Review: Hitchcock: The Real Master - The Paradine Case @ Chapter
Out of all the Hitchcock films I had seen at Chapter Arts Centre, this is the only one of which I had not heard before. It actually turned out to be quite an enjoyable film, even though its reputation is less than successful.
Gregory Peck plays Anthony Keane, a dashing and excellent barrister who must defend Mrs. Paradine, played by Alida Valli. She has been arrested for the murder of her husband. But as the case comes into play, Keane falls head-over-heels for his client, putting his own marriage at risk. Ann Todd’s character, Gay Keane certainly puts up with a great deal of hassle with her husband, who it seems could leave her at any moment, being with his client and putting the case into jeopardy. Louis Jourdan is also a menacing presence as AndrÃ© Latour, the Paradine’s roguish valet.
Alida Valli, who is credited in the film as just ‘Valli’, has a great deal of screen presence. It would have been great to see her in more Hitchcock and Hollywood films. Her success as an actress was not as great as expected. She is mostly remembered for this film. But it seemed in order for her to be in this film, she had to do a fair bit of work. A crash diet, alterations to her teeth and English lessons all helped her gain the starring role. Yet whenever a new actor is billed (‘introducing’), they are always put last in the cast list, even if they have the starring role. Seems strange.
If the film proves anything, it's how tense and fascinating court room scenes can be in film. I recall my old English teacher who told me this in high school. It’s hard to deny. Next time you watch a film and it happens to have a scene in a courtroom, take in the atmosphere and note what is being said. I’m sure you will know what I mean.
Peck makes an exceptional man of law. He would later play another lawyer in his Oscar-winning performance as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. His relationship with Hitchcock proved contentious, like on the set for Spellbound. It seems the producer David O. Selznick was after the Swedish actresses Greta Garbo and then Ingrid Bergman to play Mrs. Paradine, both of whom declined. He tried for some years to get the rights to make the film, since it was originally a novel by Robert Hichens. Selznick (who is the first person to have his name at the start of this film) comes across as a great movie mogul in every regard. This was to be Selznick’s last collaboration with Hitchcock, as the latter was to conclude his contractual obligations and to have his own production company just on the horizon.
Some weird facts about the film are that an entire set was made for the setting of the Old Bailey, costing an absolute fortune. I’m sure they asked if they could film in the real thing, but that could have caused some intrusion to law and court, or some nonsense like that. For all the people in the film to be Oscar-nominated, it only turns out to be Ethel Barrymore as Lady Sophie Horfield. She is not on screen for more than ten minutes, but her performance is memorable, to say the least. The other cast members deserved some credit for their achievement in the film since they also put a great deal of work into this as well.
I enjoyed this and found it quite engaging. Although the way they portrayed Cumberland was that classic backwater, like they would portray Wales back then. The ending is also quite abrupt.
I don’t care for the lack of enthusiasm for this film. It’s a decent court drama and an enjoyable movie.