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Harrison's Reports (1948) - The Paradine Case




"The Paradine Case" with Gregory Peck, Ann Todd, Valli, Charles Coburn, Charles Laughton and Ethel Barrymore

(Selznick Rel. Org., no rel. date set; time, 132 min.)

Alfred Hitchcock's superb directorial skill, the powerful dramatic material, and the superior performances by the entire cast, make "The Paradine Case" one of the most fascinating murder trial melodramas ever produced. It should turn out to be a foremost box-office attraction, not only because of the players' drawing power, but also because it is a gripping entertainment from start to finish. Its story about the misguided love of a famous English barrister for a beautiful but worthless woman he was defending on a murder charge, intriguingly blends mystery, drama, and steadily-mounting suspense in a way that builds up audience interest to a high pitch. The court room sequences are highly dramatic. Gregory Peck is excellent as the barrister, and Ann Todd, as his winsome wife, is just right. The film introduces two newcomers to the American screen—Valli, an Italian actress, as the woman charged with murder, and Louis Jourdan, a French actor, as her secret lover; both are fine artists, and their diction is very good. Charles Laughton, as the presiding judge, is first-rate. Ethel Barrymore, Leo G. Carroll, Charles Coburn, and Isobel Elsom are among the others who contribute fine characterizations. David O. Selznick, the producer, has given the picture his customary production polish :—

Peck, considered England's greatest barrister, undertakes to defend Valli, accused of poisoning her husband, a blind nobleman. Though happily married, he falls madly in love with Valli, despite her admission of a sordid past. He personally investigates the crime to prove her innocence to himself, and comes to the conclusion that the murder could have been committed by Jourdan, her husband's man-servant. When he suggests that possibility to Valli, she loses her composure and defends Jourdan. This puzzles Peck because Jourdan had expressed himself derogatorily against her. At the trial, when Jourdan is placed on the witness stand by the prosecution, Peck so confuses him on cross-examination that he gives damaging testimony against himself. Later, Valli upbraids Peck for his tactics and confesses that she loved Jourdan and that he had been her lover. But Peck, driven by his mad love, determines to set her free, even if it meant wrecking his own home, for he and his wife had already become partly estranged because of his obvious interest in Valli. As Valli takes the witness stand on the third day of the trial, word comes that Jourdan had committed suicide. Heartbroken, Valli shatters Peck's defense by frankly admitting that she had killed her husband in order to be alone with Jourdan, whom she had forced into a love affair. Valli is sentenced to hang, and Peck, broken up by the turn of events, decides to retire from law practice. His wife, however, offers him encouragement, and Peck, realizing that he had been a fool, starts life with her anew.

Mr. Selznick wrote the screen play from the novel by Robert Hichens.

Adult fare.