By Mary Burgan
Welcome back, Borderstanians. I hope you got some ideas from my posting last week on some movie classics from the 1930s and 1940s.
This week I am offering some advice on what I call classic “sexy movies,” which is probably a bit different than what passes for sexy in the currently running category.
I was educated in a series of convent schools, so I haven’t seen much pornography, but last week I did see on the TV, once again, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr embracing in a prone position on a beach in Hawaii. I remembered the first time I saw 1953’s From Here to Eternity. I may have gone to confession for so enjoying one of the sexiest movies ever. Just the line “I never knew it could be like this,” could send a girl into mortally sinful thoughts.
When I talk about “sexy movies,” of course, I’m still old fashioned enough to mean physical love suggested rather than, well, just undressed. What are some of the others, now that I’ve stopped worrying about such things?
Two choices would be the electricity between Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver as they’re driving away from an embassy party in The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) and Harrison Ford dancing Kelley McGillis to the tune of “Don’t Know Much About History” in Witness (1985).
There’s also the wickedly satisfied Vivian Leigh waking up after her night with Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind (1939) only to find that he doesn’t give a damn. The serial kissing between Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in Notorious—staged by Alfred Hitchcock to defy the censors in 1946–still shows how to suggest a lot with a little.
In Gilda (1946), Rita Hayworth shows how to suggest a lot with a lot. For love between men, I would choose the dance scene at the New Year’s Eve party between Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas in the 1993 hit, Philadelphia (though the studio censors cut a scene of the two of them in bed together). For general, bisexual tension as part of a woman’s creativity, see Salma Hayek as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in Frida, which should have gotten more acclaim than it did in 2002.
Of course, there is Daniel Day Lewis kissing Michelle Pfeiffer’s wrist above the glove in the The Age of Innocence (1993). There’s always some relatively genteel sex in the big prestige releases. Word is that one scene in Bright Star, the new Jane Campion film, conveys an unmistakably physical connection between John Keats and Fanny Brawne–though both lovers are in full Regency costume and Keats is dying of tuberculosis. Actually, just hearing Keats’s “Ode to the Nightingale,” recited during the final credits, would be enough for me. Bright Star comes to D.C. tomorrow, Friday the 25th, at Landmark’s Bethesda Row Cinema and Landmark’s E Street Cinema.
Mary Burgan is the Borderstan Movie Fan. Each week she offers up her opinions on movie classics and other previously run movies. Burgan is a retired association executive and professor of English. She and her husband live in Borderstan.