6.5/10
256
8 user 4 critic

They Knew What They Wanted (1940)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 19 October 1940 (USA)
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 »

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (from the Pulitzer Prize Play by)
Reviews
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Nurse Anne Lee blames herself for a fatal mistake of her sister Lucy, who also is a nurse. Anne loses her job, and gets a new one at a poorly equipped country hospital. There she falls in ... See full summary »

Director: George Stevens
Stars: Carole Lombard, Anne Shirley, Brian Aherne
Comedy | Music | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Rene is broke and Kay is a rich actress visiting Paris. They meet, share a cab and dinner. He is smitten by her, but she leaves for London and he follows. At her house, when he cooks the ... See full summary »

Directors: Mervyn LeRoy, Bobby Connolly
Stars: Carole Lombard, Fernand Gravey, Ralph Bellamy
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Helen and Ken are a pretty strange couple. She is a pathological liar, and he is a scrupulously honest (and therefore unsuccessful) lawyer. Helen starts a new job, and when her employer is ... See full summary »

Director: Wesley Ruggles
Stars: Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, John Barrymore
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A rich businessman stalks another man's fiance in this screwball comedy.

Director: Walter Lang
Stars: Carole Lombard, Preston Foster, Cesar Romero
Firecreek (1968)
Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A peace-loving, part-time sheriff in the small town of Firecreek must take a stand when a gang of vicious outlaws takes over his town.

Director: Vincent McEveety
Stars: James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Inger Stevens
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Yacht owner is stranded on island with her socialite friends, a wacky husband and wife research team, and a singing sailor.

Director: Norman Taurog
Stars: Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard, George Burns
In Name Only (1939)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

While out riding in the country, wealthy New Yorker Alec Walker meets young widow Julie Eden, and a relationship quickly develops. However, Alec has not told her that he is already locked ... See full summary »

Director: John Cromwell
Stars: Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis
The Gay Bride (1934)
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Gangster Shoots Magiz is the producer of the show in which Mary is appearing. She marries him even though she can't stand a thing about him, knowing that in his business he may not be ... See full summary »

Director: Jack Conway
Stars: Carole Lombard, Chester Morris, Zasu Pitts
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A woman pretends to be royalty in order to get aboard a cruise ship.

Director: William K. Howard
Stars: Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Douglass Dumbrille
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A loafer and a manicurist, both planning to marry money, meet and form an uneasy alliance.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Ralph Bellamy
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Hazel Flagg of Warsaw, Vermont receives the news that her terminal case of radium poisoning from a workplace incident was a complete misdiagnosis with mixed emotions. She is happy not to be... See full summary »

Director: William A. Wellman
Stars: Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Young lawyer meets and marries girl after knowing her one day. Takes bride home to meet his mother who disapproves of the marriage. Lawyer thinks everything will be fine as he moves up the ... See full summary »

Director: John Cromwell
Stars: Carole Lombard, James Stewart, Charles Coburn
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
Joe
...
The doctor
...
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
Edit

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 »
Edit

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  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Partially filmed in Napa Valley at what is now the Calistoga Inn, and at St Helena's train station. 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
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

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.


3 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Discuss They Knew What They Wanted (1940) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?