They Knew What They Wanted (1940): Garson Kanin’s Version of Sidney Howard’s Play

They Knew What They Wanted stars Carole Lombard, Charles Laughton, William Gargan, Harry Carey, and Karl Malden. in his debut.

Based on a 1924 Pulitzer Prize winning play by Sidney Howard, the film version was directed by Garson Kanin from a screenplay by Robert Ardrey.

This marked the only time the play was filmed under its original title. Two previous film versions had been made: a silent film called The Secret Hour (1928), with Jean Hersholt in the Laughton role, and an early talkie, A Lady to Love (1930), with Edward G. Robinson in the role.

In 1956, Frank Loesser turned the play into a musical entitled The Most Happy Fella.

Oscar Alert:

Best Supporting Actor nomination: William Gargan.