Sunday, August 28, 2011

Alfred Hitchcock does a screwball comedy

Really. As part of Carole Lombard's day in TCM's Summer Under the Stars, you can watch Mr. and Mrs. Smith overnight tonight at 1:00 AM.

Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery star as Ann and David, an upper-class married couple in New York who like to throw the sort of barbs at each other that you could imagine William Powell and Myrna Loy doing. In one of their mock arguments, David tells Ann that, yes, if he had to do it all over again, he'd marry her again. Little does he know that he's going to have to. Into each of their lives that morning walks Mr. Deever, a justice of the peace from Ann's hometown out west. He has the sad news of telling each of them that, due to a technicality, their marriage is not actually legal, and that they're going to have to have another ceremony. David, having been apprised of this news at his office, decides to play a bit of a practical joke on Ann, but he doesn't realize that she's been told until it's too late. Ann knows they're not legally married, and that he's not trying to get her to marry him the way he said he would.

So Ann acts as though the two never even thought they were legally married, and threatens to go off with David's law partner Jeff (Gene Raymond). It's up to David to try to win Ann back. But this being a comedy, you know that all of the attempts are going to go wrong, such as when David takes Ann to the hole-in-the-wall restaurant where they went on their first date all those years ago, only to find that things have changed.

Alfred Hitchcock was great at black comedy. Mr. and Mrs. Smith isn't black comedy, but a straight-up screwball comedy. I don't think that screwball comedy best suited Hitchcock's abilities, although that doesn't mean that this is at all a bad movie. In fact, if you didn't know that this had been directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it would come across more as a perfectly good movie, and not one of a great director's lesser efforts. Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery were both well-suited to this sort of elegant comedy, and it shows. So don't think about Hitchcock, sit back, and enjoy this good movie.

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