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Monday, November 9, 2009

MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1940)


People are still surprised that Alfred Hitchcock helmed this first-rate Carole Lombard ‘Screwball’ romantic-comedy. But it’s less of a surprise if you know RICH AND STRANGE/’32, Hitch’s odd-duck British release which is also all about a troubled marriage that’s saved only when the couple try separating. Call it a Screwball Romantic-Adventure. The gimmick in the Norman Krasna script involves a technicality that nullifies Lombard’s bumpy marriage to Robert Montgomery. Given a second chance, would you do it over again? The gap between theory and practice makes for good situations and good fun for about two-thirds of the running time. Then the strain starts to show as it does in all but the very best Screwballs. But the filming is wonderfully posh (lensing by Harry Stradling); the supporting cast dandy (Jack Carson is a standout as Montgomery’s bachelor pal); and two set pieces at contrasting restaurants, one down-at-the-heels and one swanky, are just outstanding with Montgomery functioning on some sort of comic high. Especially when he tries to give himself a bloody nose.


READ ALL ABOUT IT: A tip of the cap to Jack Sullivan’s HITCHCOCK’S MUSIC. Not only did he spot the ties with RICH AND STRANGE, but he intriguing posits Roy Webb and not Edward Ward as this film’s composer in his fascinating book on . . . er . . . Hitchcock’s music.

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