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They Knew What They Wanted (1940)

6.5
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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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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:

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  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Quotes

Tony Patucci: Looka me, Tony!
See more »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

Tesoro Mio
(uncredited)
Music by Ernesto Becucci
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User Reviews

 
Unusual casting for the leads
5 April 2014 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

For some reasons all three of the big screen versions of Sidney Howard's Pulitzer Prize winning play They Knew What They Wanted have been unavailable for years. Not seen on television and not out in any form, it certainly was lucky that someone put this out on YouTube. Also unusual in that the only Oscar recognition this film got was William Gargan's nomination for Best Supporting Actor as the Christian role in Sidney Howard's twist on the Cyrano DeBergerac story.

Charles Laughton is a lusty Italian immigrant who's got the biggest ranch in the Napa Valley in California and he's the richest guy around. Laughton with his Italian accent gives a Mediterranean flavor to his own Oscar winning role that of Henry VIII. That scene at the feast where he shows off his strength and vitality reminded so much of the wrestling scene in The Private Life Of Henry VIII.

But unlike a king who can just command a marriage to his royal person, Laughton for all his wealth and power is not the handsomest fellow around. So when he decides to marry waitress Carole Lombard, Laughton sends a picture of that handsome devil William Gargan who's known to be a devil with all the local women.

Lombard is cast against type, she's usually an urban girl of some means. She sees no future just slinging hash and snappy dialog in her hash house job and she accepts the Laughton/Gargan proposal. She even agrees to go through with it after meeting Laughton. But afterward the story takes a different turn as Laughton is injured and in a long convalescence of his 'tibia and fibula' Lombard starts looking at Gargan and Gargan starts looking back.

I won't go any further except to say that the ending here is not what Sidney Howard originally wrote. But the Code was in place and Howard having died the year before was in no position to complain. It ruins the film though, but the Code had to be served. Great performances by Laughton and Lombard are wasted. Gargan who usually played all kinds of police roles in and out of uniform was also good in a role that was against type for him as well.

Still a chance to see legends Lombard and Laughton together is worth it. They were together in a bad film years earlier when both were under contract to Paramount called White Woman. They Knew What They Wanted is so much better.


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