Just a few of my favorite romance movies…


When I was growing up, my parents often told me that I was an “old soul.” Part of the reason, I suppose, was my avid interest in classic movies—particularly any film made in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. To this day, I’d much rather watch Fred and Ginger dance across the silver screen or Clark Gable attempt to thumb a ride than, say, Hugh Grant’s face crinkling up in that signature grin of his.

In my new novel, If Ever I Fall, the heroine, Willa, finds herself with the time and leisure to do whatever she wants. One of those things is watching movies. This got me thinking: if I had that same luxury, what movies would I watch?

As I started to put a list of some of my favorite movies together I realized that 1) they all have a romantic storyline, and 2) they each have influenced my writing in some way. Whether it’s the many different ways a man looks at a woman, or how they speak to each other, or that slow buildup of sweet or sensual tension to the ultimate denouement. To transform those visual images into words is a constant—but very enjoyable!—challenge.

Here are just a few of my top favorites:

Summertime_posterFirst on my list is Summertime (1955), a David Lean classic that was filmed on location in Venice, Italy. It depicts the story of lonely, middle-aged, American, spinster secretary Jane Hudson—played to perfection by Katherine Hepburn—enjoying her first trip abroad. The evening of her arrival in Venice, she ventures alone to the Piazza San Marco where she orders a drink at a sidewalk café. As she films the scenery and people, she becomes aware that someone is watching her. She turns to discover a handsome Italian man sitting nearby.

Jane at the PiazzaAh, the scene that makes me all fluttery inside every time is when this Italian man (the gorgeous Rossano Brazzi) first notices Jane. As his half-hooded eyes travel from her long legs to her slender waist and farther upwards, he slowly rubs his index finger from his jaw to his temple, and his mouth quirks in a lazy, sensuous smile of male appreciation. Delicious! George Clooney has nothing on this handsome devil.

Summertime_the lookAnother movie I adore is The Clock, one of the few Judy Garland films that is not a musical. Set during World War II, it depicts the story of Joe (Robert Walker) and Alice (Judy Garland) who meet-cute at Pennsylvania Station in New York City while Joe is on a two-day leave. She agrees to show him the sights and they spend the day together. It is the classic “love at first sight” story told with sweetness and humor.

The Clock

Frantic to get married before Joe is shipped overseas, they have a quick civil ceremony at city hall. The ceremony is a rushed, impersonal affair, taking less than two minutes—which leads to one of my favorite scenes when later that evening Joe and Alice wander into a church. There, in the quiet church, they recite their wedding vows to each other with the reverence that wasn’t allowed in the civil ceremony. This is a lovely little film, made all the more bittersweet knowing Judy Garland’s real-life story.

The Clock_churchEvery one of my Favorite Movie lists, regardless of the category, has this next classic in the top five: It Happened One Night (1934).


I enjoyed Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, but this is the movie where I fell in love with him. I find him more lovable and charming in comedic roles. He’s my model for a handsome, devilish, funny, soft-hearted leading man. This rom-com, which won Best Picture at the 1935 Academy Awards, tells the story of a spoiled American heiress, Ellie, (the amazing Claudette Colbert) who runs away from her family. During her escape, she is helped by a man, Peter, who’s actually a recently-fired reporter looking for a story that will help him get his job back. Ellie and Peter dislike each other from the get-go. Or, do they?

Next is a film that I first watched on television when I was about ten years old. I fell in love with it instantly but was never able to find it at video stores or online, until I happened to catch it on TCM years later. I love TCM. See what I mean about being an old soul?

Margie_losing the bloomers

Margie (1946) begins with Margie (the beautiful Jeanne Crain) and her daughter reminiscing about Margie’s girlhood in the roaring twenties. In flashback, Margie—a smart but less popular girl at Central High—meets the handsome new French teacher. Margie, along with every other girl at the school, develops a crush on him.


Circumstances keep throwing these two together. While the older me kept yelling at Margie to fix the elastic on her damn bloomers, the teenage girl inside of me still adores the awkward but sweet situations that arose from the “bloomer fails”. A very sweet, innocent love story in the teacher-student genre—without rulers or spankings!

Finally, here’s another classic where just a simple look or touch has my heart thumping like crazy. In I Know Where I’m Going (1945) Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) plays a bright, ambitious woman who has been working hard to make her way up the social ladder. She is on her way from London to the Scottish Hebrides islands to marry a wealthy industrialist twice her age. Stormy weather interferes with her plans, and she is stranded in a fishing village with Torquil MacNeil, A Royal Navy officer and Scottish laird.

Joan is stubborn. Torquil is also stubborn but very patient as he opens Joan’s eyes to the mistake she’s about to make. Filmed on location, the colorful Scottish characters make this picture shine.


So, those are just a few of the romance movies that continue to inspire me. What romantic movies would be on your list if you had a rainy weekend all to yourself?

One more time: James Spader’s monologue from Season 1, Episode 9 -The Blacklist


Red and Donald

I didn’t want to get hooked into watching another television series but, while taking a break from NaNoWriMo last night I came across NBC’s The Blacklist and was immediately drawn into the episode. I haven’t watched any previous episodes but, judging by the superb acting and writing in last night’s episode, a Blacklist binge weekend on Hulu is definitely in order.

One scene in particular really struck a chord with me. While taking Reddington “Red” – James Spader’s character who plays the “bad” guy – to safety,  an FBI agent (Ressler) is seriously wounded.  Red protects him from the attackers and drags him to safety. He locks them in “the box”, a steel and glass, bullet proof, bomb proof? structure. They are in the box for the remainder of the episode while the villian lurks outside.  While Red tends to Ressler’s wounds, Ressler says they aren’t going to live through this. Red says he thinks they will. “How?” Ressler asks.

Here, Red gives one of the most touching dramatic monologues I have heard in a long time. Please watch this episode to see how beautifully James Spader gives voice to the excellent script. I see Emmys for both Spader and the writer(s) of this episode.


“Have you ever sailed across an ocean, Donald? On a sailboat surrounded by sea with no land in sight, without even the possibility of sighting land for days to come? To stand at the helm of your destiny?

I want that one more time.

I want to be in the Piazza del Campo in Siena, to feel the surge as ten racehorses go thundering by.

I want another meal in Paris at L’Ambroisie  in the place des Vosges.

I want another bottle of wine and then another.

I want the warmth of a woman in the cool set of sheets.

One more night of jazz at the Vanguard.

I want to stand on summits and smoke Cubans and feel the sun on my face for as long as I can.

Walk on the Wall again.

Climb the Tower.

Ride the River.

Stare at the frescos.

I want to sit in the garden and read one more good book.

Most of all I want to sleep. I want to sleep like I slept when I was a boy.

Give me that. Just one time.

That’s why I won’t allow that punk out there to get the best of me, let alone the last of me.”

Ah. I just love good writing.

Get up and make your bed


I don’t watch much television, but I’ve become a fan of The Bridge on FX.  I spent a sick day catching up on all of the episodes on On Demand and now I’m hooked.

One scene in the most recent episode I watched struck a chord. Without giving too much away, the female lead, Sonya, a detective with the El Paso police is trying to offer some kind of solace to her partner, Marco, a detective with the Juarez police. I say “try” because Sonya has Aspergers, and she struggles with basic social skills and emotional interaction.

Marco has just suffered a traumatic loss. Sonya has experienced personal tragedy as well. In the scene, she’s made Marco breakfast, probably his first real meal since he fell into a bitter depression. She asks him simply:  “Did you make your bed?”

“What are you, my mother?” he asks.

Sonya goes on to tell him (and I’m removing anything that might be a spoiler if you haven’t watched this show) that after she experienced her loss she lived with an older couple. Every morning, the wife would ask Sonya if she had made her bed. That was the one house rule she had for Sonya: Always get up and make your bed. No matter how bad you feel, you have to face the day.

Many of the characters in my books have experienced some kind of trauma, whether that be the loss of a loved one, abuse, bullying–it runs the gamut. But, by the time I introduce these characters, they’ve reached a point in their lives where they’ve let go or are ready to let go of their past hurts, or to at least move on to a “new normal.”

Getting up and making the bed. Such a simple, ordinary thing to do. Most of us do it without giving it much thought. For some, though, it’s the first of many challenges they will face throughout the day as they move through the many stages of healing.

I love scenes like this that serve to remind us that there are no obstacles we can’t overcome. It may take days, months or years of doing the ordinary things–making your bed, brushing your teeth, preparing a good meal–before you eventually find the strength to move forward.

Get up, make your bed and face the day.