I know it’s the usual disclaimer that seemingly opens any review of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but I’m going to say it anyway . . . This is not your typical Hitchcock film. smith.jpgMade in 1941 at the behest of his close friend Carole Lombard, this film represents Hitch’s one and only foray into screwball comedy (notice the qualifyer – he actually did make one other comedy in his career – the much darker The Trouble With Harry in 1955). The result is Mr. and Mrs. Smith, an underrated comedy from 1941 about a man named David Smith (Robert Montgomery) and his wife Ann (Lombard) who discover that a technicality has nullified their marriage from a few years previous. When David tries to have a little fun with this fact rather than immediately rectifying it, Ann becomes outraged and decides she’d be better off without him. David thus has to go to great and often humorous lengths to rewin her love.

Different as it is from his usual fare, Hitchcock devotees will still see traces of the director’s trademarks in this film. Even in Hitchcock’s most suspenseful films, humor usually has a prominent role in at least some of the scenes. One should not be surprised, then, to find that the same style of humor so often utilized in his suspense films is what shows up in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The comedy is at times full of suggestion and innuendo, much of it bordering on risque for the time. At other times, such as the scene in the Italian restaurant, Hitch relies on a more visceral, bodily sense of humor – the type that appears repeatedly in his films throughout his career. Not only that, but one will also find some of Hitchcock’s signature shots throughout the film – particularly those of the long fade-in and fade-out variety.

With that being said, there certainly is no guarantee that fans of Hitchcock will like this film. In fact, I have an old second-hand book on Hitchcock’s films at home – published sometime in the 80s, I believe – and it really just glosses over this film, saying Hitch did it as a favor to Lombard and was essentially just going through the motions. I think that’s a little harsh and is more a sign of the frustration of suspense fans in having to watch one of Hitchcock’s rare deviations from his usual genre.

Perhaps a better way to tell if you’re going to enjoy the film is to consider it less a Hitchcock film and more of a Lombard film. If you enjoy some of Carole Lombard’s other films – such as My Man Godfrey and To Be or Not to Be – then you will probably enjoy this one, although admittedly, this one is not nearly as original or zany as those two films. smith2.jpgBoth Lombard and Montgomery are great in it, as are some of the supporting cast like Jack Carson. The film is not one of the screwball masterpieces of the era, and the ending seemed a little forced to me (my wife – a sucker for anything screwball – probably disagrees with me here), but overall, it’s a fun little film with some really funny scenes (including the one where David is in the night club trying to make Ann jealous – that one was one of those so-funny-let’s-rewind-and-watch-again type scenes). Don’t discount this one just because it’s not the usual Hitchcock.

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