Hitchcock reviews Dial H for Hitchcock. Film reviews by Terrence Brady

When one thinks of a Hitchcock film, the obvious comes to mind: murder... intrigue.... zany romance.... suspense....huh? Zany romance?? Yes, itís hard to believe but the man who has been labeled the "Master of Suspense" also had a lighter side. The 1941 film Mr. & Mrs. Smith proved to audiences that Hitchcock was anything but typecast.

Starring "The Smiths" (Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard) this wacky tale revolves around a hypothetical "what if" scenario which later becomes a disturbing reality.

Letís backtrack a bit to the beginning of the tale ... where the Smiths, a happily married couple of three years, have an unusual set of rules they adhere to in order to make their marriage last. One of the rules is that once a day they can ask the other a question in which they must answer honestly. Mrs. Smith asks her beloved: "If they could do it all over again, would he marry her?"

Mr. Smith, believing honesty is the best policy, tells her "no" -- (wrong answer). Mrs. Smith pretends this "revelation" does not bother her but as fate would have, they discover later (due to a bureaucratic screw up) they were never legally married at all. While Mr. Smith (who first discovers the blunder) tries to milk the situation and have some fun with his wife, Mrs. Smith takes matters more seriously when finding out the truth about their marriage. In keeping with his earlier "no" response, Mrs. Smith decides she doesnít want to get re-married and kicks Mr. Smith out of their Manhattan apartment and begins dating his law partner and old college chum, Jeff. Thus begins the hilarious escapades of Mr. Smith who goes to extreme measures to win back the woman he loves.

Indeed -- this hardly sounds like your "typical" Alfred Hitchcock film. The story of how this all came about is when Hitch and family first moved from England to the U.S. and rented Lombardís home in Los Angeles. It is rumored that Hitch developed a strong admiration for the actress, though nothing came of it (as did many of his unconsummated infatuations) and critics say that Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a coy experiment in making a satirizing stab at his own marriage.

Whatever truths there may be, Lombard persuaded Hitch into directing this ingenious screwball comedy on marriage and affairs. The chemistry between Lombard and Montgomery is unmistakable as a married couple who love to hate one another. The third member of this love triangle, Jeff, is quite the back-stabbing fellow whom the audience can rally against. In staying with the lighthearted theme, his character is not written off as a complete ass and in the end, shows a sympathetic side in allowing the couple to rekindle their love.

The only complaint I have for this film is the ending ... which seems to have been slapped together at the last moment (as if the production was about to go over-budget) and they needed to wrap. Sadly, this would be one of Lombardís final films as she perished in a plane crash, outside of Las Vegas, in 1942. She was 33.

RATING: 7.5 (of 10). All in all, Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a "one-of-a-kind" comedic treat by the "Master of Suspense."

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