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With: Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery, Gene Raymond, Jack Carson, Philip Merivale, Lucile Watson
Written by: Norma Krasna
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 95
Date: 31/01/1941

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Married and Unmarried

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Mr. and Mrs. Smith on DVD.

The strangest thing about Mr. and Mrs. Smith is that it's a good movie, a very good movie, a top-notch screwball comedy, in fact. It's so crisp and snappy that one might think Howard Hawks or Ernst Lubitsch had made it. But in not one frame is it evident that the real director was Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock adored Carole Lombard and expressed interest in making a film with her, which is pretty easy to understand. He later told Francois Truffaut that he agreed to the script, without understanding a thing about the behavior of the characters. He merely filmed it as straightforward as he could.

The catch is that this odd little movie only further proves Hitchcock's genius; if his version of "straightforward" is as good as anything Lubitsch or Hawks did, he must have been very good indeed.

Lombard stars as Ann Smith, married to lawyer David Smith (Robert Montgomery). In their three years of marriage, they've come up with a few rules and challenges to keep their relationship alive. If they have an argument, they won't leave the bedroom until they've made up. In addition, Mr. Smith must answer any crackpot questions his Mrs. comes up with, such as "if you could do it all over again, would you still marry me?"

It turns out that, technically, they're not really married. A little man comes around and explains about some kind of legal hang-up concerning all couples who were married in a certain place during a certain time.

They could simply get re-married at city hall, but Mr. Smith has behaved badly, and Mrs. Smith decides to test him a bit and taste some freedom. Like Leo McCarey's The Awful Truth (1937), the lovers continually badger each other in increasingly amusing ways until they fall in love again.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith does not play nearly as "straightforward" as Hitchcock's attitude would indicate. It contains plenty of Lubitsch-like bits and pieces, such as the fact that Mr. Smith keeps returning to his men's club -- the Beefeaters -- to spend the night. The first night, the situation is only temporary. The second night, things begin to look bad. The third night, Hitchcock sums up the entire situation by simply showing the room key hanging on the wall -- with Mr. Smith's name neatly typed on it.

Lombard, of course, is superb. She could easily have been one of Hitchcock's "blondes" if she hadn't died the following year in a place crash after completing her final film, Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be. She has an unabashed craziness that clashes with her sumptuous blonde beauty. She always seems slightly amused with whatever strange situation she's in, and her flawless line readings still earn laughs.

DVD Details: Warner Home Video has released Mr. and Mrs. Smith on DVD for the first time, and it includes a theatrical trailer and a short "making-of" featurette. (Peter Bogdanovich and other Hitchcock experts participate.) In September of 2004, Warner released 8 new Hitchcock DVDs, including Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Foreign Correspondent, Suspicion, Stage Fright, Strangers on a Train, I Confess, Dial M for Murder and The Wrong Man.

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