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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Classic Film Review: Mr & Mrs Smith (1941)

Mr & Mrs Smith is technically a Hitchcock film but if you watch it solely because of that fact you'll be heartily disappointed. It's a comedy starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery as Ann and David Smith, a warring couple married for three years who discover (separately) that their marriage is invalid due to a legal technicality. Despite their differences, Ann is certain that David will rush to propose so they can be 'properly' married. However, when he neglects to tell her, he sets in motion a chain of events that see him thrown out of his own home and desperate to get his wife back. Unfortunately, his friend and partner Jeff (Gene Raymond) sees this as the perfect opportunity to make a move on Ann, leaving David out in the cold.

Although the plot does dip in places, this is actually a very enjoyable film. Montgomery's performance as the leering but lovable David is perfect but, as always, I have a far greater admiration for Lombard in this one. She has one of the best sequences of the piece with Gene Raymond as they are first stuck on a parachute ride in the pouring rain then go back to Jeff's place to warm up. Jeff is teetotal but Ann pushes some alcohol on him to make him feel better. It's difficult to describe the scene but Raymond's hilarious in it.

Montgomery has his fair share of memorable scenes too, particularly in the restaurant where David goes on a double date because he knows Ann and Jeff are going to be there. After seeing that his date is not the type of woman to make Ann jealous, he decides to make believe he's with the woman on the other side of him by opening his mouth and pretending to talk whilst the stranger remains oblivious - for a while. There's also a gorgeous scene a little earlier when Ann is still thinking that David will propose but he's more interested in the fact the cat sat on their table refuses to eat the soup in front of it. And, before that, you get the delight of Ann shaving David - honestly don't miss that gorgeous little scene.

Perhaps my biggest gripe about this film is that the ending feels a little anti-climatic. Ann and Jeff have gone away only to find David there too. While this leads to some amusing moments, I think the actual final few minutes are drastically wrong. The ending to a romantic comedy is, of course, a foregone conclusion but I wish they'd made more of it.

However, on the whole I enjoyed Mr & Mrs Smith. This was Lombard's second to last film and really makes you long for what might have been: the energy she brings to the film would keep it going even if she didn't have the talent of Robert Montgomery on her arm.

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