Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By VERNON SCOTT, United Press International  |  Dec. 3, 2001 at 5:21 PM
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HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- 'Tis said love makes the world go 'round.

Maybe, but it does make movie turnstiles whirl year after year. Perhaps not as rapidly as teen films these days ("Shrek") or action spectaculars ("Titanic"), but romantic films may be the most memorable.

With that it mind, the prestigious American Film Institute is compiling the 100 greatest love stories in movies over the past century.

Titled "100 Passions," it is the fifth in a series celebrating the centennial of American Cinema and will be aired on CBS in June 2002.

AFI's first four such specials were "100 Movies" (1998), "100 Stars" (1999), "100 Laughs" (2000) and "100 Thrills" (2001).

According to AFI, each of its specials was watched by millions of people, "igniting a national debate and driving movie lovers back to the classics."

In this troubled time since the Sept. 11 crisis, AFI's director and CEO, Jean Picker Firstenberg, says, "As we move forward, we are now -- more than ever -- reminded that movies tell stories that move us and bring us together ...

"Though the lovers on screen may end up apart when the lights come up, we -- the movie lovers -- remain bound by their emotional journey."

Ballots, accompanied by a list of 400 outstanding romantic films, are being sent to 1,800 jury members: directors, screenwriters, actors, editors, cinematographers, critics and historians.

The 400 films are feature-length American love stories between two or more characters "whose passions have enriched America's film and cultural heritage while continuing to inspire contemporary artists and audiences."

Not surprisingly, the 400 films are among the most memorable of all genres made in the past 100 years.

They appeal to tender emotions rather than terror, horror or action-adventure, spurring memories of a personal nature.

Their very titles summon reminiscences of when, where and with whom you first saw the movie and how it touched your heart.

Almost certain to make the final 100 are truly great classics: "Casablanca," "Doctor Zhivago," "For Whom The Bell Tolls," "Wuthering Heights," "Gone With The Wind," "Gilda," "It Happened One Night," "It's A Wonderful Life," "Love Affair," "Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing," and "The Enchanted Cottage."

Other sure things: "Pat and Mike," "The Philadelphia Story," "A Place In The Sun," "Porgy and Bess," "Sayonara," "The Sound Of Music," "Three Coins In The Fountain," "To Have and Have Not," and "West Side Story."

Great cinematic love stories cover the movie spectrum: comedy ("His Girl Friday"), sex ("Body Heat"), drama ("Laura"), musical ("My Fair Lady"), western ("Calamity Jane"), action ("Bonnie and Clyde"), spectacle ("Gone With The Wind"), animation ("Beauty and the Beast"), and youth ("The Blue Lagoon").

Seldom in movie history have more beloved actors and actresses been cast in starring roles than in love stories.

A cursory examination of the casts turns up a galaxy of Hollywood's most cherished leading men time and again: Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Taylor, Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, Spencer Tracy, and James Stewart.

And the actresses: Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Julia Roberts, Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner.

Worth noting: most of the 400 suggested candidates for inclusion in the top 100 are golden oldies, although there is a smattering of later films that are noted primarily for sweaty nude love scenes.

Among them are "Basic Instinct," "American Gigolo," "Something About Mary," "Body Heat," "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1981 version).

Perhaps the most nostalgic of the 400 are the romantic musicals, no longer viable at the box office, but perhaps the most memorable of the lot:

"My Fair Lady," "An American in Paris," "Brigadoon," "Cabin in the Sky," "Carousel," "Singin' in the Rain," "Gigi," "Grease," "The King and I," "Kiss Me Kate," "Meet Me In St. Louis," "Oklahoma!" and "West Side Story."

Some romantic stories were so highly valued they were made into more than one movie.

They include "Romeo and Juliet," produced by MGM in 1936 and 30 years later by 20th Century-Fox.

"Cleopatra" was made by three different studios, United States Film Co. (1912), Paramount (1934) starring Claudette Colbert, and 20th Century-Fox (1963) starring Elizabeth Taylor.

"Daddy Long Legs" was made first in 1919 by First National and again in 1955 by 20th Century-Fox.

Curiously, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" -- which is not precisely a love story -- also was produced twice, first in 1923 by Universal and again in 1939 at RKO.

Finally, "Love" appears, not unexpectedly, in an even dozen titles from "Love Affair" to "Love With The Proper Stranger."

Nor did AFI forget to include "Love Finds Andy Hardy," "Love In The Afternoon," "Love Letters," "Love Me Tender" and "Love Me Tonight."

Romantic love may not make the world go 'round, but it clearly makes life more interesting.

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