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A black and white Valentines Day: Romantic movies from the past
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in 1935's "Top Hat." - photo by Elizabeth Reid
Whether it's by way of a musical drama or a zany comedy, these black-and-white films all focus on the power of love. Take a step back in time this Valentine's Day into the years 1935 through 1942 with these five classic romantic films.

Although some of the films contain themes and dramatic situations that might be hard for young children to understand, all can be enjoyed by audiences young and old.

'Top Hat'

Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) is wealthy, single and on vacation in Europe. One night, as she attempts to sleep in her opulent hotel room, shes disturbed by incessant tapping noises from the floor above. Furious about being awakened, she rushes upstairs to give whoever is disrupting her sleep a piece of her mind. But when she meets Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire), the good-looking tap dancer, she ends up flirting instead of yelling.

The next day, Dale misunderstands Madge (Helen Broderick), her best friend, and thinks Jerry is Madges husband. Determined to stay true to her friend, she tries to stay out of Jerrys way. But Jerry is smitten and refuses to be put off romancing Dale.

This 1935 musical, which was nominated for several Oscars and assigned a place on the National Film Registry in 1990, is a must-see for dance-lovers. Not only does "Top Hat" star the dynamic dancing duo of Astaire and Rogers, but it also is home to the celebrated Cheek to Cheek dance sequence where Rogers wears her famous ostrich feather dress.

"Top Hat" can be seen Feb. 11 on TCM. It can also be viewed on Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes and Netflix DVD.


Rising opera star Marcia Mornay (Jeanette MacDonald) is sought after by many, but she is fiercely loyal to her vocal mentor Nikolai Nazarov (John Barrymore) so loyal that even though she is not in love with him, she accepts when Nazarov proposes. But then she meets Paul Allison (Nelson Eddy), a charismatic American singer. Although logic tells her to stay away, Marcia is unable to resist her feelings, and the two fall in love. All too soon, Marcia must choose between her heart and her promise.

In the 1930s, MacDonald and Eddy were known as Americas Singing Sweethearts and the onscreen chemistry between them was, and still is, obvious. This romantic drama is where the two sang the famous Will You Remember duet onscreen. Full of many amazing musical scores, "Maytime" was so popular with audiences that it became one of the top grossing films of 1937, according to

"Maytime" can be seen Feb. 11 on TCM. It can also be watched on Amazon Video and iTunes.

'The Awful Truth'

Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) needs a break, she tells his wife, Lucy (Irene Dunne), that hes going on a solitary trip to Florida. Although he seemingly sends letters from his vacation on the beach, Jerry is actually enjoying a week-long poker binge with his buddies. During his absence, Lucy meets a handsome voice teacher and spends time with him. Upon Jerrys return, hes upset to find his wife with another man. Meanwhile, Lucys mad that Jerry lied about his vacation. Thinking theyd be better apart, the Warriners decide to divorce.

As the days slowly pass until their separation is final, each tries to make the other jealous through various romantic interludes. But its obvious that both Lucy and Jerry still love one another; if only they could figure it out before its too late.

"The Awful Truth" was one of Grants first screwball comedies, and the film that helped greatly increase his popularity. Dunne, a wonderful comedienne on her own, is the perfect costar in this 1937 romantic comedy. The film won an Oscar and was placed in the National Film Registry in 1996.

"The Awful Truth" is playing Feb. 14 on TCM. It can also be seen on Google Play and iTunes.

'Wuthering Heights'

A young orphaned gypsy, Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier), is found and brought home by the wealthy Mr. Earnshaw. Touchy about his heritage, Heathcliff is temperamental but becomes fast friends with Mr. Earnshaw's daughter, Cathy (Merle Oberon). As the two grow up, Cathy and Heathcliff fall in love, but Cathy is sensitive about Heathcliffs penniless heritage and doesnt take his feelings seriously. After overhearing Cathy talk about her engagement to another man, Heathcliff runs away, seemingly forever. But a few years later he returns, now a wealthy and sophisticated man obsessed with seeing his former, and now married, love.

Starring the great dramatic actors Olivier and Oberon, "Wuthering Heights" is a superb romantic tragedy based on the first half of Emily Bronts only novel of the same name. The year 1939 has long been heralded as Hollywoods greatest, and this film was one of the 10 films nominated for the outstanding production Oscar that year.

"Wuthering Heights" can be seen Feb. 15 on TCM. It can also be seen on Amazon Video and iTunes.

'The Palm Beach Story'

Although Tom and Gerry Jeffers (Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert) love each other, Gerry is tired of their continual lack of funds. Used to the attention she receives from men, Gerry has repeatedly offered to use her good looks to procure financial backers for Toms architectural ideas. But he steadfastly refuses, hating the idea of parading his wife around for money. Bent on helping him succeed, Gerry decides to divorce him so she can find a wealthy second husband and use his money to help Tom.

She soon runs into John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee), one of the richest men in the world, who falls in love with her. But Tom refuses to let Gerry carry on her scheme and he follows along, inadvertently attracting the attention of Hackensackers single sister, who happens to be on the hunt for her sixth husband. What follows are hilarious scenes where all the wrong people fall in love with each other in "The Palm Beach Story."

Colbert, the witty banter expert, stars with McCrea in this light-hearted 1942 romantic comedy. It can be seen on Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes.
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