For Reel

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
January 1, 2016, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
3.5 Stars
Mr. and Mrs. SmithThe opening sequence of Mr. & Mrs. Smith introduces its two title characters independent of each other. He (Robert Montgomery) is disheveled, clad in a bathrobe with a cigarette loosely hanging out of his mouth. She is face down in the bed, clearly exhausted after a night of emotional unrest. Their reunion will happen when he bounces off the couch and joins her in bed to embrace. To see a couple embracing in bed during this period of Hollywood history is a rare sight indeed, and if one is pressed to distinguish what about Mr. & Mrs. Smith is particular to director Alfred Hitchcock, the answer might lie somewhere in its games of sexuality. As with Ernst Lubitsch, sex is an ongoing undercurrent, often mistakable for arguments–the characters speak of being locked in the bedroom for a week at a time in order to “work out” their arguments. Later, when their marriage is determined to have been invalid, there is a tremendous drama about whether he will choose to propose yet again before the couple enters the bedroom. They get as far as the bedroom door before she is shocked by his indifference to carry through with a sexual act if they are indeed out of wedlock! One can see traces of Notorious in the bantering of the couple, as well as how they torture each other throughout the movie. Just as Devlin (Cary Grant) tested Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) in that film to see if she’d actually carry out an affair, Mrs. Smith tests her husband’s morality before finally making him repent and prove his love (and chastity) all over again. Of Hitchock’s non-thriller outliers, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is perhaps the least typical of his films, and yet the relationship dynamic feels appropriate in his canon–if the stakes for these lovers aren’t quite as high, Hitchcock’s interest is in seeing how far couples are willing to go in order to show themselves as being worthy of their partner.

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