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Pre-Code Drawing Room Comedy, The Last Gasp
museumofdave5 May 2017
Perhaps too many folks are getting their things in an uproar about this zippy, fast-paced little comedy about the battle of the sexes. Yes, there are slaps in the film, but Blondell's character seems intent on getting them-- which to modern eyes seems bizarre indeed, and offensive in too many ways. But there is no indication that wife-beating is really the focus of this film, but instead the games people play when they discover relationship kinks that are not mainstream.

In many ways, this is a deeply cynical film (witness the running commentary from the two constant house guests) about public and private lives, the last gasp of pre-code comedy before the censors came down hard on creative expression of and shuttered them into the kitchen with their aprons for the next thirty years or so, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton exposed a more modern version of the S/M games that can develop when love is stunted by circumstance. This is not a great film by any measure, but viewed in an unusual context can be great fun.
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Joan Blondell Dishes Out The Diced Carrots
Ron Oliver4 September 2002
A bored & beautiful SMARTY enjoys goading both of her husbands into fits of jealous rage.

This very bizarre little comedy from Warner Bros., which sneaked in under the wire before the imposition of the Production Code, actually espouses physical abuse as the secret ingredient needed in keeping the romantic spark alive in marriage. This distressful assertion is promoted by skillful players and smug dialogue, but to no avail.

Joan Blondell, as blonde & curvaceous as ever, is portrayed as an intensely annoying young virago with all the charm of an acid bath. Endlessly nagging, the script gives her one shrill note to play, which she does with unnerving tenacity. In most of her other roles of the period she played a smart & sassy gal who has to fight her way to happiness by final fadeout. Here, Blondell starts with everything and seems determined to claw her way to the bottom again. Must be some sort of mental aberration.

Patrician Warren William & nervous Edward Everett Horton supplied wonderful moments in dozens of Golden Age films. Here, as the two men caught in Blondell's web, although they make valiant efforts, they seem out of place in the rather sordid storyline.

Rounding out the cast as two friends seemingly without meaningful lives of their own, viewers will probably find Frank McHugh to be distressingly simpleminded and pretty Claire Dodd vindictive & catty. Neither exemplify the sort of friend one would want to have during a time of domestic crisis.

Perhaps it would be well to quote a single paragraph from celebrated journalist Harriet Hubbard Ayer's essay `What Not To Do,' published in CORRECT SOCIAL USAGE (The New York Society Of Self-Culture, 1903) `Don't nag; there's nothing in it but hateful thoughts for all concerned, and such thoughts are germs that breed deceit on one side and ungovernable temper on the other. At the end of the road is division of hearts, often a divorce court.' Blondell & Company should have paid heed.
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Amusing but incredibly irritating!
mritchie31 August 2002
This early screwball comedy is infuriating for two reasons: 1) the lead female character, who manages to be more irritating than the Hepburn character in BRINGING UP BABY, and 2) the way she's treated by the men in her life. At a party, Joan Blondell has a fight with her husband (Warren William) and he slaps her in the face (something to do with diced carrots). She doesn't actually seem to be all that hurt, physically or emotionally, but she nevertheless decides to get a divorce, egged on by lawyer friend Edward Everett Horton, who is himself in love with Blondell. After the divorce, Horton marries Blondell and is eventually driven to slap her as well, which sends her back to William, who not only slaps her again, but also rips her dress off of her before carting her off to the bedroom. The message, honest to God, is that some women just need to be slapped around every so often, and when they (and their husbands) realize that, happiness will reign supreme.

Despite my intense dislike of the character, Joan Blondell is very good, a little different in tone than I've ever seen her. She's not quite tough, but she's certainly not weak. She's not dumb, but she's not all that smart, either (I have no idea where the title comes from; the British title, HIT ME AGAIN, makes much more sense). I laughed out loud several times, even while I was grinding my teeth at the Blondell character and the way she was treated. The acting all around is quite good. Claire Dodd and Frank McHugh provide nice comic relief (relief, that is, from the "comic" slapping and arguing that occurs among the three leads). I don't think I've ever enjoyed a movie and been so exasperated by it at the same time.
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scandalous for different reasons than it was in 1934...
AlsExGal26 December 2019
... that being that a husband slapping his wife is actually a turn on for her. Tony Wallace (Warren William) slaps his wife Vicki (Joan Blondell) during a small gathering at their apartment for saying the phrase "diced carrots", which is some kind of marital in joke. Kind of like "Niagara falls" in the old Three Stooges routine. The phrase makes Tony go crazy. Attorney Vernon Thorpe (Edward Everett Horton), who has always loved Vicki, is present at the time and tells her that he can get her a divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.

He does, and fast forward and Vicki has married Vernon. But the grass is not greener. Vicki finds herself bored with Vernon's kind and giving ways and decides she wants her first husband back. Complications ensue.

It really pains me to give a movie with the best WB had to offer in comedy in front of the camera in 1934 only a mediocre grade. But the characters are cardboard and the very thin humor wore on me after a very short while. And Blondell is playing one of the most annoying nagging characters in the history of film, although she is playing it tongue in cheek. How I felt about this film was very similar to how I felt about the very first production code comedies because they often substituted shouting and motion for that great precode bite and energy.
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Where's the Censor
dougdoepke2 April 2011
An early and not very effective entry in that 1930's movie specialty-- the screwball comedy. Some necessary elements are present— ritzy wardrobes, sophisticated dialog, colorful characters. Then too, the plot's appropriate-- a farcical marriage-go-round where no one much cares who's married to whom.

At the same time, catch the sexy Vicky (Blondell) as she endlessly rolls and unrolls her hosiery, that is, when not fitting into backless evening wear or craving a little rough man-handling. In short, it's the kind of provocative material that soon brought down the heavy hand of Hollywood censorship. (Scope out the very last scene that I expect challenged even the loose conventions of the time.)

The women are well cast, including the eye-rolling Blondell, a dryly sensible Claire Dodd, and a sweetly seductive Joan Wheeler. The problem is with the two male leads. Now, I'm a big fan of Warren William who's unequalled in ruthless, authoritative parts, e.g. Employee's Entrance (1933), Skyscraper Souls (1932), which remain true period classics. The trouble is that the role here of the discombobulated husband Tony calls for the light comedy skills of a William Powell, for example; the aristocratic William does try hard, but lacks that particular flair. Also, the naturally comedic Horton is memorable in eccentric parts, but is unfortunately miscast here as a strait-laced, jealous husband.

At the same time, director Florey doesn't manage the kind of zany pacing that could have smoothed over some of the questionable parts. Too much of his deliberate tempo comes across like the stage play the material is adapted from. As a result, the movie has its moments—mainly the super coy Blondell and a provocative parade of 30's fashions—but is otherwise a titillating disappointment.
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Well made but disturbing and hard to like.
MartinHafer12 April 2011
"...a sock in the eye is what every woman needs..."

Although Joan Blondell and Warren William play a couple who seem to be very in love, when they go to a dinner party, problems erupt. Joan deliberately goads Warren until he smacks her--and she sues for divorce. Oddly, after they are no longer married, Joan deliberately throws herself at him--wearing revealing clothes and inviting him to come to dinner at her new home with her new husband (Edward Everett Horton). Not too surprisingly, the new hubby is NOT amused by all this and eventually hauls off and hits Joan as well. What will happen next in this dreadful film?!

While the actors all give their best in this film, the writing was just awful--and a bit disturbing. Blondell plays one of the most annoying and difficult to like women I have ever seen--capricious, selfish and manipulative. Further, there are strong undertones of sado-masochism in the characters--something that bothered me, as it tried to make violence and nastiness 'funny'! This is also the sort of bizarre film that you'd never see today because of changes in our sensibilities--such goings on are not at all in line with modern morality. A strong indicator of the change is the quote I gave at the beginning of my review--it was taken directly from this film as well as the casual way that adultery is portrayed. It's all supposed to be a kooky comedy--I was just in horror at it all. It's shocking even for a Pre-Code film--especially at the cringe-worthy finale that's really hard to believe.
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bizarre comedy
lshelhamer23 March 2013
Interesting if bizarre dark comedy. This has been well reviewed by others. Two comments. The first is Warren Williams vacillating character, one minute dismissive of his ex-wife, then next expressing his undying love. This is not his most forceful or consistent role. The next is Joan Blondell and her motivation. She divorces her husband one minute and marries another shortly thereafter. Was she trying to make her husband more romantic, or was she living out her masochistic fantasies?

The dimpled Claire Dodd does a good job as the divorced friend of the couple. It was also nice to note Edward Everett Horton toning down his usual effete, fuss-budget persona.
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Slight tale of masochistic woman in control
skysaxon18 March 2011
At one point in this movie, Joan Blondell's character confides to a friend thoughts about her husband striking her, "That's just it. If he really loved me, he'd a hit me long ago." Very much a product of its time, this pre-Hays code tale reflects a morality that seems cruel and sexist now. But the main character revels in her time; cracking double entendres and frank admissions of how she likes to be physically abused yet control the men who love her.

Joan Blondell, infamous for her proclivity for shedding her clothes at parties, seems right at home in this role. Her risqué comments and coy delivery fit neatly within the framework of her character.

You could not make this movie today. Even the thought of a woman inviting physical abuse upon herself is taboo. But not in "Smarty". This brisk, if somewhat slight, film bathes in its taboo-breaking with a kind of so what bravado. The characters are friendly, even affectionate, with each other despite the blows, both physical and emotional. The breezy repartee ignores the reality of the situations, instead playing light thanks to a humorous script and crisp performances.

Yes, "Smarty" is a look back at a time before PC was de riguer and people like Will H. Hays, for better or worse, ruled cinema. If you can get past the glossing over of physical violence, you may just be lured into the lead character's web. Joan Blondell brings it. Watching her performance in this movie, I don't know why she wasn't a bigger star.
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Disappointing screwball comedy with unlikable characters and offensive premise
mark.waltz19 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
One of the last pre-code Warner Brothers comedies of sexual intrigue, "Smarty" (a misleading title, BTW) is based on the premise that a woman may complain about being struck by her husband, but if it brings on passion, that's OK. In this case, the woman is Joan Blondell, whom I adore, but here, she plays a rather unlikable socialite wife whose husband (Warren William) suddenly strikes her for no apparent reason during a dinner party. She divorces them and marries their mutual friend (and her divorce attorney), played with little of his oh-dear mentality by Edward Everett Horton. In the same year he was k-nocking k-nees with Betty Grable in "The Gay Divorce", he was being "mothered" by Blondell here. There is obviously no passion in the marriage between Blondell and Horton, which leads to a showdown between Blondell and her ex-husband. It all ends up predictable.

Blondell really does try to install her character with some charming qualities, but the twinkle in her eye and her adorable smile belongs to her, not the lady she is playing. She was made for pre-code Hollywood films with her gold digger with the heart of gold appearance, but if this is meant to be a follow-up for her "Gold Diggers of 1933" persona who ended up with wealthy Warren William there, it is sadly missing the spark they had in that film. She is condescending to Horton once they are married, getting what she wants by referring to herself as "mother" when they are together. It's obvious that this is a marriage based upon spite towards her ex-husband than any love for poor EEH, and is virtually sexless. Blondell does look ravishing in the black gown she buys to tantalize her ex-husband at a dinner party, but the battle between Blondell and Horton over the gown is childish and pointless. Frank McHugh is present as a pal of the trio, but really isn't important at all here other than playing his typical silly goose type character. It's all art decco style but no substance. The ending made me twinge.
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Blondell As A Villain? No Way!
Handlinghandel6 September 2002
A racy but mean-spirited early movie. Who wants to see the great Joan as -- well, it rhymes with "witch"?!

It's politically incorrect, too. Slapping a woman is not funny, and never was. Fun to watch for the stylish acting, but leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
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She Who Gets Slapped
lugonian1 September 2002
"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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hit me again
blanche-219 March 2016
Smarty is precode and based on a play from the 1920s.

Joan Blondell plays Vicki Wallace, and she's married to Tony (Warren William). She teases him a great deal and one night, he's had enough and slaps her. Vicki is very upset. Her lawyer, Vernon (Edward Everett Horton) takes care of her divorce, and she marries him.

Now it's Vernon's turn. Vicki loves to wear sexy clothes and keeps inviting Tony over for dinner. So one night, Vernon belts her. Vicki runs to Tony, who has a date at his apartment and really doesn't want his ex-wife there. Apparently she likes Tony's slugs better than Vernon's.

Two of my favorite actors, Blondell and William, in one of the most atrocious stories I've ever seen. Normally the fact that I am watching an old film with dated cultural beliefs doesn't bother me, I just take it in the time that it was done. But while it may have been more common to hit your wife, and I'm not even sure that's true, I don't think it was okay -- if it had been, why did she leave him in the first place? It's never been okay, just because it happened. Here it's downright glamorized. In something like Streetcar Named Desire, it's shocking by today's standards, but it went with the odious character of Stanley. And it wasn't glamorized.

I did not like this movie.
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A horrible film that trivializes (and encourages) wife beating
gbill-748771 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
What a horrible, horrible movie this was. How can I explain it? Well let's see. It's basically wife beating as comedy. The UK name for the film was "Hit Me Again". The main idea is that wife beating is a Good Thing – women want it, and the harder the better, because it shows love. If they get too 'smart' or sassy, the correct thing to do is to hit 'em to keep 'em in line.

Joan Blondell is cute and revealing and all (and this movie was still pre-Code), but her character is ditzy and smiles throughout, which is awful in itself. She comes across as shallow, manipulative, and maddening - and everyone agrees, she deserves the abuse. She's never truly shocked or remotely scared, even after getting hit while playing bridge and mentioning that she's also had things thrown at her and been bit. She herself says "a good sock in the eye is something every woman needs, at least once in her life", and "if he really loved me, he would have hit me long ago." Her second husband also hits her after she goads him on with "why don't you hit me like a man?", but he's not as manly so she's less interested in him. When the second husband says "I didn't even hit her hard", a smiling female friend says "Not hard enough probably." Her first husband provides this advice to the second: "I'd kick the door down and kiss her 'til she's black and blue, and if she didn't let me, I'd roll up my sleeves and beat the daylights out of her." These are all real quotes! Oh, and one more, the last line of the movie: "Tony dear, hit me again." – and that, after he's ripped her dress off, pulled her hair, and given her a hard slap across the face, all as she stands there smiling.

Did I mention this was a horrible film? Yes, it was a different time and yes it gives us visibility into that, but when it's shown with such lightness and as comedy, not as disturbing or dark, and knowing it's still such a problem in society today, it's very hard to stomach. One of the characters alludes to how men in movies push women around, and specifically the grapefruit incident from "The Public Enemy", as if that's justification for him – but I have to say, while I liked that film, there we knew Cagney was a thug. We saw him commit murders. It's far more painful when it's shown as the norm and done by the "good guys" in the film. This is one to avoid.
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Not Yet Screwball
boblipton19 March 2020
Joan Blondell is Warren William's wife. She's the sort of woman who likes to tease, and eventually she teases William into giving her a smack. So she divorces him and marries Edward Everett Horton.

It's one of those movies based on a stage play in which everyone is arch and witty - F. Hugh Herbert wrote they play and had a hand in the movie script. It's opened up nicely for the screen, even though the pacing and delivery still smacks of the theater.

It's amusing in its code-compliant way, but a very minor effort. It holds some interest in being a sort of proto-screwball comedy, talking about sex with people one should not have sex with, but in a manner that doesn't annoy the Hays Office.
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High spirited and vivacious
bkoganbing13 December 2019
Smarty has Warren William and Joan Blondell as a husband and wife. Joan is a vivacious tease and a flirt and William has limits on his patience. One night when she proves too much William belts her on the chin and Blondell files for divorce.

Johnny on the spot lawyer and neighbor Edward Everett Horton offers to be Blondell's divorce attorney and he marries her. But we're talking life with Horton and his fuss budget personality.

I think you can figure this one out. It's most dated because in this day and age no one slaps a woman without condemnation.

Still F. Hugh Herbert's script has quite a few laughs in it and Warner Brothers regulars Claire Dodd and Frank McHugh get their share also as neighbors and card playing regulars.

Funny at times, but most dated.
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Smarty - unguarded look at sadistic male fantasies
tonypatti13 April 2011
Intended as titillation but ending as a shocking and sick attempt to cater to male fantasies of female submission, this movie is worth watching for a few good reasons besides the ultimate failure of the theme to amuse. Claire Dodd as the knowing, mocking friend who collaborates in Blondell's teases. Many sharp little lines that set the stage for excruciating jealousy, a theme most often clumsily handled in film. Joan Blondell, who is too lovable for her part.

The cuckold scenario common to many drawing room comedies of this period is made unusually explicit by an actual divorce and remarriage, which leaves us disconcertingly free of all doubt as to the consummation of sexual relations. Blondell's character, a woman intended to be the paragon of teasing sexuality, is never fully understood by anyone involved, which is good, because it would have led to even graver extremes of predatory female sexuality. She tries to play her character lightly, with a teasing innocence, and they ignore the sharp edge of the tease that tears the heart of the male lead apart.

By the time Blondell dons the ultra-revealing dress that is constantly on the verge of exposing her famous breasts, the film stumbles through scene after scene of impotent male rage conflated with lust as Blondell fights to expose herself in the outfit. Only Proust himself could do justice to the heady combination of jealousy, exhibitionism, and lust she leads her ex-husband through, all while married to her new husband.

While the complexity and taboo nature in this weave of female exploitation with male jealousy are beyond most Hollywood movies of any time, the movie settles for a violent end and a shocking submission that is entirely the creation of male fantasy and a woman's compliance with it. Many women, unable to see this from the perspective of male lust, will simply be confounded by it. Most men will be repulsed by the unadorned openness of it, and will be tempted to blame the woman for complying with male fantasy.

If this film were remade today the title would be changed to the more appropriate "Slutty." It is an unusually unguarded look at the contradictory nature of the male invention of the fantasy of the slut.
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Kinky Kicks, Disgraceful Dames, & Hollywood Hypocrisy!
JenExx25 February 2020
Marriage and divorce lawyers take a bigger beating in this movie than Joan Blondell does, and if a single slap on the face equates to domestic violence then people don't know what domestic violence really is!

There is more violence against women in modern movies than there is in this film, yet people are now programmed to believe that it's acceptable for women to get beaten so long as it isn't by their husbands.

Please, go sit through 'True Romance' and watch Patricia Arquette take a bloody beating from James Gandolfini if you think 'Smarty' is violence against women. Even 'Goodfellas' has more marital violence, yet both AMC & IFC can't stop showing it which tells me that reckless violence against women is the status quo per the modern Hollywood code. So, why are people so shocked by a little slap in the face? Talk about hypocrisy!

'Smarty' is nothing but a kinky good time and an excellent example of not only Hollywood hypocrisy but the double standards of people in the legal industry, which makes it a delicious delight to watch!

A lawyer who marries his client after getting her a divorce when he admits to loving her while she is still married to her husband!? Now that's a scandalous slap in the face to low-down snake-in-the-grass lawyers and it's hilarious because it's truer to life than people may realize, probably because they're too busy misjudging marital situations they've never experienced themselves instead of looking at the bigger picture!

This movie has more to do with wily women chasing after men who give them attention without giving a thought to their own marriage vows than it has anything to do with domestic violence!

The great irony of life is that Joan Blondell had three husbands and three divorces in less than twenty years; she was one year into her first marriage when 'Smarty' came out, and her second marriage started a mere 15 days after her first marriage ended (and the first marriage only lasted three years!); in 'Smarty' she goes through two husbands in less than 90 minutes -- now that's irony at its finest and funniest!

Marriage is about getting through good times and bad times with a partner by your side, and a woman who isn't willing to stand by her man after he has embarrassed her only proves that she is no woman at all -- she's a little girl who needs a spanking!

Yet when a woman is slapped on her backside in private it's not nearly as shocking as when she receives it on her face with others watching, which both Hollywood and the media have succeeded at programming people to believe in these messed-up modern times!
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