CATEGORIES Action, Classics, Comedy, Romance, Thrillers, Cinematical Seven, Remakes and Sequels, Lists, Cinematical
Tina Fey and Steve Carell play a married couple mistaken for spies in the new comedy Date Night. At first shown as a boring suburban husband and wife, they find themselves involved in an action plot consisting of corrupt cops, gangsters, chases and shoot outs. Sound familiar? Well, at least neither one actually turns out to be a spy, a la Mr. and Mrs. Smith, True Lies and the upcoming Killers. No, they're just an average Jane and Joe unexpectedly and unwillingly thrust into a night of adventure. But they aren't the first spousal duo to find themselves in an action scenario. Just recall the following seven couples of yore:
Bob and Jill Lawrence in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1936)
In Alfred Hitchcock's first version of this suspense story, Leslie Banks and Edna Best play a British couple just trying to vacation in Switzerland with their daughter, but the family gets mixed up in a political assassination plot after befriending a foreign man staying in their hotel. The daughter ends up kidnapped (by Peter Lorre, in his first English-language film) and the couple has to rescue her and also foil the conspiracy. What's great about the original TMWKTM is how important the wife is in the action, due to her abilities as a skeet shooter. The 1956 remake (also directed by Hitch) has its own merits, of course, starring James Stewart and Doris Day as the husband and wife. The main differences with the later version is that the couple have a son instead of a daughter and the wife's talent is for singing rather than shooting.
Julie and Richard Sturges in Titanic (1953)
An estranged couple played by Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb are off to America. The wife has secretly dragged their two kids onto an ocean liner in order to get them away from their father. He finds out about the custody battle cheat and makes it onto the boat, too. But then their family drama is suddenly diminished by a more pressing situation: the ship has hit an iceberg and is going down! Yep, they're on the Titanic, in case you couldn't figure that out from the title.
Mike and Susie Vargas in Touch of Evil (1956)
In the famous first few minutes, a lengthy tracking shot follows Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh as newlyweds walking over the Mexico/U.S. border for a chocolate soda "for my wife." They get into the States and kiss. Then, a car explodes! The husband is a Mexican government official, and he subsequently puts himself into the investigation of the bombing, leading himself into a clash with an obese, corrupt police captain (played by the film's director, Orson Welles) and his wife into a very unfortunate motel experience.
Connie and Curtis in Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Another set of newlyweds, Yeardley Smith (aka the voice of Lisa Simpson) and John Short are a couple who wind up spending their honeymoon stranded at a North Carolina rest stop when machines -- especially trucks -- come to life. They're just two members of an ensemble of survivors struggling to stay alive, but outside of Pat Hingle they're the best part of this action horror flick written and directed by Stephen King. For another married couple stuck in the middle of an action horror plot, see Tremors, in which Reba McEntire and Michael Gross play the more gung ho Gummers -- heavily armed, they're more like the Hingle character in Overdrive.
John McClane and Holly Gennaro in Die Hard (1988)
Bruce Willis' iconic terrorist-fighting cop is kind of like Heston's character in Touch of Evil in that he's at least in a profession qualifying him to get involved in the action. Yet John McClane is also like Mike Vargas in that he just wanted to spend some time with his wife (Bonnie Bedelia). He's still basically an average Joe thrust into a situation he wasn't expecting. For the most part, the husband is the hero -- with help from Reginald VelJohnson -- but Holly gets in on the action in her own way in the end, displaying a mean punch for a subplot payoff. And of course they're coincidentally thrust all over again in Die Hard 2.
Marge and Dick Nelson in Mom and Dad Save the World (1992)
Teri Garr and Jeffrey Jones are a couple celebrating their 20th anniversary when an evil emperor (Jon Lovitz) interferes by hijacking their station wagon with his powerful Magnobeam (set to "very high"), bringing them to a planet of idiots and anthropomorphic bulldogs and fish. In a play on the Flash Gordon story, the wife is wanted by the emperor to be his own bride. Her husband won't stand for it, though, and takes down the emperor with the help of some rebels, light grenades and a vanity-targeted Trojan Horse.
Clarence and Alabama Worley in True Romance (1993)
These relatively innocent newlyweds, played by Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, should have expected they'd wind up in a big action plot. After all, they're on the run with a found suitcase full of heroin and looking to unload the drugs in exchange for a nice little nest egg. Eventually the mob and the cops are after them, resulting in a scene that rivals Janet Leigh's Touch of Evil experience for the scariest hotel-set situation that one could find him/herself in.