When’s the last time a movie made you cry? (Admission prices for 3-D blockbusters don’t count)
Years ago Hollywood used what were known as melodramas, tearjerkers, or weepies to make their theater turnstiles hum with female patrons, particularly on Valentine’s Day. Their stories relied upon the heroism, sacrifice, and devotion of the lead actors (Always a heterosexual couple in those days) to triumph over misfortune and reunite in time for a heartfelt kiss.
Sometimes they did not, which made their sacrifices and the resultant tragedy seem that much greater. That alternative did not necessarily mean those films were more realistic or truer to life. But if art does imitate life, the depth of a screen couple’s unhappiness was a prime component in the exaltation experienced when their attachment to one another triumphed over adversity—a feeling songwriter Cole Porter referred to as "this thing called love."
Certain narratives and situations tended to be repeated or imitated if the original story or the film adapted from it was successful. Audiences and critics rewarded actors and directors for their work in such films, and expected to see them in similar romantic films. Though they might have been successful in other genres, many of these films are recognized as their finest work.
Film director Sidney Lumet was quoted in an interview with Charlie Rose that “in a well-written drama, the story comes out of the characters. The characters in a well-written melodrama come out of the story." The best romantic films combine both of these elements--the commonplace and the exceptional--to create an unforgettable movie experience.
Here is one baby boomer’s list of a dozen film romances that are almost guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye on Valentine’s Day (All available on video, DVD, or digital streaming).