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The Greatest Love Stories of the Century

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There’s no doubt: It is a many-splendored thing. “I want to love first,” as Zelda Fitzgerald (page 163) wrote to F. Scott, “and live incidentally.” But love’s a complicated thing as well. The grand passions that burn across the following 61 pages—whether cautionary tales of incendiary instinct or three-hankie sagas of enduring devotion—can’t help but capture our imagination. “When you look at the ones that went on forever,” says syndicated gossip columnist and veteran romance observer Cindy Adams, “it’s not because they were based on love, sex, romance, passion. It’s because the woman was made of granite.” Nancy Reagan (page 150), for instance, signed on with Ron for the long haul. Other affairs are conducted in Dysfunction Junction, like the tempestuous merger of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (page 60). Some end in tragedy, as when Carole Lombard died in a plane crash, leaving Clark Gable (with her at right in 1933 and on page 124) shattered. Whatever feelings they arouse, it’s a good idea to savor these stories. In the age of the 30-second marriage, they may come no more.