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Mr And Mrs Smith Review

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Manhattan lawyer David Smith discovers that he was never legally married to his tempestuous wife, Ann, because their Idaho license was invalid in Nevada at the time of their wedding.

★★★★★

Humour had always been a key component of Alfred Hitchcock's cinema. In 1928, he'd directed the romantic comedy, Champagne, and even his darkest pictures were punctuated by macabre wit, for if a thriller was constantly played at fever pitch the audience would rapidly become emotionally shattered and incapable of responding to the intense psychological manipulation at which the Master of Suspense excelled.

However, he agreed to do this screwball romp as much to accommodate his leading lady, Carole Lombard, as from any conscious desire to explore new avenues. Hitch was still a relative newcomer in Hollywood and, conscious of the fate of such vaunted Euro-exiles as Fritz Lang, Jean Renoir and Max Ophüls, whose refusal to play studio politics had severely curtailed their careers, he reasoned that making a picture with Mrs Clark Gable could do him no harm.  



Admittedly, the comedy might have gained more momentum had Cary Grant been available to play David Smith. But Robert Montgomery, who was about to snare a second Oscar nomination for Here Comes Mr Jordan was no comic novice. However, there's no denying that Hitchcock's farce lacked the fizz of Leo McCarey's The Awful Truth (1937) - the Cary Grant-Irene Dunne vehicle which shares several plot similarities with Mr & Mrs Smith, right down to its bouts of feigned drunkenness and its mountain chalet denouement. But it still takes a pop at Hays Code respectability by revealing that the Smiths have been living in sin for several years.  



 Moreover, there are also occasional moments to savour, including Lombard's recurring threat to finish off Montgomery while he shaves with a cutthroat razor and the bleak Italian restaurant sequence, in which the food is so bad that the cat won't eat it, yet it still entices the gaggle of urchins who mournfully watch the uptown swells turning up their noses.

Some sparkling moments but this rare Hitchcock comedy farce is hit and miss.

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