Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

MR. AND MRS. SMITH (Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard) have a somewhat tempestuous but loving marriage of three years' duration. One day they separately each learn that due to a very obscure technicality they were not legally married. When Mr. Smith doesn't immediately cart Mrs. Smith off to a justice of the peace to rectify the mistake, she takes offense and spends the rest of the movie making him pay for it.

It's more amusing than it might sound, thanks chiefly to the comedic expertise of the two leads. I have seen this film several times in the past, but it had been a long time since my last viewing and I enjoyed seeing it again very much. This time around I also picked up on a subtle but rather steamy undertone to the movie that went right over my head when I was a teenager.

I'm a longtime Lombard fan -- I shared a bit about my experience discovering some of her childhood photos in this post -- and in the past mainly watched the film for her sake. This time around, though, I found I was particularly focused on the performance of Robert Montgomery. I have come to appreciate Montgomery's talents more recently, and he's wonderful in this film. Lombard's character is really rather unreasonably mean and petulant, but gets away with it because, well, she's Carole Lombard -- simultaneously giddy and gorgeous, in a stunning wardrobe by Irene -- but it struck me on this viewing that Mrs. Smith really didn't deserve such a devoted husband!

The supporting cast includes Gene Raymond, Jack Carson, Lucile Watson, Philip Merivale, Charles Halton, and Esther Dale. Dale, who plays Lombard's mother here, had a great turn as Edward Arnold's unflappable secretary in EASY LIVING (1937).

MR. AND MRS. SMITH was filmed in black and white and runs 91 minutes. The trailer can be seen here.

It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock early in the "American phase" of his career. (It came after FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT and before SUSPICION.) Although it's hardly a typical Hitchcock movie, Lombard does fit in with Hitchcock's pattern of choosing gorgeous blondes as leading ladies.

The script is by Norman Krasna, who wrote many other classics, including WHITE CHRISTMAS, PRINCESS O'ROURKE, and THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES.

MR. AND MRS. SMITH is available on video and DVD, in either a single-title release or as part of the Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection. (Update: The DVD has been reissued by the Warner Archive.)

It can also be seen periodically on TCM.

Robert Montgomery fans may want to know that TCM is celebrating his birthday on May 21st next week by showing several of his films. I've only seen one, HIDE-OUT, which was charming and has a lot to do with my admiration for Montgomery. I highly recommend it. Most of the films being shown are pre-Codes. I will have my DVR running on overtime next week!


Blogger Craig Clarke said...

I love this movie. I understand Lombard and Hitchcock originally wanted Cary Grant, and I'm not sure he would have improved it, which says a lot for Montgomery.

I, too, am going to try to catch that morning of Montgomery pre-Codes -- especially the ones that co-star Norma Shearer!

7:39 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

The dialogue is priceless. My fav. line has to be from Anne's mother: "By no means are you to..."

4:30 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I loved that, followed by Annie's gasp of outrage. That's one of those things that went right over the head when I was younger. :)

Another favorite sequence was Montgomery pondering what the restaurant cat knew about the soup (grin).

Best wishes,

4:52 PM  
Blogger Missy said...

The last time I saw this movie I was in high school and with three friends...two were twin brothers named Jeff and David. Those two poked and teased each other the whole time because the husband and the "other man" in the movie were Jeff and David.

That is my lasting memory of Mr. and Mrs. Smith! LOL!


10:01 PM  

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