They Knew What They Wanted

More concerned with selfless charity than the title might suggest, this astringent social comedy (the third screen adaptation of Sidney Howard's play) sets an Italian grape-farmer to woo his San Franciscan mail-order bride, and embodies its implicit racial tensions in the opposed acting styles of the central characters: ugly Laughton, unabashedly running the gamut of racial stereotypes (virility-conscious, volatile, forgiving), against the effortless acting of WASP pin-up Carole Lombard. His tolerance eventually conquers her more venal qualities, but the ending is left peculiarly open - presumably by a studio wary of the star system and anxious about the implications of miscegenation. CPea.

Release details

Duration: 96 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Garson Kanin
Screenwriter: Robert Ardrey
Cast: Charles Laughton
Carole Lombard
William Gargan
Harry Carey
Frank Fay
Karl Malden
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