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Film / Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)

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We're screwbally!

No, not the one with the spies and guns.

This is a 1941 Screwball Comedy directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery.

When the film begins, married New Yorkers Ann and David Smith haven’t left their bedroom for three days due to a spat. Happily, they reconcile, but all of Ann’s relationship rules leave David feeling just a little controlled. Ann asks him an important question before she lets him get back to work: if he could do it all over again, would he have married her? He answers with a "no"— not the right answer.

After a lot of soothing on David’s part, Ann finally lets him go to work. While there, a notary from Idaho visits David’s practice (he’s a lawyer) and says that due to a technicality, Ann and David aren’t really married. Rather than being upset, David is titillated at the prospect of being with Ann and treating it as an illicit affair. Meanwhile, the same notary, who has known Ann since she was a little girl, visits her and her mother. He tells her of the news, and Ann’s mother is shocked. Ann, on the other hand, isn’t worried because she knows David will propose and marry her that night. But while visiting their old dating spot, Momma Lucy’s Restaurant, Ann discovers that David has no intention of telling her the news or marrying her anytime soon. Her anger only intensifies when they’re home, and David is jauntily getting ready for bed—getting champagne, putting on his PJ’s with a pocket square. Ann knows this song and dance, and in a flash of anger, she kicks David out, because he had the gall to want to sleep with his technically unmarried wife…

This leads to amusing anecdotes with David trying to win Ann back, Ann dating David’s partner, Jeff Custer, and lots of bickering.

Notable for being Carole Lombard’s penultimate film (her last being To Be or Not to Be) before dying in a plane crash at the age of 33. It’s also worth noting that this was Alfred Hitchcock’s only straight Romantic Comedy / Screwball Comedy film,note  and quite different than his comedy-infused thrillers.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith provides examples of:

  • Alcohol Hic: Jeff lets one out right after his second drink.
  • All Women Are Prudes: Played Straight with Ann’s mother and Ann… Then, Subverted at the end where Ann has no problem getting back with David. Sexy times ensue.
  • All Men Are Perverts: How dare David think that he can get some when he’s technically not married but has been common-law for three years!
  • Amusement Park: Jeff and Ann go to the fair and get stuck on the parachute ride.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Ann and David. Come on! Just get back together.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Of course, they get back together.
  • Brutal Honesty: What gets David into trouble with Ann.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Poor Jeff can only have two glasses of liquor before he’s a bumbling fool.
  • Catch Your Death of Cold: While stuck on the parachute ride, it starts to rain. Ann tells Jeff that he’s catching cold quickly, and the moment they get off, they need to go Jeff’s place and change clothes.
  • Contrived Coincidence: What happens right after David mentions that if he wasn’t married to Ann, he wouldn’t be married at all? Someone informs them that they aren’t technically married.
  • Creator Cameo: Hitchcock appears after David comes out of his apartment building, walking past him.
  • Disposable Fiancée: Ann is engaged to Jeff for a short while. We all know this won't last for long since he's bland perfection.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: There wasn’t technically a marriage to need a divorce, but Ann and David, especially Ann, go their different ways for a while like a divorced couple. Albeit, temporarily.
  • Even the Rats Won't Touch It: At Momma Lucy’s, David is concerned that the cat won’t eat the soup they’re eating. It has eaten everything else, except the soup.
    David Smith: I'd give five bucks to see that cat take a sip of that soup.
  • Exiled to the Couch: Exiled to the country club.
  • Love Epiphany: Jeff doesn’t come to Ann’s defense when David angrily holds her down, and she realizes that Jeff’s gentleman qualities are spineless, and she'd rather be with David; he’s someone who won’t put up with her crap.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Carole wears a beautiful black dress with a two-tiered skirt, and a scoop back.
  • Sleeping Single: Averted. Ann and David’s bedroom shows only one bed.
  • Slip into Something More Comfortable: Averted. Once Jeff gets home, he says this exact line, but comes out wearing… another white tie outfit.
  • Southern Gentleman: Jeff Custer.
    David: Why you hillbilly ambulance chaser.
  • The Teetotaler: Jeff never drinks, because he was influence by a Temperance sermon as a young man.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: Ann got married in a black skirt-suit, but it has "shrunk" (according to Ann) and she needs to use pins to keep it together. Unfortunately, they keep coming undone.