History of Romance

Romance movies are love stories, like Romeo and Juliet or Titanic (Even though the main love interest dies in each of them, they are still cited as super romantic for some reason.).  Everyone has seen at least one whether or not they wanted to.  They often explore the essential themes of love, like love at first sight, young (and older) love, unrequited love, obsessive love, sentimental love, spiritual love, forbidden love, sexual and passionate love, sacrificial love, explosive and destructive love, and tragic love.  Usually they end up happily ever after, sometimes not.  In my opinion, the basic structure is the same in all of them.  Two people meet, someone is more into the other person, they pursue more of a relationship, they get together, they break up, find someone else, realize what a terrible mistake they made, go back to the first person, and end up happily ever after.  I haven’t seen many straight up romance movies, I prefer romantic comedies, because frankly, love is kinda boring in them.  Thomas Edison had the first “romance movie”.  It was 20-seconds long and called, The May Irwin Kiss (1896) (aka The Kiss, or The Irwin-Rice Kiss) and it was the most popular Edison Vitascope film in 1896. 

In the 1920s through the 1950s the underlying theme was, tragedy.  Love did not conquer all and there were many setbacks in these films.  For example Gone with the Wind (1939), it takes place in the south during the civil war.  Also The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Quasimodo falls in love with the gypsy Esmeralda.  Unlike the Disney version they do not end up together and in the novel by Victor Hugo, they both die.  Casablanca (1942) is one that many people talk about.  It is a thrilling romantic melodrama with war, involving the Nazis.  In the 1960s and 1970s the theme was unusual pairings between the couples.  A nice example of this is Lolita (1962).  Basically a professor starts to obsess over a 15 year old girl, sort of kidnaps her, they proceed to have a very strange relationship, and Lolita ends up married and the professor ends up dead.  It’s a good movie but it’s weird.  Rocky (1976) has a boxer with a shy girlfriend.  In the 1980s the brat pack movies dealt with romance but it wasn’t a huge theme in them.  Brokeback Mountain (2005) was the first mainstream gay/bi-sexual romance film heavily promoted by the media.  Many of the novels by Jane Austen have been adapted to films.  Most notably Pride and Prejudice and all of the adaptations like Bride and Prejudice (2004) which is a Bollywood film.  A common actor to see in modern day romance movies, at least of the British variety, is Hugh Grant. One of the most recent romance movies is Beauty and the Beast (2017).  It is a live action adaptation of the animated Disney one.  It is the standard Disney princess movie where the prince has to, for lack of a better phrase, earn the love of the princess.

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