Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

Herra ja rouva Smith / Lika barn leka bäst. US © 1941 RKO Radio Pictures. P: Harry E. Edington. D: Alfred Hitchcock. SC: Norman Krasna. DP: Harry Stradling. AD: Van Nest Polglase. Set dec: Darrell Silvera. Cost: Irene. SFX: Vernon L.Walker. M: Edward Ward. Musical director: Roy Webb. ED: William Hamilton. C: Carole Lombard (Ann Smith / Ann Krausmeier), Robert Montgomery (David Smith), Gene Raymond (Jeff Custer), Jack Carson (Chuck Benson), Philip Merivale (Mr. Custer), Lucilie Watson (Mrs. Custer), William Tracy (Sammy), Charles Halton (Mr. Deever), Esther Dale (Mrs. Krausheimer), Emma Dunn (Martha), William Edmunds (proprietor of Momma Lucy's), Betty Compson (Gertie), Patricia Farr (Gloria) Pamela Blake = Adela Pearce (Lily), Ernie Alexander (bellhop at lodge), Frank Mills (taxi driver), Alec Craig (Thomas), Robert Emmett Keane (store manager), Jack Gardner (elevator boy), Murray Alper (Harold, taxi driver) Georgia Carroll (attractive woman at the night club), Ralph Dunn (cop), Ralph Brooks (waiter captain), Ronnie Rondell (waiter), Jim Pierce (doorman),  Barbara Woodell (David's secretary), Beatrice Maude (Jeff's secretary), Alfred Hitchcock (man passing David Smith on street). Helsinki premiere: 23.8.1942 Savoy, released by Filmituonti Oy  – Finnish classification number 24380 – K16 – 2600 m / 95 min. A Cinemateca Portuguesa print with Portuguese subtitles by Antonio Silva Torres viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Alfred Hitchcock), 5 September 2012

Revisited after 37 years Alfred Hitchcock's only screwball comedy. In the 1930s, before Michael Balcon revived his career in England, Hitchcock directed a number of impersonal assignments. Mr. and Mrs. Smith is the only impersonal assignment in Hitchcock's American career.

Hitchcock had a great sense of humour, but this comedy is not particularly funny. Hitchcock's next film, Suspicion, although a dark and disturbing suspense thriller, is much more humoristic, sparkling with wit. Interestingly, Hitchcock would have wanted Cary Grant to the male lead in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Carole Lombard was the driving force behind the movie, and she would have wanted Cary Grant, too. Although Hitchcock and Lombard understood each other well, the script was fine, the cinematography was excellent, and the movie was well produced, there is a fundamentally forced quality in it.

There are memorable sequences, though. The opening is mysterious until we learn that Ann and David have made a pact that neither may leave the room until a dispute is settled. The "nostalgic visit" to the honeymoon restaurant Momma Lucy's is a big disappointment as the place is now run down, and hungry slum kids are staring through the window. Ann has a thing with feet: she likes to slip her feet inside David's trouser legs. In the end Ann pretends to be helpless prey for David with her cross-locked skis.

Heikki Nyman has written perceptive comments about the failure of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. There are references to the Hitchcockian theme of "seeing unclearly" in the sauna and in the Ferris wheel, and there is the "staring contest" at Momma Lucy's, but basically "the Hitchcock touch", the philosophical dimensions of the themes of the look and the vision, are missing.

Heikki Nyman also remarks that while obeying the rules of the screwball comedy Hitchcock gets into conflict with his own personal sense of humour.

The visual quality of the print is often very good, and sometimes there is a sense of a careful reconstruction from inferior elements.

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