Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Hitchcock's only screwball comedy is worthy of others in the genre.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith 1941 review

Alfred Hitchcock’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith may be an atypical outing for him, but it’s a fine battle-of-the-sexes comedy.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
Released: 12 Apr 1941
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 95 min
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Cast: Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery, Gene Raymond
Writer(s): Norman Krasna
Plot: A couple who have been married for three years are shocked to learn that their marriage is not legally valid.
IMDB rating: 6.3
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 35 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 06/25/2024
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 4/5

Unlike anything he had ever directed before or anything he would direct after, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith is a screwball marital farce with quite a few highs and only periodic lows. Allegedly participating due to his admiration of star Carole Lombard, Hitchcock helms the movie with assurance and smooth expertise proving he wasn’t only adept at thrillers, but the comic material is rather thin, and the movie succeeds mostly on the talents of its inventive cast and first-rate production values.

Having been married for three years, Ann (Carole Lombard) and David (Robert Montgomery) Smith are deeply in love despite their occasional rows which can last for days. A legal technicality reported by Ann’s family friend Mr. Deever (Charles Halton) to the couple separately invalidates their marriage, but when David doesn’t immediately inform Ann of the problem and offer a plan to rectify the situation, she flies off the handle and throws him out of their apartment. David’s continual efforts to make amends and rebuild her trust in him consistently fall flat, and when David’s straight arrow law partner Jeff Custer (Gene Raymond) begins his own pursuit of Ann, David realizes his clumsy attempts to win over Ann now have to take a rather desperate turn.

Norman Krasna’s screenplay isn’t particularly sophisticated for such an adult romp, and the common law aspects of the marriage in question are pretty much waved away in order to proceed with the antics to come. In Hitchcock’s other lighter fare, he typically showed a preference for dry, droll comic situations and humor of a darker bent, but in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, he gets with the program and allows for pratfalls and slapstick as well as more subtle situations. There’s a running gag with a suit Ann has outgrown with its skirt constantly splitting and some sparkling dialogue about some suspicious soup that a cat refuses to touch. There are two steam room sequences with inebriated Chuck (Jack Carson), a fellow hubby on the outs with his wife, that Hitch handles adroitly. He’s even better directing an extended sequence at the Florida Club where David and Ann with their respective dates bring the hilarity in spades (David’s crass date, David’s attempt to mime intimacy with a beautiful seat partner, David’s attempts to bloody his nose to get out of an uncomfortable situation only to have it end even more absurdly), and the follow up with Ann getting her date Jeff drunk for the very first time in his life also offers hysterical sight gags. The film runs out of gas, however, as Ann overplays her revenge and David becomes more nuisance than pitiful victim as he pursues them at a ski lodge especially since by then it’s clear where the film is heading.

Robert Montgomery earns top honors here with his quick way with both verbal and visual humor. In the early going, he slides a hard-boiled egg in its cup into his dressing gown pocket for breakfast and nimbly handles props and quips in equal measure. The Florida Club sequence truly is a master class in comic timing and physical humor, and he works very hard to make the film’s final quarter hour at the ski lodge light and breezy despite the script’s lapses. Having proven her screwball bona fides in such classics as Nothing Sacred and My Man Godfrey, Carole Lombard treads over familiar marital comic ground here with excellent results. In her penultimate film performance, she’s appealingly lovely even when her fiery temperament gets the better of her. Gene Raymond makes the most of his too-perfect-for-belief character and earns great gobs of guffaws as he takes one drink too many that turns him practically into a zombie. Jack Carson offers able support as David’s steam room crony, and Philip Merivale and Lucile Watson suggest raised eyebrows and disapproving looks as Jeff’s horrified parents who gradually learn about the past of their son’s inamorata.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.37:1 original theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Though the main titles seem a bit soft, the remainder of the film is sharp and very appealing. Grayscale is quite good with very crisp and clean white levels during the climactic ski lodge sequences and better than average black levels throughout. The images are clean and artifact-free. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is typical of its era. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been combined with Edward Ward’s rather precious and precocious background score and the numerous sound effects (smashed vases and water pitchers have real heft in the mix) to make for a most pleasant listening experience. There is some very soft hiss to be heard in an occasional quiet scene, but otherwise there are no problems with crackle, pops, or flutter.

Special Features: 4/5

Mr. Hitchcock Meets the Smiths (16:06, SD): overview of the film’s production with directors Peter Bogdanovich and Richard Franklin, film historians Robert Osborne and Richard Schickel, and Hitchcock family members Pat O’Connell and Mary Stone providing comments and commentary.

Animated Shorts (HD): both from 1940: Holiday Highlights (7:35) and Stage Fright (7:23).

Cinderella’s Feller (19:34, HD): 1940 Technicolor two-reeler starring Juanita Quigley and Scotty Beckett.

Vintage Radio Adaptations of the Film: 1941’s Lux Radio Theater (59:46) hosted by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Carole Lombard and Bob Hope and 1942’s Screen Guild Playhouse (29:34) starring Errol Flynn and Lana Turner.

Theatrical Trailer (0:47, HD)

Overall: 4/5

Alfred Hitchcock’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith may be an atypical outing for him, but it’s a fine battle-of-the-sexes comedy that he handles with great aplomb. A nice array of bonus features completes a most successful release for Warner Archive on Blu-ray.

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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Rolf Skrinde
I've never seen it as I have been waiting for a decent version. A happy blind buy. And Lombard seals the deal.
 

Paul Penna

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Paul
They appear to have changed the bonus cartoons since the press release, which listed The Cat's Tale and Sports Chumpions.
 
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