The Paradine Case
The amazing about this movie is not that it is relatively minor Hitchcock, but that it’s any good at all. This was the last film under Hitch’s seven-year contract with David O. Selznick, and I’ll bet he was glad to be shut of the bastard. Alfred and Alma wrote a first draft from a novel, and brought someone in to polish it, but Selznick didn’t like it. Shooting began, and every day when he saw the rushes, the idiot didn’t like what he saw and sent over new pages to be filmed. Talk about micro-managing; that sort of thing never works out. The budget ballooned, what with the very expensive set re-creating the Old Bailey and shooting with a new technique using four cameras at once. The estimated cost of the film, according to Wikipedia, was $4,258,000. Do you have any idea how much Gone With the Wind cost in 1939? Again according to Wiki, $3,850,000. The picture posted a huge loss. Oh, well, it was Selznick’s money, I guess. But what a waste.
And all that money was squandered on a rather ordinary courtroom drama that I’ve almost forgotten a week after seeing it. Gregory Peck is badly miscast as an English barrister. His attempt at an English accent is embarrassing. He falls for his client (Alida Valli) who is charged with murdering her hsuband, and then becomes everything I detest about defense lawyers. I guess the SODDIT (Some Other Dude Did It) defense is excusable, but when you pick out a man against whom there is not a shred of evidence, the dead man’s valet (Louis Jourdan), and try to pin it on him, that’s scumbag behavior. And after a brutal cross-examination, the poor man goes out and kills himself, causing his client—who actually did poison her husband—to excoriate him in open court, because she loved the valet. While I agree that all accused people deserve a good defense, I draw the line at this sort of behavior. He is shamed, admits his incompetence, among other things, in open court, and goes home to his loving wife. She says they will have to rebuild his reputation slowly. The end. I’d have been happier if he’d offed himself The chief pleasure here is Charles Laughton as the judge.