TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Romantic Affairs
Most of the new Turner Classic Movies DVD compilations are devoted to an individual film star. The exception is "TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Romantic Affairs." The label is generic, since most vintage Hollywood films have some sort of romantic angle. A more appropriate title would have been "marital crises," since, in all four movies, a marriage is threatened by some problematic situation which, in the end, is resolved. Despite their thematic commonality, the films vary greatly with respect to their quality.
The best of the bunch is the classic Cary Grant comedy, "My Favorite Wife." The story concerns a shipwrecked wife who returns home after a few years to find her husband about to remarry. Though the film was remade in the 60's as the Doris Day vehicle "Move Over, Darling," the 1940 original is irresistible. Cary Grant, Gail Patrick and Irene Dunne do bang-up jobs, maintaining the laughs from beginning to end.
Almost as good, the 1942 "Woman of the Year" has brilliant stateswoman Hepburn falling for average Joe, Tracy; but her chaotic, celebrity lifestyle wreaks havoc on their marriage. Solid George Stevens direction, and a perceptive script are major assets, not to mention the legendary chemistry of the star duo.
Screwball comedy was hardly Alfred Hitchcock's forte, and it is obvious from the 1941 "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," which he directed as a favor to star Carole Lombard. In this routine Hollywood fluff, Lombard is happily married to Robert Montgomery, until the title couple learns that, through a legal technicality, they are not really husband and wife. All manner of mildly amusing intrigue follows in this pleasant, but unremarkable outing.
The curiosity of the lot is the 1964 "Instant Love," hardly in a class with its box-mates. The post-dubbed, poorly acted cheapie is an odd TCM choice indeed. Hardly Helen Hayes, Rhonda Fleming plays a liberated, American film-star on a trip to Brazil, who impulsively marries a wealthy plantation owner, Rossano Brazzi. When Brazzi's Latino machismo surfaces, trouble ensues. Unintentional laughs abound in this hilariously bad South American outing. Even Rhonda's trademark, conical breasts can't perk up this one.
As the first two films are already available in superior compilations, the "Romantic Affairs" set is not the strongest of TCM's new crop of releases. The Paul Newman and Gene Kelly boxes are far better choices.
TCM Greatest Classic Film Collection: Romantic Affairs