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They Knew What They Wanted (1940)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  19 October 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 259 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 4 critic

Tony (Charles Laughton), a successful but illiterate middle-aged grape farmer, sends the photograph of his handsome young foreman, Joe (William Gargan), instead of his own, hoping to woo ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (from the Pulitzer Prize Play by)
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Title: They Knew What They Wanted (1940)

They Knew What They Wanted (1940) on IMDb 6.5/10

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Complete credited cast:
William Gargan ...
The doctor
Father McKee
Joseph E. Bernard ...
The R.F.D. (as Joe Bernard)
Janet Fox ...
Lee Tung Foo ...
Ah Gee, the Cook (as Lee Tung-Foo)
Victor Kilian ...
The photographer


Tony (Charles Laughton), a successful but illiterate middle-aged grape farmer, sends the photograph of his handsome young foreman, Joe (William Gargan), instead of his own, hoping to woo and marry Amy (Carole Lombard), a waitress in a San Francisco restaurant. Through a series of letters, the two become close and Tony invites his "future wife" to visit. When the beautiful, young Amy arrives at Tony's Napa, California ranch she falls for the wrong man thinking that Joe is the wealthy Tony. When Tony tries to win her over in broken English, she is at first furious and then charmed. But Tony breaks his legs while showing off to impress Amy, and -- left alone to care for a cripple -- she reluctantly succumbs to Joe's charms and becomes pregnant. Although Tony discovers that he has been cuckolded and that Joe has run off, his anger turns to genuine love and he offers to take Amy back unconditionally for the sake of the child and his own true feelings for Amy. Written by E. Summer

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


You have seen great motion pictures! We believe you have not seen a greater motion picture than this!


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 October 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sabían lo que querían  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In March 1941, RKO was distributing this film on a double bill with Queen of Destiny (1938). (Queen of Destiny (1938) was distributed with the alternate title "Queen of Destiny".) See more »


Tony Patucci: Looka me, Tony!
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Version of The Secret Hour (1928) See more »


Vieni sul Mar
Arranged by Roy Webb
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User Reviews

Charles not in charge
29 November 2002 | by (Whitechapel after dark) – See all my reviews

Charles Laughton goes sort of over the top in this little movie. The plot is reminiscent of "Postman Always Rings Twice", i.e. sweet lil' immigrant meets girl & loses girl to employee, but without James M Cain's violence. Laughton's Tony really is a most happy fella, & Lombard is as usual, steamy. Totally by chance, I happened to do a double bill of this and the 1935 Mutiny On The Bounty. I should have added Ruggles Of Red Gap, Hunchback, Hobson's Choice, and Witness For The Prosecution for a total Laughton immersion. This was filmed on location in an incredibly rural Napa Valley, and if you're familiar with Napa Valley, you may recognize what is now the Calistoga Inn/Napa Valley Brewing as Tony's local cantina/bar. I'd like to see a cleaned up version of this, as the print I saw was verrry dark. Good little movie.

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