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April 30, 2015


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D Cairns

Great piece.

I think Hitchcock's point about Jourdan has not been quite disproven though. Of course it's perfectly reasonable that Valli could be attracted to Jourdan. What Hitch seems to have wanted was a moment when Peck meets the lover and is disgusted by him, and hence with himself for having been tempted by a woman who would sleep with a guy like that. The scene he ends up with plays quite differently with two extremely handsome men.

I'm not sure Hitchcock is displaying any dated assumptions at all -- it seems to me that for a believable emotional reaction for Peck, what he had in mind could have been effective.

Stephen Whitty

Thanks for this, Glenn (and Farran).

I just re-watched "Paradine" as part of a tiny-advance/huge-workload book project, and found much to -- well, not like, but be interested in. Still, to me it's clearly such a Selznick picture, as compared to a Hitchcock one. The tempestuous Valli seems so much more of a Selznick "type" (like Vivien Leigh or Jennifer Jones, as least as he tried to make her over for "Duel in the Sun.") And Hitchcock hated courtroom dramas -- almost every other movie he made, he cut away from trial scenes, rather than taking up screentime with them.

Agree with D. Cairns above, though. The movie, it seems to me, is about the power and utter incomprehensibility of sexual attraction, and obsession. What on earth did Ethel Barrymore ever see in Charles Laughton? (To a lesser degree, what did Gregory Peck see in the rather pallid, self-martyring Ann Todd?) So I think that casting, as Hitchcock suggested, Robert Newton -- by then long removed from his sexy "Jamaica Inn" shape and fully in his boozy "Odd Man Out" phase -- would have made the theme, and the drama, more powerful.

Put more powerfully -- who CAN'T understand Alida Valli cheating on her bitter, blind old husband with Louis Jourdan? (Especially when Lee Garmes lights him like Dietrich?) But with a bit of rough trade -- ah, that's a different, more complicated tale. (It's, to reference a writer Hitchcock adapted previously, like Somerset Maugham -- "Of Human Bondage" becomes just a trite melodrama if Mildred isn't plain and scrawny and crude and awful. That Philip is besotted with SUCH an unworthy character is what helps make the book so powerful.)

Good point about the long-takes trilogy. I wonder how much of that sprang directly from Hitchcock's advisory role on that Holocaust documentary after the war, in which he told the editors -- presciently, as it turned out -- that unless they used wider angles and long takes, people would find excuses to doubt the footage. It seems as if those long, long travelling takes weren't meant to be "theatrical" (as Selznick sneered) but documentarian: This is happening. This is real.

Interested in seeing how this conversation between you two smart people develops.

Glenn Kenny

Thanks, D. and Stephen. Just to be clear, my argument wasn't meant to suggest that what Hitchcock had in mind WOULD NOT have been effective. I imagine it would have been. I'm just saying that Jourdan is not ineffective, despite his having been forced on Hitchcock.

D Cairns

I actually love Jourdan in this. The sheer gorgeousness of these two guys in the same scene opens up a homoerotic potential the film obviously can't get into. I think the way it changes the dynamic threw Hitch, though, so although he's good in it, maybe he's not good FOR it, in the sense of failing to clarify Peck's emotional journey. but I think we understand each other.

Farran Nehme

Robin Wood wrote about Latour as coded gay, in his "dislike for women" and adoration of the dead Colonel Paradine. More later, obviously!


PARADINE CASE is one of the few Hitchcock films I've never seen (the others are UNDER CAPRICORN and WALTZES FROM VIENNA). His own bad-mouthing of PARADINE made it sound very uninteresting. Now I'll have to see it.


While talking about second rank/underrated works of great directors, as it happened I recently saw THE BIRDS and saw HOME FROM THE HILL for the first time. In my view it shows the difference between a truly great director and an extremely good one. The first half of HOME FROM THE HILL shows Minnelli at his best, and the movie benefits from a great performance from Robert Mitchum. This contrasts with THE BIRDS where Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor give striking performances notwithstanding not usually being considered in Mitchum's class as an actor. But the second half of HOME FROM THE HILL has two problems. First, there is the gender ideology of the movie, where Eleanor Parker's vindictive refusal to forgive Mitchum's infidelities is the cause of all the problems the family suffers in the movie. Parker doesn't begin to match Mitchum, and one suspects it was intended that way. (When Mitchum's character says he won't be judged, his air of authority evades the fact that if his conduct in questionable, why shouldn't he be judged? Whatever his own hang-ups, Hitchcock would not have been so indulgent.) Second, there are the string of circumstances involving George Hamilton, his girlfriend and the end of the movie which could be generously described as "contrived." It says something that Minnelli had to make do with this turn of events as best he could, while Hitchcock could take something arguably as implausible, such as deciding to kill someone in Chicago by hiring a crop duster, and turn it into a tour de force. Or taking something like the scheme at the core of VERTIGO and simply using it as a starting point for something much deeper and stranger.


D Cairns: "What Hitch seems to have wanted was a moment when Peck meets the lover and is disgusted by him, and hence with himself for having been tempted by a woman who would sleep with a guy like that. The scene he ends up with plays quite differently with two extremely handsome men."

It plays differently, yes, but I still think it plays well. Here's how I read it after watching the movie for the first time yesterday: Keane has constructed himself a fantasy in which a dark-haired beauty from the Continent with a shady past has given up all such allurements to settle down with a grey-haired gentleman to a life of selfless domesticity in the Lake District. Then suddenly his fantasy gets thrown back at him when he meets another dark-haired beauty from the Continent with a shady past: Latour. I think it's more interesting somehow that Keane meets a kind of male double of Mrs. Paradine. For one thing his character provokes something of the same uncertainty of response that Mrs. Paradine does: is he honorable or not? is his apparent sincerity real or fake? But it seems like Hitchcock wanted the groom to provoke only disgust.

And you have to admit this: if Hitchcock really didn't approve of casting Jourdan because he was too pretty, then why does he shoot Jourdan the way he does, emphasizing his good looks? The way he's introduced seems especially tailored for him: he's kept hidden in darkness until the moment Keane dramatically pulls aside a curtain to reveal a young and gorgeous Frenchman looking back at him. Hitchcock didn't *have* to do that. Maybe he figured that as long as he was stuck with Jourdan he might as well take advantage of his strengths rather than, say, try to roughen him up and make him look more like Hitchcock's idea of a smelly stable-boy.

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