Monday, February 21, 2011
Ann Todd and Charles relax between takes
Many of you may have probably read Hitchcok being quoted (ad nauseam) about his work with Laughton in Jamaica Inn. Such quotes have been historically used to berate Laughton and his work. Many people seem to forget that Hitchcock worked again with the "difficult" actor in The Paradine Case: Have you come across any complaint by Hitchcock about his work with Laughton in that film? Well, neither have I (so far). In the light of this, I guess that Hitchcock wasn't after all, that uncomfortable with Charles. This time things between the two Englishmen seemed to go smooth enough. Laughton was, as a matter of fact, the least of Hitchcock's concerns during the filming of The Paradine Case.
Hitchcock had trouble enough with the producer: David O'Selznick was writing (and re-writing) the script and was responsible for the final cut of the film, much to the director's chagrin. Also, he didn't like the casting for the leading parts: for the roles played by Gregory Peck, Alida Valli and Louis Jourdan, he actually wanted (but couldn't have) Laurence Olivier, Greta Garbo and Robert Newton... I, for one, think that we can only theorise about what a Garbo-Newton pairing could have been like, and believe that Jourdan suggested (better than Newton could have) the sexual ambiguity lurking under the valet's protestations of faithfulness to his deceased master. Peck is usually regarded by critics as a lesser counselor than the hypothetical performance by Olivier could have been, which reminds me of one critic's comment of how good Hellzapoppin could have been the Marx brothers starred in it (conveniently forgetting that Olsen and Johnson originated the show in Broadway).
The Paradine Case was the last film Hitchcock would do for Selznick, and not a fulfilling piece of work for him. It's no wonder that it wasn't among his favourites, and he would dismiss it on interviews. I personally think it's far from a bad film (a second rate Hitchcock is still more interesting than some other directors' first rate output) and can boast a handsome (and appropiately cold and somber) cinematography by Lee Garmes, an evocative score by Franz Waxman and engaging performances by the secondary players: Laughton in particular delineates a merciless portrait of stern justice with a touch of perversion (Lord Horfield's blunt flirtatiousness to Gay Keane -Ann Todd- seems to be a wink to the director's own obsessions)
Deleted scene: The defender and the judge in the art gallery
Hitchcock, and an unidentified crew member, prepare the scene with Gregory Peck and Laughton
The Barrymore nomination mystery
Since this post is meant to be part of a Blogathon devoted to film preservation, I'd like to to mention that some of the scenes deleted from the film's final cut have not been lost, the bad news being that there aren't any plans (to the best of my knowledge) for that footage to be used in a restoration or re-release of the film. Any discerning reader will have probably reached the conclusion that there was a lot of Laughton there (Yep, there is!)
These scenes also explain something that puzzled Calum Reed here: How Ethel Barrymore could have received an Oscar nomination for the film, having only a few scenes with little dialogue? Well, because she had originally more screen time.
Steven De Rosa sheds further light here, providing us with the script of those scenes, which deepen in the relationship and personality of Lord Horfield and his wife, and could have contributed to make a more rounded film. The fascinating thing about them is that the Horfields relationship seems to offer a dark mirror to the Keanes' marriage. Horfield dislikes Keane's passionate defence of his customers, maybe because that remembers him of a (long-gone) time when he still regarded criminals as human beings, and from his wife we gather that he used to be a more empathic man in the past (and one must assume a past in which poor Sophy's spirit had not been yet suffocated by years of marriage).
"Have you noticed how much the nuts resemble the human brain, Sophy? Which reminds me... What about comitting you to the nut house, darling?"
Horfield reveals to Anthony Keane that he fears his wife is losing her mind, even though it's obvious that Sophie's concerns about her husband's disquieting satisfaction after sending someone to the gallows hint that she thinks that "Tommy" is not very sane himself: Is she really loosing her mind, or is she just a meek wife who's frightened stiff of the heartless monster her husband has become? Judge Horfield's is possibly more insane than his wife, but his insanity serves the system, while poor Sophie's compassion may be regarded by everyone else as an undesirable sign of weakness.
Here's hoping that some day these scenes leave the vaults. Is there enough Paradine love for a new, restored DVD release?
A handful of Paradine Links
(all in English, unless otherwise stated):
:: David Cairns analyzes the Paradine syndrome
:: Voiceover’s Blog reviews the film (Spanish)
:: Two pieces ar Rouge.com: Douglas Pye writes In and Around The Paradine Case, while Mark Rappaport writes on the director's viewpoint
:: Olivier Eyquem writes on The Paradine Case here and here (French)
:: Atikus writes on two courtroom films with Charles (Spanish)
:: Jennythenipper has a case against The Paradine Case
:: William Martell gives us another review
:: Nick Zegarac reviews the last DVD release of the film
This post was written to support the For The Love Of Film Noir Blogathon.
:: More information at Ferdy on Films
:: More information at The Self-Styled Siren
:: The blogaton's own home blog
:: The blogathon's facebook page
:: The website of the Film Noir foundation which will restore this year's film.
:: If you want to contribute with some money, here's the donation link