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Easy Virtue (1928)

 
0001.jpg
director Alfred Hitchcock
producers Michael Balcon
C.M. Woolf
writer Eliot Stannard
story by Noël Coward (stage play)
starring Isabel Jeans
Franklin Dyall
Robin Irvine
Ian Hunter
cinematographer Claude L. McDonnell
editor Ivor Montagu
 
running time 82 minutes (BBFC)
colour black & white
sound mix silent with English intertitles
aspect ratio 1.33:1
studio Gainsborough Pictures
distributor Wardour Films (UK)
availability DVD (bootlegs only)
 

Synopsis

Larita Filton is named as correspondent in a scandalous divorce case. She escapes to France to rebuild her life where she meets John Whittaker. They are later married, but John's well-to-do family finds out Larita's secret. (© IMDB)

Production

Noël Coward's play was first staged in London on July 9th, 1926 and ran at the Duke of York's theatre for 132 performances. Initially, the trade press reported that Graham Cutts would be filming the adaptation.[1].

Pre-Production

Screenplay

Eliot Stannard began work on the scenario for Easy Virtue immediately after he completed his work on Downhill, with editorial input from Angus MacPhail and Ivor Montagu.[2][3]

Casting

Perhaps due to the speed at which the film went into production, many of the cast of Downhill stayed on to appear in Easy Virtue — Isabel Jeans, Robin Irvine, Ian Hunter and Violet Farebrother.

Principal Photography

Filming began at the Islington Studios on Easy Virtue before the final scenes of Downhill had been shot, as Gainsborough were keen to rush the film into cinemas to capitalise on the popularity of Coward's play.[4]

location filming in France

In late March, cast and crew travelled to film footage in the French Riviera and in Nice. Ivor Novello came along as well, in order to complete his Downhill scenes, which were filmed on the rooftop of a French hotel.[5]

For the initial courtroom scene, Hitchcock pulled off another one of his trademark in-camera special effects when the judge peers through his monocle at the plaintiff's counsel:

I had to make the monocle oversized so it would be in focus at close range. Then I put a mirror in it instead of clear glass, and put the attorney character behind the camera, with a double for him in the long shot. And so, when the monocle came up the camera, you saw the man in close-up, without a cut.[6]

Although it has been widely accepted that Hitchcock made a cameo appearance in the film — walking past a tennis court — the British Film Institute has cast doubt on it: "on close inspection it does not appear to be him".[7]

Post-Production

The film was completed in June 1927 and Hitchcock left Gainsborough to start his new three-year contract at British International Pictures (formerly British National).[8]

Release & Reception

[[Benita Hume]] as the telephone operator

Writing in the Manchester Guardian, C.A. Lejeune wrote "for all its cleverness, [it] is not a good film"[9] and The Bioscope review was critical of the source material:

Hitchcock has done the best possible for a subject which does not lend itself readily to the medium of the screen, and he is to be congratulated on having maintained interest throughout with what proves to be very slight material ... In spite of an excellent performance by Isabel Jeans, and Hitchcock's always-apparent resourcefulness and occasional brilliance, this was not one of his more effective films.[10][11]

When Hitchcock discussed the film with François Truffaut, he talked about two scenes in particular. Firstly, he expressed pride in the scene where the audience learns of the outcome of John Whittaker's proposal of marriage to Larita Filton via the facial expressions of a telephone operator (played by Benita Hume). Secondly, he expressed his dislike of the film's final witty intertitle card — "Shoot! There's nothing left to kill." — by calling it "the worst title I've ever written."[12]

Influence

In "English Hitchcock", Charles Barr notes the similarities between Easy Virtue and Downhill — both feature a person taking a "nightmarish journey from England to France and back again" — and also with Hitchcock's 1946 film Notorious:[13]

[Isabel Jeans] is twice referred to, in dialogue titles, as 'the notorious Mrs Filton'; she is oppressed by journalistic cameras, as Bergman is at the opening of "Notorious", and she is hounded in the same way by a mother-in-law who is intent on discovering her disreputable secrets. In the power struggle between the two women, key scenes in both films are played out on the main staircase.

The play was adapted again for the screen in 2008 by director Stephan Elliott and starred Jessica Biel.[14]

Preservation Status

According to the British Film Institute — which recently restored all 9 of the surviving Hitchcock silent films — "Easy Virtue" only exists as incomplete and degraded 16mm projection prints.

See Also...

For further relevant information about this film, see also...

DVD Releases

To date, this film has not been officially released on DVD.

released in 2006

0605.gif Easy Virtue (1928) - Waterfall Home Entertainment Ltd (UK, 2006)
NTSC 1.33:1
littlepirate.png Warning! This is a bootleg containing an unlicensed transfer (more info).

released in 2005

0604.gif Easy Virtue (1928) - Brentwood Home Video (USA, 2005) - part of a box set
NTSC 1.33:1
littlepirate.png Warning! This is a bootleg containing an unlicensed transfer (more info).

...view older DVD releases

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Themes

Cast and Crew

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Produced by:

Written by:

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References

  1. "English Hitchcock" - by Charles Barr, 221
  2. "The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock" - by Thomas M. Leitch, page 89
  3. "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light" - by Patrick McGilligan, page 92
  4. "The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock" - by Thomas M. Leitch, page 89
  5. "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light" - by Patrick McGilligan, page 92
  6. "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light" - by Patrick McGilligan, page 93
  7. BFI Film & TV Database
  8. "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light" - by Patrick McGilligan, page 93. McGilligan gives May as the month of completion, but Hitchcock was still filming scenes in early June at the Roehampton Club.
  9. The Guardian (03/Sep/1927) - THE WEEK ON SCREEN
  10. "The Alfred Hitchcock Story" - by Ken Mogg, page 17
  11. "Hitchcock's British Films" - by Maurice Yacowar, page 37
  12. "The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock" - by Thomas M. Leitch, pages 90-1
  13. "English Hitchcock" - by Charles Barr, pages 47-9
  14. Advocate.com (22/May/2009) - The New Adventures of Old Coward
Hitchcock's Major Films
1920s The Pleasure Garden · The Mountain Eagle · The Lodger · Downhill · Easy Virtue · The Ring · The Farmer's Wife · Champagne · The Manxman · Blackmail
1930s Juno and the Paycock · Murder! · The Skin Game · Rich and Strange · Number Seventeen · Waltzes from Vienna · The Man Who Knew Too Much · The 39 Steps · Secret Agent · Sabotage · Young and Innocent · The Lady Vanishes · Jamaica Inn
1940s Rebecca · Foreign Correspondent · Mr and Mrs Smith · Suspicion · Saboteur · Shadow of a Doubt · Lifeboat · Spellbound · Notorious · The Paradine Case · Rope · Under Capricorn
1950s Stage Fright · Strangers on a Train · I Confess · Dial M for Murder · Rear Window · To Catch a Thief · The Trouble with Harry · The Man Who Knew Too Much · The Wrong Man · Vertigo · North by Northwest
1960s Psycho · The Birds · Marnie · Torn Curtain · Topaz
1970s Frenzy · Family Plot
( view full filmography )

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