Online Dating is a minefield. Once you have identified a potential date, or received a message from an interested suitor, how do you contact them? What do you say, how formal should you be? Picking the tone is very difficult, let alone knowing what kind of conversational gambit to employ. Well luckily help is at hand from the forties, and in particular a correspondence relationship between Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton in They Knew What They Wanted. Here is the response from Lombard’s character Amy to the initial message from Laughton’s astonishing Italian caricature*


Note here the key idea in her letter (and indeed the secret to much Hollywood entertainment) being the impossible equivalence between a moral man and a poor one…

In the film the always terrific Lombard is a poor waitress in California, Laughton plays Tony Patucci a rich, but illiterate Italian vineyard owner who hook up via classifieds . He has a Chinese cook and a lothario of a ranch hand who gets embroiled in a tempestuous love triangle which makes no sense but then this is a melodrama Somewhere along the line Laughton falls off the roof and one of those “she’s sick – camera zooms in on belly” pregnancies occur. There is a vaguely happy ending, after all They Knew What They Wanted, and they kind of get it (in a different way to the plan) and for all its out of dated anachronisms and quite shocking Italian accents, I rather enjoyed it. But I am also looking forward to a remake for our modern era. But who could they replace Laughton with? (aka Guess My Theory)


*These days BBC are wary of showing films with obviously blacked up characters in them, but I’d have to say that Laughton is considerably olived-up in this movie. But then They Knew What They Wanted was part of a mini-Laughton anti-PC season on the BBC which also featured his anti-disability screed The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame in which he both hunches and squints up.