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This week's Thursday Movie Picks are for the "All in the Family Edition" which will run on the last week of every month. This month the subgenre is "Married Couples Movies", and wow is that a toughie. SO MANY MOVIES centered around married couples! I haven't gone very far back in time for most of my recent picks, so this week I decided to go all Classic Hollywood with three of my most favorite screen couples.
The Thin Man (1934, W.S. Van Dyke) William Powell and Myrna Loy are unquestionably my favorite screen couple. Their relationship in The Thin Man is just too good to be true, in that old-school banter kind of way. While it's clear they love each other, neither of them have trouble dishing out the sass when it's called for. I guess this is what you get when an actual married couple write a screenplay - and this really is one of the greatest screenplays ever written (there's also a murder mystery in there somewhere, but make no mistake: the central relationship is the real star of the show). I probably quote it weekly, if not daily. "Oh, Nicky, I love you... because you know such lovely people!" "He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids!" And of course, the martinis. And that glass of rye. And "the nicest dinner I ever listened to." I could watch this movie on a loop forever and be completely satisfied.
Topper (1937, Norman Z. McLeod) After the fun-loving Kerbys (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, both delightful) die in a car crash, they become ghosts. Believing that they haven't moved on because they've been too irresponsible to do any truly good or truly bad deeds, they decide to help their stuffy friend Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) start to enjoy life (a "good deed" only by Hollywood standards). Of course, old habits die hard, and they largely treat the afterlife as an extension of their actual lives, causing mayhem and merriment embodied by some of Hollywood's cleverest special effects. Topper is undeniable fun thanks to these two, and as Topper's snooty, social-climbing wife, Billie Burke (yes, Glinda from The Wizard of Oz) makes a hilarious foil. Also, Young's physical comedy as the Kerbys invisibly walk a drunken Topper through his building's lobby is a riot - as impressive as it is funny.
Adam's Rib (1949, George Cukor) Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy made nine movies together, and for my money, this is the most enjoyable. And they make for formidable competitors as Adam and Amanda Bonner, married attorneys who find themselves on opposing sides of a case involving a woman who shot (but didn't kill) her unfaithful husband. Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon's great screenplay is perfectly mixed honey and vinegar. Okay, sure, the gender politics don't quite track, but I totally buy the "battle of the sexes" anyway. Hepburn and Tracy are on fire; no one fought onscreen quite as well as they did. Plus, a hilarious turn from Judy Holliday as the woman on trial.
BONUS: Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941, Alfred Hitchcock) No, not that Mr. & Mrs. Smith. This one stars Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery as a slightly unhappy married couple who learn that through a legal snafu, they aren't actually married. It's the only romantic comedy Hitchcock ever directed (done as a favor to Lombard), and it's good, even if it is decidedly minor Hitchcock.