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They Knew What They Wanted Details


Like its predecessors, this third cinema version of Sidney Hoiward's Pulitzer Prize-winning play They Knew What They Wanted suffers from Hollywood censorship. Still, this story of the grim consequence of a misbegotten mail-order marriage has much to offer. Carole Lombard is superb as the waitress who lies about herself while carrying on a romance by correspondence with the Italian-born owner of a Napa Valley vineyard. Equally fine (if a shade too effusively hammy) is Charles Laughton as the grape grower, who also misrepresents himself in his letters, going so far as to pass off a photograph of handsome hired hand William Gargan as a picture of himself. Vowing to be loyal to her new husband Laughton, despite her distaste for him, Lombard nonetheless enters into an affair with Gargan. For the most part, the film moves along harmoniously. It falters only in the censor-dictated alterations (why is Lombard crying at the end?) and the horrendous performance by Frank Fay as a sanctimonious priest. Keep an eye peeled during the engagement party for a young, unbilled Karl Malden and Tom Ewell. Previous versions of They Knew What They Wanted included Tom Ewell (1928) and Tom Ewell (1930). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences William Gargan Best Supporting Actor 1940 Nominee


Carole Lombard
as Amy Peters
Charles Laughton
as Tony Patucci
William Gargan
as Foreman
Harry Carey
as Doctor
Bobby Barber
as Pal at table
Marie Blake
as Waitress
Grace Lenard
as Waitress
Nestor Paiva
as Pal at Table
Tom Ewell
as New hired hand
Karl Malden
as Red
Victor Kilian
as Photographer


Garson Kanin
Erich Pommer
Robert Ardrey
Sidney Howard
Play Author
Harry Stradling
Alfred Newman
Composer (Music Score)
John Sturges
Van Nest Polglase
Art Director
Darrell Silvera
Set Designer
Edward Stevenson
Costume Designer
Vernon Walker
Special Effects