The Love Quest. December 2015.

Dear Rowley,

Both you and I can just remember the days when television still showed black and white programmes. I in particular remember the Saturday matinee double bill of classic films shown on BBC2 before I was even in my teens. Black and white movies provided my early education in fashion, sophistication and love. While my class mates were playing PacMan or some such, I was studying Bette Davis as she transformed from vixenish Southern Belle to courageous heroine in Jezebel and swooning as Bogie and Bacall smouldered in To Have and Have Not.

Compared to the great Rita Hayworth’s finest role in Gilda, Breaking Bad is positively naive. Because of the strict Hays Code in Hollywood that sought to make the movies wholesome family fare, scriptwriters and actors had to be so subtle when telling stories involving sadistic husbands, adulterous wives and contrary minxes such as Vivian Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. Somewhat ironically, the code made the movies more subversive.

Suffice to say, I considered myself a lot more sophisticated than my peer group by the time I hit my teens. In any given situation, I was Hayworth as the tipsy temptress Gilda or Mae West tossing-off a double entendre from She Done Him Wrong. Occasionally I wanted to be suave, debonaire Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief or jolly super Gary Cooper in Morocco but by and large I identified with the Hollywood heroines when it came to models for making love.

When I was old enough to start dating, I fully expected a fine romance to be like Bette Davis in Now Voyager or Joan Crawford in Humoresque. As you’d expect from golden age Hollywood films, the path to true love rarely ran smoothly or ended well. I think of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair To Remember: a gorgeous film in which the two fall in love on a cruise ship. They promise to meet at the top of the Empire State Building. Tragically, Kerr’s character is hit by a car en route and Cary thinks she has stood him up.

But one thing I did learn from Hollywood was that it always works out in the final reel. I still believe it despite many B-movie relationships that proved the contrary. But hope springs eternal. I feel sorry for the kids today. They only have hardcore pornography consumed with ease online as a model for on-screen passion.

It never ceases to amaze me that the kids in their teens and twenties have no clue how to make love but can imitate a porn star’s gyrations like a seasoned pro. Hollywood romance was sophisticated. Romance as seen on mainstream film and TV today let alone porn is cynical, explicit and far too knowing.

Can one apply the love affairs depicted in the films of the 1930s and 1940s with the modern world? I would like to think so. I have always believed that there will be a passionate kiss as the final curtain comes down. Admittedly on occasion I was starring in Jezebel while the man in my life was playing in a Mike Leigh. I want the magic and the drama. Perhaps it is not realistic to expect this on a day-to-day basis but I will hold out for both.

I can’t help but think that if you are in the market for a romance, it is best to keep the domestic and the dull as far away from the frame as possible. I don’t mind passionate arguments but boring bickering and insecurity has no place in the Hollywood movie that I think my love life should be. Overfamiliarity truly does breed contempt.

I fear that my romantic endeavours might end like Bette in Now Voyager: ’why ask for the moon when we have the stars?’ Perhaps people expect too much out of each other. A black and white movie usually lasts for an hour and a half. How one could maintain such intensity over the years or the decades is beyond me and, apparently, beyond most men.

But I was born and raised on Hollywood classics and the scripts are bred in the bone. I believe in the grand passion and the dramatic love life. This doesn’t necessarily lead to domestic bliss but it does add light and shade to life. I’ve had to be very realistic about my expectations. If you are going for the jugular – the madly passionate clinch in the last reel – then you aren’t going to have a terribly high success rate.

I’ve said it before and will say it again, I am not the marrying kind. Actually, strike that, I would be if the leading man was Cary, Gary, Henry Fonda or William Holden. I have been behaving like Gilda for the past decade and there comes a time when nobody cares whether you peel the elbow-length satin glove off or not. I don’t think I’ve quite reached that moment yet but it can’t be that far off.

Like Miss Brodie, I think I might be in my prime. It has been said that I could whistle a man off a tree if I so chose. This isn’t quite true but I can still shake it and bake it when the occasion arises. The problem today with dating is that everyone who is worth having is married … whether happily or not. Those of us who are single are either major sluts or extremely picky.

I’d like to think that I am waiting for the leading man to sweep me off my feet rather than waiting to pick up the sweepings. God only knows whether I will follow my Hollywood education to its logical conclusion and have a happy ending. The last page of that script is anybody’s guess. But in the quest for love, fortune favours the brave.