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Warner Home Video presents
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

"I know of no finer compliment that I could pay to any girl than to tell you this: That when a man has been sitting across the breakfast table from the same woman for three solid years, and still wants to marry her...well, she's quite a girl."
- David Smith (Robert Montgomery)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: September 07, 2004

Stars: Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery, Gene Raymond
Other Stars: Jack Carson, Philip Merivale, Lucile Watson
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:34m:51s
Release Date: September 07, 2004
UPC: 085393981426
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+B+B+ B-

DVD Review

If you ever wondered why Alfred Hitchcock directed only one romantic comedy during his 50-year career, take a look at Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Pleasant but strained, this talky domestic romp possesses little of Hitch's patented visual flair and less of the wry, sophisticated humor that makes his suspense thrillers sparkle. The delightful Carole Lombard and mischievous Robert Montgomery try their best to inject some joie de vivre into the film, but even their considerable talents can't rescue this mundane marital mix-up.

David and Ann Smith (Montgomery and Lombard) seem to relish their tempestuous marriage and its cyclical fights, standoffs, and romantic reconciliations. But when Ann innocently asks David if, given the chance, he'd marry her all over again, he commits the cardinal spousal sin of answering with honesty. His negative, matter-of-fact response shocks and saddens Ann, but David quickly soothes her by explaining it's merely marriage—not his lovely wife—that turns him off. In true screwball fashion, however, a legal technicality soon renders their union null and void, and, surprisingly, David is the one who seeks to rectify the situation with a hasty visit to the nearest justice of the peace. Ann, on the other hand, isn't so sure she wants to retie the knot, and her indecision inspires her now frantic husband to woo her all over again. Yet David faces stiff competition from his business partner (Gene Raymond), who's salivating at the prospect of courting the newly independent and oh-so-worldly Ann.

Although history often holds directors accountable for disappointing films, screenwriter Norman Krasna deserves the lion's share of blame for contributing a static story and verbose script. The premise of Mr. and Mrs. Smith brims with promise, but predictable complications soon deflate audience enthusiasm. And while it's fun to see Lombard and Montgomery bicker and spar, Krasna keeps them apart for much of the film, leaving Lombard saddled with the bland Raymond, and viewers shifting in their seats.

Hitchcock's slick, efficient style keeps the action moving as swiftly as the script allows, but the Master of Suspense seems stymied by the constraints of the romantic comedy genre. To someone so attuned to violence, chaos, and deceit, the battle of the sexes is pretty tame stuff, and Hitchcock has trouble masking his boredom. One can sense his impatience with the story and characters, and how he's just itching to punch up the proceedings with a bit of murder or psychological intrigue. Now and then, he slips in an interesting camera angle, but such creativity, though welcome, doesn't suit the subject matter.

Almost any project, however, suits the wonderful Carole Lombard. Equally adept at comedy and drama (but much more revered for the former), this gifted actress enlivens almost every film in which she appears. Mr. and Mrs. Smith would prove to be her penultimate screen appearance (she would die in a plane crash the following year at age 34), and her instincts, comic timing, and natural acting style help distract the audience from the movie's deficiencies. She's also lovingly photographed by Hitchcock, who captures her stunning beauty in several exquisite close-ups.

Throughout his career, Montgomery specialized in playing devil-may-care sophisticates, and though his mugging in Mr. and Mrs. Smith becomes tiresome over time, the role fits him well. He and Lombard share good chemistry, but their paucity of scenes together diffuses its impact. Still, Montgomery seems to be enjoying himself, even if, at times, his casual approach to David Smith could be mistaken for somnambulance.

Hitchcock's fans might term this labored farce a noble experiment, but "misguided misfire" more accurately describes this errant blip on the director's radar. In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Smith proves even someone as supremely talented as Alfred Hitchcock could dumb himself down and produce a run-of-the-mill studio comedy. Thankfully, however, he was smart enough not to repeat the experience.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The full-frame transfer looks fresh and appealing, with rich blacks, solid contrast, and plenty of gray level variance. Faint speckling can be detected throughout (but you really have to look for it), while light grain adds warmth and texture.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack remains largely free of defects. No annoying hiss or crackles intrude, and dialogue can always be easily comprehended. Depth and presence remain at a minimum, but the track possesses marvelous clarity for such an antiquated feature.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: An all-new documentary, Mr. Hitchcock Meets The Smiths, is the primary extra, and features comments and reminiscences from several notable Hollywood figures, including directors Peter Bogdanovich and Richard Franklin, historians Robert Osborne and Richard Schickel, and Hitch's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell. Much of the discussion revolves around Lombard and her status as "the queen of screwball comedy." Yet she's also termed "the quintessential Hitchcock blonde," and the participants in the 16-minute film believe Lombard, had she lived, would have made a terrific heroine in a Hitchcock thriller. Osborne compares the actress to America's other legendary funnywoman, Lucille Ball (who apparently worshipped Lombard), while O'Connell and Hitchcock granddaughter Mary Stone poignantly recall how Lombard's tragic death affected her husband, Clark Gable.

All admit the screwball format was a definite departure for Hitchcock, and without prior knowledge of his involvement, one would never attribute the film to him. But Franklin insightfully notes that, for an Englishman who was "just off the boat," Hitchcock adapted to this indigenous American genre with amazing success. The film also addresses the careers of Robert Montgomery, Gene Raymond, and Jack Carson, as well as the legend that Hitchcock disliked actors. And if you missed the director's cameo in Mr. and Mrs. Smith (and, believe me, it's tough to spot), the documentary zeroes in on it.

The film's original trailer, which tellingly never mentions Hitchcock or includes his name on any of the title cards, is also included on the disc, and remains in excellent condition.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Hitchcock's sole foray into romantic comedy remains a noteworthy novelty, but fails to captivate modern viewers. Sparks fly between Lombard and Montgomery, but never quite ignite this tedious break-up-and-make-up yarn. Although a decent transfer and informative documentary dress up Warner's disc, Mr. and Mrs. Smith will never be considered more than an intriguing footnote on Hitchcock's résumé.

 


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