They Knew What They Wanted (1940)


“Lady, the things I don’t know, you could herd like cows.” – The Doctor

Number of Times Seen – 1 (9 Jan 2019)

Brief Synopsis – A immigrant farmer falls in love with a waitress and begins corresponding with her vial mail with the help of his foreman, things get complicated when he sends her a picture of his foreman instead of himself and she agrees to get married.

My Take on it – This is another film on the list of films that I had never heard of before seeing that one of its actors was nominated for an Oscar for his performance here.

The overall premise is actually an interesting one that has been recycled many times over in Hollywood.

Unfortunately for this film, it’s been done much better than they manage to do here and this version comes across as seeming quite lackluster throughout.

Charles Laughton was always an amazing actor and manages to play the lead role of an immigrant very well.

His character’s optimism feels very contagious and it’s always a joy seeing him on screen because he always tries to look at everything from a perspective that most people aren’t able to handle so well.

He seems quite jolly and no matter what happens, nothing can change his happy disposition on life.

The story itself though moves along at a very slow pace and despite this feeling like it should be a screwball comedy, it gets much too dramatic which takes so much away from enjoying this kind of story.

William Gargan was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as Laughton’s farm foreman, which is a bit surprising since he doesn’t manage to outshine Laughton at all.

When looking at both of their performances, it was Laughton who should have received much more accolades for this film because his performance is so much better and more powerful.

Bottom Line – Interesting idea that comes across as being quite lackluster.  Laughton is great in the lead and acts the part of an immigrant very well.  His optimism on everything in life is great to see and it gives him a very jolly personality that is difficult to turn. The story moves along at a pretty slow pace and instead of feeling like a screwball comedy, things get much too dramatic and predictable which takes away from enjoying the story even more. Gargan was nominated for an Oscar for Best supporting actor as the foreman, but it’s Laughton who should have received much more accolades for his work here.

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – The Broadway production of They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard opened on November 24, 1924 at the Garrick Theater, ran for 192 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1925. (From IMDB)

Rating – BAFTA Worthy (6/10)

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2 thoughts on “They Knew What They Wanted (1940)

  1. Pingback: Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actor – Oscars 1940 | MovieRob

  2. Pingback: Temporal Top Ten – 1940 | MovieRob

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