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They Knew What They Wanted (1940)

6.5
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 208 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 3 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 »

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(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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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast

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

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

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Taglines:

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

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

19 October 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

They Knew What They Wanted  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Basis for the Broadway musical Most Happy Fella. See more »

Quotes

Tony Patucci: Looka me, Tony!
See more »

Connections

Version of Great Performances: The Most Happy Fella (1980) See more »

Soundtracks

Vieni sul Mar
(uncredited)
Traditional
Arranged by Roy Webb
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Most Dated Fella
15 January 2001 | by See all my reviews

Pretty darn grown-up for its day, this atmospheric adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play has waitress Lombard wooed by immigrant winegrower Laughton, becoming his mail-order bride, having an affair with ranch foreman Gargan, carrying his child, and being forgiven for it. (In this version, though, she has to go off and do some Breen Office penance first.) It's one of the very few dramas made under the Production Code where the unwed mother doesn't contract a fatal disease, die in a car crash, or plunge herself off a cliff. Lombard, an unparalleled comedienne, gets to show off her considerable and underrated acting chops, while Laughton does an unsubtle "paisano" caricature that might have been considered great acting in its day (this, after all, was the Paul Muni wig-and-accent era) but has dated badly. Lombard smolders in her scenes with the Oscar-nominated Gargan, their adultery cleverly conveyed by director Kanin through long soulful gazes, dark shadows, and moody music. Some other welcome faces turn up in tiny roles (Karl Malden, Tom Ewell, Nestor Paiva), and the only real irritant is Frank Fay's impossibly noble priest, lit from behind like a madonna and forever mouthing holier-than-thou "God is smiling on us" dialogue. You want to smack him one.

Stage musical fans who want to see how Frank Loesser's great "The Most Happy Fella" plays without music will be pleased to observe how faithful he was to the source material, and the characters' emotions really do sing here. It's a fast and unpretentious little film, and another reminder (as if we needed it) of how badly we were robbed by Lombard's early death.


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