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Warner Archive
Fed Astaire, Gracie Allen and George Burns in "Damsel in Distress."

Valentine’s Day isn’t complete without a few romantic movies. These diverse films from the 1930s and 1940s can evoke responses ranging from laughter to tears. While most of the themes are for mature audiences, all the listed movies can be watched with the entire family. To avoid showing any favoritism, movies are listed by year.

For a serious Valentine's Day:

'Make Way for Tomorrow'

An elderly couple, unable to make ends meet, are being evicted from their home. Certain their adult children will help, they call a family meeting to discuss the situation. But it quickly becomes apparent that none of their selfish progeny feel inclined to assist. Husband and wife realize they will have to split up and each live with a different child. On their last day together, the couple reminisces about their love and happy past.

Have a box of tissues ready while watching Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore in this 1937 tear-jerker. This movie is available for rent via Netflix DVD or for purchase from Amazon.

'Kitty Foyle'

A saleswoman must make a decision to either marry her dedicated doctor boyfriend or run off with her on-again, off-again wealthy, married lover. As the hours tick by and a decision must be made, she reminisces on the circumstances of how she came to this crossroads and the heartache she has already endured.

Ginger Rogers won an Academy Award for her dramatic portrayal of Kitty Foyle. This 1940 romantic drama also stars Dennis Morgan and James Craig. It can be seen Feb. 27 on TCM. It can also be found on Amazon’s instant viewer, Netflix DVD and iTunes.

'Random Harvest'

Shell-shocked and suffering from amnesia, a World War I soldier is hospitalized. With memory loss and difficulty speaking, he leaves the hospital and goes into the nearby town. There he meets a beautiful singer and they fall in love and marry. Poor, but extremely happy, the couple start a family. But everything changes when the man goes to Liverpool for a job interview. While there, he is hit by a car and knocked unconscious. When he comes to, his pre-shell-shock memories have returned but those of more recent years have vanished.

This movie shows the strength of love, even when one thinks it has been forgotten, and the power of patience. Greer Garson and Ronald Colman star in this 1942 film. It can be seen Feb. 22 on TCM. It is also available via Netflix DVD, Amazon and iTunes.

'The Enchanted Cottage'

Disfigured by a war wound and convinced his family and fiancée could not possibly love him, a man travels to a secluded cottage seeking peace. While there, he meets the cottage’s ugly caretaker, a shy woman with little self-esteem. The two become acquainted and fall in love. As their romance blooms, they become convinced the cottage is enchanted, taking away their ugliness and turning them into beauties.

This 1945 romance stars Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire and is showing on TCM March 10. It is also available for purchase on Amazon.

For a comedic Valentine's Day:

'Broadway Melody of 1936'

A talented dancer makes her way to Broadway and finds her high school sweetheart in charge of a big show. Although she tries to convince him of her talent, he refuses to let her audition. Undeterred, she masquerades as a famous French dancer and catches his interest. The old boyfriend hires her and enjoys immense success in his show.

This movie is perfect for music and dance lovers. Eleanor Powell is undoubtedly the queen of dance, and her talents are well showcased in this film. This 1935 romantic comedy also stars Robert Taylor and Jack Benny. “Broadway Melody of 1936” can be seen March 3 on TCM. It is also available on iTunes and Amazon.

'A Damsel in Distress'

An American dancer is on tour in England and, due to false advertising by his agent, is the object of many women’s' attention. Meanwhile, the lady of a nearby castle tells her father her intentions to marry an unknown American. Due to misunderstandings, the American dancer is mistaken for the lady's beloved. However, as the two become acquainted, their perceived feelings quickly turn into reality.

With comic relief by the hilarious Gracie Allen and George Burns, this 1937 film with Fred Astaire and Joan Fontaine is a musical romance full of talented dancing that can delight and endear itself to viewers. It is available on Amazon instant video and iTunes.


An American woman finds herself stranded in Paris on a rainy night. With no money, she makes a deal with a cab driver to chauffeur her job search. When it becomes apparent the poor cabbie has become enamored and there are no available jobs, the woman skips out on her ride and joins a high society group. However, she finds herself the object of another man's attention, but not for himself. She complicates her life by romancing one man while fleeing from the attentions of another. Things quickly turn comic and she must decide whether to follow her heart or her head.

Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and John Barrymore star in this delightful 1939 romantic comedy. This movie is available for rent via Netflix DVD service or for purchase on Amazon.

'The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer'

An impressionable 17-year-old develops a crush on a visiting lecturer. Her affection turns into obsession, and the speaker, a handsome bachelor, doesn’t know how to handle her attention. Her psychiatrist uncle talks the bachelor into playing along with the teen’s affections, convinced they will soon change. Meanwhile, the bachelor develops feelings for the teen’s older sister, much to her chagrin. Hilarity ensues as other people become involved in this love triangle.

This 1947 romantic comedy stars Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and a teenage Shirley Temple. It is available on Netflix DVD, Amazon instant video and iTunes.

Enjoy Valentine’s Day this year by experiencing love from the past in these black-and-white films.

Elizabeth Reid has bachelor degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She can be reached at bizziereid@gmail.com.