A movie about a couple in the midst of a divorce may seem an odd choice for an anniversary movie, but this is the antiromantic romance, marriage as ping-pong, and one of the preeminent screwball comedies. Director Leo McCarey and timeless stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are virtually without peer in handling sparkling dialogue. Even when they’re actively destroying each other’s lives in bouts of schadenfreude, they’re entertaining—and the characters (embodying 1930s Hollywood’s excellent idea of a healthy marriage) are just as addictively entertaining to each other, as well. The Awful Truth isn’t the choice for couples who want to moon at each other over candlelight, but if you’ve seen enough road to find laughs at each other’s expense, it’s essential viewing.
An eccentric inventor disappears and there’s no shortage of suspects, from his tawdry girlfriend to his ex-wife’s deadbeat husband. There’s a Dashiell Hammett mystery at the bottom of this movie, but it’s inconsequential—what this dishy lark is really about is the enthralling banter between the most debonair, comfortably droll, mutually secure movie couple of all time, Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and, in a career-making turn, the delectable Myrna Loy). The Thin Man is an anniversary movie for those who don’t want romance and sentiment; these two are past that stage, and instead they make marriage look fun, from Loy’s dismissive nose shrug to Powell, hungover, shooting at Christmas ornaments while reclined on the sofa (“Best Christmas present I ever got!”) to fur-trimmed dressing gowns and flowing martinis. Movies haven’t dared to portray this kind of grown-up relationship too often, and this one made stars of its leads. But the secret of it is that this is romance, too—there are no moony gazes or clinches, but it’s evident to the blind that the Charleses, however they may snipe and gripe, are terribly, splendidly in love, and that they enjoy each other like sunny days.
Arguably the definitive Greta Garbo film—the epitome of her lush melodramas, made by inventive visual artist Rouben Mamoulian and costarring John Gilbert, Garbo’s old love, whose floundering talkie career Garbo tried to boost. The couple’s rueful circumstances alone make Queen Christina a swoon-worthy prize (Gilbert, an alcoholic whom Garbo had left literally standing at the altar years before, died of heart failure three years after making this film). But the story is a tragic daydream version of the eponymous Swedish monarch, resisting arranged international marriage and falling for Gilbert’s Spanish emissary. Surprisingly sexy, poetic, and, in the end, devastating.