Thursday, February 14, 2013

Question for the Week of Feb 11-17: Best Couple

What's the best (romantic) movie couple?

Doubtless, it's Bogey and Bacall, for me. There are joke answers, trick answers, and make-you-think answers - hell, maybe I'll ask again and give those later - but these two are my favorites. I guess I should try to describe their particular charm...

Famously, Bogart was in a not-happy marriage when he met Bacall on the set of To Have and Have Not, which I reviewed some time ago. He was 25 years older than her, and not (reportedly) the sort of man to cheat on his wife, so their early chemistry was captured more on film than it was portrayed in the media. Although there were fervent love letters, Bogart was (to his credit) not the sort of man to easily disregard his obligations, and he tried to get out of his old relationship before truly jumping in to his new one.

Bacall was gorgeous, but in an atypical way - I'm particularly fond of her eyes and her voice, but you're an idiot if you don't notice her style. Bogart was charming, though neither tall nor broad-set - he was a compact man, and in most of his movies he seemed as full of intelligence as he was of fire...

When I wrote about how much I enjoyed To Have and Have Not, and the chemistry between the leads, I was trying to describe the way that these two people interact. It's... downright sultry. But this accompanying picture conveys two people draped upon each other, in the same way that I see them vocally coiled together on-set. It's a beautiful thing to feel in love, and it's a beautiful thing to watch two people be in love with each other. I don't know whether they or the audience were the ultimate winners, so effective is their passion.

As to their history together in cinema, I get my pick of four (only four!) great films to chose from. I have already seen Dark Passage, tHaHn, The Big Sleep, and Key Largo - with To Have as the most recent new experience and Sleep as the most familiar. Each of these pictures has many strengths, with only KL as one that I did not enjoy much. Throughout all of them, however, I greatly enjoyed the interaction between these two actors. I've enjoyed them separately, as well - particularly Bogart in Dead Reckoning.

If I had to choose a favorite picture for their work together, it's an easy decision: The Big Sleep is both a great pairing of Bogart and Bacall, and is one of my all-time favorite films. As fictitious characters, the two play beautifully on their own, and become simply majestic when they're together (even while fighting). The plot and character progression works beautifully, and it's impossible not to be pulled in by the way they handle each other.

Being very blunt: Bogart somehow never felt over-written, and Bacall, despite women being balefully under-served by Hollywood, never felt under-written. They felt, in short, like the perfect couple. And I'm grateful for fellow film blog sites like The Ticket Booth and Parade of Insanity for their love of this couple and for providing me with great pictures from their life together.

Whenever I watch Bogart and Bacall films, I feel grateful. I'm thrilled by how evenly-matched they seem, and how their interplay isn't excessively-smooth or manufactured. To my mind, they represent an ideal situation wjhere nothing is too easy, nor is it artificially-difficult. I wish only that they had had a chance to live and grow old in real life - but I hope that they greatly enjoyed every second that they shared together. The moments that we got to watch on film were certainly intense enough to sustain a lot of affection...

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