Valentine’s Day: Romantic Recommendations

February 11, 2022

By Claudia Andrei (Contributor for and UK-correspondent for German-based film magazines Moviestar and TV-Highlights)

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching and Cupid’s arrows shooting once again, the idea of spending a long evening in with your beloved is not at all a bad one. To celebrate the occasion, here is a choice of films for all tastes. So pop the champagne, open that box of chocolates and enjoy this special day for lovers with one or more of these recommended titles…

The Ghost Goes West (1935)

This hilarious fantasy/romantic comedy was director René Clair’s first English speaking film – his English apparently was not that good and scriptwriter Robert E. Sherwood was brought in to lend a helping hand – and it marked the beginning of a productive friendship. It would take a cold heart indeed not to be warmed by this sterling effort, that boasts a brilliant performance from Robert Donat in a dual role as Murdoch and Donald Glourie. Starting in 18th century Scotland, Clan Glourie and Clan MacClagggan are at war with each other – forget about the English. When both clan leaders expect their prospective sons to go into battle to save their name, young Murdoch Glourie would rather frolic about with the bonnie lasses – his roving eye shall prove his downfall, for minutes later an exploding barrel of gunpowder sends him to high heaven – and he is cursed until he can restore the honour of his clan. 200 years later and Donald Glourie is the debt-ridden owner of the castle, with hopes of selling the decrepit building. Enter sassy American Peggy Martin (Jean Parker), whose rich daddy is indeed interested in buying. Meanwhile, romance blossoms between Peggy and Donald, but ghost Murdoch has other ideas and soon poor Donald finds himself the victim of an identity crisis – will love prevail? The Ghost Goes West is a fine example that true romance can outwit any ghost…

The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1937)

Three years after The Scarlet Pimpernel (starring Leslie Howard in the title role), the French still seek him here, there and everywhere. Only now, it was Barry K. Barnes taking on the part of “that demned elusive Pimpernel”, otherwise known as aristocratic fop Sir Percy Blakeney. Barnes doesn’t do a bad job at all of thwarting his many enemies, and, as expected, his various disguises are needed to save his wife Marguerite (Sophie Stewart) and several others from the scheming machinations of Chauvelin (Frances Lister in top form), not to mention citizen Robespierre’s notorious ‘black book’ and Madame Guillotine herself. But when Chauvelin blackmails the actress Theresa Cobarrus (Margaretta Scott) into infiltrating Percy and his circle of helpers, it’s more than just love that’s needed to save the head of Marguerite Blakeney. Daring deeds and marvellous costumes should entice those who like their romantic romps more fast-paced – not even Robespierre can get the better of Baroness Orczy’s immortal hero!

Cold Comfort Farm (1995)

Fast forward to the 1930s and a star-studded cast shines in this version of Stella Gibbons witty pastiche of, shall we say, Thomas Hardy bordering on P.G. Wodehouse. This Thames TV production was adapted by bestselling author Malcolm Bradbury and directed by John Schlesinger. Young and freshly orphaned Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale in an early and very impressive role) arrives in London to stay with clever and wealthy family friend Mrs. Mary Smiling (Joanna Lumley) for a while, but city life does nothing for the aspiring writer. Instead, Flora opts to live with her eccentric aunt Susan Starkadder (Eileen Atkins) and her equally bonkers relations on the rundown Cold Comfort Farm in Sussex. As an added bonus, the Starkadders come complete with ‘worzel’ accents and even have their very own hellfire and brimstone preacher in Amos Starkadder (Ian McKellen). Despite Flora’s open-minded and friendly manner, beefcakes Seth and Reuben Starkadder (Rufus Sewell and Ivan Kaye respectively) reckon the new arrival is a bit on the posh side, but it doesn’t take long before they are proven wrong as she turns out to be anything but a snob – but is it to late for the backward lads to win her heart or is there a more sophisticated suitor waiting in the wings? Who knows, everything is possible on this ramshackle estate.

Fanny Hill (2007)

If the shenanigans at Cold Comfort Farm appear too tame, then fear not… We have the wonderfully raucous Fanny Hill on hand to ensure things will steam up considerably, in this BBC adaptation of John Cleland’s controversial novel of the same name. Written by Andrew Davies and directed by James Hawes, the story follows the trials and tribulations of naïve young Fanny (Rebecca Night), who, after the death of her parents, is lured into 18th century London and prostitution by her ‘friend’ Esther Davies (Emma Stansfield) – a procuress and general rotten egg. Thanks to Esther, our heroine is introduced to Madam Mrs. Brown (Alison Steadman) and a world of vice. Initiated into unknown pleasures by fellow doxy Phoebe, Fanny is about to meet her first client, Mr. Croft, who turns out to be a randy old goat. The shocked country lass won’t have any of this nonsense and luckily rescue is close at hand, when a smitten and handsome brothel dweller by the name of Charles Standing offers her the chance to become his live-in mistress and later his wife. But love alone can’t pay the ever-amounting debts, and when Charles finally plucks up the courage to ask Papa for help, he turns out to be… Mr. Croft and he hasn’t forgotten his humiliation at the hands of Fanny Hill. Before you can say what a cock-up (no pun intended), Charles finds himself shipped to the colonies while Fanny finds herself on the streets – not for long though as a second suitor, the mysterious and fabulously rich Mr. H (Hugo Speer), has his eyes set on her. However, her heart keeps on beating for true love Charles. Yes, Cupid has the last word in this bawdy tale and despite the odds, a happy ending ensues… 

Order The Ghost Goes West

Order The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel

Order Cold Comfort Farm

Order Fanny Hill

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