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Film / Smarty

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First shot of the movie, folks.

"A good sock in the eye is something every woman needs at least once in her life."
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Smarty is a 1934 film directed by Robert Florey, starring Joan Blondell and Warren William.

Vicki and Tony Thorpe (Blondell and William) are an upper-class married couple with some problems. Tony is pretty plainly not satisfying Vicki in the bedroom, which leads to her mercilessly teasing him. When she needles him too much at a dinner party for friends, Tony slaps her in the face. Vicki, with the encouragement of family friend and divorce attorney Vernon Thorpe (Edward Everett Horton) immediately files for divorce, and marries Vernon. However, in reality she still loves Tony, and sets out to win him back.

This film was made at the end of The Pre-Code Era and is an all-time example of both Values Dissonance and Unintentional Period Piece, being as it is a film that could not have been made in any other time period than 1930-1934. It is full of nonstop Fanservice, winking double entendres, and sex talk. Most amazingly, and possibly most off-putting to a 21st century viewer, is the central message: men should hit their wives to keep them in line. It turns out that the real problem in the Thorpe marriage is that Vicki really likes being slapped around and sexually dominated, and is discontent with Tony because he doesn't hit her enough.

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Has to be seen to be believed.


Tropes:

  • All Women Are Lustful: Vicki wants to be dominated and slapped around. Anita got divorced because of her serial cheating. Bonnie, who is married to another man, desperately wants to get into Tony's pants.
  • Amicably Divorced: Tony and Vicki get along pretty well after their divorce. Mostly because they obviously still love each other.
  • Berserk Button: Vicki's taunting references to "diced carrots", which apparently are metaphors for Tony's impotence, tend to make him fly into rages.
  • Casual Kink: As it turns out, Vicki really wants to be dominated and smacked around. Tony can't deal with this at first and Vernon can't at all. She is positively gleeful when Tony finally takes charge at the end.
  • Celebrity Paradox: In one of several discussions about how it's OK for men to hit women, Tony mentions that he saw a movie where a man shoved a grapefruit in a woman's face, and it was no big deal. That's a reference to The Public Enemy, which co-starred Joan Blondell (Mae Clarke took the grapefruit to the face).
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  • Comedy of Remarriage: A pretty messed-up one as these things go. But the film ends with Vicki and Tony back together.
  • Double Entendre: Many.
    George: What an interesting lot of things one wold see if ceilings were made of glass.
  • Fanservice: The movie must have been made in order to put Joan Blondell in as little clothing as possible before the Hays Code hammer came down. Vicki in negligees. Vicki in backless dresses. Vicki in nothing but pantyhose, exposing her bottom to the camera. Vicki getting her dress ripped off. So much fanservice.
  • Fanservice Extra: Joan Blondell got a break from the fanservice for a while when the movie has a scene at an upscale clothing store, with scantily clad models showing off the latest fashions.
  • Gilligan Cut: Tony categorically refuses to play bridge with the guests at dinner, saying "Nope, nope...", followed by a cut to Tony, playing bridge, saying "...nope, no bid."
  • Hangover Sensitivity: Tony is worse for wear after a night out partying with his new girlfriend, Bonnie.
  • Henpecked Husband: Tony is this to an extent, which frustrates him and especially frustrates Vicki as that's not what she wants. Then Vernon the weakling becomes an even more extreme version of this, which leads Vicki to dump him.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: Pretty much the sole motive for Vicki deliberately irritating both of her husbands. She even says "If he'd really loved me, he'd have hit me long ago" to Anita. The film ends with Vicki straight up asking Tony to hit her (see Romanticized Abuse below).
  • Hypocritical Humor: Bonnie, a married woman who's been trying hard to get Tony to have sex with her, sneers "Steal another man's wife" with disdain after finding out that Vicki, now married to Vernon, is hiding in Tony's apartment.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: It seems that Vicki's desire to be dominated and slapped around is causing Tony some difficulties in the bedroom.
    Tony: You make me impotent...with rage.
  • Reaction Shot: Quick cuts in turn to Anita, Tony, and Vernon, all looking shocked, after Vicki, who has been hiding in Tony's bedroom, chooses to deliberately reveal her presence.
  • Romantic False Lead: Weak, ineffectual Vernon is clearly only a way station before Tony and Vicki get back together.
  • Romanticized Abuse: The Movie. The film ends with Tony tearing Vicki's dress off, slapping her in the face (which causes her to light up with glee), and throwing her on the couch. Vicki gives Tony the "bedroom eyes" look, and as the Sexy Discretion Shot pans behind the couch, the last line of dialogue is:
    Vicki: Tony...hit me again.note 
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: "I think I'll get a dress without any back at all," says Vicki. Vernon categorically confuses to allow her to buy such a revealing dress—so of course she buys it as soon as he leaves. Tony rips the dress off her at the end.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: As part of seducing Tony and getting Vernon to divorce her, Vicki changes into a pair of Vernon's pajamas and makes sure that both of them see her.
  • She's Got Legs: The very first shot of the film is a closeup of Vicki's bare legs as she sits in a negligee getting ready for dinner.
  • Video Credits: At the start of the movie in accordance with Warner Brothers house style.
  • Would Hit a Girl: As all husbands should, of course! Tony does in the beginning, which leads Vicki to divorce him when he's apologetic about it. She antagonizes Vernon into slapping her, and decides to divorce him when he's apologetic about it. When Tony finally hits her and means it, she's thrilled.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Bonnie is married, which doesn't stop her from trying to get sex from Tony.
  • Zip Me Up: Vicki isn't the least bit subtle about it, asking for help buttoning up her dress—which is a Sexy Backless Outfit, so guess where the buttons are—then asking for Tony to do it instead of Anita on the dubious grounds that Anita's hands are too cold.
    Vicki: You've always been a great hooker-upper.
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