On-screen chemistry – what’s that? Part 1

He looks into her eyes and says “Here’s looking at you kid” and then walks away. No sizzling sex scenes, no drenched in the rain romance, but on-screen chemistry? Hell yes! That was the one and only Humphrey Bogart bidding goodbye to Ingrid Bergman. Off screen they barely spoke to each other and yet on screen they made one of the most romantic couples ever. Bogie was twice married once divorced what Casablanca was being made; his marriage at the time was working. But then came Lauren Bacall, 25 years his junior and the couple sizzled both on-screen in films like To have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and off-screen. A third marriage for Bogie was the result! The repartee between Bogie and Bacall and the crackling sense of made for each other is hard to forget. One can also remember fondly the real slow burning chemistry between Bogie and Katherine Hepburn in African Queen as the boated down a river in Belgian Congo.

Spencer Tracy was married to Katherine Hepburn in every which way but for real. Was this edge of not really being a legally married couple what kept their on-screen romances so real? Tracy and Hepburn burnt up the screen with their pull and tug interactions on screen, like a fencing bout then sparred and parried and yet we never doubted for a minute that they belonged together in the somewhat misogynist Adam’s Rib and Pat & Mike! Tracy’s macho male was well matched with Hepburn’s smart mouthed female who didn’t give an inch.

Another couple with a long run at romantic on screen pairings were that ‘on and off with marriage’ couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Elizabeth Taylor was a siren no doubt, the “star” of National Velvet was meant to break men’s hearts. How else can one explain 8 marriages, twice to the same man? They burnt up the screen in Cleopatra and Taming of the Shrew. But their best was in an edgy sort of attraction-repulsion that nothing did better on screen. In The Comedians the illicit chemistry was between a couple watching a country unravel, while in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf the couple played out a rather public unraveling of a marriage. One could not help wonder if reel life was paralleling reel life in the case of this most famous couple of cinema.

Also ran a really good run in one or two films the following:
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet had the ultimate doomed romance aboard a ship with a name that took the mystery out of the outcome. Richard Gere befriended and then eventually fell in love with and “rescued” the hooker Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. But my favorite contender for the fourth place in romantic on-screen couple has to be Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle. The atmosphere in the film is infused with a sense of inevitable romance; the chemistry exists even without the couple being seen together for the longest time!

This post first appeared here

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2 Responses

  1. My favorite ‘great chemistry’ on and, actually, off (very sad story) screen cinema couple is Errol Flynn and Olivia Havilland. Their first film together:
    http://www.errolflynn.net/Filmography/cb.htm

    Scene from Dodge City: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ohzmEx5Am0

  2. I have not seen that one. Thanks for the heads up – will try to catch it.

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