Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #11: Thought I'd Left (Opening Scene of Mr. and Mrs. Smith)

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Today's Daily Dose is Hitchcock's third American film, the screwball comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith

 

Watch the opening scenes in the Canvas module, then come over here and reflect on Hitchcock's "typical American comedy about typical Americans." 

 

Here are three questions to get the discussions started:

 

  1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc?
     
  2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? 
     
  3. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? 
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The opening scene is very much a Hitchcock scene. Camera pans the floor of the room, bottles of liqueur mostly empty, glasses strewn around. Large meals partly eaten, panning over several newspapers. This during the Great Depression? These are not ordinary Americans. Then we see cards and Robert Montgomery playing solitaire, in PJ's and robe, unshaven with bed hair. Then a closeup of his face. Then the camera moves to the large bed with Carol Lombard tossing, with the covers over her head, finally a closeup of her and one eye opening. Then the maid brings breakfast, and goes back to tell cook what she saw. Then on telephone with his boss we learn they have been in there three days, and she is running out of dishes.

 

Montgomery is then called to sign a legal paper and with walking stick slams the door, hiding behind the love seat, waiting to see if dishes or other items will be thrown. Lombard sits up and Montgomery pops head out and both smile. Peace! Then they cuddle in bed and we learn that this is one of their longest arguments. Lerning from the cook and the boss the background is very much in the Hitchcock manner.

 

When Montgomery begins to move around the music starts and the flute sounds very much like a cuckoo clock. This could have been the opening of a suspense movie, but the music lets us know it is a comedy.   

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1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc?

 

Hitches ability to build the miscenscene with the staging of set design and clutter seems a touch. We are informed of their lifestyles from the dialogue of the staff and Mr. Smith's office. Hitch's touch comes in the form of lighthearted music to also set the mood of this screwball comedy. It's a quirky music which would fit that genre. The closeups we end on with characters seems a touch from Hitch as well. Silk instead of corduroy.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not?

 

It seems atypical in comparison to other openings we've seen in that it's a master and two shot as opposed to audience or group shot openings with the single shots of the character being the exception. Even still it's been a contrast between the amount of folks in the frame. I'd say it builds similarly and has a pace that captures our attention like only Hitchcock could present.

 

3. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not?

 

I see what seems an effortless portrayal from both Carol Lombard and Robert Montgomery. They seem the right casting choices and agree that they appear to be well cast from this opening, not just the comfort they seem to share but the comfort they put the viewer from the naturalistic interplay. Haven't seen this movie yet either.

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Hitchcock opens the film showing us a perfectly married couple, in an idyllic, almost unreal situation. They're in love, they're rich, they don't care about anything. In typical Hitchcock fashion, it appears that nothing can go wrong for the characters displayed in this scene, except everything does in the rest of the picture. One could say that the "ordinary guys in extraordinary situations" doctrine appears in this film, too, with the difference that this time the ordinary guys (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) are largely to blame for being driven into their troubles.

 

Hitch shows us a panoramic view of the room where the couple shares their love, the luxury, the comforts, the calmness. Nothing shadowy or sinister here. Mr. and Mrs. Smith is not a typical Hitchcock film but it features some Hitchcock touches, and that's the case in this scene. Although the film opens in a **** and not in a public place like most openings we've seen, the light-hearted atmosphere and characters are similar.

 

I personally don't like the film very much because of the main characters. Even for a typically bitter and dark-humored screwball comedy, Mr. Smith is too dumb for my taste and Mrs. Smith is too sinister. However, nobody can blame Montgomery and Lombard about this, they are both great and the chemistry between them is obvious throughout the film. As much as I didn't like their characters, it was enjoyable to watch them together and I believe everyone should watch the film once just out of curiosity.

 

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1.    What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc? 

The “touch” begins with an apartment that is cluttered with trays of food. The disorganization signals us that things will be just a bit wacky. The trays (this is probably a stretch) symbolize the obstacles the Smiths face in their relationship.

2.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? 

I would say, “Yes it is typical.” I base my response on the fact that the background is a “player,” i.e. the clutter of trays of food become a character in the scene. It is not private, as we see there are others who trying figure out what is going on, a kind of voyeurism) the maid and another character try to take a peek at the room. The room (an apartment) has now become a public space of sorts.

3.    What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not?  Yes, I think they are cast perfectly. Carole Lombard was a master of screwball comedy – her finest work (in my opinion) is in “My Man Godfrey.” As regards Montgomery, his 1929 film “So This is College” is a screwball “bromance” Montgomery began his career doing comedy. 

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  1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc?

Mr and Mrs Smith retain several of the Hitchcock touches.  The first and most notable is the slow panning over the dirty apartment which sets up the moods of the two main characters.  We also get the extreme close ups of first Mr. Smith's face and then a pan to Mrs. Smith hiding under the covers. It sets up the obvious trouble in their relationship.  The props and decor set up the trouble in the relationship well. The apartment though elegant furnishing with satin sheets on the bed, room service etc.  we see booze bottles on the floor and general disarray.  The musical score is quirky and sets up the comedy elements. One gets the impression that the couple are spoiled and rich. Mr. Smith plays solitaire.. for ex.. little touches like this are Hitchcock

 

I have to be honest this is one of my least favorite Hitchcock's.  I'm personally not a fan of screwball comedies. Mr. Smith character seems so cliche bumbling dumb husband pushover and Mrs. Smith has a bit of a sinister drama queen streak.  Though Carol and Robert have great chemistry... it is just not my favorite genre. 

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? 

 

I feel though the film has some Hitchcockian devices.. it doesn't feel like a typical Hitch film.  I prefer Hitch when he is more dramatic, darker, psychological and shocking...   Though Hitch is a master of all genres... I feel it is not the style of movie Hitch fans would prefer to see.  I'll personally stick with Psycho, Vertigo and Rebecca.  I personally don't find screw ball comedies all that funny..  The tedious fights and make ups get old and don't sustain my undivided attention.  

 

I also feel that Hitch deviates from his BLONDE formula of heroines with Carol Lombard.. this feels a bit weird for me. I so prefer Grace Kelly, Tippi Hendren and Janet Leigh which are more iconic, haunting and glamorous. 

 

  1. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not?  

I actually feel Carol and Robert are good together, but they just don't have the screwball star quality for me of let's say Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers or Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  But maybe I'm biased as I never cared for screwball comedies much. I much rather watch suspense, and film noir. There is something oddly juvenile about their performances due to the story line.  I personally find it a bit annoying.  Like the scene with Mr. Smith and not opening the door and signing in pencil...  .. he is behaving like a spoiled child.  I also feel I can buy screwball comedy if the couple is sexier... I have seen later modern screwball romantic comedies  with more sexuality.  I think Hitch new to this genre wanted to play up the comedy elements over the sexual tension. This movie lacks for me the titillating undercurrent for example compared to let's say the opening voyeuristic approach of Janet Leigh and John Gavin in Psycho.. Both were sexier and glamorous. it made you want to be the voyeur.. and keeps you glued to the screen.   

 

I admit I have watched Mr. and Mrs Smith twice.. and it just doesn't hold my interest. 

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  1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc?

     

     

    The opening sequence, at least the part in the bedroom, is essentially a silent movie. There is sound, of course--sound effects and music. But Hitchcock, proving that his roots in silent film go deep, is allowing the mise-en-scene and the camera work exposing it to do almost all the "talking."

     

    The music is bright and cheery. The room is well-lit, sunny, with morning shadows on the walls. What Hitchcock puts on screen is giving the viewer much information: plush bedroom expensively furnished, a floor strewn with china, crystal and silver, the detritus of many meals obviously eaten in the room. As the camera pans this mess, it's transmitted to the viewer that for this couple, this Mr. and Mrs. Smith, money is no object. The two house servants in the kitchen further underline that fact.

     

    ​But true to Hitchcock, there is some sort of conflict here. While the light-hearted music and cheery lighting bespeak happiness, we see the husband is seated on the floor quietly playing cards so as not to awaken his wife who remains in bed. If he doesn't want to disturb his wife, why doesn't he get up, get dressed and go to work--or at least leave the room? Why is he staying in the room playing cards on the floor? Hitchcock sets up their "rule" about not leaving the room after a quarrel, not until they've made up.

    Screwball, indeed.

     

    ​I would be remiss not to mention the incredibly lovely Carole Lombard. She may not be of the "icy" variety a la Tippi Hedren or Kim Novak, but she is a blonde. This is, after all, a Hitchcock picture. 

     

     

  2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? 

     

    ​Unlike many other openings to Hitchcock films that open in public places filled with the hubbub of many people, MR. AND MRS. SMITH opens in the private, intimate setting of a married couple's bedroom. This is new territory for Hitchcock. Married life is apparently going to be the topic.   

     

  3. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? 

     

    ​From what I can tell from this brief clip, Lombard and Montgomery seem well-suited as a comedy team. But I can't help but wonder what the comedic brilliance of Cary Grant opposite Lombard would have brought to the role.   

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What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple?

 

The thing that struck me immediately was the first shot of Carole Lombard.  Only her eye peeked out from the covers, and the camera focused and moved right in on that and held as she looked out.  Precursor to the end of the shower scene in Psycho?  The two shots are so similar, and yet for such different types of stories.

 

They seem to live the lifestyle of Nick and Nora Charles.  Swanky house, servants, meals delivered.  As he says, he can afford to take days off at the office.

 

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not?

 

Rather than beginning with people moving around chaotically, here he sets the scene with two fairly static people among the chaos of the opening set.  Montgomery is sitting among the huge mess of dishes, and Lombard is in the very rumpled chaos of the unmade bed.  So here he shows us two people who are pretty single mindedly doing what they will, even as the world moves on, somewhat chaotically, around them.

 

What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? 

 

It works for me.  When Montgomery flops on to the bed and cradles Lombard in his arms, I buy it that they are in love.  So in love, that it’s hard to believe they’re quarreling.  It’s a rather tender moment I think.  This opening makes me want to see this film, which I haven’t before.

 

As to the comments in the Video Lecture about the couples at the ends of screwball comedies not staying together…., hmm.  I’m not so sure.  I can totally see K. Hepburn and Cary Grant staying together in Bringing Up Baby.  And as to the X of the skis at the end.  Yes, it’s ambiguous.  It shows the “intersection” of the two people.  Perhaps the X as in, watch out, this won’t work.  But I saw it as the X of xxoo (kisses and hugs – when did x become a sign for a kiss)?  So that doesn’t discount the X of warning, but I do think it adds another layer of meaning to this ending.  All this talk of Hitchcock working out the idea of marriage in his films – which I totally agree with – brings up the question.  Are we suggesting anything about Hitchcock’s own marriage which seems to have worked, at least professionally?  I have no clue if they were happy at home.

 

One last thought: I’ve never thought of The Thin Man movies as screwball comedies, mostly because Nora is NOT at all screwy, and the films are so much a detective/mystery story on the surface.  But underneath there’s great commentary about this very happy marriage.  But, just like there’s a continuum with film noir (style, genre, etc.), perhaps there is with screwball comedy.  There are tons of drop dead funny moments in all of The Thin Man films, and mostly it’s the antics between Nick and Nora (tweaking each other, teasing, pretending not to care, I could go on and on).  And the vibe I got from this opening of Mr. and Mrs. Smith was way more Nick and Nora than, say, Bringing Up Baby.  (Lombard just isn’t wacky enough – at least, not yet….)  Of course, these two here are no Nick and Nora!  But I feel like, just seeing these opening scenes, that we’re closer on the continuum to Nick and Nora.

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1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc? 

 

One Hitchcock touch I see here is the messiness of the room, which seems to reflect the couple accurately. Another Hitchcock touch is that we meet several characters, and dialogue between the minor characters gives us a better characterization of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. ("I'm running out of dishes!") As always, the use of music here is very well done, and my favorite moment is when Carole Lombard's eye pops open in perfect concert with the music in that moment. 

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? 

 

I would agree that the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical Hitchcock opening based on other openings I've seen. Many of the reasons I agree with this have to do with the Hitchcock touches I outlined in the first question. Additionally, what you seem to see is an ordinary couple in a pretty ordinary looking situation for the most part. But knowing Hitchcock -- suspense or comedy -- you have to wonder what will happen to them! The set also takes on a bit of a "character" role in this opening as well. 

 

3. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? 

 

I believe that Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery are excellently cast. They have a lot of chemistry, and their relationship seems very natural. 
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1.    What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc.? 

 

The most obvious touch to me is the way AH likes to guide the observer with camera movement around the set. He fills the lens with props and images that help one make judgements on where, when and who is occupying the space.

 

In this scene, via props and set dressing, we are invited into what appears to be a hotel room that has been occupied by two people on a holiday. Neither party is in a hurry to get up and out of the room. The room is comfortable, spacious and service people are on hand to support the whims of the two guests. Lighting and camera angles are standard I believe, with camera movement being the best indicator of AH in the chair. (NOTE: my Daily Dose clip did not have sound).

 

2.    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not?

 

I cannot say it is typical due to the fact that it is a theme not normally associated with AH films from previous lessons. There is a light tone from the get-go…no harsh shadows or foreboding imagery or music. 

 

3.    What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? 

 

 

I think there could have been numerous professional star quality actors cast in this film that could perform at the same level. In this clip it is difficult to gauge the totality of the chemistry & performance. One would have to watch the whole picture to make that evaluation. I could not tell you why these two were chosen as the leads. Apparently, they satisfied all the evaluations and criteria sought by director, producer and anyone else involved in the casting process.

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1.      One way in which the opening of Mr. and Mrs. Smith illustrates the “Hitchcock touch” is through pans to close-ups on significant objects (we'll see this later at the beginning of Rear Window). The film opens with pastoral music playing while we pan over dirty dishes, serving trays, and playing cards, which tell us background about this couple: They eat on fine china, nobody has cleaned up recently, and Mr. Smith is playing (both literally and metaphorically) solitaire. As the scene goes on, we see that they have a large, elegant bedroom suite which includes a living room area. The arrival of a cook and a maid confirm that this couple is wealthy and that they’ve holed up before.

2.      Of the openings we’ve studied, this one has the most in common with Shadow of a Doubt, although the tones are different. In Shadow of a Doubt, after seeing the boys playing outside, the camera takes us into a dark bedroom where a man is lying on a bed and as the scene plays out he eventually rises to action. In this one, we are again in a bedroom, gently meeting the fallout of the Smiths’ quarreling and eventually Mr. Smith gets up, signs a paper, and joins his wife in bed. Most of the other films (The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Lodger, The Lady Vanishes, etc.) have opened with a group of people and a great deal of excitement.

3.      Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery have terrific chemistry as Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We sense, both in this scene and throughout the film, that they enjoy having fun together but that they cannot avoid conflicting.

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  1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc?

     

    The first Hitchcock touch I noticed was the introduction of the leading characters right at the beginning of the movie. The next touch I noticed was that he draws the audience into wondering what is going on before he provides the answer. In this case, I couldn't help but wonder why Lombard and Montgomery had been in their hotel room for so long, but by the end of the clip Hitchcock reveals that they have a "rule" about staying together until they have made up after a fight.

     

    As for the props and the set design, I noticed the clutter in the hotel room. In the opening of 39 Steps, I noticed the clutter of ticket stubs and candy wrappers on the floor of the theater as the Canadian walked to his seat. The lobby of the inn in ​The Lady Vanishes ​was packed with visual and aural clutter such as the milling crowd of would-be travelers, the skis and other luggage tossed on the floor, and the cuckoo clock. The décor tells us that the couple is rich enough to afford three days of room service meals in a well-appointed hotel room. As for the camera angles and the lighting, I did not learn anything about the couple from them, other than the close-up shot of Carole Lombard opening one eye, which let me know she was only pretending to be asleep.   

     

  2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? 

     

    I have decidedly mixed feelings about this. Most of the openings have shown actions in a public place being observed by an audience of many people. This opening was in a public place - a hotel - but in an occupied room which is designed to provide a level of privacy to its occupants. Also, there are no obvious observers in the room with Carole and Robert, yet we see the reactions of many wannabe observers who are actively wondering what is going on in the hotel room, such as the maid who tries to peek inside the room, the cook, and the several people who are trying to get Robert's signature on some paperwork. Also, Hitchcock continues to use music to set the mood he wants.    

     

     

  3. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? 

     

    Carole Lombard was an accomplished comedienne, and as such I think she was an excellent choice, She and Robert Montgomery appear to have good chemistry together, and that alone would make him a good choice (unless he had no talent for comedic roles). Prior to this, I have seen him only in film noir (e.g., Ride the Pink Horse​), so I don't know how adept he might be at comedy, but he seems good at it in this brief opening clip. So, yes, I think they were well-cast.

     

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Some folks may not know this, but Hitchcock actually rented and lived in Lombard's home when he first arrived in Hollywood. After her death in a plane crash he had to move and bought his first home there, the place he would live in for the rest of his life. I'm finishing up a book on Hitchcock that comes out in 2018 called The Lost Hitchcocks. It's about the films he never completed but attempted to do.

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Even though this film is a comedy, I do see a certain "Hitchcock" touch to the opening of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Like Shadow of a Doubt, we learn about important parts of the plot and characters right from the beginning. In this clip, we see the couple are having some sort of stand off with one another: food trays have piled up, the husband is unshavened and the staff has not be able to get anything done. The set does a good job in making this clear. And the fact that we know that this is not their first standoff, that their record is 8 days, sets up the move from the beginning. 

 

I would say that it is a typical opening for Hitchcock. Comparing it to yesterday's clip from Shadow of a Doubt from his Hollywood time and even Downhill from his silent British time, I believe that this opening sequence stands up to the "Hitchcock" touch. As stated above, regardless of the plot, characters and set, most Hitchcock movies are structured so that the audience has a general idea of what the entire film will be like within the first few minutes.

 

From what I know of Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery's careers, I do think they were a good pairing for the movie. While this film has been characterized as a screwball comedy, I would say that it is still in line with some of Hitchcock's later works, like North By Northwest in its "velvetiness," as mentioned in this notes. It's comedic but in a sleek and sophisticated way. I think because both actors have history that include more dramatic works, they can pull the comedic roles off with weight.

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1. The "Hitchcock touches" I see in this scene are mainly based on the camera work. The camera pans across the dirty dishes in the room slowly. The audience is left to try to figure out what is going on, the aftermath of a party? Then we see the cards and Robert Montgomery, with his 3-days beard and we start to realize that something else is going on. There is no dialogue for most of the scene. The audience has to rely on the visual images. There are elements of this opening scene in Rear Window, when the camera pans slowly around Jimmy Stewart's apartment and the audience is left to figure out what is happening based on the visual images. 

From the visual images of the opening scene in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we learn that they are fairly well off. The dishes, the furniture and the home are all beautifully designed and decorated. The rooms are enormous and light filled. There is white everywhere. They are well enough off to afford at least 2 domestic staff, a cook and a maid. We also learn that Mr. Smith is a lawyer based on the interaction with the law clerk (who I recognize as Pepe from The Shop Around the Corner). We also learn that they have been married for some time, based on the conversation that this has happened several times before. The set design is wonderful. One of my favorite aspects of movies of the 30s and 40s is the gorgeous homes they portray. The lush furniture and draperies, the touches of art deco. Wonderful!

2. I do agree with the statement that the opening scene of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical Hitchcock opening. The opening scene relies heavily on the visual. There is not much dialogue, at first. The audience is left to put the pieces together from the images they are shown.

3. Carole Lombard was one of the goddesses of screwball comedy. There probably couldn't have been a better actor for that part. I am not as familiar with Robert Montgomery, but the chemistry between the two of them seems to work.

As a side note; I could imagine William Powell in the role as well, but I'm just a huge fan, so I can imagine him in many roles. Possibly he would have been too old for the part, but Hollywood never worries too much about casting young women with older men.

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1. The Hitchcock touches are the panning camera, the mess/chaos of the apartment and an introduction of the movie's stars. We learn that this is not an ordinary situation. Dishes everywhere, one person in bed the other sitting on the floor, unshaven playing cards. Normal people tend not to behave that way. Scene is obviously shot in the morning in a bright room. Natural light highlights the mess in the room. 

2. It is like other openings in that you are seeing different characters interacting and you have uncertainty surrounding what is really going on. The main characters, Lombard and Montgomery's are introduced  and conversation leaves us wanting more information about their relationship.

3. Personally I am not a big Robert Montgomery fan so I am looking at this through a jaundiced eye. I have always found him to be a bit wooden. Their chemistry seems OK. The camera loves Carol Lombard and once she appears you have trouble taking your eyes off her.     

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1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc? 

 

Beautiful girl. We get the close-up on a blonde woman (Mrs. Smith) as our introduction to her. She doesn’t scream, but when the camera is focused closely on her face, there is a knock on the door that causes her alarm (or just concern) and her eye opens to express that feeling.

 

Familiar setting (for some). There’s the upper-class feeling of life (lush décor; roomy open space; classically styled furniture; items available to wistfully pass the time: playing cards, shelves full of books…)…

 

Not everything is as it seems. All the trays of old half-eaten food are stand-ins for a crowd of people coming and going. We know they got the food from somewhere, and now it’s crowding around them because they (apparently) refuse to send them back out of the room.

 

At first, you may think that the trays are left strewn about because of romantic events that have been taking place with a couple that is so in love they can’t take time to clean up. But then you see Mr. Smith playing cards alone and he shivers when he first looks across the room at his Mrs., which tells us (in a playful way) that their relationship is actually strained. And the trays are in left strewn about in defiance.

 

Quirky sense of comedy. The music helps define the scene. It starts out lightheartedly romantic as the camera pans across the trays, then turns plucky (pipes) and playful where we see Mr. Smith playing cards… until the maid arrives with the breakfast tray. Mr. Smith opens the door and the music turns romantic… as if they are fooling everyone beyond the door that all is well.

 

When Mr. Smith closes the door, the music turns plucky again (reality of the situation). This also helps the viewer understand the scene as comedy. But even if this were a silent film, you would still know it’s a comedy by the lighting, setting, scenery, and interactions of the people.

 

Foretelling use of shadows and light. The window blinds criss-cross over the room’s entrance.

 

People seemingly in a state of fear/trepidation. The office with the man on the telephone has three people standing at the doorway worried about what may be happening… which thrusts a young good man into an extraordinary situation — having to buck up and save the day by confronting Mr. Smith and getting his signature. More shadowy window-blind lines across the outside of the Smiths’ door signifying that all is well, but the way to what you want won’t be easy.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? 

 

Hmm. Yes and no.

 

I think it’s dissimilar in…

- the way the scene feels, with a sense of romance and playfulness.

- the lack of doom and gloom/moodiness.

- the warmth the characters show each other. There may be strain, but the characters are approachable with each other.

… etc.…

 

I think it’s similar in…

- the way the people react to/with each other, with a casual sense of knowing and everything based on reality.

- the feeling of everything not being as it seems.

- the play between light and dark, and shadows.

- people being secretive and sneaky, or playing tricks on someone else.

- a sense of deceitfulness.

- the way the camera makes sure you’re focused on the right thing so you don’t miss the joke or action.

… etc.…

 

3. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? 

 

Both actors look good together on screen and, by that, I mean they balance each other. One does not outshine the other. She is beautiful with a girl-next-door quality, while he is handsome in a boy-next-door kind of way. She is feminine. He is manly. Both have strong wills. In that regard, they are well-matched.

 

They both also seem at ease with each other. Their sense of timing, the way they relate to each other (comfortable), the way their actions mirror each other (she smiles, then he smiles) works. Their spirits/energy seem/s playful and natural. So… as far as I can tell (not having viewed the entire film yet), they were well cast for their roles.

 

Also, neither one of them is annoying to watch or listen to. They aren’t being nasty to each other… they simply aren’t getting along 100% perfectly. But they do know how to deal with each other… and there is an underlying kindness in their relationship. He brings the breakfast tray to her (doesn’t throw it at her out of spite)… and when she thinks he’s left, she shows concern… until he pops up and all is right with the world. His playfulness brought her out of her defiance… and she was glad for that.

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  1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc?

     

     

    The opening sequence, at least the part in the bedroom, is essentially a silent movie. There is sound, of course--sound effects and music. But Hitchcock, proving that his roots in silent film go deep, is allowing the mise-en-scene and the camera work exposing it to do almost all the "talking."

    The music is bright and cherry. The room is well-lit, sunny, with early morning shadows on the walls. What Hitchcock puts on screen is giving the viewer much information: plush bedroom expensively furnished, a floor strewn with china, crystal and silver, the detritus of many meals obviously eaten in the room. As the camera pans this mess, it's transmitted to the viewer that for this couple, this Mr. and Mrs. Smith, money is no object. The two house servants in the kitchen further underline that fact.

    ​But true to Hitchcock, there is some sort of conflict here. While the light-hearted music and cheery lighting bespeak happiness, we see the husband is seated on the floor quietly playing cards so as not to awaken his wife who remains in bed. 

    ​I would be remiss not to mention the incredibly lovely Carole Lombard. She may not be of the "icy" variety a la Tippi Hedren or Kim Novak, but she is a blonde. This is, after all, a Hitchcock picture. 

     

     

  2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? 

     

    ​Unlike many other openings to Hitchcock films that open in public places filled with the hubbub of many people, MR. AND MRS. SMITH opens in the private, intimate setting of a married couple's bedroom. This is new territory for Hitchcock. Married life is apparently going to be the topic.   

     

  3. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? 

     

    ​From what I can tell from this brief clip, Lombard and Montgomery seem well-suited as a comedy team. But I can't help but wonder what the comedic brilliance of Cary Grant opposite Lombard would have brought to the role.   

 

 

I totally agree with your observation that this opening is a close parallel to a silent film. If there was no dialogue at all, the viewer would still receive the same information and foreshadowing about the couple, their life, and the tone of the picture. It has been mentioned in a number of comments that this opening differs from the typical Hitchcock opening in that it is not a chaotic crowd scene. I would suggest that it is indeed a chaotic crowd scene in that the dished and clutter in the room IS the chaotic crowd.

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1)   The touches that I notice are mainly camera shots. For me, the Hitchcock shots were the long, continuous ones, with minor cutting in between. Noting from the curation, this is an element that I feel could be a part of the ‘velvety’ feel of this movie. Mainly through the set, dialogue, and the interaction between the main characters and secondary characters, we learn that this ‘married’ couple is very in love with each other and that everyone else are not sure, except for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, of why they have been in their room for three days. The comedy in the dialogue reflects the confusion surrounding the Smiths’, especially when the lady who answers the phone, talks about how she is running out of dishes because of them.

 

2)   I don’t think that this opening is typical because, to me, it looks and feels so much more complex and layered. There is more visual information that is given to the audience, and it is not quite as easy to put together into a conclusion as to what is going on, compared to the opening of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” where you can figure out the happenings almost immediately. And I feel that this could make it more engaging to watch because you have that sense of not completely knowing the happenings, which is another Hitchcock touch done subtly.

 

3)   I think that Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery are great together for many reasons. One of the main ones is that you wouldn’t expect people who look like Lombard and Montgomery to be in comedies, and this, for me, breaks molds that I feel actors often get put into, regardless of whether they have experience in that genre or not. So, it sheds new light on or reiterates the versatility of actors who might be typecast into a particular role based on looks or experience.

 

For me, one main issue I have with pairs sometimes is that very few leading ladies can hold their own against the leading men, and Carole Lombard does great on being at the same level as Robert Montgomery, instead of him overpowering her. This makes their chemistry more powerful, makes the scene easier to watch, and the “Comedy of Remarriage” looks like it comes more naturally. 

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In Hitchcock's rare foray into comedy (courtesy of a wittily risque script by Norman Krasna), Mr. Smith (Robert Montgomery) makes the mistake of telling Mrs. Smith (Carole Lombard) that if he had it to do all over again, he might not have married her. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Smith discovers that his marriage is invalid. Rather than say goodbye, the newly aroused Mr. Smith attempts to entice Mrs. Smith into the bedroom, thrilled at the prospect of an "illicit" romance. But Mrs. Smith has also been apprised that her marriage is no more--and, remembering Mr. Smith's "second thoughts", she kicks him out of the house. This comedy of misunderstanding rolls merrily along from this point onward, accommodating an uproarious scene at a fancy restaurant, a near-liaison between Mrs. Smith and new beau Gene Raymond on the World's Fair parachute jump, and a farcical denouement at a ski lodge, with Mrs. Smith's conjugally crossed skis symbolizing the carnal pleasures ahead for both Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

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What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc? 

 

The scene is set by the camera panning the room. There is a fancy bed cover on the couch, the dirty dishes, and Mr. Smith sitting on the floor playing cards in his pajamas and robe. He looks over at Mrs. Smith in the bed and shivers. There is no dialogue until the maid comes. That's something Hitchcock has used before, establishing shots with no dialogue at the beginning of movies, like in The 39 Steps, and The Lady Vanishes. Then we see the pattern of the light through the blinds on the door. This is something Hitchcock has used in other movies, the light through windows with the pattern of blinds, or window panes on walls, stairs and doors. We know this is a well to do couple, because of the furnishings, the size of the room, and the fact that they have servants, and the fact that he can stay in his bedroom for three days without losing his job. Maybe he's the boss, or founding partner in the law firm. We learn a great deal about Mr. Smith in this clip, that's something else Hitchcock does well, gives us a lot of information about the main characters in a short amount of time.

 

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? 

 

As I stated in the answer above, he uses panning shots, no dialogue until the scene is established. He uses light and shadow patterns through windows, and the music sets the mood, and gives us quite a bit of information about the main characters in the first few minutes of the scene. One example, we know that Mr. and Mrs. Smith have a rule, never to leave the bedroom until they've settled their differences. The longest stand off was eight days.

 

What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? 

 

From the clip, I think they have great chemistry. But then I've seen lots of Carole Lombard movies and I think she had great chemistry with all her leading men, even in the serious movies like, In Name Only, and Vigil in the Night. I love the way emotions float across her face. I also like Robert Montgomery. He could do comedy and serious movies with believable characterizations. I'm looking forward to seeing this movie.

 

 

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I would say that this opening drifts away significantly from other ones we've seen in class and that I've seen over the years. The fact that it is a screwball comedy shows from the beginning and the Hitchcockian touches, aside from visual and aesthetic pieces (sets, costumes, etc.), are largely absent. I suppose since our focus here is on the visual collaborations that it is a noteworthy piece to examine. What strikes me aside from the disarrayed bedroom and set that is typical to a screwball comedy is the delightfully light musical score by Edward Ward. Not only does it capture your attention immediately, but it helps to underscore the lighthearted comic nature of Montgomery and Lombard's performances. 

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Hello!

The opening of Mr and Mrs. Smith starts out focusing on the half eaten food on dishes and pans across the floor revealing more dishes and glasses, cups etc

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What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc?

 

A sweeping shot of the room is a Hitchcock touch. Of course tjere are his two favorites in there as well... food and a blonde.

 

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not?

 

I will disagree because of the lighthearted music and playful mood of the scene. Though we have seen a couple openings that had some fun happening, but the only suspense here was... how long were tbey going to be in the room for?

 

What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not?

 

I think the two work well together, especially based on this lone opening scene. They are attractive, in love and not concerned with much else.

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