Critics adore the newest gem from the chair of film studies at Wesleyan University and curator of the cinema archives, Jeanine Basinger, who has turned her lens on matrimony in all its various and ridiculous incarnations in the movies.
With her meticulously honed research skills and good-natured humor, Basinger looks at marriage on film — from the silent era to today — and how it's portrayed on the big screen, from sappy to storybook to farce to stark and true to misery, depending on the filmmaker's view.
"As long as there have been feature movies there have been marriage movies, and yet Hollywood has always been cautious about how to label them — perhaps because, unlike any other genre of film, the marriage movie resonates directly with the experience of almost every adult coming to see it," the publisher's notes read.
"Here is 'happily ever after' — except when things aren't happy, and when “ever after” is abruptly terminated by divorce, tragedy ... or even murder. With her large-hearted understanding of how movies — and audiences — work, Jeanine Basinger traces the many ways Hollywood has tussled with this tricky subject, explicating the relationships of countless marriages from Blondie and Dagwood to the heartrending couple in the Iranian "A Separation," from Tracy and Hepburn to Laurel and Hardy (a marriage if ever there was one) to Coach and his wife in "Friday Night Lights."
Like Basinger's other works, "I Do" is a tome and long enough, at 432 pages, to serve as bedtime reading for many a night — for the married and single alike.
Random House offers an excerpt: "The marriage film found its basic definition in the silent era, and had no trouble doing so. Why would it? All anyone had to do to tell a story about marriage was to present a couple in love, get them married in the first scene (or open with them already married), set them up in a home of some sort, give them a recognizable problem, make the problem worse, and then resolve it. Couple, situation, problem, resolution: this is the pattern silent audiences saw and embraced, and their responses to it were clear. They would laugh at it. Or they would cry over it. Silent films were a beautiful art, and they were never simpleminded, but many of them often presented marriage in a basic mode, happy or sad. They went bipolar: raucous comedy or stark tragedy."
Read the full excerpt from Part I here.
Other books by Basinger
- The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre
- Anthony Mann: A Critical Study
- The It's a Wonderful Life Book
- Shirley Temple
- Lana Turner
- Gene Kelly
- A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960
- American Cinema: 100 Years of Filmmaking
- Silent Stars
- The Star Machine
I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies by Jeanine Basinger, Knopf, $30.