With text by Frank Miller, whose previous books include Leading Ladies and Leading Men, introduction by Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne, and loads of photographs covering about half a century of Hollywood history, Leading Couples: The Most Unforgettable Screen Romances of the Studio Era (Chronicle Books, 2008) takes a brief look at nearly forty successful movie pairings from the studio era (and a little later).
Among those featured are both the obvious – say, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn – and several more esoteric couplings (at least as far as modern film lovers are concerned), e.g., Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery, Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, Betty Grable and Dan Dailey, Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney.
Apart from Fay Wray and King Kong, my favorite couple among those featured in the book are Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake (above, in a publicity shot for The Blue Dahlia), who were ideally cast in their four pairings in the 1940s.
Okay, so neither one could deliver a line without sounding like a school-theater amateur; lines that, generally speaking (no pun intended), weren't all that good to begin with (though both This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key have pretty decent screenplays). But the way Ladd and Lake looked – or rather, smoldered – at one another… In fact, the way the two beautiful blonds looked (and smoldered), period.
So what, if most people today can't get Ladd and Lake? I'll take them over Bogart and Bacall any day.
(Now, in all fairness, Alan Ladd was remarkably effective in This Gun for Hire, while Veronica Lake, sans Ladd, is excellent as a wartime nurse who uses her bosom – I'm not kidding – to wipe out the evil Japanese in So Proudly We Hail.)