A lonely widower (Jameson Thomas, The Pleasure Garden) decides that it’s time to remarry, but he encounters all kinds of problems while looking for a wife. It takes the widower quite some time before he realizes that his devoted housekeeper (Lillian Hall-Davis, The Ring) is the kind of mate he is looking for.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“They say that the next best thing to no wife be a good one.”
Alfred Hitchcock spent most of his early career under exclusive contracts that forced him to do multiple films per year. That’s why he often found himself in the position of accepting jobs that didn’t interest him. The Farmer’s Wife was one of those assignments. Based on a popular play of the era, this silent bucolic comedy of manners is an odd thing to find in Hitchcock’s resume. The material is hopelessly dated, but Hitchcock does manage to create a few memorable moments.
As we all know, stage plays tend to rely on dialogue, so what do you do with a play that is adapted into a movie during the silent era? Hitchcock works extra hard to tell the story through images (there are no intertitles for about nine minutes). Hitchcock also uses clever editing to conveying ideas and feelings. For example, shots of a happy wedding are intercut with snippets of the widower’s sad, lonely existence.
Hitchcock stays away from the then practice of placing the camera at a distance that mimics the point of view of a theatergoer. Hitchcock either goes for long shots or brings the camera into the action, close but not close enough to be considered a close-up. Unless you watch a lot of silent movies, you probably won’t be able to notice these little touches. Hitchcock is moving cinema forward without even knowing it.
I also liked how sexual innuendos (“you’ll only feel the velvet glove and never know I was breaking you in”) are spread throughout the film. It’s all very subtle, and I’m sure Hitchcock enjoyed inserting these bits of naughtiness into the narrative — this is one way the director defied strict moral standards of the era.
The acting is good too. Jameson Thomas and Lillian Hall-Davis give fine dramatic performances. Gordon Harker (Champagne) provides good comic relief as the grumpy servant Churdles Ash. The cast also includes Gibb McLaughlin as Henry Coaker, Louie Pounds as Widow Windeatt and Maud Gill as Thirza Tapper.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Farmer’s Wife is probably Alfred Hitchcock’s weakest movie up to this point. The movie is, however, well-staged, well-acted and surprisingly entertaining. And The Farmer’s Wife is filled with plenty of humor and tenderness. It’s a nice little romantic melodrama by the Master of Suspense. B&W, 127 minutes, Not Rated.
Nice post, Eric. You taught me something new today. Early Hitch I’m not too aware of. This looks good to me.
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Thanks, Cindy! Hope you enjoy it when you get to watch it.
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