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    Woman's Editor

    KISSIN' TALE by Sorcha Blaine Once upon a time nobody knew how to kiss. Then, around 1900, a film was made showing a man who looked (for the times) very handsome and a woman who looked (for the times) very saucey. And...they...kissed. It was a scandal. Kissing had previously been consigned to the bedroom and suddenly there it was out in front of everybody: Lipstouching. The short film is still hard to watch, not because of its lewd content but because 100 years later -- 100 years of movies later -- that kiss looks painful. A lip-lock. A face-smash. A conch-crunch. But all fairy tales need a beginning and it was a start. How did we get from there to here? Kissing Off

    There were no good kisses in movies in the '20's and '30's. In the 1920's Valentino came the closest but his was more of a face-smoosh. Also a paucity of puckers in the 1930's. (Honorable Mention goes to the famous 1939 Rhett-Scarlet embrace. Rhett tells her ?ou need to be kissed and often and by someone who knows how.? Unfortunately, he wasn't really talking about kissing so it doesn't count.) Lippity Doo-Dah

    I've studied the available data and come to one inescapable conclusion: REAL kissing didn't begin in REAL life until it began in the movies. Climbing further out on the limb: REAL kissing in films began about nine months before baby boomers began booming into view. Coincidence? I think not. Blame Alfred Hitchcock

    While making the movie Notorious with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, the director wanted Grant and Bergman to have a long, smoldering kiss. However, the Hays Office - the official censor of the Hollywood film industry - had a rule that limited the length of onscreen kisses to around 5 seconds. Mr. Hays squared off against Mr. Hitchcock. Mr. Hitchcock blinked. Then found a way around it. He had Grant and Bergman exchange short kisses in close-up, their faces never more than inches apart. The effect was more intimate than the single kiss would have been. It was as if they couldn't bear to be far enough apart to breathe. As if they needed one another's oxygen to survive. And that, my friends, was The Birth of the Buss. Notorious was released in 1946 - the beginning of the baby boomer years. Coincidence? A Place in the Sun (1951) Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift in love in close-up -- Squeezed together, looking like male and female versions of the same person; their breathing space limited by their beauty -- "Tell mama," Taylor whispers. "Tell mama all." And...they...kiss. Later, as Clift is being lead to his execution, he remembers that moment over and over -- reminding himself that a kiss was worth dying for. From Here to Eternity (1953) Burt Lancaster -- in a uniform that looks spraypainted on --- saves Montgomery Clift from a court marshall -- holds Frank Sinatra while he dies -- scares Ernest Borgnine into dropping a knife -- forces open an ammunitions locker during Pearl Harbor. What makes him - literally - fall helpless to his knees? The opportunity to kiss Deborah Kerr on the beach. To Catch a Thief (1955) Thief was a bouquet of kisses. Cary kisses Grace in a car. Cary kisses Grace during a fireworks display. Pretty people and pretty tame kisses. The reason I include the movie is because of the moment when Grace kisses Cary. Why does she do it? Because she feels like it. How radical an idea was that for 1955? Elmer Gantry(1960) This kiss isn't seen. Lancaster is in love with Jean Simmons, a religious speaker. On the beach one night, she tries to convince him that they can never be more than friends. As she explains he nods, agreeing with everything she's saying, all the while leading her into the darkness under the boardwalk. They disappear. The next time we see her she's pouring sand out of her shoes and giggling. One Last Kiss

    I'm not sure where the good kisses went; they can't all have disappeared under the boardwalk. It sure seems like I haven't seen one lately, though. Maybe when naked skin appeared on screen, lipstouching seemed quaint, a hint of more to come rather than an end in itself. The focus has gone to the steak and left behind the sizzle.

    Women Editor's Archive Columns
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