A Year with Hitchcock: The Farmer’s Wife, by Reed Lackey

28 Jan

Of all the things you’d expect from an Alfred Hitchcock film, straight-forward comedy would probably be last on the list.

Enter this early little gem — which would never rank among the comedic greatness of Keaton, Chaplin, or Lloyd (or even the funniest of Hitch’s work) — but is disarmingly funny nonetheless. The premise is very simple: a widower farmer decides to seek a wife. He seeks out a new bride in an almost mathematical fashion, frequently with highly comedic rejections. I chuckled several times during this film as each new rejection increased in absurd over-dramatics. It doesn’t ever quite rise to the status of screwball gold, but there are genuinely humorous moments.

Despite the enjoyment I experienced, I spent a lot of this film wondering about how palatable it would be to modern sensibilities of gender and marriage stereotypes, particularly given some of the recent cultural rise of the heightened respect and sensitivity to such issues. There are some moments which could be accused of objectifying women or of stigmatizing marriage in the archaic patriarchal platform, particularly in the way the farmer pursues a bride.

Yet, the film also continually subverts those stereotypes by having the farmer continually rejected (occasionally in ways that are quite feminist). There is no robust – let alone important – statement to be gleaned from the proceedings (the film is ultimately trying to be farcical), but it is fascinating to consider the implications of a film’s views of women and marriage from 90 years ago.

The resolution to the story and the farmer’s dilemma can be seen from miles away. But it is still oddly satisfying in its sweet and tender reveal. This film honestly couldn’t have been more of a surprise to me. I found myself genuinely charmed and, despite this having nothing to do with Hitch’s typical reputation, it was my favorite of his in the chronological viewing at that point.

In light of his overall filmography, it still resides as little more than a placeholder. There is no direct connective tissue to any major theme or technical accomplishment of Hitchcock’s later work and the overall experience will likely not rise above surprising amusement. However, for those who would be curious to see how a young cinematic genius would handle a romantic farce, or for those interested in seeing all of Hitchcock’s films regardless of their ultimate value, The Farmer’s Wife will likely be a highly enjoyable experience.

Accessibility – Available on several low-budget DVD collections
Themes – Romantic Entanglements
Category – OK, for the Curious

No comments yet

Leave a Reply