Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941 film)

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Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Smith moviep.jpg
original film poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Harry E. Edington
Written by Norman Krasna
Starring Carole Lombard
Robert Montgomery
Gene Raymond
Music by Edward Ward
Cinematography Harry Stradling Sr.
Edited by William Hamilton
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • January 31, 1941 (1941-01-31)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $743,000[1]
Box office $1,400,000[1]

Mr. & Mrs. Smith[N 1] is a 1941 screwball comedy film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by Norman Krasna, and starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery. It also features Gene Raymond, Jack Carson, Philip Merivale and Lucile Watson.[N 2]

While Hitchcock later claimed he directed the film—the only pure comedy he made in America—as a favor to Lombard, the files at RKO Radio Pictures show that Hitchcock himself pursued the project.[2]

Plot[edit]

Ann (Carole Lombard) and David Smith (Robert Montgomery) are a married couple living in New York who, though happy, often have fights that last for days before they lovingly reconcile. One morning, Ann asks David if he had to do it over again, would he marry her? To her disappointment, although he is very happy with her now and wouldn't marry someone else, he answers that he would not. Later that day, Harry Deever (Charles Halton), an Idaho county official informs David and that due to a jurisdictional mishap, their three-year old marriage license from Idaho is not valid. Since Deever is a family acquaintance of Ann's from Idaho, he stops by their apartment to tell Ann and her mother (Esther Dale) the same thing. Ann does not mention this to David, and thinks he will remarry her that very night, as he just invited her out to a romantic dinner at the fancy restaurant they ate at before they were married. When they arrive at the restaurant, however, they realize that the restaurant has turned into a seedy joint, and they head home. When Ann feels she has given David long enough to propose and leave to get married, she confronts him and accuses him of not wanting to marry her again. While David protests and says he was going to ask her shortly, Ann dismisses that and kicks him out of their apartment.

David spends the night at his club, but when he goes home after work the next day, he is not allowed entry by her maid. David waits in the lobby and sees Ann return with an older gentleman suitor. An angry and disheartened David takes to following Ann around, telling her he will not support her, then getting her fired from a new job she has just taken (as it turns out, the older gentleman suitor is her boss). Ann tells David she has no intention of ever marrying him.

David's friend and law partner, Jefferson "Jeff" Custer (Gene Raymond), tells David he will talk to Ann and persuade her to remarry. However, when David shows up later that evening, he finds that Jeff has instead decided to "represent" Ann in the separation. To add insult to injury, Jeff asks Ann to dinner the following night in front of David. David tells Ann if she goes on the date, "We're through," but Ann accepts the invitation.

After dinner, Ann and Jeff leave and go to the fair, but become stuck on the parachute ride and are forced to sit through hours of rain many feet up in the air. When they get back to Jeff's apartment, he dresses to go back out, but Ann gives him a lot of liquor to drink "medicinally" even though he is a teetotaler. As Jeff becomes increasingly more drunk, Ann leaves for the night.

Ann and Jeff begin to date seriously, and Ann meets Jeff's parents. They decide to take a vacation with Jeff's parents at a Lake Placid skiing resort — the same resort where Ann and David had earlier been planning to holiday. Upon arriving at the resort, they find that David has rented a cabin right next to them, but when confronted, David simply faints. David spends the next few hours pretending to be sick and delirious while Ann fawns over him, but when Ann discovers his deception, she yells at him and leaves. They argue once again, and while yelling at each other, Jeff walks in. He knows Ann and David are meant for each other, as Ann, still playing out her scheme, then insults and berates Jeff for not beating up David.

Ann decides she wants to get away to the lodge by ski, even though she does not know how to ski. Seated while she puts on the skis, David offers to help her, but instead lifts up her legs so that she cannot stand up from being on upright skis. As she struggles while threatening him in anger, she frees one ski, but then she is feigning helplessness, by reattaching the ski to her foot. David sees this too, and while she pretend rants at him, he bends down and kisses her, silencing her.

Cast[edit]

As appearing in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, (main roles and screen credits identified):[3]

Alfred Hitchcock can be seen passing Robert Montgomery in front of his apartment building, as the camera pulls back, at about 43 minutes into the film. To the delight of the crew, Lombard herself directed Hitchcock in the brief scene, forcing him to redo his very simple part many times.[4]

Production[edit]

Norman Krasna came up with the basic idea of Mr. & Mrs. Smith (under the original working titles of "Who Was That Lady I Seen You With?" and "No for an Answer") and pitched it to Carole Lombard who was enthusiastic. She sold the idea to George Schaefer of RKO who agreed to buy the project off Krasna, then Alfred Hitchcock became involved.[5] Hitchcock completed the film as a personal favor to his friend, Lombard, but was never happy with the result and was later dismissive of the film.[4]

Mr. & Mrs. Smith was Lombard's last film released before her death. To Be or Not to Be (1942) was her final film, released two months after she died in an aircraft crash, while on a War Bond tour.

Reception[edit]

Mr. & Mrs. Smith was a hit and made a profit of $750,000.[1] The review in The New York Times, however, was able to pinpoint the reason for the film not being one of Hitchcock's best: "Despite the performances, despite the endless camera magic with which Mr. Hitchcock tries to conceal the thinness of his material, 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith' have their moments of dullness. The result is a chucklesome comedy that fails to mount into a coruscating wave of laughter."[6] Variety reviewers were more enthused with the film, noting: "Alfred Hitchcock pilots the story in a straight farcical groove without resort to slapstick interludes or overplaying by the characters. Pacing his assignment at a steady gait, Hitchcock catches all of the laugh values from the above par script of Norman Krasna."[7]

Adaptations in other media[edit]

The Screen Guild Theater adapted Mr. & Mrs. Smith to radio on February 8, 1942 with Errol Flynn and Lana Turner, then again December 14, 1942 with Joan Bennett, Robert Young and Ralph Bellamy and once more on January 1, 1945 with Preston Foster, Louise Albritton and Stuart Erwin. On January 30, 1949, it was adapted to Screen Director's Playhouse with Robert Montgomery, Mary Jane Croft and Carlton Young.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Although the screen title is given as Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the trailer used Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
  2. ^ In 2005, a largely unrelated film of the same title was released, starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In the later film, husband and wife are both secret agents, and when they discover one another's secret life believe they are not really married and that the marriage was just a plot to spy on the other agent. The question of the validity of their marriage and the film's title are the only elements the two films have in common.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Jewel, Richard. "RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951". Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol. 14, No 1, 1994. p. 56.
  2. ^ Spoto 1999, p. 237.
  3. ^ "Credits: Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)." IMDb. Retrieved: September 29, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Steinberg, Jay S. "Articles: Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: September 29, 2013.
  5. ^ McGilligan 1986, p. 219.
  6. ^ T.S. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941); At the Music Hall." The New York Times, February 21, 1941.
  7. ^ "Review: "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." Variety, December 31, 1940.

Bibliography[edit]

  • McGilligan, Patrick. "Norman Krasna: The Woolworth's Touch". Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood's Golden Age. Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-52005-689-3.
  • Spoto, Donald. The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Da Capo, 1999. ISBN 0-306-80932-X.

External links[edit]