Written by: Eliot Stannard & Leslie Arliss
Starring: Jameson Thomas, Lillian Hall-Davis, Gordon Harker
Voids needing to be filled don’t always make themselves apparent in life but can then suddenly be the most important thing to tackle. For the protagonist in The Farmer’s Wife, it happens to be the women in his life and how it may not be so easy to rectify. With a strong blend of comedy and drama, this early Hitchcock film stands out amongst all of his works as it does not reflect any aspect as to what eventually made him a legend.
Following the wedding of his daughter, Samuel Sweetland (Jameson Thomas) now has no one to spend time with other than his service staff members. He decides he will remarry seeing as his wife died years ago and gave him her blessing to do so. Sweetland then heads around town to find a proper match for him with the help of his workers.
Working equally as a comedy and a drama, Sweeland’s journey in finding a wife comes from a place of filling a void he never thought would leave such a gap in life. Being a widower certainly changed his outlook in life but he had a daughter to care for since the passing of his wife. Serving as his only daughter and the female figure holding him together, her wedding subsequently takes her away and puts him in the position where he needs to move on. Many parents can speak on the idea of being an empty nester and finding purpose after the small babies they’ve raised since their birth suddenly fly on their own. Something needs to occupy the time and for the purpose of the story, Sweetland decides to take a new wife. The drama of the story comes from the anguish of trying to find someone new but the comedy comes from the manner in which he tries to fill this void.
What follows in the story is Sweetland going to different women around town and essentially asking them to marry him. Now, I was not aware of how dating worked back in that era but the manner it gets depicted in this film showed it did not take much for someone to drop down on one knee and propose. All the different women Sweetland interacts with react in such a comedic manner that appears standoffish to the protagonist. The offense he takes becomes quite funny probably unintentionally by the story seeing as today’s generation can see just how silly it is for him to be around and propose to women. It becomes a constant cycle of him finding a woman, who he thinks will marry him and then being rejected for reasons they state, but ones we can also assume.
Sweetland’s woes in getting a new wife bring him closer to the other people around him because he interacts with them more than probably ever before. This man has made it successfully as a farmer and overall does seem like a strong prospect to the spinsters out in the town, but he needs help. Similar to a narrative tactic used in romantic comedies, his housekeeper Minta (Lillian Hall-Davis) becomes a confidant for him throughout this process and perhaps some feelings begin to arise between them. Seeing how the plot played out came as a surprise and perhaps this proves to be one of the first instances in film where this switcheroo occurs and has been subsequently used in many other stories.
When looking at Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography as a whole, this film certainly stands out much like many of his earlier works. The master of suspense played in many different sandboxes throughout his career and his earlier works displayed how he could just pick up a project and make it work. The Farmer’s Wife certainly does not carry the trademarks where he made himself one of cinema’s biggest legends but it shows how he can capture a small compassionate story about a man trying to find love. No real conspiracy behind it, just a man hoping to fill a void created by the reality of being alone.
Certainly set as an enjoyable little feature, The Farmer’s Wife proves to be a treat to seek out for more than just individuals trying to watch all of Hitchcock’s filmography. It has genuinely heartwarming moments and sits as one of the earliest films to use a romantic comedy plot utilized aplenty in modern times. Boisterous acting makes the comedic moments even funnier while the central story pushes everything forward to make a delightful experience.