V-Day is upon us! Yes, CinDoc reader, it’s February, and that means the whole month is devoted to a holiday based on a Saint whose identity we’re not entirely clear about. (In case you’re not aware, there are three Saint Valentines and the history is muddy as to who the Roman Catholic Church is actually celebrating on St. Valentine’s Day). And for some reason, we pick that day to send expensive chocolates and Hallmark cards to each other. It’s also the time of year that many folks get all squishy-hearted about their significant others, as well as the time where single folks either get cynical as heck about relationships in general or begin to pine away after that elusive lover till they’re overfilled with low-grade chocolate bonbons.
In observance of such a Catholic/consumerist/relationship-centered holiday, this CinDoc contributor has decided to cover four classic movies about relationships (and not just romantic ones) that ought to actually enrich this season of squishiness and cynicism like an orange crème filling in one of the aforementioned bonbons.
Now, there’s a lot to talk about how Hollywood gets relationships wrong. Largely, the movies give us a schmaltzy, unrealistic portrayal of romance. Conversely, they can give us an absolute meth-house fire in their portrayal of familial relationships. There’s even a good argument to be made that this cinematic obsession with puppy-love and revulsion with families has negatively influenced culture over the last century. However, that doesn’t mean they have nothing to teach us—and it certainly doesn’t mean we don’t have exceptions to the rule.
I’ve selected two movies, and I’ll give them to you up front, which I think comment upon several relational dynamics of interest. For the young couple falling in love, I have what’s often called (wrongfully, I believe) the first romantic comedy: Frank Capra’s unforgettable It Happened One Night, from 1934. From the same year, and representing the familial tire fire, there’s the W. C. Fields vehicle It’s A Gift.
As should be abundantly evident, these are all comedies from the 1930s—a time I’d personally consider on the Mount Rushmore of decades for screen comedy. Now, these may not be for everybody, but what I’ve tried to do with these is present some classics that should be accessible to everybody. Fans of straight-up rom-coms will probably prefer It Happened One Night, and slapstick comedy junkies will lean toward It’s A Gift. If you’re not yet a fan of Golden Age comedy, this should help to nudge you in that direction. Anything I can do to encourage that in the discerning and intelligent fans of our content, I’ll do.
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Stephen McFerron likes movies. It’s that simple. From the lowest depths of the drive-in to the highest peaks of arthouse; the grand golden age to superhero spectacles, he’s all in! Since watching Gremlins and Jaws at a young age, Stephen has had an appetite for the strange and fantastic, as well as the old! If you’re here to explore movie history, or learn more about the best of today, Stephen’s your guide! He may even say something mildly profound along the way… if he’s lucky!