"Smarty" (Warner Brothers, 1934), directed by Robert Florey, is another one of those numerous drawing room comedies and/or marital triangle stories churned by the numbers during the Depression era thirties, that, in spite of its familiar faces and names, with the running time of 64 minutes, is watchable but easily forgettable. It does reunite debonair Warren William and wisecracking Joan Blondell, whose previous screen efforts included: "Three on a Match" (1932), "Golddiggers of 1933" (1933), and "Goodbye Again" (1933). They would be paired one more time in "Stage Struck" (1936), but in support of Dick Powell and newcomer Jeanne Madden.
In a storyline that could very well have been used as a Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery starrer at MGM, this Warner Brothers production and programmer begins with a happily married couple named Vicki (Joan Blondell) and Tony Wallace (Warren William), preparing to go out for the evening to the theater in honor of Vicki's birthday. Plans are interrupted until Tony receives a phone call from Vernon Thorpe (Edward Everett Horton), an attorney and family bachelor friend, who invites himself to spend the evening with them. Vicki suggests that Vernon come on over and have a friendly game of bridge with another couple, George (Frank McHugh) and his frequently married girlfriend, Anita (Claire Dodd). Against his wishes, Tony consents, in spite that he dislikes playing bridge with Vernon. After an argument that causes Vicki to laugh out loud at Tony, this makes him very angry and causes him to slap her. This slap stops Vicki cold. Because of the slap, their marriage, along with the bridge game, comes to an end. In spite of Tony's apologies, she refuses to forgive him. Vernon, who has always loved Vicki, agrees to act as her attorney in the divorce case. After the divorce is final, Vernon marries Vicki. After a year of wedded bliss, Vicki eventually gives Vernon reasons to give her a slap in the face as well, including wearing a backless dinner dress for which he doesn't approve, but most of all, laughing out loud at Vernon. Complications ensue leading to one thing after another before Vicki gets her well-deserved slap once again, this time from Tony.
Also in the supporting cast are Leonard Carey as Tilford, the butler; Frederick Burton as the courtroom judge; with Joan Wheeler, Virginia Sale and Bert Moorehouse. Claire Dodd, with her pencil thin eyebrows, continues to play her familiar character as a frequently divorced woman of the world, but this time, acting as Blondell's friend instead of her rival. As for Blondell's character, her constant teasing which causes her slaps on the face, is something her character certainly deserved. Comedy does have its quota of laughs, but not enough to have it placed in the top 100 Best American Comedies list by the American Film Institute.
"Smarty," based upon a play by F. Hugh Herbert, made one of its very rare TV showings on cable's Turner Classic Movies in August 1997. It was rebroadcast again August 30, 2002, on TCM as a tribute to star Joan Blondell on her birthday. Regardless, this is a rare movie find. Very rare indeed. The final result to "Smarty", however, is really a slap-happy farce with little credibility. (**1/2)
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