Saturday Night Cinema: The Paradine Case


I thought we should screen a Hitchcock classic after last week’s SNC documentary, Hitchock Trufaut. The Paradine Case is an unsung Hitchcock film,  “one fitfully intriguing tale, smoothly told through a cultivated camera.”

The Paradine Case (Alfred Hitchcock – 1947) from SkarlettLove on Vimeo.

ON THE SCREEN; Selznick and Hitchcock Join Forces on ‘Paradine Case,’ Thriller at Music Hall

By Bosley Crowther, NYT, January 9, 1948

With all the skill in presentation for which both gentlemen are famed, David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock have put upon the screen a slick piece of static entertainment in their garrulous “The Paradine Case.” Call it a mystery melodrama — although that doesn’t fully wrap it up, any more than it wrapped up “Rebecca,” a previous smash production of these two. Call it a courtroom tragi-romance or a husband-wife problem play. Call it, indeed, a social satire and you won’t be entirely wrong. For it’s all of these things rolled together in one fitfully intriguing tale, smoothly told through a cultivated camera. And it may be seen at the Music Hall.

Do you remember the haunting disconcertion which “Rebecca,” the phantom villainess of that film, caused all the other characters in it, even though the lady herself were dead? Well, that is the sort of dark disturbance that the beautiful Mrs. Paradine causes all the characters in this story—only she is very much alive. Alive, indeed, and briskly kicking, but her husband, a blind peer, is dead and she is on trial for his murder. Quo vadis, Mrs. Paradine?Slyly, expensively, politely, this picture grinds out a lacquered tale of a woman’s persuasive fascination over many who are affected by her trial, as well as a foregone revelation of the nature of the woman herself. It gives a faint glint of the prurience she arouses in the presiding judge, a nasty old goat whose suave sadism has wholly unhinged his wife. It gives a tormenting indication of Mrs. Paradine’s hold on her husband’s valet, a man upon whom strong suspicion is directed before and during the trial. But mostly it gives a smoldering picture of the passion she inspires in the young man engaged as her defending counsel and of the torture this causes the latter’s wife.It isn’t a significant story, not by any means, except in so far as it hints at the old Adam that lies deep in men, beneath all their polished manners and solid virtues and barristers’ wigs. And it isn’t a too-well-written story—for the purposes of cinema, that is—in the script derived by Mr. Selznick from Robert Hichens’ fifteen-year-old fiction book. After a vague accumulation of evidence and of love in the lawyer’s heart, the story goes into Old Bailey courtroom and stays there for most of the film. Courtroom action tends to weary, no matter how explosive the details—and the measure of this one’s recognized tedium is that Mr. Selznick plans further editing.But, as usually happens, Mr. Hitchcock has made the best of a difficult script and has got as much tension in a courtroom as most directors could get in a frontier fort. His camera has a way of behaving like an accomplished trial lawyer, droning quietly along with routine matters and suddenly hitting you dramatically in the face.

And out of his cast of brilliant actors he has pulled some distinguished work.Gregory Peck is impressively impassioned as the famous young London barrister who lets his heart, cruelly captured by his client, rule his head. And Ann Todd, the pliant British actress, is attractively anguished as his wife. Alida Valli, an import from Italy, makes the caged Mrs. Paradine a compound of mystery, fascination and voluptuousness with a pair of bedroom eyes, and Louis Jourdan, a new boy from Paris, is electric as the badgered valet. A bit too much flutter and flourish are in Charles Laughton’s decoration of the judge and entirely too little intelligence is in Ethel Barrymore’s skits as his balmy wife. But Charles Coburn is droll as an elder counselor, Joan Tetzel is flip as his little girl and Leo G. Carroll is superlatively sardonic as lawyer for the Crown. Needless to say, the picture’s déécor has a rich, enameled, David O. Selznick look.On the stage at the Music Hall are Margaret Sande and George Tatar, dancers; Ronalde, musical specialist; Ernie and Marquita, the Fredarry’s Trio and the Corps de Ballet, Glee Club and Rockettes.

THE PARADINE CASE; screen play by David O. Selznick; adapted by Alma Reville in consultation with James Bridie from the novel by Robert Hichens; directed by Alfred Hitchcock; produced by David O. Selznick for the Selznick Releasing Organization. At the Music Hall.Anthony Keane . . . . . Gregory PeckGay Keane . . . . . Ann ToddLord Horfield . . . . . Charles LaughtonSir Simon Flaquer . . . . . Charles CoburnLady Horfield . . . . . Ethel BarrymoreAndre Latour . . . . . Louis JourdanMaddelena Paradine . . . . . ValliSir Joseph Farrell . . . . . Leo G. CarrollJudy Flaquer . . . . . Joan Tetzel

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