Before there was Kate and Leo. Before Brad and Angelina. And long before Kristen and Robert, there was Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero.
The lush musical film "Camelot," starring Redgrave and Nero, came to theaters my sophomore year in high school, when I was as vulnerable to romance as I ever would be.
As if the doomed love affair between Guinevere and Lancelot were not enough to wring the heart of a schoolgirl, there was the rumor — during those pre-People magazine days — that Redgrave and Nero had fallen in love during the filming of the movie. There was even the report that he'd at first found her homely and only later was captivated by her auburn hair and her distinctly un-Italian beauty.
My Lancelot and Guinevere ruined Redgrave's marriage and had a child together, though they didn't marry. Those were the days — before Brad and Angelina — when having a baby without benefit of marriage was not a political statement but a pledge of love in the face of scandal.
Remember Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini? She had to flee the United States, and it was years until her American fans forgave her for falling for her director and having his child, abandoning both her marriage and her daughter.
Today, of course, movie sets are littered with hookups, brief marriages and the odd baby — or six. Even the most powerful love on screen — consider Bella and Edward of "Twilight" — seems chilly or convenient on the red carpet.
In the film "Letters to Juliet," Redgrave, as Claire, searches all over Italy for her long-ago love, Lorenzo, played by Nero. She dismisses each candidate, much changed by age, by saying he did not have her Lorenzo's eyes.
Indeed, Nero's eyes sparkled like silver orbs 35 years ago in "Camelot," and they are just as shiny now.
When they meet, she tells him she is sorry she is "late," and he answers, "When we speak about love, it's never too late," lines that Nero himself wrote to his leading lady.
It is a scene that wrung this woman's cynical heart: Vanessa and Franco are together again, and the love that flashes between their eyes when they meet again after decades made me cry like a teenager in a dark theater — again.
Nero and Redgrave went their separate ways after "Camelot" and the birth of their son, Carlo Nero, now 40 and a director. But they remained close and, after rekindling their love, married in 2006. They now divide their time between England and Italy. And they cooed like lovebirds and praised each other's talent during the interviews to promote "Letters to Juliet," while confessing to the same kind of passionate arguments that once separated them.
I don't want to say that today's stars don't seem to love with the defiant passion of Liz and Richard, Ingrid and Roberto and Vanessa and Franco — the movie star lovers of my day.
But I will say this. The love between the still-strapping Nero, who rode up to meet his long-lost love on a white horse, and the fragile but dignified Redgrave, now 73, gives all of us who were high-schoolers in 1967 hope for love among the ruins.