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Smart Woman is a 1931 comedy directed by Gregory La Cava.

Nancy Gibson (Mary Astor) is a young bride coming back to America after an extended stay in Paris looking after her sick mother. Sir Guy Harrington, another first-class passenger on the boat, hits on her, but Mary is in love with her husband Donald and would never even dream of having a fling.

So she's very surprised to come home and find out that Donald is divorcing her. Donald got horny in his wife's absence, it seems, and is now infatuated with one Peggy Preston. Peggy is an obvious gold digger, but, as Nancy's brother-in-law Billy (Edward Everett Horton) advises her, fighting the divorce will only make Donald dig his heels in. Instead, she affects insouciance, cheerfully agreeing to the divorce with Donald, while simultaneously calling on Sir Guy to help her undermine Donald's relationship with Peggy.

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Robert Ames, who played Donald, died of alcoholism just two months after this film was released.


Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Billy drinks a "beef iron additive" that is 40% liquor; he carries it around in his pocket. He says that tea is poison. When remembering his last birthday party, his wife Sally says "And Bill got tight. As usual."
  • All-Natural Snake Oil: "Dr. Blount's Beef Iron Additive" is "no more than 40% alcohol".
  • Chekhov's Gun: The love letters that Nancy sent home from Europe, left unopened as Donald was messing around with Peggy. At the end, after Peggy has left, Nancy arranges for Donald to find them, to show how much she loves him.
  • Comedy of Remarriage: Because this was 1931 Nancy doesn't toss Donald out on his ear (it's her house!). No, she mounts a campaign to win him back, acting indifferent and then professing her love for Sir Guy to make Donald jealous. At the same time Sir Guy cozies up to Peggy (whom he doesn't like at all) to lure her away from Donald.
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  • Divorce in Reno: Discussed Trope, as Nancy says she'll be happy to go to Reno for a divorce. She doesn't mean it.
  • Double Entendre: Peggy and Sir Guy engage in some banter, right in front of Donald, after getting back from a horse ride they didn't bother to tell him about.
    Peggy: He just can't get up in the mornings.
    Sir Guy: You know, I enjoy an early morning ride. It's a great appetizer.
  • Fanservice: An entire scene where Peggy is wearing only a slip as she tells her mother about how she's going to arrange to be alone with Sir Guy.
  • Gossipy Hens: Mrs. Windleweaver. She shows up for one scene to make catty comments to Nancy about Donald and Peggy. Nancy gives her a verbal smackdown, and Mrs. Windleweaver leaves the movie.
  • The Mistress: Peggy has apparently been living in the house while Nancy was gone.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Peggy invokes this trope by pretending to have had an affair with Sir Guy on the boat, and saying that she'll marry him as soon as the divorce is done. It works.
  • Separated by a Common Language: Sir Guy says of his invitation, to Peggy's mom: "That's what you Americans call—a break for me, Mrs. Preston."
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Nancy is wearing one for the scenes at the end where she's winning Don back.
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