Review: The Farmer’s Wife (1928)

The pieces are in place, but the complete package has not yet formed!

Adaptation By: Leslie Arliss, Alfred Hitchcock, J.E. Hunter, Norman Lee, & Eliot Stannard
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while a word creeps into my head while watching an Alfred Hitchcock film. Movie after movie from the British legend will pass without me so much as thinking of this word. Then a movie will come around where try as I might I can’t shake this word from my head. Try as he might, nothing Sir Hitchcock can do in these specific films can shake the word from my head. Once the feeling that is this word sets in it’s as if Sir Hitchcock is caught in its snare and can not through any means known to man escape from this word. Both versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, and the dreary Mr. & Mrs. Smith were head over heels in love with this word, and so was The Farmer’s Wife.

The word in questions is tedious, or it’s far more fetching cousin, tedium, and The Farmer’s Wife is tedious in the worst ways possible. The basis of what would become Alfred Hitchcock “legendary director of cinema revered throughout the world by just about every cinephile on the face of the Earth” is present. It’s wrapped in a giant package of tedium, a level of tedium that is sleep inducing. The scenarios present humor, the plight of Farmer Sweetland is a funny one. His interactions with the various ladies in his town are funny, they did make me laugh. However, the denouement of the film is never in doubt and that creates an overwhelming bubble of tedium around the humor and the proceedings. By the second encounter Farmer Sweetland has with an expectant wife The Farmer’s Wife already feels rote and played out.

The structure of the film lends itself easily to tedium, but so does the direction of Sir Hitchcock. He falls so easily into the trap of being tedious that I can’t help but think that tedium was partially his intention with The Farmer’s Wife. His camera moves the same in every sequence, brings the various side characters into frame in the same manner, etc.. This is a safe way of presenting the material, and it is most decidedly not the Alfred Hitchcock who would later bring about such films as Psycho and North By Northwest. Sir Hitchcock embraces the tedium and in doing so he leaves the audience no escape from the tedious nature of his picture.

I can’t think of much else to discuss about The Farmer’s Wife. The big fan of Alfred Hitchcock that I am was very happy to be able to discover yet another Alfred Hitchcock film. By the same token I was disappointed and left wanting by a film that was far too tedious and overlong. I did laugh quite a bit, and I did get the sense of the same dry humor that I have come to associate with Sir Hitchcock’s later films. The legendary filmmaker’s direction did not live up to what would come, falling prey to the safe route at every turn. The Farmer’s Wife had run it’s course after a half an hour, but it kept going until the tedium finally ended a smidgen after the two hour mark.

Rating:

**1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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4 responses to “Review: The Farmer’s Wife (1928)

  1. I didn’t find it tedious, but I did think you could tell that the director and the material were at odds. At times, the film is amusing enough, but if you watch any of the great silent comedies from this era, you’ll see how unremarkable The Farmer’s Wife is by comparison.

  2. That’s most definitely true. Compared to even the more slight Keaton or Chaplin of the silent era The Farmer’s Wife just does not hold up.

  3. Well, it seems we agree.
    The story had to fight its way through its tedious telling.

  4. Always glad to find someone in agreement. 🙂

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