Leading Couples

This nostalgic coffee table book, billed as “The Most Unforgettable Screen Romances of the Studio Era,” will satisfy the classic film fan and novice admirer alike with plenty to see, read and discover about the best known duos of the silver screen from the golden age of cinema.

I really like this book. It’s fun and it’s friendly. I was not familiar with the first two companion books, “Leading Men” and “Leading Ladies” when the nice folks at TCM sent me “Leading Couples” to review. However, being an avid movie buff and fan of the golden age of cinema I was filled with glee as I ripped open the package and enthusiastically flipped open the book to surprise myself with the first random coupling.

I was immediately drawn into what I expected to be a casual coffee table book in a way that made it difficult to put down. “Leading Couples” is beautifully designed and laid out in a way that is very inviting. With a few pages devoted to each couple, and these pages broken down into vital statistics on the respective he and she, reminisces about their off-screen relationship, and behind the scenes information, you can pretty much open the book wherever you want and dive right in as I did. This user-friendly structure makes it easy to come and go as a light reader. But be warned: just as you finish one section, you’ll find yourself being sucked into the next and then the next.

Although the book’s introduction from esteemed TCM host Robert Osborne serves to clarify the parameters used in the challenging selection process, some of the choices among the fifty will spark some spirited debate among die-hard classic movie fans. The overall selection of timeless screen duos is well rounded and representative of every type of couple one can imagine, and the expected pairs are present, such as Bogie and Bacall, Tracy and Hepburn, and Fred and Ginger. But some less obvious choices will surprise and titillate (I particularly enjoyed the section on Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery), and still others will evoke rancor and wincing when you realize some very worthy pairings such as Cary Grant and Irene Dunne were left out to make room for some less obvious duos such as Betty Grable & Dan Dailey or even tongue in cheek pairings like Fay Wray & King Kong.

Whether you’re an ardent fan or the uninitiated, you can’t go wrong with “Leading Couples”. One casual glance at the cover and the next thing you know you’re picking up the book and being drawn into the magic of classic Hollywood. If you have the first two books in the series, “Leading Couples” is a must have addition to complete the set. If you’ re a classic film enthusiast, the book’s got plenty of tidbits to garner your admiration, and for those brand new to the world of film history, it’s the perfect introduction to another time and place that has long gone by – a glamorous era that, while perhaps idealized, remains very much alive in our imaginations.

Rating: A
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