Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

“If you had it all to do over again, would you still have married me?”

            I’m sure a lot of married couples ask themselves this question from time to time. Well what if you had the opportunity to marry your spouse again? Would you? Hitchcock tackles the theme of marriage and doing the whole thing over in his only true comedy film Mr. and Mrs. Smith starring the queen of screwball Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery.
            David and Ann Smith have been happily married for three years. Of course like all married couples they have their share of arguments. A rule they have is they cannot leave the bedroom until they have made up after they have fought. The film opens with the couple just waking up in the morning. There are dishes strewn all over the room and Ann and David are not in bed together. The hired help say the couple have been in their room for six days, the longest they have ever gone without talking and coming out of the room. A few minutes later they start talking to each other. They sit down at a table to breakfast and Ann asks David if he could marry her all over again would he. He simply answers “No” he misses his freedom.
            Later in the day when David is at work a man comes to tell him that his marriage to Ann is not legal because of some boarder dispute. David sees this as an opportunity to woo Ann all over again and ask her to marry him all over again. Unfortunately Ann is greeted by a visit by the same man who went to David (he knew Ann when she was younger). Ann does not mention this meeting to David, she gives him the opportunity to propose and marry her that night.

            Well, things do not go over very smoothly and Ann kicks David out of the apartment. Ann enjoys her new found sense of freedom even getting a job (which David then has her fired from) and starts dating David’s friend Jeff. David realizes he misses his wife and does what he can to get her back. 

            I bought this film because, one, it is a Hitchcock film and it is a comedy and two, Carole Lombard is the star and I had never seen her in anything before this. I was excited to see Mr. and Mrs. Smith knowing that Hitchcock always had a touch of (dark) comedy in his films; unfortunately I was left with the feeling that I desperately wanted to like the film so much and I just could not. It almost had all the right ingredients for being a perfect comedy with Hitchcock directing and Lombard and Montgomery as the stars but there just seemed to be a need for something more. The script is not strong, it does have some good points but not many and the characters, as hard as I tried to like them I just could not I found them stubborn, which is the point, but almost to the point of annoyance. Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut that he did not really understand the characters and just did what was written. His feeling of not knowing the characters may be the element that is missing the characters are just formulaic with none of the Hitchcock touch. He directed the film out of a favor to Lombard whom the Hitchcocks were renting a house from.

            I do like how Ann and David’s egos will not let them sit and talk to each other to work things out. Ann now has a new found freedom and a new sense of pride and David just cannot live without his wife he needs her and will not give up. Towards the middle of the film Ann realizes for how many faults David has she cannot live without him either. I also like all the sexual innuendo. When the couple sits at the table for breakfast, Ann moves her bare feet up and down David’s leg. The ending is one many people should know or at least have seen screen still. Ann gets stuck in her skis and cannot get up off the chair. David comes over looks longingly down at her, then kisses her, and Ann no longer resists. These are two scenes that I think perfectly demonstrate Hitchcock’s mastery at sexual innuendo and getting around the censors.  

            Mr. and Mrs. Smith is definitely not one of Hitchcock’s strongest films but it is one that all fans of his should see. As I said there are some good comedic moments as well as some wise cracks. Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery are two great actors and worked very well off each other even if their characters were fighting most of the time. Mr. and Mrs. Smith is interesting to see since Hitchcock always directed dark stories with some bits of dark comedy. He definitely had the touch for comedy but this story was not too much of a good vehicle for it. I often wonder what another pure comedy from Hitchcock with the right script could have been like.

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