Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Farmer's Wife (1928)

Beefing on Hitchcock
The Farmer's Wife

Samuel Sweetland's wife dies, and soon after, his daughter gets married, prompting him to make good on a promise to his departed wife that he would re-marry. Sweetland enlists the help of his housekeeper, Minta, to compile a list of eligible women in the area. With a list comprised of four possible brides, he sets out to ask each to marry him. One by one, they turn him down for various reasons, causing him to become more irate and downtrodden with each rejection. Eventually, he comes to realize that the perfect wife was right in front of him the whole time, and he humbly asks Minta to be his bride.

The Farmer's Wife is an oddity in Hitchcock's catalogue, as far as I can tell. Not his first film to lack a mystery, and while a romance is typical of his work, he normally didn't make such bold comedies. Sure, humour is always present in his films, but so far, the only Hitchcock movie I have laughed this hard at yet was 1955's The Trouble With Harry, which was more a "black comedy" than a "romantic comedy" as The Farmer's Wife is. Filled with some great character growth and sweet sentimentality, there was an almost constant quirky lack of seriousness throughout the film in plot, dialogue and direction.

Where the story focused on a man's nearly futile search for a spouse, the center-piece of the film is a dinner party thrown by one of the candidates. Many of the most comedic scenes occur before and during the party, and there is a short reprieve from the story, as the movie seems to take a little break and follow the farmer's bumbling servant Ash for a couple minutes before returning to the wife hunt.

One scene in particular jumped out at me as "classic Hitchcock" and found me uttering the word "perfect" as it came to a close. As the farmer dictates names to Minta, he mentally pictures each candidate seated across from him in his late wife's chair by the fire. After Minta hands him the list, we see a wide shot of the pair. As he turns to ponder the list, Minta sits down unnoticed in the wife's chair and the screen fades to black. I will go far enough to state this as one of my top 5 all-time favourite shots in a Hitchcock film. It perfectly expressed a sense of completion to the audience, passing on knowledge of what's to come while keeping both on-screen characters ignorant.

The copy I have of this movie has no score whatsoever, so of course, I listened to some classical music while watching. I know some DVD releases have music, and I think I enjoy this one enough that I might just buy myself a copy when I get some spare change.

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