Top positive review
1941 screwball comedy
on 2 August 2017
A rarity from Alfred Hitchcock - a screwball comedy dating from 1941 starring Carole Lombard (only months before her tragically early death) and Robert Montgomery as the eponymous Mr and Mrs Smith. New York based Ann and David have been married for three years and are prone to fallings out that can last for days, and at the start of the film we see one of these in progress then being resolved. Ann is feisty, and that's where some of the comedy comes from as David tries to work around the latest spat.
After the issue is resolved Lawyer David can finally get back to work with legal partner Jeff. However an official calls to see David and explains that owing to a technicality David and Ann's marriage isn't legal, having taken place in Ann's home town in Idaho. He is a personal friend of Ann's, asking David to remember him to her. Giving David his $2 marriage fee back he states they ought to get married in a civil ceremony as soon as possible, which David finds amusing.
Taking his leave the man catches a taxi, but by chance passing David and Ann's street he diverts the taxi to catch up with Ann and impart the same news to her and her visiting mother. Ann arranges to meet David after work, squeezes herself into the same dress he popped the question in and suggests attending the same restaurant they got engaged in that evening. Expecting David to mention the issue all through the evening he does not, and when they finally reach home she faces him with the news and another row ensues.
Doesn't sound much like a comedy? At times it does struggle, but the comedy comes from the misfiring relationship between David and Ann, her enlisting David's partner Jeff as council for their separation, Ann deliberately beginning a relationship with teetotaller Jeff to spite David, with some lovely moments in a nightclub and stuck on a fairground ride; Ann convincing Jeff to down spirits and treat it like medicine (which became a recurring Hitchcock theme in several subsequent films); and lovely cameos from actors playing Ann's mother and Jeff's horrified parents.
It's a simple tale of David trying to win Ann back after getting banished to his club to sleep and the stubborn-headedness of Ann to make David pay for his sins. Lombard plays her role well, indeed for this period it's a treat to see a strong female portrayed. Cummings igs less satisfactory and indeed was only employed a week before filming commenced after Hitchcock failed to attract Cary Grant to the role. His Girl Friday this isn't, not all the jokes work, though it's a worthy attempt. A minor Hitchcock, but a curiosity worth seeking out.