Hollywood finds romance in travel

romantic travel movies
Kenya is the backdrop for Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in “Out of Africa.”

Love is always lovelier some place other than home. Well, at least in the celluloid universe.

Traveling by boat, train or even bus can lead to romantic entanglements in the movies, as does visiting über-romantic locales such as Rome, Paris and Venice. Of course, these romances may not last, or they may even end tragically — just think of poor Jack and Rose in “Titanic” — but it doesn’t matter. Movie audiences crave these idealistic, sexy trysts.

Here’s a look at some of the best films in the romantic travel genre:

All aboard!


Trains are great locations for love and romance. And we’re not just talking Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic"North by Northwest.”

In 1932, hearts beat a little faster with Josef von Sternberg’s lush romance “Shanghai Express,” set in 1931 during the Chinese Civil War. The film was one of the more successful collaborations between Von Sternberg and his muse, Marlene Dietrich. She’s in fine form as the mysterious woman of ill repute Shanghai Lily — “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily” — who boards the Shanghai Express only to discover her former lover is also a passenger. The two rekindle their romance in the midst of the war and intrigue.

Even more erotic is Cary Grant’s encounter with Eva Marie Saint on a train in Hitch’s sophisticated and funny romantic thriller “North by Northwest.” Hitchcock enjoyed trains in such films as 1938’s “The Lady Vanishes” and 1951’s"Strangers on a Train.” In “North by Northwest,” Grant’s Roger Thornhill meets the sultry and mysterious blond Eve Kendall on the 20th Century Limited from New York to Chicago. Their dialogue over lunch is priceless:

Eve: “I tipped the steward $5 to seat you here if you should come in.”


Roger: “Is that a proposition?”

Eve: “I never discuss love on an empty stomach.”

Roger: “You’ve already eaten.”

Eve Kendall: “But you haven’t.”

The final frame of the two on the train chugging to their honeymoon is about as Freudian as the censors allowed at the time.

One doesn’t think of “Out of Africa” as a train movie, but it is on a train that Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) meets the love of her life, the dashing Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) while traveling to meet her boorish husband (Klaus Maria Brandauer) at his Kenyan coffee plantation. The sexiest scene in the epic romance, directed by Sydney Pollack, is when Denys washes Karen’s hair by the river while lions roar in the background.

Ship ahoy!

Leo McCarey wrote and directed the 1939 romantic drama “Love Affair” with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne as two passengers on a cruise liner who meet, fall in love and agree to reunite six months later at the Empire State Building. Although the film earned six Academy Award nominations, it’s nearly forgotten today. It is McCarey’s nearly frame-by-frame remake, 1957’s “An Affair to Remember,” with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, that touched the hearts of moviegoers. Grant and Kerr are beautiful together and exude such chemistry, it is hard not to burst into tears when these lovers are finally reunited. In 2005, the American Film Institute named it the fifth-greatest movie love story of all time.


It happened on a bus

A cramped, bumpy bus doesn’t sound like the recipe for romance, but that’s exactly what happens in the 1934 comedy classic “It Happened One Night."Claudette Colbert plays a runaway heiress who thinks traveling by bus will be the safest way to travel from Miami to New York. Clark Gable is a down-on-his-luck reporter who recognizes her at the bus station and decides to go along for the ride. Initially, they lock horns, but love will find a way. There are many indelible sexy scenes in the film, including when Gable begins to strip down in the motel room they are sharing and their efforts to attract a hitchhiker.

Location, location, location

Can’t find love in the U.S.A.? Head to Rome, Venice or Paris, where — at least in movies — one will always find love and romance.

Audrey Hepburn became an overnight sensation in William Wyler’s 1953 romance “Roman Holiday” as a bored princess who decides to slip away incognito while in Rome. She also finds love with American newspaper reporter Gregory Peck, who first befriends the princess because he thinks she will make a great story but then becomes smitten with her. Though it doesn’t end happily ever after, there’s no doubt that many female members of the audience traveled to the Eternal City to find their own Gregory Peck.

The other Hepburn — Katharine — earned an Oscar nomination for 1955’s “Summertime,” David Lean’s sumptuous romantic drama set in Venice based on Arthur Laurents’ play “The Time of the Cuckoo.” Hepburn plays Jane Hudson, a middle-aged single secretary who goes to the Italian city for her first vacation abroad and ends up falling in love for the first time with a handsome Italian named Renato (Rossano Brazzi). She is completely head over heels when she learns he is married with children. Sigh.

Though Woody Allen has long been considered the quintessential New York director, his recent movies have been set in London, Barcelona, Spain and Paris. The City of Light has given the 76-year-old filmmaker the biggest hit of his long career with 2011’s acclaimed “Midnight in Paris.” Owen Wilson plays a screenwriter and Rachel McAdams is his fiancée who have two vastly different experiences when they travel to Paris. He wants to stay in Paris to finish his first novel; she wants to live in Malibu. His life changes one midnight while roaming the city when he is invited to join the passengers in an antique car that pulls up next to him. Soon, he is swept up in the romance of Paris of the 1920s.

Bright lights, big Tokyo


Bill Murray gives a funny and heartfelt performance in 2003’s quirky “Lost in Translation.” Murray’s Bob Harris is in Tokyo to do a whiskey commercial for which he’ll earn $2 million. Though he’s been long married, Bob is having marital issues and is alone at a swank hotel in Tokyo. But he’s not alone for long when he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), who finds most of her days and even nights free at the same hotel because her husband (Giovanni Ribisi), a celebrity photographer, is on assignment in Tokyo. Though these two never develop a romantic relationship on screen, they do fall in love as they talk and talk and traverse the unusual neon-lighted metropolis. And get the hankie ready for that open-ended final scene.

Food and Bardem

Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” has a huge following. But the 2010 film based on her memoir doesn’t exactly come together. What does work are the exotic locales and Javier Bardem in a romantic role. Julia Roberts plays Gilbert, a recent divorcée who decides to go on a journey of self-discovery. She eats up a storm in Italy, learns the power of prayer and the beauty of elephants in India and finds love with a hunk (Bardem) in Bali.

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