I Do and I Don't:
A History of Marriage in the Movies
by Jeanine Basinger
$30.00 List Price
Of all the things one can portray in a movie, marriage is surely not the most titillating. It can’t possibly hold a candle to sex or violence—or some lurid combination of the two—and is an equally tough sell against horror, slapstick, sci-fi, romance, or the western. “Embrace happy marriage in real life,” director Frank Capra once remarked, “but keep away from it onscreen.” And yet there have been a great number of films, from the silent era until today, that have defied Capra’s warning and compellingly depicted one of the world’s most enduring institutions. (Capra himself offered a fiendish satire of “happy” marriage in his 1934 film It Happened One Night, and he’d revisit the subject many more times.) In I Do and I Don’t, film historian Jeanine Basinger persuasively argues that there is a long history of “marriage movies,” happy and unhappy, and that they’re often surprisingly entertaining.
Basinger divides her book into three parts, moving more or less chronologically from the early 1920s through the evolution of film and television in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Sandwiched between “The Silent Era” and “The Modern Era” is her most extensive section, “Defining the Marriage Movie in the Studio System,” a wide-ranging discussion of everyone from Nick and Nora Charles to Ricky and Lucy Ricardo, Tarzan and Jane to Laurel and Hardy (“Laurel and Hardy are a married couple,” she insists, “without the marriage”). There she develops a more systematic means of classification, laying out the problems (money, infidelity, in-laws and children, incompatibility,