The Secret Hour was the first of three screen versions of Sidney Howard's Pulitzer Prize-winning play They Knew What They Wanted. The owner of a prosperous California orange grove, Italian-born Tony (Jean Hersholt) decides that he lacks romance in his life. Spotting waitress Amy (Pola Negri) at a roadside café, Tony falls in love with her from afar. Mailing her a proposal of marriage, the self-conscious Tony encloses a photo of his handsome foreman Joe (Kenneth Thomson). Even when Amy finds out the truth, she reconciles herself to going through with her marriage to the crude but likeable Tony. Meanwhile, Joe and Amy meet, and though Joe can't stand the girl at first, eventually they fall in love and marry in secret; before long, Amy is pregnant with Joe's child. Enraged when he finds out what's been going on behind his back, the good-hearted Tony can't bring himself to send Amy away or break up his friendship with Joe, so he agrees to bless their marriage. The Secret Hour underwent several radical changes in the transition from stage to screen (in the Sidney Howard original, Tony marries Amy and is cuckolded by Joe), but this didn't weaken the film as much as Pola Negri's miscasting. In addition to the two subsequent film versions, They Knew What They Wanted was transformed by Frank Loesser into the Broadway musical The Most Happy Fella.
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