US Release Date: 01-31-1941
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
- Carole Lombard, as
- Ann Krausheimer Smith
- Robert Montgomery, as
- David Smith
- Gene Raymond, as
- Jeff Custer
- Jack Carson, as
- Chuck Benson
- Philip Merivale, as
- Mr. Custer
- Lucile Watson, as
- Mrs. Custer
- William Tracy as
Carole Lombard in Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a dangerous film for couples to watch. Early in the movie a wife asks a question that any sane husband would hate to answer. The lesson is that honesty is not always the best policy; but love always prevails.
Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery are Mr. and Mrs. Smith. As the movie opens the couple have locked themselves in their bedroom. Obviously they are mad at each other. They have a rule that they never leave the bedroom until their argument is over. In fact they have lots of rules in their relationship. Another rule is that they can ask each other a question that the other must honestly answer. Mrs. Smith asks Mr. Smith if he would still marry her if he could do it all over again. He answers that he loves her but he would not.
Shortly thereafter they find out that their marriage is not legal and thus they are in fact not married. When Mr. Smith fails to propose right away to Mrs. Smith they get in a fight and break up. Each start dating other people and of course they each get jealous of one another. The romantic ending in a snowy cabin nearly makes this a holiday romance.
This film is notable for many things. This is Hitchcock's rare comedy. Sure he did The Trouble with Harry but this is his only straight-out comedy that does not involve a dead body. Mrs. Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, would make only one more film after this one. Her death was a true Hollywood tragedy. Carole Lombard was as beautiful as she was talented. Even my favorite B actor of the time, Jack Carson, has a small role as Mr. Smith's relationship advisor.
The morality in the movie is funny to the point of ridiculous. It is just being used as a plot device but it is almost too absurd to believe. Mrs. Smith's mother is upset to find out that her daughter is living in sin. Of course Mrs. Smith assures her mother that she will not be sleeping with Mr. Smith since that would be immoral. They have been sleeping together for three years!?
The film is funny in places but it works better as a romance and a study in relationships. If we could all do it over again, would we all still end up with the person we are with now? Of course we will never know. But a word to the wise; if your significant other ever asks - you had better say yes!
Robert Montgomery and a cat in Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
The name Alfred Hitchcock does not summon up the screwball comedy genre but Hitch pulls it off nearly without one. The cast sparkles, the script is witty but the absurdity of the central plot device staggers under the weight of the story. By those final scenes in the snowy cabin it all feels a bit too staged. Don’t get me wrong this is a charming movie, it just fails to achieve true classic status.
Carole Lombard was such a natural comedienne and so luminously beautiful. She is effortlessly funny in this movie and her untimely death left a giant hole in Hollywood. Robert Montgomery is likewise excellent. He matches her laugh for laugh as they banter scintillating repartee back and forth like it’s the finals at Wimbledon. The ease with which they bicker belies their true rapport.
The scene where David takes Ann to what used to be their favorite restaurant during their courtship is hilarious. Under new management what was once a charmingly romantic spot is now a greasy spoon. They make the best of it by having a table set up on the sidewalk but soon find themselves being stared at by a group of hungry looking local urchins. There is also a cat that refuses to eat the soup to David’s gastronomical dismay (see photo above).
Eric enjoyed the presence of Jack Carson and I too am a fan of that prolific character actor. But, after the titular couple, it is Gene Raymond as David’s rival Jeff that gets the most laughs. He takes Ann on a date to the 1939 World’s Fair, which was still in operation in Queens at the time this movie was made. They get stuck way up in the air on a ride and then it begins to pour. Later, at Jeff’s apartment, Ann convinces him to drink some whiskey for medicinal purposes to ward off pneumonia. Jeff tells an amusing anecdote explaining why he has never touched a drop of alcohol in his life. His facial expressions after his first time imbibing are priceless.
Other than his trademark cameo and a few examples of his signature camera movement you would never guess this to be an Alfred Hitchcock flick. That he was willing and able to tackle a movie so different in style to the mystery/thriller/horror genres he was famous for is a true testament to his genius. Mr. & Mrs. Smith may not be a perfect movie but it is an entertaining one.
Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard in Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
I was less impressed by this movie than either of you. It's not hard to see why Hitchcock didn't do many comedies. He does a workmanlike job with this one, but brings nothing extra to it at all. Any anonymous director could have done just as adequate a job as he does. He's certainly no Howard Hawks or Preston Sturges.
Carole Lombard was beautiful and a terrific comedienne, but even she can only do so much with this limited material. She's not helped by the fact that her character isn't all that likable. She's manipulative and enjoys playing emotional games even three years into her marriage. I also never really believed in the chemistry between her and Robert Montgomery and I especially didn't see any chemistry between her and Gene Raymond.
Eric you mention the morality and the attitudes of Ann and her mother regarding sex once they find out that she and David are no longer married and I agree that it's laughable. I blame the production code of course. The subject of sex is danced around ever so delicately. The truth is that Ann is a drama queen who likes a good roll in the hay. She wants David to passionately win her back. Jeff is such a cold fish that he never stands a chance with her. It's all kept so subtle though that the story itself lacks passion.
There are a few funny parts. The scene at the restaurant that you mentioned Patrick is easily the funniest scene in the movie. There's another scene at a nightclub where David goes on a double date with a couple of floozies while Ann is at another table that's never quite as funny as it tries to be. Patrick, I'm not sure what you saw in Gene Raymond. Apart from his one drunk scene, he's fairly lackluster.
This is a mildly amusing comedy with a sitcom plot. It's not horrible by any means, but it's also not that great either. It lacks the energy, wit and bite of a really good screwball comedy.
Photos © Copyright RKO Radio Pictures Inc. (1941)