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As a long-time Hitchcock fan, I avoided this as I would some of his silent dramas, as not typical of his work. However, I just watched one of the funniest, smartest, and sweetest screwball comedies I have ever seen, ranking for me with My Man Godfrey and Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Carole Lombard is absolutely radiant and I found myself laughing out loud many times, something I don't do usually when watching a movie alone. I adored it and I can't see why its rating isn't higher here. Hitchcock excelled as much at comedy as suspense and this one proves it.
According to the Films of Alfred Hitchcock, Carole Lombard prevailed
upon Alfred Hitchcock to direct one her comedy films as a favor. Since
Hitchcock admired her talent he did so.
It's important to remember that this is a Carole Lombard film and view it that way. Viewed as such it's not a bad marital comedy though if one is expecting certain Hitchcock touches they won't be there.
Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard are a constantly spatting married couple. They love each other, but to them arguing is like exercise. In a moment of oneupsmanship Montgomery answers in the affirmative to a question by Lombard as to whether he'd marry her if he had to do it all over again.
His words come back to haunt him when Charles Halton from Lombard's hometown in Idaho and says that because of a technicality they're not legally married. Montgomery spends the rest of the film trying to win Lombard back.
Some of the best movie comedies have been made on a premise flimsier than this one. Mr.&Mrs. Smith is not the best of comedies, but it is far from the worst.
I have a feeling that Alfred Hitchcock may have had Lombard in mind for future projects more of his own taste. I can see her easily in some of his later films. Lombard was only 32 when she died.
Pity we'll never know.
This is a good example of a movie that could be quite disappointing for
anyone who had too many or too specific expectations for it. It's an
Alfred Hitchcock movie, but it's not at all like any of his
better-known films. The offbeat premise leads you to expect a
1930s-style screwball comedy, but instead it has a different brand of
The tone of the film blends together the screwball plot idea with Hitchcock's dry sense of humor and the upbeat charm of Carole Lombard. It's something of an odd combination, but it works all right as long as you don't have too many preconceptions.
Lombard and Robert Montgomery work well as "Mr. & Mrs. Smith", who find out at the beginning of the movie that they are not really married. Most of the story that follows moves at a decent pace, and although there are never any big laughs, there is some good material. It never really hits high gear, but once you get used to the pace, most of it works well enough.
It does slow down quite a bit towards the end, as things run out of steam, and this keeps the movie from being better. A grand climax in the screwball tradition might have made it a very good movie. Instead, as it is, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" is a pleasant, generally amusing, slightly above-average romantic comedy.
It's unfair to look over this film because it is not a true Hitchcock film.
It's still a great film, and a great screwball comedy. It is very funny and
contains at least two of the funniest scenes I've ever seen, the one where
Robert Montgomery plans to have premarital sex with Lombard, thinking she
doesn't know that they aren't married, and the restaurant scene, where
Montgomery pretends to talk to a really pretty girl who's sitting next to
him. You can just barely see Hitchcock in this film - there are a few
marvelous camera movements and angles that seem like Hitchcock was sighing,
saying, "God, I'm bored!" The two leads, Carole Lombard and Robert
Montgomery, are wonderful. Everyone else, Gene Raymond as Jeff and Jack
Carson as Chuck (he's especially hilarious; I wish he had had even more
scenes!), and everyone else, too, is constantly hitting
Unfortunately, in the last 20 or 30 minutes of the film, it begins to fall apart, after the plot moves to Lake Placid. First off, it's begins to grow tiresome. Lombard is starting to come off as unnecessarily cruel. The faux drunken mumblings of Montgomery aren't as funny as they're supposed to be. Jeff's parents are getting in the way. At least the final scene makes up for some of that! 8/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film has nothing to do with the current film of the same title.
Thank goodness for that! "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" is a rarity in that it
was directed by that master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. The film
pays in ways that only a crafty Hitchcock would know how. The director
takes Norman Krasna's screen play and gives it an elegant treatment.
The idea of a technicality annulling a marriage is at the center of the story. When David Smith is told about it, he sees the possibility of not telling his wife. Ann and David have a strange marriage life. They love each other dearly and they seem to work at maintaining their union as a fun enterprise where they are playful and do unexpected things to please one another. David miscalculates Ann's reaction to his playing a joke and not telling her about their new status.
The revelation at the beginning of the film is made known to Ann, who goes along with the joke expecting to be asked that same day to run to a justice of the peace to get married again. When David doesn't act on what for Ann seems to be essential, she flies into a rage and vows to get even with David. This is the basic premise of the comedy. Things get complicated, but we know all will be right at the end as Ann will come to her senses. David also is expected to legalize their status.
The film is a joy to watch because of the two stars. Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery were two charismatic performers that had an uncanny sense of timing. They make a delicious couple that deserve to be happy, even at the expense of making each other crazy in the process. Just to see a playful Carole Lombard giving a razor shave to Robert Montgomery is well worth the prize of admission!
The rest of the cast is outstanding. Gene Raymond plays David's partner, Jefferson Custer, an upright man who admires Ann from a distance. Their scene when they get stuck in the rain at Coney Island's parachute, has to be one of the highlights of the movie. That whole sequence after they return to Jeff's apartment and he gets the "liquor" medicine from Ann is hilarious.
There is a cameo from the director that passes by too quickly and if the viewer is not paying attention, it will be missed. Jack Carson is excellent as the bad influence for David. Philip Mervale and Lucile Watson are seen as Jeff's parents.
This film proves Alfred Hitchcock could have tried his hand at more comedies because he seems to be a natural to the genre. Of course, any director was going to excel with Carol Lombard and Robert Montgomery playing the lead roles of any movie!
Mr. Surif was wrong when he calls this Hitch's only venture into comedy, for
"The Trouble With Harry" falls into that category as well. Not having seen
all of Hitch's films, there could be others, for all I
Unlike "Harry", in which the peripatetic corpse gives the otherwise bucolic goings-on a zanily ghoulish air, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" is an exercise in pure romantic comedy. Montgomery and Lombard work beautifully against each other, and the script is elegantly and effervescently witty. The opening scene, in which Hitchcock suggests the aftermath of a protracted and clearly energetic sexual romp, is surprisingly risque for its time, and far more erotically suggestive than some of the blatant stuff we see nowadays.
My only quibble is what I feel to be a rather unsatisfactory and hasty conclusion.
When I put this movie on I was drowsy, and depressed. It did two things for
me after I put it on. It kept me awake, thus entertaining me, and it put a
smile on my face.
There are some genuine laughs in this movie, and the comedy is spread between all the characters. Robert Montgomery is extremely funny, with both excellent physical comedy, and great comedic timing with his dialogue. What surprised me most was the excellent comedic timing of Carole Lombard. She is extremely funny, but her chemistry with Montgomery in their scenes together is fantastic.
The direction, of course, is excellent. Not standard Hitchcock suspense, but classic Hitchcock comedy and romance, elements of his film making that a lot of people overlook.
Honestly, this is a fun movie. The humor is intelligent and never sinks to an infantile level. I had never heard of this movie until about two days ago, and I watched it and I was pleasantly surprised. 8 out of 10.
Because it is somewhat unique in Hitchcock's works, there has been a
continuous attempt in recent years to upgrade public opinion about MR.
AND MRS. SMITH. Hitchcock explained to Francois Truffault in
HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAULT that he always wanted to work with Carole Lombard,
and she prevailed on him to do this film with her. But that does not
really explain the choice of material.
Lombard, of course, is best recalled for her wonderful daffiness in screwball comedies like NOTHING SACRED, TRUE CONFESSIONS, and MY MAN GODFREY. Her co-star, Robert Montgomery, had been in many delightful comedies (PETTICOAT FEVER, PICADILLY JIM) too. But both performers had been in dramatic films. In this period Montgomery (fresh from his great performance as Danny in NIGHT MUST FALL) had made RAGE IN HEAVEN with Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders, and Lombard did VIGIL IN THE NIGHT with Brian Ahearn. They were both highly capable of dramatic performances.
So why couldn't they have sought a more typical Hitchcock screenplay? My suspicion is that Hitchcock chose to make a "screwball comedy" as an experiment. He did that frequently when he felt like stretching his abilities, and sometimes the results were not too good. When it was a technical experiment like ROPE or DIAL "M" FOR MURDER he still had the strength of the film script to fall back on if his nine minute shots or his use of three dimensional film did not quite work wonders with the audience. But when he tried humor, he had less success.
Hitch's sense of humor is not bad - but it works best when he uses it sparingly. In THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956), Hitch sets up a delayed joke involving Hillary Brooke and another actor coming to visit their friends Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day in London. Stewart and Day leave their flat because they are going to try to rescue their son (in the hands of the kidnappers). They apologize and tell Brooke and her husband they'll be back presently with their son. Brooke and her husband look confused as they leave. The remainder of the film, and the melodrama in the embassy is played out. Final scene shows Brooke and her husband have fallen asleep waiting for them. Day, Stewart and their son come in, wake up Brooke and her husband, and proceed to act as though nothing has happened for three or four hours.
That is an example of when the Hitchcock humor works. But then comes his full scale "black comedy" THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, and the viewer has mixed feelings. Individual moments work, like the manipulation of the dull sheriff Royal Dano. But one finds most of the humor about moving a dead body fairly unimaginative...surprisingly so from Hitch.
MR. AND MRS. SMITH is not a black comedy, but it's type of bedroom farce situation would have been better handled by Ernst Lubitsch or Leo McCarey or Preston Sturgis. The joke is that the surface-warring Smiths are really in love, but discover that their marriage was illegal. Montgomery had said he'd marry Lombard again if he had to (prior to the discovery of the illegal marriage), but instead of rushing Lombard off to any nearby church or justice of the peace he hesitates. And Lombard wonders what kind of man she has been illegally married to. So she turns to his partner Gene Raymond, who is interested in her.
There are some interesting moments in the film (Hitchcock has to be of interest always). The scene where Montgomery pretends to be talking to the pretty woman sitting next to him (incurring the ire of her date) is good, culminating in Jack Carson trying to stop a bleeding nose on Montgomery by using a "cold" knife as a cauterizing instrument. There is also a funny moment when Lombard and Raymond, on a trip to an amusement park, get stuck on a ferris wheel on top of it during a heavy thunder storm. But these moments are far and few. As a romantic comedy it is mediocre, despite it's stars and (unfortunately) because of it's director. Hitchcock must have realized it too - until THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY he never attempted a straight comedy again, and (as mentioned before) THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY was not a romantic comedy but a "black comedy".
Hitch claimed he only directed the script as written as he had no feel for the material. It's an OK comedy but did anyone else notice how annoying Carole Lombard's character is? Even the people around her are a bit offbeat. She is so annoying shrill and dreary one wonders why Robert Montgomery is working so hard to get her back. Alright for your Hitch collection but not really a fantastic film. It's a look back into the social mores of yesterday as Montgomery exposes Carole as a married woman so the store she's employed at fires her as it's the store's policy not to employ married women. One wishes the characters could have been played a little more warmly instead of the tart,sharp way they were directed by Hitchcock. Since he wasn't crazy about the project,he might have injected a bit more cynicism than he thought.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There seems to be little consensus on this movie; most people love it
or hate it. I can see why. The movie has its golden gleaming moments,
and then it has its moments that fall flat with a hollow thud.
Unfortunately, the ending of the movie is the hollowest thud of all,
and smacks almost of soap opera.
Also, Lombard hardly seems herself in this movie; she plays the foil to Montgomery's gleefully devilish protagonist, and only occasionally does she steal a scene. Hitchcock (or perhaps the screenplay) seems almost determined to keep her locked down. A pity.
Still, Montgomery's leering eyes and wicked yet boyish half-smile are by themselves reason enough to watch this movie. The whole issue of forbidden, illicit sex is handled beautifully, because, after all, the two are man and wife in everything but legal technicality. It seems odd that Lombard's character reacts with such savage anger about the whole thing. Considering the way she plays fast and loose with the affections of her husband's partner, even though she can't deny that she has been a common law wife of three years standing, one wouldn't expect such a prudish attitude from her. More likely, she would have joined her erstwhile husband in enjoying the hint of illicit passion. But it's best, in movies like this, not to examine the logic behind the story too closely.
Although Montgomery is the heart of the movie, nevertheless, perhaps the best scene in the movie is when the strait-laced genteel Gene Raymond proceeds from tipsy directly to dead-drunk and delivers possibly the funniest (because the most realistic) rendering of inebriation ever filmed. There's a point where he plants a foot on a step in front of him, a very low step, and one would think that in so doing he had just climbed Mount Everest. Priceless.
Others have noted, and I agree, that outside of Lombard, Montgomery and Raymond, the other characters are mere cardboard props and simply not funny. One can see that Hitchcock himself recognized this. When Raymond is closeted with his concerned parents in the bathroom at his office, the director is reduced to using gurgling plumbing sounds to punctuate the dialog--and for no apparent reason other than for some kind of comedic effect, because the dialog so clearly lacks any. When plumbing steals the show, you know you're in trouble.
One might see, in the trip to the rustic resort, an echo of Shakespeare's comedies, in which the scene always changed from the banal to the fantastical to underscore or even effect the transformation of the characters. But that doesn't happen here. Everyone continues to act the way they did before. That's not surprising, for in Shakespeare, the change in scene always happened at the beginning, not the end. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and the personalities of the characters are engraved in marble by this point.
These scenes mark the final transition of a movie that was already verging on stage-bound into more or less just another play on celluloid. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does little to revive the movie's already fainting comedic momentum. It attempts the usual farce, door-slamming, rushing to-and-fro, characters affecting dramatic poses, but it doesn't really work, and that devilish grin of Montgomery's seems long, long in the past. He becomes a cipher for the last part of the movie, Raymond's character was a cipher to begin with, and that leaves only Lombard, whose character was hemmed into a cage of shrewishness by the script (or the director) from the very beginning. The ending, therefore, is arbitrary and unsatisfying, and worst of all, not the least bit funny. The movie turns too late to pratfall comedy, and the image of Lombard tangled in skis simply doesn't work. She's been far too efficient and capable until now to be believable as the hapless, helpless, love-lorn buffoon.
Nevertheless, the movie was well worth watching. I'll never forget those gleaming eyes and that almost forward-leaning stride of Montgomery, as if he just couldn't wait to barrel into the next scene. One is almost tempted to forgive him his chumminess with the House Un-American Activities Committee.
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