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American Cinematographer (1941) - Mr. and Mrs. Smith



Mr. and Mrs. Smith

  • RKO-Radio Production.
  • Director of Photography: Harry Stradling, A.S.C.
  • Special-Process Photography: Vernon L. Walker, A.S.C.

While this is not the first production Harry Stradling, A.S.C, has made in Hollywood since his return from Europe, it happens to be the first this reviewer has seen. And it makes one wonder why our own studios ever let the French and British studios take an artist like Stradling away from them, and keep him so long.

His handling of every phase of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" is skillful and imaginative in high degree. In collaboration with the always clever Alfred Hitchcock, he has made very subtle use of camera-angles in the early sequences to aid in planting the impression that the chief protagonists are, to say the least, slightly pixillated characters. The angles he uses in presenting these characters in that vital first few hundred feet while the audience is getting acquainted with them does fully as much as dialog and action to get this impression across.

His treatment of Carole Lombard is a definite asset to that young lady. She is not, and never has been a subject suited to conventional camerawork and lighting. Stradling gives her a simple, forceful key-lighting rather reminiscent of the style with which Josef von Sternberg, A.S.C, made Marlene Dietrich famous. For Miss Lombard, this treatment does two things: it first accentuates her good features (while concealing her less favorable ones), and secondly, gives her a more decided visual personality, which is greatly to her advantage. To put it bluntly, she looks better in this picture than she has in many another.

Special-process cinematographer Vernon L. Walker, A.S.C, also makes notable contribution to "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." In addition to several process sequences in autos, sleighs, and the like—all very well executed—he had to bring to the screen one of the dramatic highlights of the script, in which Miss Lombard and Gene Raymond find themselves marooned in midair as the "parachute jump" ride of last year's New York World's Fair jams, leaving them suspended half-way down. His work here is excellent, for although you know it must be a process-shot, you are never forcibly reminded of the fact.