“I’m just a girl who cain’t say no.
Kissin’s my favorite food.
With or without the mistletoe,
I’m in a holiday mood.” Ado Annie, Oklahoma!
Saint Valentine’s Day, commonly shortened to Valentine’s Day after Pope Paul VI deleted it from the Roman Catholic calendar in 1969, seven years after the Vatican II agreement, desanctifying several saints whom the Muslims found offensive. There are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine’s Day.
Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it “From Your Valentine.” Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor St. Valentine.
The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. Modern Valentine’s Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae). Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 269 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. His relics are at the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome, and at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.
Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni (Basilica di San Valentino).
The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him.
No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the 14th century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.
So we in the modern world must carry on as best we can. Valetine’s Day cards, jewelry chocolates, flowers, stuffed critters (my personal favorite). And of course, romantic movies. Over the weekend, I had my own personal movie marathon of romantic flicks.
Recently, one of the websites listed the best cinematic kissing scenes. Frankly, I didn’t think too much of their list. This would be my Top Ten (Plus):
1. Some Like It Hot. Actor Tony Curtis may have complained that Marilyn Monroe kissed like Hitler. But the two of them sure put on a good act in the yacht scene. Just as an aside: according to IMDB, when SLIH was first aired in 1959, the audience laughed so loud when Tony Curtis asked Jack Lemmon (both in drag), “What’s the news?” and Lemmon replied, “I’m engaged?” and then Curtis asked him, “Who’s the lucky girl?” and Lemmon responded, “I am!” Those were different times, when people thought gay marriage was joke. No one’s laughing anymore (but it’s still a funny scene).
2. Cleopatra. Real-life lovers Elizabeth Taylor (Cleopatra) and Richard Burton (Marc Antony) weren’t just method actors. Their real-life affair, while filming the movie, was so hot that when the director shouted “Cut!” they just kept at it. Keeping it real, after all these years.
3. Gone with the Wind. Rhett Butler kisses Scarlett several times. The Road to Atlanta scene is classic, but it’s the stairway scene that starts hearts a-thumpin’ as the frustrated Rhett carries Scarlett up into the darkened nether regions of their mansion. Ah, l’amour!
4. The Shop Around the Corner and It’s A Wonderful Life. (Tie) Now, you wouldn’t think of the lanky Jimmy Stewart as the leading man type wooing the ladies, but watch him kiss Margaret Sullavan in Shop and Donna Reed in Life. You’re just not expecting that kind of intensity out of the kind of shlub of a guy, and all of a sudden – there it is, taking you (and the leading ladies) by surprise.
5. Jane Eyre (1944 film and 1983 miniseries). I wouldn’t be much of a Jane Eyre-head if I didn’t include my favorite film. In the 1944 film, you get a truly gothic feel from the movie, but not all that much kissing, not even in the proposal scene. But Orson Welles makes up for it at the very end. Timothy Dalton may not have been great a wooing the ladies in his stint in Jane Bond, but he sticks right to Charlotte Bronte’s description of Mr. Rochester and even does her one better in the climactic drawing room scene when Jane tells him “Fugeddaboudit!”
6. Brigadoon. The melodramatic, ballet-style of this 1954 Lerner and Lowe musical might not appeal to modern tastes (that’s why they put Van Johnson in the role of Jeff to counter the saccharine), but there’s something about Gene Kelly’s sincerity when acting so that when he and Fiona stop dancing around one another and finally get down to business, you get your money’s worth.
7. The Sound of Music. No, it’s not the kiss between Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, involving one of the longest run-ups to a kiss in cinematic history (according to Julie, there was a light on the set that made a rude noise every time she went to kiss him, so they finally turned the light out, which is why they were in shadow). It’s the first kiss between Charmian Carr (Liesl) and Daniel Truihitte (Rolfe). It’s such a sweet moment and her reaction is perfect.
8. Love is a Many Splendored Thing. Jennifer Jones was said to have hated leading man William Holden so much that she would eat garlic before their kissing scenes. But Holden was a trouper. Maybe it’s the garlic that made him so determined and convincing.
9. From Here to Eternity. It’s considered one of the most famous love scenes in cinema, when Burt Lancaster surfs with Deborah Kerr. I thought it looked a bit uncomfortable, all that sand. But there’s no question that it’s passionate.
10. Witness. Harrison Ford is another one of those Jimmy Stewart types. He’s so serious, just as tall but not as lanky as Stewart. Ford’s philosophy is to give his all to whatever role he’s playing, whether it’s a bellboy or a president. His job in this movie was to passionately kiss Amish widow Kelly McGillis and he did his job.
Happy Valentines Day to all you lovers and lonely hearts out there! “Kissy, kissy, kissy!!!” (Pepper, from the musical, Annie.)