The Farmer’s Wife (1928)

 

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Eliot Stannard

The title character dies immediately, unless of course you mean the other farmer’s wife. The story begins with the death of the main character’s, the farmer’s, wife, making him a widower. All he has left is his housekeeper and his daughter. However, his daughter is soon wed and out of the house as well. This creates an empty house for the profitable farmer. Feeling lonely, he sits down with his housekeeper, Minta, and creates a list of eligible women on the countryside. The list isn’t the best option of choices, but the man is lonely and looking for a new wife, something his past wife encouraged him to do. So with list compiled. Mr. Sweetland, the farmer, sets out to ask these women to marry him. There is only one problem: he is a babbling buffoon. Needless to say, the rest of the film is a great comedy.

The beginning of the film is somewhat slow developing. There is quite a bit of set-up involved in getting the story going. But as I said, it is necessary set-up and the rest of the film is hilarious, a great comedy. What Mr. Sweetland does with these women is insult them accidentally, support himself with lines that are quite laughable, and be a physical detriment to his surroundings. Being a silent film, there is a great deal of physical humor, but there is also some that is conveyed through the text that works quite well. The lead here is great in his role as the lonely farmer. He is completely believable and completely pitiable. His sidekick servant, Mr. Ash, is great throughout as well. He is basically there for comic relief in a comedy if you can imagine that. As for the more technical aspects of the film, the camera work is pretty standard as on most comedies I find. The look is not what makes it funny, and it shouldn’t distract from the funny. The direction, from Hitchcock, is course great stuff. The way it plays out is really fantastic stuff.

Overall, I loved the film. Before he started pursuing the women, I had an idea of which one he would end up with, and idea and a hope, I was really pulling for one of them. I won’t tell you who he ended up with, but I will say that I loved the ending. I wish the slow set-up hadn’t been as long or maybe as necessary as it was, but the comedy worked for me. I think this is the earliest comedy I have ever seen. I need to get into Chaplin and Keaton still, but it is interesting looking at something like this and comparing it to comedies today. A lot has changed, but at the same time a lot hasn’t. While watching this, I was thinking to myself how hysterical a remake with great comedic actors of today would be. A lot of people may not like remakes, but I think, if done right, this one could be a great hit because it was a great hit back then.

Oh, and this was the first one so far in the silent films that had a musical composition that actually kind of went with the film. All the other ones were pretty dumb.

***1/2 – Great

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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