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I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies

3.20  ·  Rating details ·  167 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Here is “happily ever after”—except when things aren’t happy, and when “ever after” is abruptly terminated by divorce, tragedy . . . or even murder. With her large-hearted understanding of how movies—and audiences—work, leading film historian Jeanine Basinger traces the many ways Hollywood has tussled with the tricky subject of marriage, explicating the relationships of co ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.20  · 
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 ·  167 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Rachel M
Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was the basis of a Cousera course I took by Jeanine Basinger. I only have armchair (or should I say theater-chair) experience in film studies, but it was a blast to follow her recommendations and hunt for some of the obscure (and less obscure) films she named throughout the book.

I was fascinated by the various tropes of the marriage films, such as the "We're not really married" marriage movie (in which the couple finds out that for some interesting reason, their marriage isn't truly va
May 23, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1. Conceptually flawed: Basinger seems to think marriage has to be defined by boredom and domesticity. This disqualifies movies such as The Thin Man, because who wants to see films which portray couples that actually enjoy each other's company and/or are not largely concerned with housework.

Actually her criteria for "marriage films" is highly inconsistent and basically amounts to "I recognize my marriage in this depiction." The discourse largely continues on this level.

2. Structurally flawed: Wh
Dan Lalande
Jeanine Basinger is the least probing of contemporary film writers - and the most fun (with sincerest apologies to Anthony Lane) Despite a solid reputation as a Film Studies prof, what her books uniformly offer is a light sprinkling of cinematic history, lengthy plot descriptions, a nod to film marketing, and a cursory look at the movies as a reflection of their audience. Not for her the Freudian biographies, semiotic morasses and referential criss-crosses of her brethren. The redemptive quality ...more
Nancy Loe
Perhaps I would have been more disposed toward this effort of Basinger's if her introduction hadn't gone on and on about no one but her being able to cite movies about marriage. We get it: you're a cinema historian maven and more erudite than us all. Her other books do not seem to have this unappealing flaw.

Normally, I'd be drinking in Basinger's every word, but there are two problems:

1. Her definition of what constitutes a movie about marriage (too narrow and thus movies with more subtext abou
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a very disappointing book. Although Basinger has seen a lot of movies and has great enthusiasm for them, the analysis that she applies and the conclusions that she comes to are very superficial. At the start she bemoans the fact that there are hardly any movies that are billed as "marriage" movies. She then discusses lots of movies as marriage movies but her definition keeps changing depending on the point she wants to make. At times she's very concerned with the time period in which th ...more
Linda Belmont
I must briefly comment that as a serious movie buff, I found this to be a very large book consisting of a lot of obvious statements about marriage in the movies. Think about it, how many films can you think of that don't contain at least one married couple? Some are happy, some are miserable, etc., etc. In addition, as an avid fan of "I Love Lucy," the error where the author states that Lucy burned the nose of William Holden was glaring. How many other errors did the book contain? (She burned he ...more
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Basinger makes her point about marriage in films in the first 100 pages. After that, she discusses a dozen or so films which support her point. About 200 pages in, most people would get the point, and, unless you were taking a class about the history of marriage in movies (such as an online course which, not suprisingly, is taught by Jeanine Basinger herself), unless this book was the syllabus for that course (which it is), there's really no reason to read the next 200+ pages. I'd rather see the ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a little disingenuousness (?) to her early shock (shock, I tell you!) that studios and industry publications did not have a set category for "marriage movies." I bet they didn't have a category for "baby" or "house-buying" movies either. Nonetheless, this was a fair look at how marriage - and its companion, divorce - have been portrayed through the history of film, with a side excursion to marriage on TV - where, shocker!, a more nuanced approach is possible. Frankly, I think she wrote t ...more
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book and am appreciative that it brought some lesser known old movies to my attention. I'll be hunting those down to see them. I was puzzled that so much attention was paid to television in a book about movies, especially the focus on the "Friday Night Lights" couple. There were also some plot description errors--a minor point, but annoying if the reader is familiar with the movie. Still, it was a fun read and I would recommend it to fans of movies, especially those of films of th ...more
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and some intelligent comments about the portrayal of men, women and sex in the movies. Her comments about why so called romcoms today fail totally is right on. However, she misses the fact that the majority of actors paired in these so called romantic comedies have no chemistry at all on the screen. They are put together by huge agencies for the most money not whether they are right for the parts. Consequently the movies tend to be boring, flat and about as romantic as a three d ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although not perfectly scholarly, I Do And I Don’t is not your average work of popular non-fiction either. Those without a strong interest in either film history or cultural representations of marriage will be likely to find the long lists of examples extremely tedious. Film buffs on the other hand, will come away with a long list of movies worth watching. Read More
Apr 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I walked away from this book able to list a TON of movies that deal with marriage in some shape or form, but without any really meaningful insights into those movies--Basinger doesn't seem to have a compelling thesis statement or argument. She clearly does really enjoy movies, though, and the experience is a bit like casually chatting with a friend who enjoys telling you all about the odd movies she's seen.
Joan Roe
When the author spends the introduction whinging about how unwieldy the topic is, you have a pretty good idea of what you're in for - a mess. Which this was. But it was a mess made out of stuff that I like (old movies), and that the author seems to really like, too. Not a profitable read, but a pleasant one.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited about this book. I usually find books about movies very interesting. I enjoyed previous Basinger's previous books. This was just awful. There was no clear thesis. The book consisted mostly of recapping movie plots, which got boring after a while. I gave up trying to finish it after two weeks.
Alexis Braun
Aug 27, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I love the movies written about in this book, so I was surprised by how intensely I disliked it. Jeanine Basinger's book lacked focus and a clear purpose. The book reads like unconnected plot descriptions of hundreds of films. All I got out of reading it was a list of films to see.
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, movies
Whew. Finally finished this one. Parts of it were interesting and JB is an excellent writer as well as a very smart woman, but the topic here was probably worth only about 150 pages and not 350. Not to mention the fact that it really leaves one with a depressing concept of marriage altogether.
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed it, in a superficial way. I just didn't find it nearly as insightful as earlier Basinger books I've read.
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Can never finish Basinger books no matter how much I want to. They are so thick and the print is so tiny. Wish she would break them into volumes.
Rose Ann
I did not enjoy this book as much as I did her other books, the Star Machine and the one she wrote about silent films.
Not bad, but hardly enthralling. I did find a few movies that I will put on my list for future viewing. All in all, not one of my favorite film books.
Usually I eat up books about Hollywood like candy, especially old Hollywood, so when I saw a gorgeous photo of two of my favorite stars on the cover, I couldn't pass this one up. Unfortunately, this book was so hard to plow through that I set it down several times, and basically had to force myself to finish it.
That isn't to say there aren't some interesting parts, but the author made the mistake of not only doing exhaustive research, but PUTTING ALL OF IT INTO THE BOOK! Instead of discussing th
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although not the best of Ms. Basinger's books, there's enough of her insights and wit to makes this an enjoyable read, particularly in part two, which represents the bulk of her thinking about the depiction of marriage in Golden Age Hollywood (with some interesting side trips to contemporary and international films). Part three, on more recent depictions of marriage is all over the place, which represents her conclusion that the ultimate message of movies about marriage is that it's a mystery. I ...more
If you love movies, you will appreciate the references to wonderful old movies and descriptions of well known scenes with comments connecting the social mores around love, marriage and divorce at the time the movie was made.
Magnus Stanke
Nah, I couldn't get into this. While the concept of a 'marriage' film was new to me, and intriguing, I thought the execution was all too dry and uninvolving
E.H. Nolan
Apr 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
As a film major, I was eager to devour this book; the title and the cover biased my liking before cracking open the spine. What a fantastic idea, I thought, to write a book about screen marriages and the evolution of the portrayal of marriage through the decades. Perhaps she would dedicate a section of the book to her favorite pairings. Undoubtedly she would discuss the Hays Code and how it influenced a film’s representation of a marriage.

Unfortunately for me, and for anyone else who enthusiasti
Liss Carmody
Feb 14, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book! I did! So much! And the premise sounded really interesting, and I was jazzed for probing insightful looks at the way the movie industry portrayed the institution of marriage over the years, and how it changed, and some analysis of famous movie marriages that I am familiar with. Instead, there is a lot of gnashing of teeth about what should 'count' as a marriage movie, in which the author draws up a very narrow definition that disqualifies a lot of other interesting fi ...more
Read for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, Task #10 - a microhistory

Lots of debate on the RHC posts about whether a book like this counts as a microhistory, but whatever - I interpret "microhistory" to mean "in-depth history of just one thing," and marriage in the movies fits that definition. The writing was fun and engaging, and even though it got off to a pretty slow start, I'm glad I stuck with it. 3/5 stars.
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great summaries of old movies and some new ones. It was easy to remember the movies with all the great descriptions and comments about each movie. Nice walk down memory lane. Only negative is there are lots of LONG footnotes. Some more interesting than others. I'm looking forward to seeing some of these old films on netflix.
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable read. I always like to learn about more movies. I am not sure it is very profound in its assessments, but it did give me some ideas about different ways of looking at some movies I have seen or types of movies I am aware of. I did enjoy the soft shoe dance from Laurel and Hardy from Way Out WEst I watched after reading about it in the book.
The Advocate
"Loaded with iconic movie stills and studio photos, this book is highly recommended for movie buffs interested in an accurate, objective overview of relationships and their portrayal on the silver screen."
Read more here.
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Jeanine Basinger holds a BS and MS from South Dakota State University. She is a film historian, professor of Film Studies at Wesleyan University and curator and founder of The Cinema Archives at Wesleyan University. In addition, she is a trustee emeritus of the American Film Institute, a member of the Steering Committee of the National Center for Film and Video Preservation, and one of the Board o ...more
“Why would everyone - in both the movie business and the audience - want to avoid the label "marriage"? Marriage was presumably everybody's business. People were either born into one, born outside of one, living in one, living outside of one, trying to woo someone into one, divorced from one, trying to get divorced from one, reading about one, dreaming about one, or just observing one from afar. For most people, it would be the central event - the biggest decision - of their lives. Marriage was the poor man's trip to Paris and the shopgirl's final goal. At the very least, it was a common touchstone. Unlike a fantasy film or a sci-fi adventure, a marriage story didn't have to be explained or defined. Unlike a western or a gangster plot, it didn't have to find a connection to bring a jolt of emotional recognition to an audience. Marriage was out there, free to be used and presented to people who knew what the deal was.” 1 likes
“Marriage, after all, was the known, not the unknown: the dull dinner party, not the madcap masquerade. It was a set of issues and events that audiences knew all too well offscreen. Unlike the wide-open frontier of the western, offering freedom and adventure, or the lyrical musical, with its fantasy of release through singing and dancing, or the woman's film, with its placing of a marginalized social figure (the woman) at the center of the universe, or the gangster movie, with its violent excitement and obvious sexual freedom, the marriage film had to reflect what moviegoers already had experienced: marriage, in all its boredom and daily responsibilities.” 1 likes
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