If you feel confused when your teen or tween swoons over Twilight heartthrobs Edward or Jacob, and if you don’t get the Eric-Sookie-Bill triangle in True Blood, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the paranormal romance trend entirely. Maybe you just need to rewind a couple of decades to a gentler time, when love wasn’t quite so violent or bloody.
During and following World World II, tired of violence and the realities of war, Hollywood produced a series of sweet paranormal romances meant to sweep the viewer away to a world where lovers were a little more chaste-and really did save the best for last. After death, in fact!
The first of these underappreciated gems is Here Comes Mr. Jordan, a 1941 film starring Robert Montgomery and Evelyn Keyes. After Joe, an amateur pilot and boxer, dies in a plane crash before his time, an angel takes his soul to another body to give him a second chance at life. While on earth he meets the beautiful Bette Logan, getting not only his second chance at life-but at love. This film was remade in 1978 as Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty, if you’re not in the mood for black and white.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, a filmed six years later and starring a young Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney, is based on the novel of the same name by R.A. Dick. When Lucy Muir’s husband dies, she shocks his family by taking her small daughter and moving to a cottage by the sea, where she supports herself by penning a novel based on the life of Captain Daniel Gregg-a ghost who, after failing to drive her from the house, falls in love with her quiet spunk and becomes her companion and friend. Set on the beautiful, gloomy coast and starring two characters whose lonely longing crosses life and death, this is easily the sweetest and most poignant of the paranormal romances coming out of the 1940s.
Portrait of Jennie, starring Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten, was produced in 1948 and signaled the decline of Hollywood’s interest in tender, impossible-to-consummate romance. When struggling artist Eben Adams meets a charming little girl named Jennie, he is inspired to paint her-and with her as his muse becomes a success. As Jennie seems grow years older each time he sees her, Eben turns from being charmed by a little girl to being in love with a beautiful woman-and is soon obsessed with finding the secret of her mysterious aging and sporadic appearances. Stunning cinematography makes Portrait of Jennie a treat for the eyes as well as for the heart; be on the lookout for shots so perfect that they’re almost art.
By the 1950s, Hollywood was pushing more gritty, sexual stars and stories, with their protagonists firmly grounded on earth. However, these three films, and similar films like Topper, Blithe Spirit, and The Enchanted Cottage, can still be found on DVD and occassionally play on classic movie channels. So make some popcorn, pat the couch, and invite your Team Edward teen to sit down-you might both be surprised at who you fall in love with next.
For information on these and other movies, visit www.imdb.com or www.tcm.com.