What are the greatest (yet most original) love affairs of all time?
December 22, 2012 6:51 AM   Subscribe

What are the greatest (yet most original) love affairs of all time?

Every time I Google terms around the best love affairs or greatest romances or most amazing relationships I get the same old lists - Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra etc.

But I'm looking for a big list of much more imaginative approaches. Anything from history, current affairs, pop culture, literature, music...and it doesn't need to be heteronormative (ie men and women)...it could be same gender, it could be groups, it can be trans people etc.

Posh and Becks
Sonny and Cher
Bill and Hillary Clinton
Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes
Henry and June Miller and Anais Nin
Elton John and David Furnish
Mr Big and Carrie Bradshaw

Go for your lives - this can be as varied and as unexpected as possible. I'm not asking for anyone to weigh up the greatness of the relationships, just to dig down into their imaginations to find great romantic teamings.
posted by skylar to Human Relations (76 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Buttercup and Westley
posted by NoraCharles at 7:00 AM on December 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

Can you say what makes an affair qualify as "great" for your purposes? What distinguishes this from just a list of famous couples?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:01 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you tried more targeted searches? You've got quite a combination there of fictional, literary, academia, historical, contemporary, pop culture, political, etc. Search for specific lists and most won't have Romeo & Juliet on them.
posted by headnsouth at 7:03 AM on December 22, 2012

Just saw a documentary on Cleopatra : her relationships (Caesar then Anthony) has entered history. Someone should really write a play about them or something.
posted by Baud at 7:10 AM on December 22, 2012

There is a golden record with the sounds of Ann Druyan&Carl Sagan's love for each other floating through space.

Ann Druyan writing on Carl Sagan's death is actually something I refer to on how to cope with mortality as an atheist all the time.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:13 AM on December 22, 2012 [26 favorites]

For me it is Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen. Clause the artist and Coosje a curator and Clauses 2nd wife. They worked on several collaborative art pieces.
posted by i_wear_boots at 7:14 AM on December 22, 2012

I got to interview John Glenn several years ago, and we ended up talking about his marriage. He knew his wife since they were babies - they literally played in the same crib together. They knew each other their entire lives, and there was never any doubt for them, he said.

I also noticed that whenever he talked about any of his accomplishments, he never once said "I' ... it was always "we." I thought that was deeply beautiful.
posted by jbickers at 7:15 AM on December 22, 2012 [16 favorites]

If Bill and Hillary Clinton fit, maybe Zeus and Hera? Since Zeus was always two-timin' as well... Also brother and sister, for your non-normative bit.
posted by XMLicious at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2012

If you're allowing fictional characters, Joel and Clementine top my list.
posted by ronofthedead at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2012

Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder.
Wall-E and EVE.
posted by kpht at 7:18 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Miss Piggy and Kermit. Or, even better, Gonzo and Camilla - they don't get the drama or the big romantic duets, but they're so clearly soulmates.
posted by Catseye at 7:22 AM on December 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

Simon Bolivar and Manuela Saenz. Saenz and her relayionship with Bolivar has been a subject of renewed interest in recent years.
posted by drlith at 7:23 AM on December 22, 2012

Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
posted by HotToddy at 7:24 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I always thought Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles were kind of an amazing love story, despite the tragic impact on Diana.
posted by walla at 7:27 AM on December 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

For fictional lovers, I like the relationship between Smokey and Daily Alice in Little, Big by John Crowley. It has passion, mystery, longstanding affection, and depth, and we get to see the development of their relationship across their entire lives in a way that resonated very much for me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:28 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jay-Z and Beyonce are a great couple.
posted by mismatched at 7:31 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
posted by discopolo at 7:34 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Abelard and Heloise
posted by HeroZero at 7:34 AM on December 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton?
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:35 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bogart and Bacall!
posted by susanvance at 7:38 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stieglitz. I find his photographs of her to be astoundingly romantic.
posted by Stacey at 7:41 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Charles and Rae Eames
Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth, of Cheaper by the Dozen fame
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:44 AM on December 22, 2012

I think I might take issue with your definition of "great" - most of the couples you listed had a lot of angst, infidelity, substance abuse/mental illness and general drama involved in their relationships. I would think it would be exhausting to be any of them.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:44 AM on December 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

Arguable, but Achilles and Patroclus.
posted by Spinneret at 7:56 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ennis and Jack in Brokeback Mountain (story and movie). Dawn and Tim in the British version of The Office. Count Laszlo de Almásy and Katharine Clifton in The English Patient. Seth and Alma in Deadwood.
posted by Ms. Toad at 8:19 AM on December 22, 2012

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone Debeauvoir!
posted by pazazygeek at 8:21 AM on December 22, 2012

Violet Trefusis and Vita Sackville-West.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:22 AM on December 22, 2012

Christian and Satine from Moulin Rouge, which I still think is one of the most romantic movies ever made.
posted by naoko at 8:27 AM on December 22, 2012

I sort of love the story of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. He was married to someone else (though they lived apart, they never divorced). She was this larger-than-life woman who had built her career on being this character who was independent and didn't need a man to take care of her. But when they met, they fell madly, blindingly in love with one another. Tracy stayed married to his wife, and Hepburn kept her own home and career. They loved one another largely in secret, but they were utterly devoted to one another. They were in love for twenty-seven years and made nine spectacularly good movies together. When Tracy fell ill with heart disease, Hepburn took a five-year break from her own career to take care of him until his death. Nearly fifteen years later, after Tracy's wife died, Hepburn spoke publicly for the first time about their relationship. The way she described it was that although she couldn't say how he felt about her, for her, it was "absolute bliss."
posted by decathecting at 8:39 AM on December 22, 2012 [12 favorites]

How about these middle-aged gay couples, who are beaming in their wedding photos after decades of waiting, every time gay marriage gets legalised somewhere?
posted by ersatz at 8:51 AM on December 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

Comics-spoilers in links, but Monsieur Mallah and The Brain: One's a super-intelligent gorilla, the other's a brilliant brain in a jar; together, they commit crime! And love!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:59 AM on December 22, 2012

Alexander & Hephaestion. Hadrian & Antinous.
posted by SollosQ at 9:13 AM on December 22, 2012

How about Alan Rickman and Rima Horton? According to Wikipedia, they met in 1965 and have been living together since 1977.
posted by rjs at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2012

Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein
posted by hotelechozulu at 9:50 AM on December 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

Harold and Maude.
posted by mefireader at 9:51 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nicholas and Alexandra

Richard and Mildred Loving

Fictional, from "... And Ladies of the Club": Ludwig and Sally Cochran Rausch, Doug and Barbara Bodien Gardiner, John and Anne Alexander Gordon.
posted by jgirl at 9:57 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mulder and Scully!

I feel sort of stalkerish suggesting it, but I think Bono and Ali Hewson are ridiculously cute. (They've known each other since they were children and been married since 1982.)
posted by Violet Hour at 10:29 AM on December 22, 2012

Harold Pinter and Antonia Fraser. As detailed in Must You Go?
posted by geryon at 10:53 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:57 AM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
posted by illenion at 11:05 AM on December 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 11:41 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson
posted by Confess, Fletch at 11:43 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Barack and Michelle!
posted by capricorn at 11:51 AM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Two of my best friends (and the parents of my godson) are both actors. They have been together for about fifteen years and met while doing a play. This is not terribly unusual for actors, but he was Romeo and she was Juliet. If I saw that in a romcom, I would think it forced and hokey, but there it is.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:07 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rick and Ilsa?
Rhett and Scarlett?
And me and this whole thread. Seriously. Love.

One more: One of the most startlingly, strikingly romantic movies I've ever seen is Girl on the Bridge. Adele and Gabor are soulmates with an indelible connection to each other, whether they like it or not. It's so hard for movies to capture how people get each other, and how it's not always pretty, but the world simply doesn't make sense for one without the other.
posted by mochapickle at 12:22 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Johnny Cash and June Carter.
posted by sageleaf at 12:23 PM on December 22, 2012 [10 favorites]

Mary and Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey.
posted by gentian at 12:28 PM on December 22, 2012

I know almost nothing of the marriage of Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, Mabel Hubbard, but this photo of the two of them kissing while standing in one of his inventions always struck me as too adorable for words.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 1:27 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

John Cage and Merce Cunningham.
Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane.
The "Ladies of Llangollen," Lady Eleanor Butler and the Honorable Sarah Ponsonby.
Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson---their son's book Portrait of a
shows how intense their love was in the context of their open relationship and primarily lesbian/gay orientations.
Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, another open marriage that flourished.
Marie and Pierre Curie.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:21 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Isidor and Ida Straus.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:23 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

My favorite fictional romance is Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth in Persuasion---the scene where he writes her the love letter while she is consoling Captain Harville is to me the most intensely romantic thing in literature.

Second favorite is a toss-up between lots of others, from Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane to Thursday Next and Landen Parke-Laine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:26 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Marie and Pierre Curie

James and Nora Joyce

For Canadians, although polarising political figures, no one ever doubted that Jack Layton and Olivia Chow were absolutely meant for each other.

Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West
posted by saucysault at 2:28 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero met and fell in love on the set of Camelot in 1967 and had a child together. Other relationships came and went, but they kept in touch. They eventually rekindled their romance in the mid 90s, and were wed in 2006.
posted by plasticpalacealice at 2:28 PM on December 22, 2012

Anne Shirley & Gilbert Blythe.
posted by littlegreen at 2:38 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, based his iconic character on the two women he loved: his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and Olive Byrne. The three lived together happily for many years and raised children together. After William's death in 1947, Elizabeth and Olive continued to live together for around 40 years more, until Olive died in the late '80s.
posted by Someone Else's Story at 2:50 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nick and Nora Charles

Also, seconding Harold and Maude

Maybe not as original, but Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn had a great life together.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:04 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

True Romance
posted by roboton666 at 4:07 PM on December 22, 2012

Titus and Berenice: son of a Roman emperor (and later emperor himself) and a Jewish princess. Add in the fact that he was the guy who took Jerusalem and conquered her country after the Jewish revolt and Roman law forbade their marriage and it's all sorts of messed up.

Dora Carrington and Lytton Srachey (the film is gorgeous but depressing). An unconsummated relationship (due to his will, not hers).

Dionysus and Ariadne. Psyche and Cupid. (Happy endings in Greek myth are rare; second chances even rarer: these stories have both. Psyche goes to the underworld to get Cupid back, a heroic feat in itself.)

Isis and Osiris.

Iphis and Ianthe. Genderswapping in Ovid: Iphis is a woman raised as a boy (to save his life because his father threatened to expose a girl if that's what his wife gave birth to). Juno turns him into a boy so he can marry Ianthe.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:22 PM on December 22, 2012

Did anyone mention George and Gracie Burns?
posted by Windigo at 10:44 PM on December 22, 2012

Christo and Jean-Claude! My favorite artist duo ever!
posted by ruhroh at 10:48 PM on December 22, 2012

Prince William and Kate Middleton. They met in college, were friends (and flatmates) for a while before they started dating - it just seems so normal and that, to me, makes it original.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:58 PM on December 22, 2012

Mulder and Scully had a relationship that was unlike anything else on TV. Their sexual tension was driven almost entirely by the intellectual banter they shared and the immense professional respect they held for each other. The actors had such insane chemistry that sparks flew every time one so much as glanced at the other. But poor writing decisions caused the show to bungle up the part when their romantic feelings are finally requited. Like many die-hard X-Files fans, I like to pretend that the show ended halfway through season 6. But Mulder and Scully will always stand out to me as one of the greatest and most unique fictional romances ever.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:30 AM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

George Burns and Gracie Allen is a great example! Also Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone, and Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:44 AM on December 23, 2012

Victoria and Albert. Since Victoria's pool of qualified potential spouses extended to about eight candidates, they enjoyed incredible luck in finding one another. True joy and devotion, that pair.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:06 AM on December 23, 2012

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon are an incredibly badass American love story. Civil rights warriors and exemplary citizens.
posted by ao4047 at 9:26 AM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Found this one last night: Christopher and Gitte Lee. They've been married for 51 years! He is a total badass and all-around fascinating person. Waiting until relatively late in life to marry and then being together for so long, it seems like there should be a good romantic story behind it.

Julien & Sophie in Love Me if You Dare. Definitely check out this movie for a great but bordering on disturbing love affair!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 10:00 AM on December 23, 2012

John Crichton and Aeryn Sun from Farscape. Passionate, angsty and occasionally downright hilarious science fiction romance, with added muppety goodness.
posted by toadflax at 11:28 AM on December 23, 2012

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning! Brief outline here: Elizabeth Barrett was an invalid, homebound with a possessive father, but she and Robert Browning fell in love basically through each other's poetry. They courted first by means of writing love letters; eventually she allowed him to visit her in her room, and that led to a secret marriage and elopement to Italy. Upon hearing the news, Wordsworth is reported to have remarked, "Well, I hope they understand one another - nobody else would."
posted by sigmagalator at 3:02 PM on December 23, 2012

Leonor Fini, Stanislao Lepri & Konstanty Jeleński. The three of them began living together in Paris in 1952, and they stayed together for the rest of their lives (Fini, surrealist artist and the most famous of the three, died last, in 1996).
posted by obloquy at 3:54 PM on December 23, 2012

Gilbert and George.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:49 AM on December 24, 2012

Harry and Ginny.
posted by horizonseeker at 8:15 AM on December 24, 2012

James Joyce and Nora Barnacle?
posted by Aubergine at 4:11 PM on December 26, 2012

Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz.

Gustav and Alma Mahler.

Brahms and Clara Schumann.

Ulrich and Diotima from A Man Without Qualities.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:25 PM on December 27, 2012

Artists in love
posted by unliteral at 4:11 PM on January 14, 2013

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