The Farmer's Wife

A housekeeper tries to find a suitable wife for a widowed landowner in a rare venture by Alfred Hitchcock into romantic comedy.

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Introduction

“Charming comedy of rural manners [with] a great deal of subtle slapstick and witty caricature, especially in a marvellously sustained sequence at a tea-party.”
Time Out Film Guide

Alfred Hitchcock was worried that the stage roots of The Farmer’s Wife (a hugely popular play by Eden Philpotts) might show through in his film adaptation. It was a needless worry. This semi-comic story of a widowed farmer’s attempts to find himself a new wife is shot, as François Truffaut observed, “like a thriller”.

The camera, on occasion handled by Hitch himself, observes the action cinematically, not from the perspective of a stage audience. Each prospective wife – the horsy one, the hysterical one, the high-spirited one – is presented as a comic stereotype. Rejected by each, the farmer ultimately discovers what has been literally staring him – and the audience – in the face all the time: his young, attractive and devoted housekeeper.

The career of Lillian Hall-Davis, who starred as a fairground girl in Hitchcock’s The Ring (1927) and in Maisie’s Marriage (1927) – a controversial adaptation of a Marie Stopes novel – failed to survive the transition to sound. She committed suicide in 1933.

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