This weekend, the Lexington Philharmonic is celebrating the music of three great, tragic love stories — Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story and Tristan and Isolde. Those are great, but what are some other classic, tear-jerking tales of star-crossed lovers?
We put our brains together here at Weekender Central and came up with a few of our favorites. Tell us about yours in the comments section of this story at LexGo.com.
Orpheus and Eurydice: In this most aching of ancient Greek myths, young musician Orpheus travels to the Underworld to retrieve the love of his life, the young maiden Eurydice, who died from a snakebite soon after their wedding. The gods let him take her back to the mortal world on one condition: On the trek through the long cavern back to Earth, Orpheus must never look back at Eurydice. At last, when he emerges into the daylight, he turns around — but she is still in the cavern's darkness. He holds out his arms to clasp her, but she slips from his grasp and is sucked back into the Underworld. All he hears her say is, "Farewell."
Cathy and Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights: In this great 1847 English novel by Emily Brontë, we find rich girl Cathy and Heathcliff, the poor farm boy. Things go swell for the pair for a while, but as with many great English novels, class stands in the way of their love. Cathy's father soon dies, and her brother becomes master of the estate and forces Heathcliff out. Cathy must then marry a man of her own social standing.
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The Highwayman and Bess, The Highwayman: In this 1906 poem, a young innkeeper's daughter and a nameless robber fall in love at first sight. His job as a thief takes him away, but he promises to "come to thee by moonlight." Before they can reunite, they are betrayed by a jealous crazy man, an act that leads to their untimely deaths.
Barnabas and Josette, Dark Shadows: Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) is a 175-year-old vampire who searches for his lost love, Josette, who leapt to her death from a cliff in 1795 rather than join him as a vampire. His attempts to woo various reincarnations of her through the centuries kept the TV series on the air from 1966 to 1971. Wethinks all those human-vampire romances in the Twilight series and True Blood owe a debt of gratitude to Barney and Josie.
Oliver and Jennifer, Love Story: "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Anyone older than 18 who has ever been in love knows that's horse doodoo. Still, with a little suspension of disbelief, it's easy to get swept away by this story of college students Oliver (Ryan O'Neal) and Jennifer (Ali MacGraw) from different backgrounds who fall in love despite their families' protests. Alas, it's not meant to be, because in that great trope of tragic love, Jen is, gulp, dying. (Now you know one reason so many women born about 1970 are named Jennifer.)
Katie and Hubbell, The Way We Were: Giving hope to all Barbra Streisand-type girls that they'll marry a Robert Redford hunk, this 1973 movie is more than just a tragic romance. Touching on anti-Semitism, activist politics, conformity and fantastic vocal chops, it follows star-crossed rabble-rouser Katie and writer Hubbell as twentysomethings who begin an unlikely romance, get married, have a baby, divorce, run into each other years later and realize they can't recapture "the way we were."
Sam and Molly, Ghost: Sam and Molly are the perfect couple. But then Sam (Patrick Swayze) goes and gets killed by murderous thugs. But see, he gets trapped as a ghost, hence the movie's name. Molly (a pre-Ashton Kutcher Demi Moore) is heartbroken, but Sam starts communicating to her through a sham (or is she?) psychic played by a pre-View Whoopi Goldberg. Somewhere in there, Patrick and Demi do it with a pottery wheel while the Righteous Brothers sing.
Everyone in The English Patient: Salon.com called the 1996 movie of Michael Ondaatje's 1992 novel "one of the most searingly romantic films of our time." We agree. Let's recap: World War II, North Africa. Ralph Fiennes is "the English patient," a man with no name burned beyond recognition. Juliette Binoche is his beautiful nurse with her own tragic story. Kristin Scott Thomas is the EP's secret lover who dies a horrible death. Colin Firth is her deranged husband. Willem Dafoe is a Canadian thief with no thumbs. The movie is nearly three hours of swooning.
Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth, pro wrestling: Wrestling is fake, yes, but this romance was real. Former Lexingtonians and professional wrestlers "Macho Man" Randy Savage (Randy Poffo) and Miss Elizabeth (Elizabeth Hulette) wed in Frankfort in 1984, but in 1991, the couple were "married" at the World Wrestling Federation's SummerSlam. Billed as "A Match Made in Heaven," it was anything but; they split the following year. Elizabeth died in 2003 of a drug and alcohol overdose while living with Savage's onetime onscreen rival "The Total Package" Lex Luger.
Rose and Jack, Titanic: You know the story. And it doesn't end well for 1,517 people, including Leonardo DiCaprio.
Wildcats fans and Rick Pitino: Ah, the splendor of an Italian lover! For eight heady years, University of Kentucky men's basketball fans were enthralled by Pitino's winning touch. Three Final Four appearances, a national title — after Eddie Sutton's recruiting scandal tarnished our reputation, we felt pretty again! But like all red-hot romances, it was not meant to last. In a page torn from a Lifetime movie, our dear Ricky left us for the big city. In the four years he was in Boston, our hearts mended, sort of — OK, not really. Then came the true betrayal. What's worse than your life's great love leaving you? Finding him in the dark embrace of your archrival! Big Blue Nation still hasn't fully recovered from Pitino forsaking us for Louisville. Luckily, we have a new Italian lover to keep our minds occupied.
Anakin and Padmé, Star Wars: Faced with visions of the death of his secret love, Star Wars' Anakin Skywalker betrayed his fellow Jedi and embraced the Dark Side and Darth Sidious' promise to save her. Instead, Padmé dies as predicted, and Anakin becomes Darth Vader and winds up encased in steel after a near-fatal confrontation with his teacher, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Oh yeah, and the universe pretty much became enslaved.
Satine and Christian, Moulin Rouge!: Nicole Kidman is the singing courtesan with a heart of gold. Ewan McGregor is the poet who wins her love. But 'twas not meant to be: She's — cough, cough — dying. Before consumption consumes her, they get to sing an epic anthem called Come What May. After the final notes, she dies. In his arms. Looking fabulous. Onstage. In Paris. Does it get any more romantic? (For more tuberculosis-related tragic romance, see La Traviata, La Bohème and Camille.)
Jack and Ennis, Brokeback Mountain: In this Oscar-winning 2005 film (based on the Annie Proulx short story), the words "I wish I knew how to quit you" can tear a whole in your heart. The story is about the forbidden romance between two cowboys, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, in mid-20th-century Wyoming who carry on a secret romance for decades. Beautiful landscapes and top-notch acting from everyone involved make this a wrenching story that leaves a lump in your throat.
Honorable mentions: Double Indemnity, The Time Traveler's Wife, An Affair to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, Dark Victory, Lancelot and Guineviere, The Great White Hope and Ethan Frome.