Wednesday, as we all know, was Valentine’s Day. Since at least December 26, every time we’ve entered a store, we’ve been confronted by candy, cards, clothing, anything that can be pinned down, all swathed in shades of red and pink. There were online ads for flowers and jewelry. My inbox runneth over with emails bearing coupons for the perfect romantic dinner.

I think the holiday was invented to sell leftover Christmas candy. But, in the midst of all this consumerism, February 14 has been set aside every year to celebrate love – in all its many forms, but especially romantic love.  For every email, post or tweet trying to sell you something, there were also countless ways to help you remember the joys of love. For instance, posts pointing you to the most celebrated love poems, and curated playlists of the most romantic love songs ever written (There are even quite a few called “baby making” playlists. I’m not kidding.) without costing you a single penny, shilling or farthing.


Naturally, there are also lists of the greatest romantic movies, best romcoms etc. etc. etc.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that not only am I a collector of useless information; I am a cinephile.  So it follows that I collect movie trivia. To that end, I love lists that all claim to be the blah blah greatest blah blah movies of all time.  These lists are entirely subjective, and every time I see one I take into consideration who wrote it and the demographics of their target audience. I believe a list from the American Film Institute has built-in credibility. They know film, and their search for what should be included in this list went all the way back to 1902 and the birth of the movies.

This list, called “AFI: 100 Years…100 Passions,” is what they claim to be the “100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time.” It doesn’t go beyond 2002, the year in which one hundred years of film was being celebrated, but there aren’t too many on it that would be bumped for anything that’s come out since.

The criteria for inclusion on the list include: there “must be a romantic bond between two or more characters, whose actions and intentions provide the heart of the film’s narrative” with no regard to genre.  Plus they must be films that “have enriched America’s film and cultural heritage while continuing to inspire contemporary artists and audiences.”

We here at Stilettos, Stoli and Scribbles write romance. We love a good movie romance, for the thing itself as well as a source of inspiration.

I find it fascinating “seven of AFI’s top 10 greatest love stories feature couples that do not end up together in the end.” Wait, I thought that was a rule!  This list also is said to contain “187 fights and 260 kissing scenes, proving that lovers quarrel, but more often than not, they make up,” which is good, although that seems like a very low number of kissing scenes for 100 movies.


image via

As I poured over this list, I came up with a couple of statistics of my own. First, I’ve seen all but two of the movies on it and second, that 40 of 100 were immediately identifiable as having started as a novel, a play or a short story. What that means, to me, is that those stories and their characters lived a life before the movie. Of course the lovers at the heart of them all appeared in the mind of a writer, so did those that were expressly writtend for the screen. But before the director or a single cast member was hired, readers had the chance to create their own images and picture for themselves what the hero and heroine looked like (because of, or in spite of, how they were described on the page.)

I wonder how audiences of the time felt about some of the casting choices?


Margaret Mitchell gave her Southern Belle, Scarlett O’Hara green eyes. She certainly wasn’t picturing a tiny blue-eyed English-woman. There was a fabled search for the perfect Scarlett before Vivian Leigh was cast. Readers of the beloved book collectively cried, “WHO?!” Now, of course, her performance is so iconic that Gone with the Wind is one of the few movies ever made that are considered “untouchable” to anyone considering a remake. (For what it’s worth, Clark Gable was always the reading public’s first choice to play Rhett Butler. A lot of inter-studio machinations were required to make it happen.)

This post is primarly about film, but in recent memory, the producers of popular cable television show “Outlander” incurred the wrath of the legions of fans of Diana Gabaldon’s even more popular series of novels. They cast the not-tall-enough, not-red-haired Sam Heughan and the too-tall, blue-eyed, not-nearly-curvy-enough Caitriona Balfe as star-crossed, lovers-for-the-ages Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall.  For as many readers that have fallen in love again with the pair, as depicted on screen, there are almost that many who just can’t get past the differences.

Personally, I don’t mind these differences. If I find casting choices that don’t jibe with the images I’ve conjured in my head, that’s fine. Books, plays, short stories – print – and film are two separate media and can each stand on their own. The written words aren’t going away just because someone has translated them to the screen. My bookboyfriend will always be there and look the way I want him to.  I find the reverse much more difficult.

Jane Austin, whose work has been filmed innumerable times, gave limited physical descriptions of her characters and their surroundings and certainly didn’t have a particular actress or actor in mind when writing the story of Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars in “Sense and Sensibility.” But having seen the 1995 film version of the novel, from Emma Thompson’s faithfully adapted screenplay, I can’t read the book without imagining the faces of its amazing cast. (Alan Rickman is Colonel Brandon. I will brook no argument on the subject.)

winslet rickman

On the other hand, I tried reading James Hilton’s “Random Harvest,” but it wasn’t Greer Garson and Ronald Coleman I saw in my mind’s eye, but Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman, because of a skit they did on the “Carol Burnett Show.”

How do you feel when beloved book characters make it to the screen? Are you open to whatever casting choices are made or are there instances where the “faces” are so bright in your mind that you can’t get past what’s being presented to you? Has there ever been an occasion when the two have lined up?   We’d love for you to tell us!


Completely gratuitous gif of Richard Armitage