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TIME (30/Oct/1939) - Jamaica Inn

(c) Time (30/Oct/1939)

Jamaica Inn (Mayflower). Fans of Director Alfred Hitchcock had a surprise in store for them when they got the wrappings off this Hitchcock picture. They found it was no Hitchcock but an authentic Laughton. Scarcely a shot in the whole picture revealed the famed British director's old mastery of cunning camera, sly humor, shrewd suspense. But Charles Laughton's impersonation of a Nero-like Cornish squire who is the paranoiac brain behind a gang of land pirates was magnificent in the eye-rolling, head-cocking, lip-pursing, massively mincing Laughton style.

Jamaica Inn is the somewhat free rending of Daphne Du Maurier's best-seller of the same name. It tells about the few but feverish days Mary Yellen (lank, pale-faced, sloe-eyed Maureen O'Hara) passed with her Aunt Patience at a creepy Cornish inn, until kidnapped by Squire Pengallon who later jumps from a yardarm, kills himself.

People who like their melodrama raw and in big gulps get their fill. Those who would swap a third-rate Hitchcock any night for a first-rate Laughton get an even break.

Maureen O'Hara is a touchy, spunky, comely 18-year-old, as Irish as a banshee, with a lilting Dublin brogue. Like Mrs. Charles Laughton (Elsa Lanchester) she is a redhead. Before making Jamaica Inn, she studied at the apprentice school of Dublin's famed Abbey Theatre, did bits on the stage for a short time, bits in pictures. Though she was short on experience, one screen test convinced Actor-Producer Laughton that he should cast Maureen O'Hara in Jamaica Inn. Impressed by her success in that picture, RKO last month signed her to play Esmeralda in their new version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with Charles Laughton.