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They Knew What They Wanted is a 1940 film with Carole Lombard, Charles Laughton, William Gargan, Harry Carey, and Karl Malden (in his film debut), directed by Garson Kanin. It is based on a 1924 Pulitzer Prize winning play with the same name by Sidney Howard; the screenplay is 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 entitled A Lady to Love (1930), with Edward G. Robinson in the role.Years later, in 1956, Frank Loesser turned the play into a semi-operatic musical entitled The Most Happy Fella. This was not filmed, but was videotaped in 1980 and shown on PBS.