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Cinema's Greatest On-Screen and Off-Screen Couples

Here's abstew with a Valentine special!

In the dark of the movie theatre is where we fall in love. Romantic films have influenced our lives and how we love since the dawn of cinema. And as we watch–perhaps on a first date–the actors fall in love on the silver screen, we swoon. More often than not, if you believe location rumors, that passion on-screen finds its way into the real-life relationships of the actors involved. In honor of Valentine's Day, let's celebrate those cinematic couples who's love burned bright on and off the big-screen.

Here are five of Hollywood's most iconic lovers...

Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh

Marital Stats: 20 Years. The two married on August 31, 1940 in Santa Barbara. The only attendees were witnesses Katharine Hepburn and writer and director Garson Kanin. After years of dealing with Leigh's manic depression and both of their infidelities, Olivier divorced Leigh in 1960.

Cinematic Collaborations: Fire Over England (1937), 21 Days Together (1940 although the film was shot in 1937. It was released later to cash in on their coupledom), and That Hamilton Woman (1941) which was Winston Churchill's favorite movie

History of Lovers: Vivien Leigh was a woman who knew what she wanted. Legend has it that upon seeing Olivier on stage for the first time, 20-year-old Vivien Leigh told her friend, "That's the man I'm going to marry." (The fact that both were already married to other people at the time was merely a mild hindrance.) Their love affair began when the two finally worked together for the first time on the film Fire Over England. They started living together and left for Hollywood so that Olivier could star in Wuthering Heights while Leigh famously landed the part of Scarlett O'Hara. (Selznick had put a decency clause in Leigh's contract prohibiting her from seeing Larry during filming.) Their passion for each other eventually won out and both their spouses agreed to divorce so that the two could marry. Olivier was considered the greatest actor of his day and Leigh one of the most beautiful. The two acted in dozens of stage productions together creating a powerful acting couple. But after Leigh's diagnosis of manic depression the marriage became strained and both began having affairs. Olivier finally agreed to a divorce an the condition that her new lover, Jack Merivale, agreed to look after her. Leigh only lived 7 more years. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 53. She had a picture of Olivier at her bedside when she died. Before his death, Olivier said about his relationship with Leigh, "This. This was true love. It was the real thing." 

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall

Marital Stats: Almost 12 years. Bogie and Bacall wed on May 21, 1945 at the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield in Lucas, Ohio. The marriage lasted until Bogie's death from esophageal cancer on January 14, 1957.

Cinematic Collaborations: To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948)

History of Lovers: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." That line, spoken by Bacall in her film debut not only became one of the best pick-up lines in film (try it the next time you're out at a bar) but started a real-life love affair with one of Hollywood's biggest stars. When the young actress started filming To Have and Have Not with Bogie (who was almost 25 years her senior) the attraction happened gradually. After all, Bogie was already married at the time. But the lovers began having a private affair until Bogie divorced his wife, Mayo Methot, in Feb 1945 allowing the two to wed. The couple were incredibly happy together and had 2 children (their son Stephen was even named after Bogie's character from their first film together). But their happiness was cut short after Bogie, a life-long smoker, died in their home at the age of 57. At the funeral Baby, as Bogie called Bacall, placed a gold whistle in his coffin.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward

Marital Stats: 50 years. The couple were married in Las Vegas at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas on January 29, 1958 and the union lasted until Newman's death on September 26, 2008.

Cinematic Collaborations: The Long, Hot Summer (1958), Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1958), From the Terrace (1960), Paris Blues (1961), A New Kind of Love (1963), Winning (1969), WUSA (1970), The Drowning Pool (1975), Harry & Son (1984)–the only movie that Newman both directed and co-starred in with Woodward, and Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990). Newman also directed Woodward in Rachel, Rachel (1968), The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972), and The Glass Menagerie (1987)

History of Lovers: Marriage is tough. And a marriage in Hollywood seems even harder to maintain. So the fact that Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were able to have such a long lasting marriage is a testament to their strong love and devotion. The two met in 1953 during the Broadway production of Picnic in which he played the part of Alan and she was an understudy. After both moved to Hollywood and were cast in The Long, Hot Summer they quietly began seeing each other. Newman had to divorce his first wife before they could marry (are you sensing a pattern here?) and year's later he said that he was just too young the first time he married. The two avoided the scrutiny of Hollywood by living in Westport, Connecticut for almost all of their married life. They had 3 daughters together (daughter Nell Potts aka Elinor Newman even starred in The Effect of Gamma Rays... opposite her mother and directed by her father). The couple celebrated their golden anniversary before he died at the age of 83. When asked why he was never tempted all those years married to Woodward, he replied, "Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?" It's just the sort of no-frills, simple love their marriage was built on.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

Marital Stats: The first go around: 10 years, the second: 10...months. Nine days after her divorce was finalized from Eddie Fisher, Taylor and Burton married on March 15, 1964 at the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal. They divorced June 26, 1974 after Burton had been having an affair with a co-star. In the summer of 75, they met up in Switzerland to discuss their finances, but rekindled their love. They married again on October 10, 1975 along a river in Botswana. But the love was just too intense to survive (Burton was also having an affair with his soon-to-be next wife, Suzy Hunt) and they divorced again July 29, 1976.

Cinematic Collaborations: Cleopatra (1963), The VIPs (1963), The Sandpiper (1965), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Comedians (1967), The Taming of the Shrew (1967), Doctor Faustus (1967), Boom! (1968), Under Milk Wood (1971), and Hammersmith is Out (1972)

History of Lovers: Where to even began with one of the world's most famous couples? (Yes, even more so than Brangelina.) There have been countless books and television movies about the love affair of Burton and Taylor (skip Lindsay and watch Helena Bonham Carter instead) because it seems the world is still fascinated by their tumultuous relationship. The two met on the troubled set of Cleopatra in Rome and the rest was history. Both were already married at the time (could you guess?) and it caused a sensation in the press. Even the Vatican condemned the relationship calling it "erotic vagrancy". (Which, I don't know about you, but sounds like a pretty fun relationship to me.) The two did everything big. Big fights, big parties (with plenty of alcohol), and big jewels. Burton lavished Liz with expensive jewelry including a 69.42 carat diamond that he paid $1 million for that became known as the Taylor-Burton Diamond. Too volatile to last (Burton once remarked about the two, "You can't keep clapping a couple of sticks of dynamite together without expecting them to blow up.") the couple divorced twice. But of all of Taylor's 8 marriages and 7 husbands, we seem to always remember her time with Burton the most.

Warren Beatty and Annette Bening

Marital Stats: 22 years and counting. Beatty and Bening married on March 3, 1992 at a private ceremony in which their 2-month-old daughter, Kathryn, was the maid of honor. The nuptials were so secret that it wasn't known the couple had gotten married until their publicist announced it nine days later.

Cinematic Collaborations: Bugsy (1991) and Love Affair (1994)

History of Lovers: You know that friend that's always trying to change their boyfriend and get them to settle down? Well, have them study Annette Bening. Because she was able to accomplish the impossible by finally getting Hollywood's most notorious commitment-phobic lothario this side of George Clooney to finally settle down and become a family man. By the time Bening met Beatty to make the film Bugsy, the actor had already been linked to famous woman such as (deep breath) Natalie Wood, Carly Simon, Diane Keaton, Julie Christie, Joan Collins, Isabelle Adjani, Cher, and Madonna... just to name a few. Despite the 21 year age difference and his prior history, the couple have remained together and raised 4 children. In fact, Warren now refers to his life in two stages BA and WA: Before Annette and With Annette. 

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!  What famous Hollywood couples are your favorites? Do you think any current couples will be remembered decades later as these pairs are? Share the love in the comments!

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Reader Comments (14)

I don't think you could possibly make a list like this and leave out Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. They are up there with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike

(slightly) younger couple I love - Kevin and Kyra

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Does Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy count? They never really officially admitted anything but It was an open secret.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

I realize they might not "officially" count, but Tracy and Hepburn remain for me, the ultimate Hollywood couple. On-screen they're electric, and their off-screen relationship continually fascinates me.

In my life, I want the kind of relationship Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward had. Beautiful people (inside & out) and a wonderful couple.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, although it's mostly off-screen -- they only made one movie together, a talkie at that. But they were the first Hollywood power couple and as world famous as any couple ever thought of being.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMythical Monkey

Not on the list, but, from childhood memories, I have a sweet spot for Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, via Cocoon and Batteries Not Included. They married at 1942 and stayed together until 1994, when she passed away due to ovarian cancer. Through their 50+ years of marriage they gradually evolved into the cutest, sweetest salt and pepper shakers outside of a Beauty and the Beast musical number, and inspired in me a lifelong ambition to find a tiny adorable man to grow old with!

From the five couples actually listed, I believe Leigh/Olivier is the strongest duo, In terms of sheer acting talent. I would have loved to have been able to see them perform live on stage. I feel thrilled simply imagining them as Macbeth and his Lady (which I don't even know they ever really played opposite one another).

But as far as cinematic collaborations go, Burton and Taylor's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf towers over everybody else so highly, they might as well shoot the next Hobbit movie in it!

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

No Gable & Lombard? They only made one film together, No Man of Her Own, before they were involved but they've had books and a movie made about them. Unfortunately the movie is a piece of totally fictionalized crap but still they were devoted to each other until Carole was killed in that plane crash.

Speaking of Carole Lombard, that's a beautiful picture of the Oliviers but when I first looked at it I thought Vivien was Carole Lombard. I think it's something about her expression and the way her eyebrows look, she has a very Lombard air.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.

I think Affleck and Garner stand a chance of lasting a la the Newmans.

Then there are the actor/director couples:
Julie Andrews-Blake Edwards

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I'm afraid all I have to say is a correction. The witness to Olivier and Leigh's wedding was GARSON KANIN, not Garrison.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

RobMiles - corrected. thanks. I was just overcome by all the movie star love...

Carmen - they did play Macbeth on stage together! I know, seeing Sir and Lady Olivier on stage would have been an amazing experience.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

Great article! They are not really an off-screen couple, but I love Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon together. They had a certain lived-in, grounded quality to their rapport that I found irresistible. Greer said on the Dinah Shore Show that she was often called the Daytime Mrs. Pidgeon. The on-screen chemistry was gonzo.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner!

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

Newman and Woodward are the ideal. Pure class.

February 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne


August 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersara thorne

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