hepburn): I thought it was for life, but the nice judge gave me a full pardon.
C. K. Dexter Haven: Ah, that's the old redhead. No bitterness, no recrimination, just a good swift left to the jaw.

2) Tracy: Only for the moment, I'm not
You're not scrunching enough. Here, let me help...

"You're not scrunching enough. Here, let me help..."
interested in myself.
C. K. Dexter Haven: Not interested in yourself? Red, you're fascinated. You're far and away your favorite person in the world.

Okay, so...not a comedy. But I can't write an article about romantic movies and not mention this, now can I? Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand, Sidney Pollack, politics,a timeless title song, and a guy named Hubbell. I'm beginning to think all we need these days is a good character name!

1) Katie: Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were old? Then we could say we survived all this. Everything would be uncomplicated, the way it was when we were young...
Hubbell: Katie, it was never uncomplicated.

2) Hubbell: You think you're easy? Compared to what, the Hundred Years' War?

And, who can ever forget the end scene, when Barbra brushes Robert's hair out of his eyes *sigh* and says: "Your girl is lovely, Hubbell"?

The one that started it all! In 1934, this movie launched the screwball comedy--and what a great start for the genre! Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert (with some of the best on-screen chemistry around) team with director Frank Capra to make this one of the most endearing and funniest movies ever. Gable proved his comedic talent with this gem, and Colbert...? Well, in one of the most famous scenes in film history, she proved she had a nice set of gams! ("Why didn't you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars!") This movie was the first to win the Grand Slam at the Oscars--Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Not bad for a film neither of the stars even wanted to do.

1) Alexander Andrews(Walter Connolly): Oh, er, do you mind if I ask you a question, frankly? Do you love my daughter?
Peter Warne (Clark Gable): Any guy that'd fall in love with your daughter ought to have his head examined.
Alexander: Now that's an evasion!
Peter: She picked herself a perfect running mate - King Westley - the pill of the century! What she needs is a guy that'd take a sock at her once a day, whether it's coming to her or not. If you had half the brains you're supposed to have, you'd done it yourself, long ago.
Alexander: Do you love her?
Peter: A normal human being couldn't live under the same roof with her without going nutty! She's my idea of nothing!
Alexander: I
I'll show YOU witty banter!

"I'll show YOU witty banter!"
asked you a simple question! Do you love her?
Peter: YES! But don't hold that against me, I'm a little screwy myself!

This one not only introduced Americans to the lovely Audrey Hepburn, but it also showed a lighter side to Gregory Peck. It was written with Cary Grant in mind (as I'm sure most romantic comedies were at that time). Grant thought he would be too old to play opposite Hepburn, though he would be convinced to play her love interest in CHARADE ten years later. Gregory Peck once joked that every romantic comedy script he'd received "had the fingerprints of Cary Grant on it."

1) Princess Ann: I've never been alone with a man before, even with my dress on. With my dress off, it's MOST unusual.

2) Princess Ann: Is this the elevator?
Joe Bradley: This is my ROOM!

To tell you the truth, I'm having a hard time telling you how great this one is. It is great, there's no doubt about that. We've all been paranoid about love and romance and who better to showcase that than the King of Paranoia himself--Woody Allen? Not exactly a usual suspect for a romantic lead, but he's given us some of our best romantic comedies, however flawed the romance may be. Even better, he's given us some very memorable quotes! Diane Keaton was a perfect partner for him--suits and all!

1) [after a night in bed with Annie]
Alvy Singer (Allen): That was the most fun I've ever had without laughing.

2) [In California]
Annie Hall(Keaton): It's so clean out here.
Alvy: That's because they don't throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows.

3) Alvy: I don't want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.

4) [after Annie parks the car]
Alvy: Don't worry. We can walk to the curb from here.

Those are just a few of the greatest romantic comedies out there. None of this is to say that the genre has gone downhill in the last few decades. I mean, I love SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (she sheepishly admits)! But...they're just not the same, are they? The witty repartee, the intelligent banter, the cool names....sadly missing from most modern romantic comedies. (Not all, just too many.)

So girls, next time your guy is groaning about having to watch a romantic comedy with you, pop in an old classic...show him how it's really done.

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Cannon Fodder
Every other Thursday

Stream-of-conscious ruminations on whatever pops into Christa's head.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christa Cannon:

Summer Madhouse...oh, I mean "Magic."

The Perils of Errol

Deja Vu...

Steeee-rrrrike Two!

Wait...this isn't a comedy?

All Columns

Christa Cannon
Christa would prefer to live in a world where everyone breaks out into song and dance. Um, and also one in which she is rich and very famous.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christa Cannon by clicking here.

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