Jamaica Inn (1939)

Jamaica InnJamaica Inn
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Sidney Gilliat, Joan Harrison, et al adapted from the novel by Daphne du Maurier
Mayflower Pictures Corporation

First viewing/Netflix rental


Title Card: “Oh Lord, we pray thee ~~ not that wrecks should happen ~~ but that if they do happen / Thou wilt guide them ~~ to the coast of Cornwall ~~ for the benefit of the poor inhabitants.”

This movie was much better than what I expected – which, by reputation, was very little.

Mary (Maureen O’Hara in her British film debut) has recently lost her mother and travels to England to live with her Aunt Patience at Jamaica Inn.  The coach driver refuses to deliver her to her unsavory destination, however, and deposits her and her trunk at night in the road.  Mary makes her way to the doorway of effete pleasure-lover Sir Humphrey Pengallen (Charles Laughton), who, noticing her beauty, welcomes her with open arms and takes her to the inn in his carriage.  There Mary finds that her aunt is under the thumb of her husband Joss Merlyn (Leslie Banks), who is the leader of a gang of cutthroats and wreck-robbers.  Finally, she sees the gang attempt to hang Jem Trehearne (Robert Newton), a new member who is found with excess money in his pocket.  Mary cuts him down and the two flee together, eventually into what they think is the safety of Sir Humphrey’s manse.

Jamaica Inn 1

As an adventure/thriller goes, I thought this was an enjoyable film.  Hitchcock hated it, though, and it certainly does not boast much of the Master’s characteristic style.  You can see traces of it but his efforts to build suspense were doomed by Laughton’s desire to appear in most of the scenes in the picture.  This proved to be irresistible because Laughton was the principal financier.  Thus, a key plot twist is revealed much too early in the story. Laughton was also given wide latitude to ham it up which did not do him or the film any favors.  Still, I’d rather see Laughton overact than most actors act and all the rest of the performances are excellent.  There are some nice storms and other maritime effects.  The 1939 British viewing public apparently ate it up too.

The movie is in the public domain and is available streaming on several sites including YouTube and Amazon Prime Instant.

2 thoughts on “Jamaica Inn (1939)

  1. Hitchcock hated it and so did I…………I just could not get interested even though I do like the British actor, Leslie Banks. Doesn’t even resemble a Hitchcock film to me but only my opinion. I tried to approach it with an unbiased opinion since I had been told that it wasn’t very good but that didn’t work/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *