Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reel vs. Real: Iconic Kisses on the Silver Screen

Stage Kiss is in full-on rehearsal mode, and the dialogue around the Goodman’s administrative offices (and in rehearsal, and in photo shoots) these last few weeks has become increasingly kiss-oriented. In the current issue of OnStage, Associate Producer Steve Scott explores some of the most legendary kisses of the silver screen; you can read the full text of his article here; then, if we forgot your favorite film kiss, let us know in the comments!

By Steve Scott
Whether it signifies the beginning of a romance, the consummation of an illicit affair or a death sentence pronounced by a Mafia Don, the kiss is one of the most common and most intimate human interactions found in popular entertainment, providing audiences with some of their favorite memories—and sometimes, as in Sarah Ruhl’s play Stage Kiss, leading to unanticipated results off camera as well. Here is a look back at some of the most memorable stage and screen kisses of the recent past.

The Kiss (1896)
The first kiss recorded on film originated on the Broadway stage in a musical comedy entitled The Widow Jones. In the second act of the play, the show’s stars, May Irwin and John C. Rice, engaged in a lingering smooch that caught the attention of Thomas Edison’s company, which had recently purchased the rights to a motion picture projector known as the Vitaphone. To showcase his new product, Edison filmed Irwin and Rice’s kiss in his New Jersey studio. Although it lasted a scant 20 seconds, the sequence (above) caused an immediate sensation, with critics and civic leaders expressing outrage. Critic Herbert Stone wrote, “Neither participant is physically attractive and the spectacle of their prolonged pasturing on each other’s lips was hard to beat when only life size. Magnified to gargantuan proportions…it is absolutely disgusting!” Perhaps inevitably, The Kiss became the Edison Company’s most popular release of the year.

From Here to Eternity (1953)
The adulterous affair between an army sergeant and a captain’s wife culminated in perhaps the best-known screen kiss of all time: Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr locked in a fervent seaside embrace with the ocean’s waves washing over them (above). Although torturous to film, the scene was one of the most erotically charged couplings yet seen in an American film, and helped make the movie one of the blockbusters of its time. It also may have led to an offscreen romance between the two stars: although Kerr denied the rumors, Lancaster eventually confirmed the affair.

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  1. My favorite Hollywood kiss? It has to be Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in A Woman of Affairs. In an earlier scene, he notes that a ring on her finger is loose. She says, "They say I am like this ring. Apt to fall. But with a little effort, I can keep the ring from falling." And she twists her fingers so that it stays on.

    Later, they kiss, and the camera focuses on her hand. The ring falls off. We don't need to see anything more to know exactly what happens next.

  2. Favorite Hollywood Kiss(es)? SPOILER ALERT! Easily, without a doubt, the montage of kisses at the end of Cinema Paradiso when Salvatore watches the reel that Alfredo left for him. I sob everytime I see it!