Movie couples' chemistry on screen and off doesn't guarantee sparks at box office

February 11, 1994|By Frank Bruni | Frank Bruni,Knight-Ridder News Service

With the opening of "The Getaway" today, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger become the latest in a long line of offscreen movie couples to heed the siren's call of working together on-screen as well.

A fair number have ended up on the shoals.

For while carry-over relationships like theirs have yielded some classic films and movie moments, they've produced just as many box-office disappointments and critical whipping posts, particularly in recent years.

How many people can name the 1991 movie on which Demi Moore and Bruce Willis collaborated? It was called "Mortal Thoughts," and while a few critics loudly sang its praises, no more than a few people actually went to see it.

Or the movie, also in 1991, that cast real-life spouses Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith as reel life spouses? It was called "Paradise," and many critics deemed it anything but. The movie disappeared from theaters in the blink of an eye.

Tom Cruise has made precious few films that didn't rocket into the box-office stratosphere. One was "Far and Away," his second movie with now-wife Nicole Kidman, the first being "Days of Thunder."

Perhaps it's a measure of the tough times on which the silver screen's working couples have fallen that Woody Allen is, for the first time in decades, dating someone who seems an unlikely candidate for lead roles in his films. What kind of script could he possibly pen for Soon-Yi Previn? "Hannah and her Sorority Sisters"?

Thank goodness, at least, for those dashing, smashing Brits Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, whose off-and on-screen collaboration has created varied successes as "Dead

Again" and "Much Ado About Nothing."

Here's a look at some other celebrity pairings and the films that resulted, both good and bad. Excluded for the most part are films that actually introduced lovers to each other or that came along while lovers were still in the infancy of their court ships: the original "The Getaway," with Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw; "Jurassic Park," which brought together the long-limbed duo of Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum; and "Bull Durham," featuring those sexy fruitcakes Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.

BLISSFUL TOGETHER: Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn co-starred in nine films, including "Woman of the Year," "Adam's Rib" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."

Spouses Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman have chosen several joint acting projects over their four decades together, from 1958's "The Long Hot Summer" to 1991's "Mr.and Mrs. Bridge."

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, who married shortly after she taught him to whistle in "To Have and Have Not," made three more films together: "The Big Sleep," "Dark Passage" and "Key Largo."

BETTER OFF APART: Goldie Hawn has had her share of hits; so has hunky squeeze Kurt Russell. But together, they made "Swing Shift" and "Overboard." Goldie, Kurt -- go your own ways.

BAD KARMA KEATON: Diane Keaton's affair with Woody Allen was not only long but fruitful, even after its dissolution: "Sleeper," "Love and Death," "Annie Hall," "Manhattan," "Manhattan Murder Mystery."

But for her, good movies seem to jinx hot relationships: Liaisons begun just before or during other celebrated projects fizzled during or soon after filming. She and Warren Beatty made "Reds," then split. She and Al Pacino were together at the start of "The Godfather Part III," then apart by its end.

NO WONDER THEY DIVORCED (TWICE): Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton chewed up each other, along with some of the scenery, in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" perhaps the most distinguished of many collaborations that began with "Cleopatra" 1963.

IS SHE REALLY GOING OUT WITH HIM? Pale beauty Victoria Tennant teamed with then-husband Steve Martin in 1984's "All of Me" and 1991's "LA Story." Regal Anne Bancroft joined her rumpled mate, Mel Brooks, for 1983's "To Be or Not to Be."

DO THEY LIKE WORKING TOGETHER THAT MUCH? Longtime spouses and acting legends Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy followed up "Cocoon" with a couple of pop clunkers in the late 1980s -- "Cocoon: The Return" and "Batteries Not Included," in which tiny metal creatures from outer space save them from homelessness. They've also done Broadway plays and TV movies.

GRANOLA ALERT: Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange are supposed to be a down-home kinda couple; together they've made a couple of down-home kinda movies: "Country" and "Crimes of the Heart."

RIGHT HERE, ON THE ORIENTAL: That's where Anjelica Huston asked longtime partner Jack Nicholson to make love to her in "Prizzi's Honor." Maybe he got rug burn: He left her before they could do another film together.

ORIENTAL DISASTER: The fleeting marriage of Madonna and Sean Penn is memorialized forever in "Shanghai Surprise," a 1986 film set in 1930s China that bombed like the Enola Gay.

IT'S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS: Meg Ryan, her star rising higher and higher in the Hollywood firmament, tried to give hubby Dennis Quaid's career a boost by starring with him in last year's "Flesh and Bone." It was a failure for both of them.

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