The Paradine Case
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by David O. Selznick and Alma Reville from a novel by Robert Hichens
Vanguard Films and The Selznick Studio
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
This was David O. Selzncik’s last opportunity to interfere with Hitchcock’s movie-making and he went all out, even writing the screenplay. It’s not a terrible movie but it’s not classic Hitchcock. I also have a problem with attempting to sympathize with lawyers who commit malpractice right and left.
Barrister Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck) and his wife Gay (Ann Todd) are very happily married as the film begins. Then he gets a referral from solicitor Simon Flaquer (Charles Coburn) to defend the young and beautiful Mrs. Paradine (Alida Parridine) who has been accused of poisoning her blind husband and stands to be sentenced to death. Unfortunately for all concerned, Keane is bewitched by his frosty client on first sight. At this point, his common sense goes completely out the window.
Although his marriage is in grave jeopardy, Keane is determined to acquit Mrs. Paradine at all costs. Against her explicit wishes, he begins to investigate the role of Mr. Paradine’s valet Andre LaTour (Louis Jourdan) in the crime. The rest of the story is mostly a courtroom drama and I will not reveal it any further. I will say that Keane makes several bone-headed mistakes including violating a key maxim of all good trial attorneys: “Never ask a witness a question if you do not know the answer.” With Charles Laughton as the judge, Ethel Barrymore as the judge’s wife, and Leo G. Carroll as the prosecutor.
This is an OK courtroom drama but not particularly Hitchcockian. Its defects can probably all be laid at the feet of Selznick starting with the casting which resulted in a hodgepodge of accents in its Hollywood London. It also moves at a sluggish pace, again likely due to Selznick’s omnipresence in the editing room.
Ethel Barrymore was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her three minutes of screen time in The Paradine Case. Her part was originally bigger but several scenes were lost in Selznick’s extensive cutting of the film.