Following a short investigation, the London Police charge Maddalena Paradine with the poisoning murder of her older, blind husband, retired Colonel Richard Paradine, who was dependent on her and others to manage in his life due to his physical disability. She is up front about being a woman with a past, she only becoming wealthy and thus glamorous because of the marriage. Her personal solicitor Sir Simon Flaquer refers the case to his colleague Tony Keane. In spending time with Mrs. Paradise in prison, Tony is immediately attracted to her, that attraction which morphs into obsession. As such, Tony does whatever he can to clear her of the charges, either in mounting a defense of suicide, assisted or not, or that someone else killed him, the most likely candidate being the Colonel's trusted valet, Andre Latour, with who Tony initially believes Mrs. Paradise was having an affair. In the process, Tony may be blinded to the evidence as it presents itself. Who can see what is going on is ...Written by
Greta Garbo turned down the role of Martha in I Remember Mama (1948) at around the same time that she also rejected the role of Mrs. Paradine in The Paradine Case. She is reputed to have commented, "No murderesses, no mamas." See more »
Latour is in shadow when he first meets Mr. Keane, but it is plain that his lips are not moving when he speaks. See more »
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 film made its network television debut in a severely edited 95 minute version. See more »
There are some films that are forever lost that one wishes still existed: the complete GREED and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Welles final cut)for examples. In the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock, THE PARADINE CASE as he originally shot would have been of great interest. Whether it would have been better is another matter. THE PARADINE CASE is generally conceded as among Hitchcock's lesser films. It's most interesting parts of the performances of the leads (except for Alida Valli, who is quite dull), and the famous sequence of the portrait of Valli whose eyes seem to follow the camera (standing in for Gregory Peck/Anthony Keane) as it passes from one room to the next.
Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut that he felt the casting was wrong. He wanted Greta Garbo for Mrs. Paradine (but Selznick had Alida Valli signed up). He wanted Ronald Colman or Laurence Olivier as Keane (but Selznick had Gregory Peck signed up). He did not want Louis Jourdan as LaTour, but wanted Robert Newton. Again Selznick said no. As a result of our general respect for Hitchcock the suspense film artist we sympathize with his comments, and dismiss Selznick as a bullying producer who destroyed a masterpiece. I seriously question this view.
First of all, David Selznick (for most of his career as a producer) was way ahead of the majority of such Hollywood figures because of his taste and ability. Anyone who could create GONE WITH THE WIND, David COPPERFIELD, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, and other high caliber movies is not one to dismiss so cavalierly. Most of the films he did with Hitchcock (whom he brought to Hollywood in 1939) were very good films: REBECCA, SUSPICION, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, LIFEBOAT, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT - they were not crappy. Secondly, he was aware of difficulties in getting performers: Olivier was working in England in 1948. Colman was working mostly at MGM, but was a bit too old for the role. And Peck was not an unknown talent: He had worked with Hitchcock already. As for Garbo, she had been in retirement for six years, and there was no sign she was interested in a film come-back.
The Jourdan - Newton problem is another matter. LaTour, in the film, is Colonel Paradine's loyal batman, now a valet and groom on the estate. Mrs. Paradine has made a play for his affections, and he has rejected them out of loyalty to his master. Hitchcock felt that Robert Newton, with his physical appearance, would have looked more like a man who worked in the mire of a stable than Louis Jourdan did, although as Jourdan remained the Colonel's personal servant that seemed a minor casting point in favor of Newton. Hitchcock also skirted the issue (soon to be handled in ROPE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, and NORTH BY NORTHWEST) of a homosexual relationship between his characters. LaTour was supposed to be more openly close to the Colonel in Hitchcock's opinion. But it was a 1948 film - how close was the relationship supposed to be? Furthermore, Selznick as producer would be aware of one defect regarding Newton not found in Hitchcock's account to Truffaut: Newton's alcoholism. Given the size of Newton's benders he was a poor risk in most film acting roles (no matter how available he was). Not so with Louis Jourdan. The film was brought in under 93 days, and that record would not have been possible if Newton had been in the cast and kept getting drunk. As for the homosexual relationship, it never is fleshed at all in the film. But would a 1948 audience have been willing to accept that? I don't think so.
The supporting players, particularly Ann Todd, Charles Laughton as the sadistic Mr. Justice Lord Hawfield, and Ethel Barrymore as Lady Hawfield, gave good accounts of themselves in the film, especially Laughton as the Judge who takes out his frustrations with Mrs. Keane (ANN TODD) to wreck her husband's case. His best scene, where he compares a walnut to a human brain sums up the character's beastliness.
I think that what Hitchcock fans fail to notice here is that it is Hitch's only real courtroom film. While his characters face hearings and sentencing in court (like in the start of NOTORIOUS), they rarely are shown being tried. I CONFESS is an exception - and the bulk of the film is not a trial. Here the bulk of the film is the trial of the anti-heroine Mrs. Paradine. It is not typical Hitchcock, and fails to fascinate the audience. The highpoint is the verbal clashes between Laughton and Peck (sometimes assisted by Leo G. Carroll as the prosecutor), Jourdan's collapse in the witness box when Keane attacks him for secretly betraying his master with the defendant, and Valli's final condemnation of Keane in court. But the circumstances and the dialog do not fascinate the viewers. Compare the way the trial in THE PARADINE CASE compares with those in Billy Wilder's WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, and in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Laughton's Sir Wilfred Robarts enlivens the film, and his tactics in attacking Torin Thatcher's case for the prosecution of Tyrone Power are solid and interesting in the former. Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch, in defending Brock Peters on a rape charge in a segregated, bigoted South, are cutting and sensible. The key is the script - both of those films have better scripts, based on better writings (Agatha Christie and Harper Lee) than the Robert Hitchens novel.
One can bemoan the loss of the three hour version or the 119 minute version that we lack now, but if it was anything as dull as the slow moving courtroom sequences of the currently extant film, I doubt that any improvement would have appeared.
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