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The beautiful Mrs. Paradine is accused of poisoning her older, blind husband. She hires married Anthony Keane as her lawyer and when he begins to fall in love with her, she encourages him. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
In opening credits scroll below Ethel Barrymore: "and two new / Selznick Stars / Louis Jourdan / and / Valli". Alida Valli's name is in script form, and Jourdan had been playing leading roles in French films for several years before making "The Paradine Case". See more »
"The Paradine Case" has gotten an undeserved bad reputation as one of Alfred Hitchcock's least interesting films simply because it does not use any of the gimmicks and brilliant visual touches Hitchcock is famous for: a man being chased by a crop duster, inventively shot murder scenes in locations such as the ones in "Psycho", people dangling from Mt. Rushmore, unusual settings such as a cramped lifeboat. As if these touches were all that made Hitchcock great! If these touches are all we watch Hitchcock for, it's as shallow a reason for watching films as going to see summer movies merely to see special effects. A great director like Hitchcock deserves more credit than that.
"The Paradine Case" is, on the contrary, one of Hitchcock's most entertaining films, if you are willing to concentrate on dialogue and characterization rather than flashy visuals. Gregory Peck is the barrister assigned to defend Mrs. Paradine, a woman on trial for the cold-blooded murder of her blind husband, and it is immediately obvious that Peck is so besotted by this beautiful, mysterious woman that he is in no position to be objective about his client. Peck does quite a good job, but one can only wonder how Laurence Olivier, who was busy filming "Hamlet" at the time, and who was Hitchcock's first choice for the role, might have played it. Hitchcock wanted Greta Garbo for the role of Mrs. Paradine, but was unable to get her, and settled for Alida Valli, who is excellent, if not as beautiful and mysterious as Garbo. Louis Jourdan plays a suspicious-looking witness in the case, but Hitchcock wanted Robert Newton (famous for playing Long John Silver and other disreputable characters) for the role, and Newton would have provided a far more different and repulsive characterization (apparently Hitchcock's intention).
Charles Laughton unforgettably plays the judge at the trial as a sadist and a supremely dirty old man, who hates Peck because Ann Todd (as Peck's wife) refused his advances once, and Ethel Barrymore, brilliant in her limited screen time, is Laughton's intimidated and submissive wife.
The majority of the film does take place in the courtroom, but so does "Witness for the Prosecution", and no one has a bad word to say about that film. (Would they have done so if Hitchcock had made that one? The Agatha Christie thriller doesn't contain any flashy visual touches either.)
Those who love Hitchcock for only his "trademarks" perhaps need to look a little harder and think a little deeper, and then they will appreciate this excellent film.
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