Great Romances of the 20th Century | Season 3
Email share

From the deposed Soviet leader who lost his wife to cancer, to the Latin lover and the million-dollar mermaid, to the pop star and the woman accused of breaking up the Beatles, and the one of the few enduring marriages in Hollywood, these are some of the greatest love stories ever told. Plundering a wealth of film archive, these programmes take viewers behind-the-scenes and unlock the secrets to the headline romances which captured the imagination of us all. It is the largest and most internationally based series on this subject ever produced.


1. Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood
Two of the most handsome stars of the 1950s who fell in, out of, and in love again.Their nine-year second marriage
was cut tragically short by a boating accident.

2. John Lennon and Yoko Ono
He was an icon of popular music; she was one of the most avant garde performance artists of the Sixties.Their union
was one of mind, body, and spirit.Yoko was accused of breaking up the Beatles, but some of Lennon’s best music was
composed in the heyday of their relationship. Though his voice was silenced over 20 years ago, she continues to
spread the message: "give peace a chance".

3. Paul and Linda McCartney
His fans hated her, but the marriage of the American rockstar-photographer and the Beatle was to be one of the
most enduring, happy and creative in showbiz history. Linda eventually earned everyone’s respect, especially for her
stand on animals’ rights, and her premature death from cancer in 1998 saddened millions.

4. Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay
The romance between the massively-cantilevered star and her champion muscleman was one of the most oddball
stories of Hollywood.

5. Claire Bloom and Rod Steiger
Claire Bloom shot to fame as a beautiful but paralysed young girl in Limelight. Her marriage to one of the greatest
method actors of his generation lasted through a turbulent decade.

6. Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder
When two of Hollywood's zaniest comic talents were married, it seemed like the start of a great movie partner-ship,
but cancer claimed Gilda after five short years.

7. John and Bo Derek
John Derek was one of the most handsome leading men of the Fifties but he never became a major star, perhaps
because he was always in the shadow of his first wife, Ursula Andress. But in the early 1980s, as a director and
producer, he made a star of his second.

8. JFK Junior and Carolyn Bessette
The ill-starred Kennedy family suffered another in a long line of tragedies when an air crash ended the seemingly
glamorous marriage between JFK's heir and his beautiful PR girl wife.

9. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
They are two of Hollywood’s most successful actors.Their careers span several decades – as does their marriage, an
antidote to cynics who claim that genuine romance cannot flourish in Tinseltown.

10. Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland
He was one of cinema's greatest action heroes, who waited 30 years to achieve stardom. He was happily married to
British-born actress Jill Ireland until her death after a long battle with cancer.

11. Shirley Temple and Charles Black
Since 1950, former child star and diplomat Shirley Temple has been married to businessman Charles Black. In contrast
to most child stars who prove unable to grow up, her adult life has been crammed with achievements.

12. Dorothy Dandridge and Otto Preminger
He was the 'director from hell' who turned the fiery nightclub entertainer into a star in Carmen Jones.Their romance
was passionate, stormy – and doomed.

13. Henry and Shirlee Fonda
Hollywood patriarch Henry Fonda was five times married and often at odds with his equally stellar children. But his
romance with Shirlee proved in a rock in a stormy private life.

14. Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh
In the early Fifties it was hard to decide who was prettier – the dashing star of Some Like It Hot and countless Universal
hokum adventures, or his beautiful wife, who was famously murdered in the shower in Hitchcock’s Psycho. She loyally
supported him by subordinating her career to his and providing him with a famous daughter.

15. Fernando Lamas and Esther Williams
The romance between Latin lover Fernando and the million-dollar mermaid Esther Williams has recently been richly
chronicled in her best-selling autobiography.

16. Betty Grable and Harry James
She had the million-dollar legs and he was the man with the golden trumpet.Theirs was one of the most long-lived
of Hollywood's marriages.

17. Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Reville
Alfred Hitchcock remains an enduring figure of fascination for movie buffs and his marriage to fellow Briton Alma
Reville gives an intriguing insight into the master director's character.

18. Oleg Cassini and Gene Tierney
When one of the most beautiful leading ladies from Hollywood's heyday married the doyen of New York fashion, a
glittering future beckoned. But their hopes of happiness were dashed by the birth of a severely retarded daughter.

19. Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester
Theirs was one of the most touching and adult relationships in Hollywood, which survived the tortured emotional
life of one of Britain's greatest actors.

20. Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Joan Crawford
He was a Hollywood prince. She was a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who clawed her way to the top, like
the heroine of so many of her movies.

21. John Huston and Evelyn Keyes
Huston was one of Hollywood's greatest directors and libertines – but he met his match in feisty actress and former
chorus dancer, Evelyn Keyes.Their stormy relationship lasted four passion-filled years.

22. Gary Merrill and Bette Davies
For a brief period, Gary Merrill basked in the shadow cast by one of Hollywood's greatest divas. The tensions this
caused inevitably doomed the marriage.

23. Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev
The world was genuinely moved when the former Soviet first lady died of leukaemia. Raisa had stood by her
husband's side throughout an extraordinary career which changed the face of world politics.

24. Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft
"We're so close we interchange roles. I can become the wonderfully statuesque, feminine Anne Bancroft, she becomes
the Yiddish Mel.Well, have you ever seen me in eyelashes and Dior, or her in a yarmulke?" Producer/director Mel
Brooks married Oscar-winning actress Anne Bancroft in 1964. Although she was Mel's second wife, and he was her
second husband, their love was meant to last and they have been together ever since.

25. Dashiel Hammett and Lillian Hellman
The romance between these two rebel American writers spanned 30 years, during which time they created some of
the great literary works of the 20th Century. Together they fought for social justice, and faced their greatest trials
during the McCarthy era.They had everything in common: genius, infidelity, alcoholism… Yet nothing they wrote could
equal the love story they lived.

26. Candice Bergen and Louis Malle
Her career began as 'sister' to the world's most famous dummy, then blossomed as a model, actress and photojournalist.
Her marriage to one of France's leading directors who also established himself in Hollywood was cut short
by his premature death.