As Valentine’s Day approaches, lovers and romantics around the world hold their breath in anticipation. For the boys and girls this is a chance to confess their burning desires. For the husbands and wives this is an opportunity to rekindle their undying love. However, for lads such as myself, who’s not fortunate enough to have a mademoiselle in his arms, sweet kisses on his cheeks, or even just a a slightly endearing email in the inbox, the festival can be a bit of a pain…
So to prevent myself from sinking into some self depreciating dark hole, I asked around for some good ol’ films to serve as distraction, good ol’ romance films to be precise. How that’s suppose to take my mind off the fact that I’m still all alone is beyond my comprehension, but that’s what I did anyway. This series of posts will document how romance has been presented in Cinema in the last 70 years and possibly provide a glimpse into the nature of Love.
First, I’d just like to give thanks to ImperialX, FatMikeyGao, YagerX, Leon.k, Shadowcatx, Cecilia.L, JumboJ, Chockabon, Feng_9, khxdb9 and MimiRice. Without you guys (and girls), I would never have known what to watch and this series of posts would never have happened. So thank you very much!!
And now, without further ado, I present to you, Love in the Cinema since 1940, Part 1.
The Philadelphia Story (1940), Love is Patience
The 1940s is often considered the Renaissance of film industry. The wide adoption of sound in film had an enormous creative impact on the industry. While heavy funding from governments during war time pushed the medium forward at incredible speed.
The film I’m going to write about in this post is The Philadelphia Story(1940) directed by George Cukor. To start things off, I would just like to quote my friend YagerX and exclaim that “The people [in these films] are SO suave!” The cast of male actors all has such an air of sophistication that’s rarely seen in cinema today. While the female lead; Katherine Hepurn looked absolutely breathtaking. More importantly despite the lack of fancy editing, camera works, or even an especially dramatic plot, the film was able to convey it’s message by highlighting the subtlety of human interactions as they happen in the film.
If I was an avid Anime follower, I would describe the setup of The Philadelphia Story as “reverse harem”. Unfortunately, I’m not. So I’m going to say that The Philadelphia Story tells the wedding of a very rich, independent and private woman called Tracy and her mine-worker-turned-businessman-fiance named George. Things became complicated when Tracy’s ex-husband Dexter, whom she divorced because he didn’t live up to her expectation, shows up. Along with Dexter are two Spy magazine reporters; Mike and Liz.
This is a particularly good film to start this series with because it introduces not one, not two, but three different kind of romantic relationships.
The first kind of relationship is one of awe and curiosity as shown between Tracy and George. Tracy and George are two very different people. They grew up differently, they behave differently and they even speak with different words. Their difference was exemplified when George described Tracy as “some marvellous distant queen” who is cool and grand like a statue. The result of this metaphorically distant relationship is a lack of faith. When George saw a drunk Tracy being carried to her room by Mike, George assumed the worst (even though nothing actually happened) and called off the engagement.
The second kind of relationship is one based on youthful passion and is between Tracy and Mike. Initially, Dexter introduced Mike and Liz as two family friends. Tracy was not fooled but chose to play along anyway. As they got to know one another, Tracy realized that despite his hard exterior, Mike actually has some very romantic characteristic. Similarly, Mike was also always the first to defend Tracy whenever conflict arises. When George left Tracy, a half sober Mike, despite having only met Tracy two days ago, dramatically blurted out his love for her and vulunteers to take George’s place on the alter.
The last kind of relationship is one of patience. It turns out that Liz has always had a thing for Mike, but has always been unwilling to marry him. When Dexter questioned what Liz is waiting for, Liz answered ”He still got a lot to learn, I don’t want to get in his way for a while.”
Similarly, despite being at first presented as that ex husband who wants revenge on his wife, Dexter was actually always looking out for Tracy. Even sneaking reporters into Tracy’s wedding was to help keep Tracy’s family safe from a scandal. When Dexter realises that Tracy might have drank too much, he tried to get George away from the house in fear that George might see Tracy do something stupid and not understand. (The last time Tracy got drunk, she stood naked on the roof and sang for a whole night). Unfortunately Dexter was not able to keep George from seeing Mike carrying Tracy in a bathrobe. So in the end, Tracy declined Mike’s offer for Liz’s sake, and Dexter was able to ask for Tracy’s hand in marriage, to which she accepts.
The plot of The Philadelphia Story is not a complicated one, but the message is profound. Through this film, we can see that Love is not a kind of formal worship done from the distance. It demands closeness and it demands trust. Love is not a kind of passionate pursuit in the heat of the moment. That might be how love starts, but it also requires nurturing and it requires understanding. Instead, patience is the key. Because to love is to endures. Only through endurance can there be closeness, can there be trust. Only with time can a relationship be nurtured and understanding be built. Only with patience can there be love; the love that waits.
To be completely honest, this is not the only theme The Philadelphia Story deals with, in fact, it’s not even the primary theme. But for the sake of staying on topic, I will end my post here. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of Love in Cinema since 1940.
Update: Click here for Part 2