Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)

Synopsis:

David (Robert Montgomery, Night Must Fall) and Ann (Carole Lombard, Nothing Sacred) have been married for a few years. They love each other but their marriage is far from perfect. One day, the couple is informed that a clerical error has rendered the marriage license invalid. In order to legalize the union, they must remarry, but Ann isn’t sure David still loves her. David must win Anne’s heart… again.

Reaction & Thoughts:

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

If the synopsis of Mr. & Mrs. Smith makes it sound like a silly romantic comedy… it is because this is a silly romantic comedy! Despite the presence of Carole Lombard, “Queen of Screwball Comedies,” Mr. & Mrs. Smith isn’t all that screwy either — it’s a straightforward rom-com about… nothing, nothing at all.

This is an Alfred Hitchcock movie, so I tried to see if anything in the movie had a deeper meaning. I constantly came up empty handed. This isn’t a misunderstood masterpiece by a top filmmaker. This is the most uninteresting movie by one of cinema’s most interesting directors. When asked about the film, The Master of Suspense deflected attention by saying, “I did it as a favor to (Carole) Lombard.”

In many interviews, Hitchcock insisted that he only made the movie to please friend Lombard, who was eager to work with the director. This is apparently one of Hitchcock’s many tall tales. After carefully reading Leonard Leff’s Hitchcock & Selznick and Patrick McGilligan’s Alfred Hitchcock: A life in Darkness and Light, I realized that this superfluous comedy was one of Hitchcock’s most important movies — as weird as it sounds, this is the movie that finally established Hitchcock as a bona fide Hollywood filmmaker.

The story goes something like this: Hitchcock was disheartened to discover that the success of his first two American movies — Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent — didn’t translate into great job offers. What was the problem? First, both movies were produced independently — as far as Hollywood was concerned, Hitchcock still hadn’t demonstrated that he had the ability to work in a big movie studio.

Second, and more important, Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent went way over schedule and over budget. Everyone agreed that the “odd British guy” was a genius, but studio executives were weary of the director’s reputation as a slow, finicky and methodical filmmaker. For better or worse, Hollywood has always preferred speed over creativity, thus Hitchcock was perceived as an unnecessary risk.

In order to be considered a mainstream Hollywood filmmaker, Hitchcock needed to make a movie for one of the big studios. In a rather clever move, Hitchcock offered to direct Mr. & Mrs. Smith, a simple comedy that required very little fussing. The plan worked exceedingly well, and Hitchcock (and Hollywood) breathed a sigh of relief — the movie received good reviews and made a bundle of money. Above all, Hitchcock proved that he could work fast without sacrificing quality.

As for the movie itself, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a nonsensical, but funny and charming rom-com. Norman Krasna’s witty script (The Devil and Miss Jones) has a surprising amount of sexual innuendos. In addition, the movie entered the history books as the first American film to showcase the sound of a toilet being flushed. Censors vehemently objected and the sound was muffled in post-production, but it is still pretty obvious what the sound is — Hitchcock was (finally) allowed to go to the loo in Psycho.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

This is my advice to people who are remotely interested in watching the movie: forget this is an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I started enjoying the movie the moment I stopped expecting corpses to pop out of closets. Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a silly but pleasant rom-com, the kind of stuff Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks did in the 1990s, and I mean it as a compliment. Hitchcock allows Krasna’s script to shine and actors Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery are hilarious. B&W, 91 minutes, Not Rated.

Hitch’s cameo

12 responses to “Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one, but I do remember enjoying it…not your typical Hitchcock, but interesting Hitchcock. Love the bit with Montgomery at the fancy restaurant, where he whacks himself with the salt shaker. And thanks for the behind-the-scenes history…I’m a Hitchcock fan, and I wasn’t aware of any of that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whatever the film I can never resist Carole Lombard. She was such an intelligent beauty, who didn’t take herself too seriously. Carole was a master of her craft, and it’s so sad she didn’t get chance to make many films after this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed this movie, but I agree anyone expecting typical Hitchcock fare will be disappointed. I’ve heard many theories about why he made the film, but yours makes the most sense. Of course he hadn’t really established himself as a master of suspense with American audiences at this time so it wasn’t a risky move in that sense. And Lombard was wonderful, as was Montgomery.

    Liked by 1 person

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