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Top 10 Classic Movie Couples

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If contemporary romances don't fit the bill for you on Valentine's Day (or any other day of the year), then look back to some of the classic love teams that graced the screen in decades past. Back when studios were strong and had a stable of stars to draw on, actors and actresses who displayed onscreen chemistry could end up in a series of films together. So here's a list of the best classic screen couples.

1. Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn

Adam's Rib
© MGM
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn may not have generated the most heat onscreen but through nine films over more than two decades, they created a cinematic partnership between equals. As Tracy says in Pat and Mike, their relationship is always "five-oh, five-oh." In a pair of films written by the husband and wife team of Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, Tracy and Hepburn gave us smart, adult characters that were polar opposites yet perfect for each other.

Best Film: Adam's Rib
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2. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall

To Have and Have Not
© Warner Home Video
The moment a sultry 19-year-old Lauren Bacall asked Humphrey Bogart for a light in To Have and Have Not screen history was made. That 1944 film marked Bacall's debut and she fell in love with Bogie on the set. They were married the following year and went on to appear in four more films together. Bacall proved that she could more than hold her own with the Bogie's tough guy, and that's what made their films so good. Like Tracy and Hepburn, this was a relationship between equals. But Bogie and Bacall sparked far more sexual tension on screen.

Best Film: To Have and Have Not
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3. William Powell and Myrna Loy

The Thin Man
© Warner Home Video
William Powell and Myrna Loy showed audiences that marriage could be fun. What a concept! As Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man detective films, they engaged in a playful relationship in which Loy and Powell could tease each other and joke around. Being rich helped to remove practical concerns from their onscreen marriage so all Nick and Nora had to do was look beautiful, crack wise, and solve mysteries. Powell and Loy's films were sophisticated and witty. They would go on to make more than a dozen films together. Prior to The Thin Man, Loy had been cast as exotic foreign women. Her role as Nora Charles redefined her screen image as a vivacious American wife.

Best Film: The Thin Man
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4. Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland

The Adventures of Robin Hood
© Warner Home Video
Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland were like a couple out of a fairy tale. In a series of nine mostly period films they traveled from merry olde England to the American Old West. No one was lovelier than de Havilland, and Flynn cut a most dashing leading man. Together they served up tales of adventure and sweeping romance. As Robin Hood and Maid Marion they were simply the stuff that dreams are made of.

Best Film: The Adventures of Robin Hood
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5. Clark Gable and Jean Harlow

Red Dust
© MGM
Smart and sassy is the best way to describe the onscreen chemistry of Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. The two stars shared a similar good-natured toughness and lack of respect for authority. In Red Dust Harlow played a hooker who hooks Gable, and their refusal to cave in to conventional morality (the film was famous for Harlow's uninhibited rain barrel bath) was daring.

Best Film: Red Dust (Available only on VHS)
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6. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne

The Awful Truth
© Sony Pictures
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne found themselves romantically entangled in both screwball comedies (The Awful Truth) and tearful dramas (Penny Serenade). But in either case they displayed an onscreen rapport that was irresistible. Their comedic skills – each blessed with impeccable timing – were most impressive.

Best Film: The Awful Truth
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7. Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake

This Gun for Hire
© Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Veronica Lake became famous for her peek-a-boo blonde hairstyle and for her ability to seduce Alan Ladd in a series of classic film noirs. Lake, at four-foot-eleven, was also the perfect partner for the five-foot-five Ladd (who was horribly miscast next to the statuesque Sophia Loren in Boy on a Dolphin). Together they gave us doomed noir romances.

Best Film: This Gun for Hire
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8. Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
© Education 2000
Okay, I had to slip in a couple of later love teams that just couldn't go unmentioned. First, from Italy, are Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. In a series of earthy Italian comedies they charmed international audiences. Together they made 13 films, the latest being Robert Altman's Pret-A-Porter in 1994.

Best Film: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
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9. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

Taming of the Shrew
© Sony Pictures
As with Bogie and Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love while working on a film. In their case the film was Cleopatra. Their onscreen collaborations were a diverse lot ranging from overripe trash like Boom! to Edward Albee's scathing marital drama Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Their tumultuous off-screen relationship made their onscreen work all the more interesting to audiences, and made their work in Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew all the more fun.

Best Film: Taming of the Shrew
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10. King Kong and Fay Wray

King Kong
© Warner Home Video
And finally… As a kid I think the romance that made me cry the most was King Kong. Why couldn't Fay Wray stop screaming for one minute to appreciate how much Kong loved her. She could have also taken a moment to stop thinking about herself and try to save the big ape. That image of Kong setting Wray down to safety on the roof so he could take a bullet (hundreds actually) to the heart still breaks my heart. When a cop says, "The airplanes got him," the character of Carl Denham responds with the perfect summation: "Oh no it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast."
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