Love, Hollywood Style

In Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, it's not just proverbial sparks that fly the first time Cary Grant kisses his costar Grace Kelly, but a full-scale display of fireworks on the Cote d'Azur that reflects across their ecstatic faces. This 1955 romantic crime-mystery remains a classic image of on-screen movie love. But what happens when the passion between two actors jumps from the pages of a script to obsessive longings?

Just ask Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Taylor, Jennifer Garner, Susan Sarandon, Katharine Hepburn, Nicole Kidman, and Ali McGraw. Each actress fell hopelessly in love right before our eyes on the silver screen with their co-stars (Brad Pitt, Richard Burton, Ben Affleck, Tim Robbins, Spencer Tracy, Tom Cruise, and Steve McQueen, respectively).

Jolie and Pitt may have been hired to rub out each other's assassin characters in the action romcom Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but what crackled between Jolie, the mysterious beauty, and Pitt, the, ahem, married man, was much more than fake bullets. The two stars were soon conflated to Brangelina and we, the paying public, followed their every international adoption, I mean, move. Well, it was Hitchcock (a voyeur of romance, if there ever was one) who claimed: "All love scenes started on the set are continued in the dressing room after the day's shooting."

During many conversations with my friends we've often wondered: how could those icons of male glamour and female beauty not fall in love--or at least in lust--with each other, given the hormone stimulating loves scenes? At what point does simulation become real? Take Cary Grant and Sophia Loren in The Pride and the Passion (1957), both were married when they first met, he to actress Betsy Drake and Loren to Carlo Ponti, the Italian producer who had championed his wife to international stardom. According to Loren's biographer Warren Harris, "Grant soured on Sophia when [they were off screen], but fell back in love with her when they started playing their romantic scenes in the film." Uh-huh.

One of the most infamous of all screen lovers, the real-life melodrama between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton mimicked the historical couple they portrayed: Cleopatra and Marc Antony. Fated (or doomed?) to live out the passion that developed between them during filming, the pair eventually married each other (naturally they were married to others when they first met; but, wait, is that an inevitable part of the lure?) and went on to divorce, remarry, and, alas, divorce once again.

But what happens to other star-crossed lovers after the movie wraps? Hepburn and Tracy (1942, Woman of the Year) made five subsequent films together and (although he never divorced his wife) remained in each other's lives until Tracy's death in 1967. Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart (1944, To Have and Have Not) honored the 'till death do us part vows. The relationships between Sarandon and Robbins (1988, Bull Durham); Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (1984, Swing Shift); Annette Bening and Warren Beatty (1990, Bugsy); and the longest-lasting Hollywood couple of all, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman (1958, The Long Hot Summer), are still going strong.

But others have not been so lucky. McGraw and McQueen (1972, The Getaway); Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin (1991, The Marrying Man); Kidman and Cruise (1990, Days of Thunder) married, only to divorce several year later.

And then there are those romances that last only slightly longer than the film's production: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck (the original Bennifer) (2003 Gigli); Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe (2000, Proof of Life); Kate Hudson and Owen Wison (2006, You, Me and Dupree) come to mind.

This Valentine's Day spark some passion in your life, check out those visual diaries of newly discovered love in the flesh encapsulated in Hollywood movies.

February 2007

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