Do you ice her? Do you marry her? What should a con with a devil-may-care, devoted dame do?

By Robert Edelstein, ReMIND Magazine

Bonnie and Clyde (Photo © 1967 Warner Bros.)

In the movies, there are stories where the love will last forever; they are the sweet, sentimental, heartstring-tugging tales that let you envision a “happily ever after” stretching long beyond the final fade-out.

But sometimes we want our movies with love that’s more complicated than that.

Where the love can be dark and dangerous, menacing and mysterious. It all happens with a look, like the one Verna, the gorgeous gangster moll played by Virginia Mayo, gives to James Cagney’s crazed criminal Cody Jarrett in 1949’s tense and winning thriller White Heat. She tells him they should go out on the town and spend some money because that’s what money’s for, isn’t it? And she’d look good, she says, in a mink. Jarrett smiles slyly because he’s smitten. “You’d look good in a shower curtain,” he replies. Theirs is a love that’s exciting because it’s unreliable and unpredictable. And we can’t stop watching.

It’s this fiery chemistry that makes the bond between gangsters and the women who love them such a reliable movie staple, rendering the traditional romantic comedy positively formulaic. These are no rom-coms; they’re rom-cons, where the con on the lam is sustained by a woman’s devil-may-care devotion.

And it’s all in that look. Imagine what audiences in 1967 must have felt two minutes into Bonnie and Clyde. The credits fade into a giant close-up of Faye Dunaway’s full red lips; then we see her as Bonnie Parker, lying down on a steamy Texas morning, slamming the frame of her bed like a lithe but caged bird. That is, until she hears a sound – outside, a dapper but deceptive Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) seems to be trying to steal her momma’s car. She calls out to him and their eyes meet. In his eyes, Bonnie is entrancing and enticing; in her eyes, Clyde – car or no – makes her itch for a swift ride away from a sleepy life. They each want excitement; together, they’ll get it for a short, explosive time as what was then the film world’s new-age high-power couple, the redefinition of the glamorous gangsters.

Years later, you see that look again, in the yearning eyes of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as he watches Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer), his boss’s mistress, descend in a glass elevator, knowing she’s his ticket from the gutter to the glitter in 1983’s Scarface; and you see it later, in the way she comes to accept his love, obsession and respect.

You see it in the way Ida Lupino’s Marie, a dance hall girl with no place to go, throws herself at Roy “Mad Dog” Earle (Humphrey Bogart) and throws in with him to the very end in High Sierra (1941).

And you see it in the gangland love triangle that gives Prizzi’s Honor (1985) its zing. Maerose (Anjelica Huston) still loves hitman-with-a-heart Charley Partanna (Jack Nicholson) but he’s fallen hard for Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner), a woman with a sweet smile and a loaded pistol who double-crossed the Prizzi family. And so Charley turns to Mae, the only woman who could understand, when he poses the operative — and uproarious — question: “Do I ice her, do I marry her, which one of these?”

It’s a great line, but it also gets to the heart of why we turn to these movies again and again, almost as an antidote to the easy love story.

This is love on the run, with no easy answers, and the knowledge that things invariably won’t end with love’s embrace, no matter how swiftly Cupid’s arrow flies.

It is love that comes with the reality that in the movies, “crime doesn’t pay” is a stronger axiom than “love wins out.” But it’s one heck of a journey along the way: sometimes tragic, sometimes comic – sometimes both.

Of course, not every union ends the way it did for Kay Adams, the long-suffering love of Michael Corleone’s life, who finds the man she once knew utterly changed by the twists and turns of a life of crime. Sometimes, there’s a ray of hope, as jagged as that may be. Take Karen (Lorraine Bracco), who only wanted a life of love (and perhaps a little luxury) with Henry (Ray Liotta) in 1990’s Goodfellas. Now here’s a classic tale of “Boy meets girl, boy lies and cheats, boy and girl nearly kill each other, boy and his pals kill someone important named ‘Billy Bats,’ boy gets mixed up with hard drugs and boy saves his and the girl’s lives by ratting on the family to the government.” But at least that one ends up being “Boy and girl live happily ever after . . . in the witness protection program.”

Brought to you by the publishers of ReMIND magazine, a monthly magazine filled with over 95 puzzles, retro features, trivia and comics. Get ReMIND magazine at 70% off the cover price, call 855-322-8784 or visit remindmagazine.com. ©2018 ReMIND magazine

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