Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Easy Virtue


There’s very little of the Hitchcock we know in this movie, it’s another of those that would be entirely forgotten if it hadn’t been made by him. A married woman is having her portrait painted. Her jealous, abusive husband arrives as the artist is trying to seduce her. Though she had nothing to do with it, he brings suit for divorce on the grounds of adultery. And it is tried in open court, before a packed house, and apparently all that’s needed is testimony that he was kissing her! It is found that she committed adultery, and the divorce is granted. It is such a scandal that she has to more or less flee to Italy. Where she meets a young man who knows nothing about her soiled reputation, and marries him. But back home his termagant mother, who hated her from the start, finds out and tells her son, who broods about it for a while but never even hints of standing by her. Seeing how things are, the woman dresses like a wild flapper and drops in on the big society party that mom has forbidden her to attend, then tells her stupid hubby that he can have an uncontested divorce. She at least retains her pride, but at the end, hounded by paparazzi, she stands there and says “Shoot! There’s nothing left to destroy!” or words to that effect.

In this day and age with over 50% of marriages ending in divorce and no-fault laws and our no-big-deal attitude (unless it’s Tom and Katie and Suri) it’s easy to forget what a total catastrophe divorce used to be for a woman. It’s good that the writer’s attitude was to show how unfair it all was, to make the young woman the sympathetic character and the only one (except the boy’s father, who would happily forget it all) with any real moral standing in the matter.

It wasn’t until I’d written this review that I checked my list and found that we’d seen a movie with the same title not long ago. It was also called Easy Virtue, and it’s also based on the play by Noel Coward. The thrust of the story is the same—an interesting woman arriving in a really stuffy family, but obviously some details had to be changed for modern audiences. I remember liking it, certainly a lot more than this original version.