Making the Grades
"If you had it to do all over again, would you have married me?" asks Mrs. Ann Smith (Carole Lombard). Considering she and her husband David (Robert Montgomery) have just settled a 72-hour-long quarrel, this may not be the best time for her fluttery-eyelash inquiry.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Smith's response is less than enthusiastic. Perhaps his hesitation is a result of attempting to be totally honest --a character trait his headstrong wife demands. More likely, his reluctance to renew his wedding vows comes from trying to comply with the many marriage "rules" his better half has drafted. For example, the one that insists neither of them can leave the bedroom until they've settled an argument is the reason he's missed the last three days of work.
Yet, what began as a hypothetical question becomes reality just a few hours later, after a nervous county clerk (Charles Halton) drops by his office. Apologetically, Mr. Harry Deever informs the henpecked man his union was never legally sanctioned, due to a minor technical error.
Completely forgetting former feelings of confinement, David is simply bemused to learn he has been "living in sin" for the past three years. Mischievously, he phones his spouse and invites her to go to dinner with him at the restaurant where he first proposed.
Unbeknownst to him, someone has also broken the news to Ann. Happily she agrees to the date, feeling confident he's prepared to remake his commitment. But as the evening progresses and David fails to pop the question, she fears he really has changed his mind. Her doubts turn into outrage though, when they return home and he starts behaving amorously. Convinced he intends to exercise his "husbandly rights" without a license, the feisty blonde hurls insults and a bottle of champagne at him. Then she throws the lout out of their apartment.
Now it's Ann who's ruing the day she said "I do." With all the fury of a woman scorned, she reverts to her maiden name and flirts shamelessly with David's business partner (Gene Raymond). Just as quickly, the ex-ed husband realizes, if he doesn't want to play the part of begging suitor forever, he's going to have to come up with a new game plan to win her back.
What ensues is a series of silly shenanigans with slapstick violence, simmering sexual tensions, and a lot of drowning one's sorrows in gin. Although the antics are sometimes humorous, the premise proves funnier than the resolution.
While viewers may wonder why anyone would tie the knot with either the self-centered creature or the egotistical chauvinist, the real puzzle of this screwball comedy is the name, Alfred Hitchcock, which appears in the opening credits. Yes, it is referring to the famous "Master of Suspense." The movie, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, represents his only foray into another genre. (A good friend of the leading lady, he agreed to direct this film, which was written especially for the starlet.) Unlike the rest of his work however, viewers will have no problem predicting how this "for better or worse" mystery will end.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941).
In the movie, David is portrayed as a man’s man, with an aggressive, jealous temper. Jeff, his business partner and soon archrival, is depicted as a gentleman with a “turn the other cheek” philosophy. Why does Ann waffle between finding these character traits attractive and repulsive? Which of these two personalities would you prefer to marry?
Much of the humor of this film is based on the societal norms of the 1940’s. Over the last 60 years, how have attitudes changed about marriage, promiscuity, gender roles, spouse abuse, and the use of alcohol and tobacco?