Movie Review, “The Paradine Case”

This movie was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, known as “the master of suspense.” He was not the master of blood and gore, except in the movie “Psycho.” Even in that movie, the violence was shown indirectly. Hitchcock, being British and therefore rather proper, tended to be subtle.

“The Paradine Case” is a melodramatic movie. It stars Gregory Peck, playing a trial lawyer (known as a barrister in England). I always regarded Gregory Peck as a handsome leading man, but I never knew if he was much of an actor. In this movie, he acts up a storm. He truly shows off his talent.

Peck’s wife is played by Ann Todd. She also displays a lot of acting talent. But I would not have wanted to appear in her role in this movie and read all of her lines. She is so devoted to Peck and so long-suffering that it got on my nerves.

Another character is played by the Italian actress Alida Valli. She is suspected of having murdered her blind, older, wealthy husband. She is the big enigma in the film. She behaves formally and coldly throughout. But her iciness is offset by her great beauty. This is a femme fatale role for Valli.

Louis Jourdan, a French actor, plays the former valet of the murdered man. Much of the movie is courtroom drama. When Jourdan is put on the witness stand, he shows great anguish. Another superlative acting job.

Some other good actors appear in smaller roles. Charles Laughton plays a nasty judge. Leo G. Carroll plays the counsel for the prosecution. He is best known in the United States for his lead role in the TV show “Topper.”

Be forewarned about a few things. The movie was made in 1947 and was shot in black and white. In the courtroom scenes, the judge and the attorneys wear very artificial white wigs. That was the custom of the times. It may still be the case today, for all I know.

Ethel Barrymore plays the wife of the judge. She was nominated for an academy award in the category of Best Supporting Actress. She is excellent.

As for Hitchcock’s direction, it governs the whole movie but does not call attention to itself. There are so many suspenseful and frightening moments in the film that I cannot count them up. The direction and the script do what they are supposed to do: they keep you guessing.

The movie has as limited number of characters. Therefore, there are a limited number of murder suspects. Sometimes my boyfriend and I watch wholly different kinds of murder mysteries. We watch episodes of the American TV series “Murder, She Wrote,” starring Angela Lansbury. These shows are good, but the murder suspects are so numerous that it is virtually impossible to say who was the culprit. In “The Paradine Case,” there are only several people to suspect.

I will not give away the ending. I will say that my boyfriend guessed the exact ending. He is pretty astute.

Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance in nearly all of his movies. If you keep a lookout for him, you will see him briefly in this movie. Anybody who has watched the TV show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” knows what he looks like.

I read the Wikipedia article about this movie and learned a few things.

The moviemakers originally wanted Greta Garbo to play the accused woman. After a screen test, she turned it down. She retired from acting shortly thereafter.

The movie cost $4,258,000 to make, almost as much as “Gone with the Wind.” Adjusted for inflation, today the cost would be 12 times as much. The movie did not do well enough at the box office for the cost to be recouped.

Alfred Hitchcock described the movie as “a love story embedded in the emotional quicksand of a murder trial.” The man had quite a gift for language.

It took a long time to get script approval for the movie. Individuals whom we would call censors found some plot elements objectionable. Also, Hitchcock’s initial version was considered far too long. The movie was trimmed down to 114 minutes in the case of DVDs.

I had a creepy reaction to the film for a particular reason. The murder in the movie occurred on May 6, 1946. In many courtroom scenes, this date was mentioned. My BIRTHDAY is May 6! I have watched so many movie mysteries and detective stories in my life. But never before did I encounter a capital offense that occurred on my birthday. My boyfriend and I almost jumped out of our seats when the date was first mentioned!

Now I am waiting for a mystery where the murder occurred on HIS birthday, June 16. Please leave a comment if you know of one. Shared creepiness is lessened creepiness. 🙂

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