The Farmer’s Wife is a masterpiece of cinematic contradictions, a 1928 silent-film, a romantic comedy about a gentleman farmer, Samuel Sweetland, a widower looking for a new wife among the ladies of his English village all the while blind to the affections of his housekeeper Minta. It is laugh-out-loud funny, a slapstick comedy from the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. It is a parlor room farce exploring the relationships between the sexes and between social classes, a story firmly fixed in time and place, and yet it resonates with a modern sensibility. It is a silent movie with the most wonderful, well-written dialogue.
When Sweetland compiles a list of eligible ladies in the village, he comments approvingly about the age and appearance of one of the ladies on his list. “Her back view is thirty.” To which his housekeeper Minta replies, “But you have to live with her front view.”
It is an 85 year-old film, lovingly restored by the British Film Institute.
I saw The Farmer’s Wife last night the way it was meant to be seen, in a great old theater with live piano accompaniment. And let me take a moment to point out that the pianist, Stephen Horne, did a remarkable job.
The Farmer’s Wife is one of the Hitchcock 9, currently touring the United States. If you have an opportunity to attend a showing, it is an opportunity not to be missed.