The Archivist #118: All You Need is Love…and a Passport [IT STARTED WITH A KISS & A LITTLE ROMANCE]

Love takes a honeymoon abroad with these two vintage romantic titles

The Archivist — Welcome to the Archive. As home video formats have evolved over the years, a multitude of films have found themselves in danger of being forgotten forever due to their niche appeal. Thankfully, Warner Bros. established the Archive Collection, a Manufacture-On-Demand DVD operation devoted to thousands of idiosyncratic and ephemeral works of cinema. The Archive has expanded to include a streaming service, revivals of out-of-print DVDs, and factory pressed Blu-ray discs. Join us as we explore this treasure trove of cinematic discovery!

Love…ain’t it grand? Well, sometimes it is. When it’s not, there’s always the movies. As far as themes go, it’s hard to find one that’s been explored on screen more than romance. It’s a subject that’s completely universal, timeless and lends itself to virtually every genre of film imaginable. Every person has been in love at some point in their lives and each individual’s own love story feels as if it were written just for them. On the flip side however, is the way films delving too heavily into romance are scoffed at and generally made fun of, with labels such as “schmaltzy” and “saccharine” often thrown about.

To be fair, a lot of movies tend to trivialize and dilute love, sometimes by accident. This can of course both hurt and help a movie based on the audience watching it. Some crave an idealized vision of romance, giving them the kind of thrills they have yet to find themselves, while others wish for a more down-to-earth view of love that’s more true to real life. In this edition of The Archivist, we offer up an example of both sides on one of the loveliest and most complicated emotions with a bit of an international twist thrown in.

It Started with a Kiss (1959)

When a New York model named Maggie (Debbie Rynolds) takes a one-time gig at an upscale event, she hopes it will lead her find a rich husband. What she doesn’t bank on, however, is catching the eye of a charming Air Force officer named Joe (Glenn Ford) who ends up coaxing her to dinner. Eventually taken by each other, the pair impulsively tie the knot before Joe’s ships off to Spain where he is to be stationed. When Maggie joins him later on, she catches the eye of many within the city of Madrid as the pair start to wonder whether or not they’re actually meant to be together.

Seeing Debbie Reynolds’ name attached to a movie almost always promised an experience based in the kind of fluffy escapism most cinemagoers turned up to the movies for. It Started with a Kiss kicks things off in such a way, sticking the kind of formula popular in the late 50s and employing that winning brand of inoffensive slapstick and romance that made Reynolds a star. The actress works well alongside Ford, who quickly develops a rhythm with his co-star and showcases a level of comedic timing in his own right. While It Started with a Kiss begins in a traditional way, it quickly changes course when Maggie decides that, despite their quickie marriage, she’s not quite sure if her and Joe are right for each other. This leads to the two going on a trial run which will end when the bride decides whether or not they will work as husband and wife. All of this leads to some funny sequences, including one in the wine cellar of a wealthy Spanish playboy (Gustavo Rojo), but there’s a more serious undertone of a woman refusing to settle for a man solely because he seems like the right one for her on the surface. It’s a forward-thinking approach to a bubbly romantic comedy, and despite the fact that It Started with a Kiss ends in the way most would it expect it to, the journey getting there was very much a sign of things to come.

A Little Romance (1979)

In A Little Romance, Daniel (Thelonious Bernard) escapes his Paris working-class background by going to the movies every chance he gets. When he finds himself on a real movie set after sneaking away during a class trip, he encounters Lauren (Diane Lane), an American girl living in Paris with her mother (Sally Kellerman) and stepfather (Arthur Hill). As the two find themselves smitten with each other, Lauren learns that her family is moving back to America. Devastated by the news, Daniel and Lauren hatch a plan of escaping to Venice with the aid of a charming older gentleman (Laurence Olivier), where they will take a gondola ride under the famed bridge of sighs for a sunset kiss that will seal their love forever.

Some films are meant to stay with you by finding their way into your soul and never leaving it. The best part is that you seldom want them to. This is the case with George Roy Hill’s 1979 tale, A Little Romance, which offers up charm and authenticity in this story of young star-crossed lovers. Lauren and Daniel are two misfits, existing in their respective societies, but never truly feeling that they belong to them. In meeting, they each find someone who sees them the way they feel the rest of the world never can, leading to some beautiful moments as the two discover one another. Maybe it’s because of this that Daniel is so jealous that Lauren is taken by the fanciful stories Julius (Olivier) tells them and why their mission to make it to Venice becomes such an important one for the young lovebirds. There’s something of a stark reality to the home lives of each child. Daniel is essentially a part-time housekeeper for his cab driver father (Claude Brosset) and Lauren tries to not judge her mother’s strained marriage or her blatant attraction to an American film director (David Dukes). But while the complicated adult world features here from time to time, A Little Romance is a mostly carefree piece of whimsy which gives a truthful portrait of young love that proves too tender to ever let go of.

It Started with a Kiss and A Little Romance are both available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Warner Archive.

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