Temporary exhibition Museu del Cinema, Sèquia, 1.
Timetable: Tuesday to Sunday: 10h. - 20h.
Images: © Album. Archivo fotográfico
Just like real stars, which beam us their light through time and space when in fact many of them died years ago, several Hollywood stars that built up their fame on their own—despite always being very well cosseted by their legendary galactic studios: Metro, Paramount, Fox, Warner, Columbia or Universal—also knew that when destiny or their producers deigned, they shone brightly as a couple.
Everybody, both in the studios and the cinemas, realized at once that coupling a certain actor with a certain actress on the screen (not in real life, and often not even in rehearsals before filming, as was the case with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, who off the set ended up despising each other) produced a special type of chemistry, a sparkle that came about from the fusing of two styles, from the touch of their bodies or an exchange of glances. It is a sensual and intellectual chemistry that some couples spontaneously create on the screen, and which owes nothing to screenwriters or directors. The intelligence and grace of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Adam’s Rib, for example, and the mutual fascination they had for one another, was something that George Cukor knew how to manage with great skill. The chemistry, charm and spark, however, were created by the couple.
There are many examples of stellar couples, and the first ones we should mention, if only in homage to the dawn of cinema, fluttered on a strip of fusty celluloid: a long ago kiss by the overage May Irwin and John Rice. Observe for a moment the bejewelled hand of Mr Rice: all the power of this famous shot stems from the additional sensual impetus of this hand. The list would continue with Rodolfo Valentino and Agnes Ayres, Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, Charles Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford...while not overlooking those occasional and ephemeral couplings that are just as legendary and popular with the public. There are unforgettable unions for just one picture, such as the explosive and unrepeatable Kim Novak and William Holden in Picnic, or the hysterical and heartless Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire. This long list, beginning in the 1920s, includes famous duets: Tarzan-Weissmuller and Jane-O'Sullivan, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, Paul Newman and Elisabeth Taylor, and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, amongst many others.
There are also couples starring in more than one or two films that achieved fame in musicals, such as Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, or comedy-mystery films such as those starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney made a great couple. And among great occasional, and let us say unstable, couples, which are unforgettable for film lovers, those based on a solid romance, passion or simply a bone fide marriage, we should highlight Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift (a Place in the Sun), Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster (The Killers), Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles (The Lady from Shanghai), Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca), Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier (Rebecca), Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner (The Snows of Kilimanjaro), Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart (Arizona), Grace Kelly and Cary Grant (To Catch a Thief), James Dean and Julie Harris (East of Eden), Ava Gardner and James Mason in Pandora, or John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in The Quiet Man and, of course, Clark Gable (Rhett Butler) and Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O'Hara) in Gone with the Wind.