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It Happened One Night

Image Credit: It Happened One Night, 1934.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I have a thing for grumpy heroes in popular culture. I guess when I really stop to think about it, I’m the grumpy hero of my own life: I don’t have time for nonsense, my baseline descriptors are sarcastic and pessimistic, but deep down inside I’m a romantic puddle of mush. Maybe that’s why I adore Clark Gable so much in this week’s film It Happened One Night (Disc/Download)—we are two cynics who found love, despite our better instincts.

Hailed as one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, It Happened One Night 100% lives up to the hype. It’s amazing to me how this 1930s screwball comedy about a scandalized socialite falling for a wisecracking journalist still manages to feel fresh and relevant nearly a century later. Featuring tropes as old as time (enemies-to-lovers + forced proximity), Frank Capra’s ode to romance on the road is smart, daring, and unbelievably funny. While the script is great, it’s the acting that really sells it for me. Claudette Colbert is both ballsy and vulnerable, so desperate to get to The Wrong Man that she jumps off a yacht, hops on a Greyhound, spends the night with a total stranger (The Right Man), and flashes her gams while hitchhiking. And yet, she still needs Clark Gable to tell her how bus schedules work, and the proper way to dunk a donut, and how to not stand out like a sore thumb among the plebeians. Meanwhile, he needs a woman who makes him laugh, calls him out on his oversized ego, and is ready and willing to take the leap into a life of adventure. These two may be on opposite sides of the curtain, but we know it’s only a matter of time before those walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

Claudette Colbert’s character Ellie Andrews is described as a spoiled brat, but I think she’s more of a pissed-off brat. She’s tired of other people calling the shots in her life, and she’s ready to take the reins. This cocktail I found a few months ago in the New York Times cooking section seems tailor-made for Ellie- The Bitter Heiress!

The Bitter Heiress

3 oz Lillet

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

½ oz Campari

Orange peel

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add the first three ingredients. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Take the orange peel, hold it over the glass with the skin facing down, then strike a match and hold it between the peel and the drink. Squeeze peel toward match to spray citrus oil onto the surface of the drink, and discard. Garnish with a fresh slice of peel.

If you need a fun romp for an at-home date night, or just a solo screening that’ll make you feel a little less pessimistic about the world, quit bawlin’ and give It Happened One Night a chance. Here’s to the merry go round!

Out of Sight

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out of sight

Image credit: Out of Sight, 1998

I tend to spend a lot of time explaining the romance genre to people.  The books I read (and attempt to write) usually feature intelligent, capable heroines who find love in unexpected places, and never compromise their own integrity for a roll in the hay.  Elmore Leonard and Steven Soderbergh tackled romantic suspense with this week’s film Out of Sight (DVD/Download).  And the weird thing is, they got it SO RIGHT.

I’m going to warn all you ladies who are still mourning the loss of bachelor George Clooney- he is at absolute peak sexiness in this film. As Jack Foley, the bank robber with a heart of gold, he’s charming, a little dangerous, and oh so chivalrous. When he meets-cute with Jennifer Lopez’s federal marshal Karen Sisco, sparks fly along with bullets. They’re trapped in the trunk of a car together, and instead of copping a feel, he banters with her about old movies. Be still my heart! Karen follows him from Miami to Detroit, Jack gets caught up in a burglary gone bad, and even when things get dark (as they always do in an Elmore Leonard novel), Lopez and Clooney still share a crackling chemistry.

One of my favorite scenes is when these two star-crossed lovers pretend to be strangers in a bar, just for one night. With the snow falling outside, they’ve got bourbon and a steamy attraction to keep them warm. Let’s keep this cocktail simple with just a dash of ginger liqueur.

Bourbon & Ginger

2 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Ginger Liqueur

Combine bourbon and ginger liqueur over a large ice cube. Stir to chill.

Out of Sight is smart, sexy, and everything I love about romance. As Jack says, you’d be surprised what you can get when you ask for it the right way. Hollywood- I’d like more films where love is inconvenient, yet unavoidable. I want an intelligent script, and I want the heroine to be a total badass. And if it’s not too much to ask, I would like more Don Cheadle. Is that clear enough?  Cheers!