ROGER ROSENBLATT: There used to be loads of them in the movies at least -- couples so perfect together, who made love stories together, inseparable -- film after film.
One thought them so fit for each other it was disappointing to learn that off screen they were not hitched. How could it be that Ginger was not with Fred in real life -- so exquisitely did they drift body to body, their dancing in analog for witty conversations, passion, friendship, compatibility -- all that true lovers require. William Powell and Myrna Loy were verbally what Fred and Ginger were dancing -- how they could back and forth --
WILLIAM POWELL: We're all like that on my father's side.
MYRNA LOY: By the way, how is your father's side?
WILLIAM POWELL: Oh, it's much better, thanks and yours?
ACTRESS: How many drinks have you had?
MYRNA LOY: You mean I'll pay to send two men to cover just this one game?
WILLIAM POWELL: No. I cover the game. He just kicks it around --
MYRNA LOY: We have only got one man --
WILLIAM POWELL: -- still in the league?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were actually together in their private way off screen. Of course, they were; they were so right for each other on screen. And the makers of their movies knew that and so concocted stories in which these perfect pairs would appear -- again and again.
KATHARINE HEPBURN: Hello.
SPENCER TRACY: Ma'am, this is Rex Stenson.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Add to the list Rock Hudson and Doris Day -- and while you're adding, Nelson Eddie and Jeannette McDonald. Sweetheart, sweetheart.
You won't find consistent pairings in films these days. Movie lovers have gone freelance -- just like freelance writers -- just like free-agent athletes.
SINGING: I've got lips -- let's get together and use those lips
ROGER ROSENBLATT: To be sure there were free agents in the movies in the old days. Katharine Hepburn stepped out with Cary Grant in "Bringing up Baby" and "The Philadelphia Story." Bogey had his real life Betty.
SINGING: You must remember this --
ROGER ROSENBLATT: But also Elizabeth Scott, Ida Lupino, Mary Aster, who also got around and you must remember this.
SINGING: As time goes by --
HUMPREY BOGART: Sam, I thought I told you never to play.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: But nowadays, love in the movies is all free agency. And as they do with their baseball teams, the fans make allowances and adjustments. Brad.
ACTOR: Do you think this story is going to have a happy ending?
ACTRESS: Happy endings are stories that haven't finished yet.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Angelina. Hugh Grant. Jennifer. Kyra Knightly -- they all mix and match.
In a way, the freelance movie lovers have to act harder and better. If Gable was kanoodling with Jean Harlow in "Red Dust," he had to kanoodle as persuasively with Scarlet. Grace was true to Cary and she had to be just as true to Gary.
Yet it was comforting in that odd and unreal way that illusion recognized is comforting to go to a film and watch Hepburn and Tracy, Powell and Loy and the rest. They were more than lovers. They were couples we knew and said by their mere consistency that certain people were meant for one another -- now and forever.
Even Fred danced with someone else once in a while, Cyd Charisse and Eleanor Powell. But when he swept Ginger in his arms and they came together and parted and came together again, well, that was love -- two by two. Perfect.
Happy Valentine's Day. I'm Roger Rosenblatt.