Dial M for Marital Mayhem
When is a Hitchcock movie not a Hitchcock movie? When it's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith". Persuaded by star Carole Lombard to direct her in a comedy Hitchcock did just that with this screwball comedy about marital mayhem and what a fun little comedy it is but there is none of Hitchcock to it, other than a brief trademark cameo. In fact the success of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" owes more to the writing of Norman Krasna and the actors who alongside Lombard included Robert Montgomery, Gene Raymond and Jack Carson. It is the fun scenarios and the comic timing of Lombard, Montgomery and Raymond which makes you laugh.
Whilst they regularly have rows David (Robert Montgomery - Here Comes Mr. Jordan) and Ann Smith (Carole Lombard - To Be or Not to Be) are still in love after 3 years of marriage, although when Ann asks if he had his time again would he marry her, his candid no takes her aback. That "No" comes back to haunt him when shortly after he learns that due to an issue with their marriage licence technically they're not married. Furious at David's not bothered attitude Ann refuses to remarry him and starts dating his business partner as a single woman forcing David to try and win her back.
It's worth mentioning that even Hitchcock admitted that he didn't know what he was doing when it came to out and out comedy and so whilst Hitchcock's direction is solid the success of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" is more to do with other things. The first of those other things is the amusing and simple idea of a husband having to try and win his wife back after they discover their marriage is technically illegal. It is a novel little idea as we watch David having to put up with Ann acting like a single woman and dating Jeff his business partner leading to some underhand tactics to try and win her back. But it has plenty of fun little scenes especially the amusing opening as a row leads David and Ann to spend 3 days in the bedroom till they sort it out.
The second of those things is a trio of performances starting with the beautiful Carole Lombard who as Ann plays the archetype screwball woman who is beautiful and strong. Robert Montgomery as David gives us deviousness and exasperation as he tries to win her back finding single life not all it's cracked up to be. And then there is Gene Raymond as Jeff whose face pulling in the scene where he ends up cold and drunk is unforgettable. This trio plus a small part for Jack Carson bring this novel story to life with great comic timing and visual gags which are even better when accompanied by Edward Ward's bubbly score.
And that is really it because "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" is on par with many 30s and 40s screwball comedies but as I said I feel it is down to the writing and performances more than anything. The daft thing is that whilst there is nothing typically Hitchcock about the movie other than the cameo it is a competent piece of directing and you sort of wish Hitchcock had done some more as I am sure he would have added some of his own flare to them.
What this all boils down to is that "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" is a typical and enjoyable 40s screwball comedy which has the distinction of being a Hitchcock movie. It's success lays mainly with some wonderful performances and good writing although it is a competent piece of direction from Hitchcock who admitted he didn't know what he was doing.