Classic Film Guide

The Farmer's Wife (1928) - full review!

Written and directed by Alfred Hitchcock (the director's screenplay was based on a play from Eden Philpotts), this silent comedy (!) begins with the death of the farmer's wife, though the titled character actually refers to said farmer's ‘replacement’ spouse; the film's story is about his pursuit of several eligible ladies in the community. Apparently there are two versions of this movie; I watched and reviewed the 2+ hour DVD.

Samuel Sweetland (Jameson Thomas) is an older man with a housekeeper he calls Minta (Lillian Hall-Davis) and a handyman named Ash (Gordon Harker). After Sweetland’s daughter (Antonia Brough to Haward Watts, his only film) is married, there is speculation within the small farming community about whether Samuel will seek another wife. Gibb McLaughlin plays Sweetland’s old friend Henry Coaker. Samuel decides that it's time; with Minta's help, he compiles a list of the available women in the area. He then puts on his best coat and goes to call on each one in succession. The widow Louisa Windeatt (Louie Pounds in her only film) turns out to be too independent; Samuel is shocked that she's not interested in being his wife. Thirza Tapper (Maud Gill), who appears to happily be an old maid, is so surprised by Samuel's proposal that she shakes nervously, can't reply, and even faints. Giggling, chubby Mary Hearn (Olga Slade) seems interested at first, but is so put off by Samuel's ‘demands’ by which she'd have to live that she loses control of herself into hysteria (screaming, rocking forward and back while waving her hands uncontrollably). After each rejection, Samuel crosses the name off his list until only Mercy Bassett (Ruth Maitland), the local barmaid, remains on it. Ash is upset that his master is making a fool of himself while Minta is sympathetic and actually imagines herself as Samuel's next wife.

After Sweetland crosses Mercy off the list, he returns home a failure. Minta listens and eventually sits in the fireplace chair opposite Samuel who finally sees the light of day and proposes to his housekeeper. She is cautious, then thrilled to accept his proposal. Meanwhile, Mary has had second thoughts and she returns, with Thirza, to Sweetland’s home where both tell him about their change of heart. Samuel says that he's made his decision and each think they are to be the chosen one, but both are surprised when he introduces them to a newly dressed and coiffed Minta descending the staircase. Of course, this causes Mary to go into hysterics again; Thirza only shakes a little bit (though she does appear to be speechless again). Coaker joins the festivities and Ash tells his former co-worker that he'll help her manage the master if she'll help him (e.g. get better pay).

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