In They Knew What They Wanted, when a beautiful, but poor, waitress (Carole Lombard) agrees to a mail-order marriage with a wine grower (Charles Laughton), she discovers he has misrepresented himself–and has even sent her a picture of one of his workers (William Gargan) as himself. Though she swears to be true to him, she ends up in a torrid affair with the worker despite her best intentions, and even becomes pregnant by him.
In an ending surprising for its time, her husband forgives her and the movie ends on a relatively happy note. The film was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Sidney Howard.
Other film versions which included The Secret Love (1928) with Pola Negri and A Lady to Love (1930) with Vilma Banky (and Edward G. Robinson), were resisted by the censorship board, which altered the husband’s forgiveness for his wife’s adultery. The 1940 version was the most true to the play.
Cast: Charles Laughton, Carole Lombard, William Gargan, Harry Carey, Frank Fay,
Director: Garson Kanin
Producer: Erich Pommer
Original Story: Sidney Howard
Director of Photography: Harry Stradling
Editor: John Sturges
Composer: Alfred Newman
Screenwriter: Robert Ardrey
Art Director: Van Nest Polglase
USA / RKO / 120 minutes / 1940