Remember I said opera is a chick flick. Here are 25 to choose from.
1. Morocco (1930)
In top hat and tails as Amy Jolly, Marlene Dietrich has never been more worldly than when she seduces men and women alike with her act at a nightclub in Mogador—and never more womanly than when she casts aside her cool for the love of Gary Cooper's foreign legionnaire Tom Brown. Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Starring Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper.
2. Camille (1936)
[Already used, I'm afraid. This is La Traviata.] Greta Garbo is so exquisite she can seem unearthly on-screen, but here she's heartbreakingly human as Alexandre Dumas's famously fragile courtesan Marguerite Gauthier/Camille who finds love too late. The tragic heroine must sacrifice her own happiness in order to prove her love. Directed by George Cukor. Starring Greta Garbo & Robert Taylor. Based on the book Camille by Alexandre Dumas.
3. Notorious (1946)
[You could definitely make an opera out of this.] This postwar thriller is one of Alfred Hitchcock's most woman-loving movies. Ingrid Bergman, a beautiful woman with a tainted past, penetrates a Nazi cabal in post-war Rio de Janeiro by marrying its leader—in an act of heroism and despair after she's spurned by the man she adores, Devlin (Cary Grant), an American government agent too puritanical to let his love for her bloom. Her espionage work becomes life-threatening after she marries the most debonair of the Nazi ring, Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains). Only Devlin can rescue her, but to do so he must face his role in her desperate situation and acknowledge that he's loved her all along. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman.
4. The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)
Two actors have an adulterous affair while making a movie about a rule-breaking 19th-century romance in this brilliant investigation of passion and risk in different eras. Sarah Woodruff/Anna (Meryl Streep), ostracized by Victorian society and abandoned by her French lieutenant lover, fascinates Charles Smithson/Mike (Jeremy Irons) who resolves to unravel the mystery of her clandestine past. Directed by Karel Reisz. Starring Meryl Streep & Jeremy Irons. Based on the book The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. [Flashback might be hard in an opera.]
5. The English Patient (1996)
During World War II, a mysterious stranger Count Laszlo Almasy (Ralph Fiennes) is rescued from a fiery plane crash. The American allies (Juliette Binoche) care for him and the dangerous secrets from his past come to light. Like the excellent novel it so skillfully adapts, this intensely romantic film, about a relationship between Kristin Scott Thomas and Fiennes, makes you feel the urgency of its wartime confrontation with love and death. Directed by Anthony Minghella. Best Picture award winner. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, & Kristin Scott Thomas. Based on the book The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. [Love and death--the definition of opera.]
6. The Women (1939)
The film's tagline: "The stars! The clothes! The cruelty! The catfights!" A politically incorrect film that plays like a cross between a guilty pleasure and a cautionary tale. Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) loses her husband to ruthless Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford) who is aided and abetted by Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) whose own spouse has taken up with another woman. In Reno, in the throes of divorce, all wage war on one another. Directed by George Cukor. Starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, & Rosalind Russell. Based on the play The Women by Clare Booth Luce.
7. Julia (1977)
On the eve of World War II, a well-off American writer Lillian Hellman (Jane Fonda) risks her safety for a beloved girlhood friend in Europe Julia (Vanessa Redgrave) who has become a resistance fighter. The chemistry between Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave lights up this gripping film about the kind of friendship that enlarges one's life. Directed by Fred Zinnemann. Starring Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Jr., Maximilian Schell.
8. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
An impish comedy about a bored suburban housewife Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) who follows a series of personal ads in a New York paper and ends up in the orbit of a true wild woman named Susan (Madonna). Pop diva Madonna makes her celebrated screen debut in this smash hit as the elusive and oddly engaging renegade on the lam from a host of enemies and admirers. Directed by Susan Seidelman. Starring Rosanna Arquette & Madonna. [I love this movie. The opera would be a comedy, of course.]
9. The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)
When a handsome fellow named Brian (Ben Chaplin) falls for the wit of Abby (Janeane Garofalo), a romantically challenged radio host with low self-esteem, she persuades the gorgeous bimbo next door Noelle (Uma Thurman), her model friend, to impersonate her and date him in her name. True love finds a way, but the heart of the movie is what these unlikely friends give each other: a sense of self-worth. Directed by Michael Lehmann. Starring Uma Thurman & Janeane Garofalo.
10. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)
Female friendship has never been funnier or more endearing than in this deliciously silly screwball comedy featuring Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow as ditzy pals. Highlights: their roadside fight about who's more popular, their claim to have invented the Post-it, and the unexpectedly tender line "Wanna fold scarves?" Both get into a lot of trouble when they go to their high school reunion and lie about their lives after twelfth grade. Directed by David Mirkin. Starring Mira Sorvino & Lisa Kudrow. [Also a comedy. How many modern operas are comedies? Think about this?]
11. The Hours (2002)
Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep play three women of different eras who say no to the unbearable, each in her own eloquent way. Taking place over one day, all three stories are interconnected with the novel: one is writing it, one is reading it, and one is living it. The movie taps an intimacy so deep—and deeply female—that to watch it is to feel both acknowledged and consoled. In 1923, Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) is starting to write her novel, Mrs. Dalloway, under the care of doctors and family. In 1951 in suburban Los Angeles, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is planning for her husband's birthday, but is preoccupied with reading Woolf's novel. And in 2001, Clarrisa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) is planning an award party for her friend Richard Brown (Ed Harris), an author dying of AIDS. Directed by Stephen Daldry. Starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, & Meryl Streep. Based on the book The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
12. All About Eve (1950)
A young Marilyn Monroe appears briefly in this sharp-toothed comedy about women and ambition. But the real action involves ingénue Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) snapping at the tail of Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis). From the moment she glimpses her idol at the stage door, Eve moves relentlessly towards her goal: taking the reins of power from the great actress. The cunning Eve maneuvers her way into Margo's Broadway role, becomes a sensation and even causes turmoil in the lives of Margo's director boyfriend Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill), her playwright Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe) and his wife Karen (Celeste Holm). Only a cynical drama critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) sees through Eve, admiring her audacity and perfect pattern of deceit. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. Based on the short story Wisdom of Eve by Mary Orr. [Why hasn't anyone done an opera of this? It screams for an opera.]
13. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
This is a classic Martin Scorsese film - his first Hollywood studio production. The film tells about a newly widowed Southwest wife and mother named Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) awakening to her right to life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Left to care for her 11-year-old bratty son Tommy (Alfred Lutter), she heads for California after a disastrous encounter with new beau Ben (Harvey Keitel), but is delayed in Phoenix where she takes a waitress job and falls for rancher David (Kris Kristofferson). Directed by Martin Scorsese. Starring Ellen Burstyn & Kris Kristofferson. [Singing waiters.]
14. Aliens (1986)
Star of the original Alien (1979), Sigourney Weaver turns this and Alien3 (1992), the second and third installments in the wildly successful science fiction horror quartet, into wrenching dramas of the difficult choices in women's lives. Her homeless cosmonaut Lieutenant Ripley is one of the great movie heroines of all time. Ripley is recovering from her encounter with the deadly alien when she is asked to go back with a company of marines. At first the marines refuse to believe her warning, but soon they all come face to face with the awesome creatures. Directed by James Cameron. Starring Sigourney Weaver. [Science fiction opera. Are there any?]
15. Thelma & Louise (1991)
As friends who take an impulsive break from the men in their lives, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis embrace the fierce American motto "Live free or die" and kick women's movies up to a whole new level. Two friends, one an unhappy housewife named Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis), the other a wise-cracking waitress named Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon), decide to take a vacation from their lives, but things soon get out of control after an attempted rape incident at a roadside café. Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis. [They could leap off a parapet like Tosca.]
16. What's Love Got to Do With It? (1993)
Great performances by Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett as Ike and Tina Turner make this showbiz biopic a triumphant portrait of a submissive battered wife who not only manages to break free of her abusive Svengali but proceeds to rebuild her soul from the ground up. The turbulent relationship of Ike and Tina Turner eventually forces Tina to leave and find the courage to believe in herself. Directed by Brian Gibson. Starring Angela Bassett & Laurence Fishburne. Based on the book I, Tina by Tina Turner and Kurt Loder. [This would be a perfect subject for an opera.]
17. Girlfight (2000)
With her mother dead, partly as a result of her father's abuse, Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez) is always fighting, whether at home in the housing projects, with her abusive dad, or at high school. She finds a new outlet for her anger at her brother's boxing gym. With hard-core training from veteran boxing coach Hector (Jaime Tirelli), Diana learns she has the guts and talent to be a contender. Unexpectedly, she also finds love in Karyn Kusama's award-winning movie about anger and power and release and resolution. Directed by Karyn Kusama. Starring Michelle Rodriguez. [Boxing? Maybe not.]
18. Black Narcissus (1947)
Majesty gives way to mystery, and marks a harrowing descent into madness, when a young British nun is ordered to establish a convent on a cliffside in the remote Himalayan mountains. Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) is a serious young novitiate assigned to lead the crucial mission, with the reluctant recommendation of her Mother Superior. Together with a disparate group of nuns, Sister Clodagh will face strange peoples and customs, including a demented sex-crazed nun named Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron), a handsome British government agent named Mr. Dean (David Farrar) who often strides around half-naked, and Indian girl Kanchi's (Jean Simmons) naughty Nepalese beauty. A harsh and unforgiving climate and a wrenching struggle with Sister Clodagh's own past will prove the ultimate test of her devotion and faith in this deliriously enjoyable melodrama. Directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. Starring Deborah Kerr. Based on the book Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden. [I see the word "demented." This might work.]
19. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
This charming Ernst Lubitsch comedy stars Jimmy Stewart as quiet unassuming, and hard-working gift-shop clerk Alfred Kralik, and Margaret Sullavan as new co-worker Klara Novak in pre-WWII Europe -- both employees of a shop owned by the demanding yet endearing Hugo Matuschek (Frank Morgan). They squabble at work while pseudonymously falling in love by letter. The Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks remake, You've Got Mail (1998), has its moments, but the melancholy grace of the original is matchless. As the letters turn towards the subject of love, not even Kralik's constant bickering with Klara can tarnish his newfound happiness. But when he's suddenly and inexplicably fired, all of his romantic aspirations crumble. Until, that is, he discovers the identity of his secret friend. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Starring Margaret Sullavan & James Stewart. [Too static, I think.]
20. The Lady Eve (1941)
"A moonlit deck is a woman's business office," Barbara Stanwyck's deliciously shady lady Jean Harrington coos to her latest mark Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), a wide-eyed, rich, priggish herpetologist who is heir to a brewery fortune. She and her conniving father "Colonel" Harry Harrington (Charles Coburn) attempt to bamboozle Pike at a cruise ship card table. When the heir gets wise to her gold-digging ways, she must plot to re-conquer his heart. The most savory pleasure of this great screwball comedy is watching her teach him a little lesson about presuming to sit in judgment of a woman with a past. Directed by Preston Sturges. Starring Barbara Stanwyck & Henry Fonda.
21. Born Yesterday (1950)
Corrupt millionaire junk dealer Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford), embarrassed by his girlfriend Billie Dawn's (Judy Holliday) lack of social sophistication, arranges to have her trained by Paul Verrell (William Holden) in a crash course in class and culture. He is surprised and outraged when, after becoming aware of her role as a pawn in his crooked business deals, she refuses to cooperate. Directed by George Cukor. Starring Judy Holliday & William Holden. Based on the play Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin.
22. Pat and Mike (1952)
A female college physical education instructor, Pat Pemberton (Katharine Hepburn), becomes an athlete of enormous promise in the worlds of both tennis and golf. She is pursued by a shady and unscrupulous sports promoter named Mike Conovan (Spencer Tracy), who hopes to make her famous and make some money in the process. Directed by George Cukor. Starring Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn.
23. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) is an eccentric New York City playgirl with a next-door neighbor, an aspiring writer named Paul Varjak (George Peppard). He is "sponsored" by a wealthy older woman (Patricia Neal) in 2-E. Guessing who's the right man for Holly is easy. Seeing just how that romance blossoms is one of the enduring delights of this comedy. Complications arise, however, when Holly's former husband Doc (Buddy Epsen) arrives on the scene and remembers her as Lula Mae Barnes. Directed by Blake Edwards. Starring Audrey Hepburn & George Peppard. Based on the book Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. [Is there already an opera of this?]
24. Bull Durham (1988)
A classic American romantic comedy about a very minor minor-league team and three of its current constituents: an aging baseball groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) that beds one player each season, a cocky foolish new pitcher Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), and the older, weary Minor Leaguer catcher named Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) brought in to wise up the rookie playing for the Durham Bulls. Directed by Ron Shelton. Starring Kevin Costner & Susan Sarandon.
25. Pretty Woman (1990)
When successful corporate mogul Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) meets independent and carefree hooker Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) in Beverly Hills, their two lives are worlds apart. But Vivian's energetic spirit challenges Edward's no-nonsense, business-minded approach to life, sparking an immediate attraction. A modern-day fairy tale. Directed by Garry Marshall. Starring Richard Gere & Julia Roberts.
Dr. B. This is just to show how people looking for opera plots are looking in the wrong places. History! Bah, humbug.
Opera Quiz: How Well Do You Know Verdi’s ‘Macbeth?’
23 hours ago