The Paradine Case Reviews

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Alexander D
Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2011
One of the only Hitchcock films you SHOULDN'T watch.
Daniel Mumby Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
March 15, 2011
With all the horror stories that come out of Hollywood about studio interference and troubled productions, it is easy to assume that these phenomena are relatively new. Ever since the firestorm surrounding Heaven's Gate, it has been common practice to let producers walk over directors where necessary, even if the finished product suffers artistically. But a quick glance at something like The Paradine Case reveals that this had been going on for much longer, and with the same underwhelming results.

The Paradine Case is the final collaboration between Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick, which had begun with the Oscar-winning Rebecca and recently resulted in Notorious, considered by many to be Hitch's finest film. What had started as a good albeit sparky marriage slowly began to disintegrate as both parties' priorities changed. While Selznick wanted more direct control over the films he financed, playing it safe to assure box-office appeal, Hitchcock wanted to experiment, doing 10-minute takes and shooting simultaneously with multiple cameras.

This disharmony behind the camera was present throughout production. Hitchcock and his wife had produced a script adapted from the original novel, which had then been polished by the Scottish playwright James Bridie. But Selznick was deeply unsatisfied with their efforts, so much so that after viewing the rushes each day, he would send re-writes to the set and order Hitchcock to reshoot yesterday's scenes. The film went vastly over-budget as Selznick attempted to assert his authority, right down to him taking over the editing behind Hitchcock's back.

As a result of these shenanigans, The Paradine Case feels like a deliberate duff note, like the bad album that a band releases to fulfil their contact before going off to do something more interesting. Faced with constant interference and with no control over the final cut, it's fair to assume that Hitchcock simply gave up. The film is still technically interesting, and has flashes of both suspense and directorial genius. But these sections of brilliance are counterpointed by long swathes of inconsistent mediocrity, some of it irritating, some it is ridiculous and all of it disappointing.

The story of The Paradine Case is very simple: a barrister is asked to defend a woman accused of murdering her husband, and in the process of defending her he falls in love with her. It's the sort of silly, predictable plot which, had the film been made in the 1980s or 1990s, would have formed the basis of a sleazy, straight-to-video erotic thriller. In fact, in its bid to be upmarket and serious despite its cheesy origins, the film could be seen as the long-term influence on Jagged Edge or Basic Instinct.

Sidney Lumet once said that "in a well-written drama, the story comes out of the characters. The characters in a well-written melodrama come out of the story." The Paradine Case is a melodrama because our involvement comes less from what the characters do as to the way in which they are drawn. The most obvious example of this is Mrs Paradine herself: we know quite clearly from the start whether or not she did it, but we don't exactly know why she did it (if she did). As the film moves on, her status as a femme fatale or possible black widow becomes clearer, and it is not certain whether the same fate will befall Andre Latour if and when she tires of him.

The Paradine Case does deserve plaudits for its technical execution. Hitchcock, ever looking to push the boundaries of what was possible, captured the majority of footage in long takes, only calling cut when there was no film left in the camera. Because Selznick took charge of editing, there's no way of telling how he would have assembled this mountain of footage, and therefore how similar it would have been to his other such experiments on Rope and Under Capricorn. But the use of long takes, married to some very fine crane shots, give the film a sense of slow-burning flow and poise that it might otherwise have lacked.

The other major technical point of interest is in the capturing of the courtroom, which replicated the Old Bailey to the last detail on the strict instructions of Selznick. Unlike a lot of internal sets, the courtroom was built with a ceiling to allow for very low angles, giving the barristers a greater air of authority. These scenes were also unusual for being filmed simultaneously on at least four cameras, which allowed Hitchcock to pick the angles he wanted for every revelation which keeping the energy up on the long takes.

But ultimately, all this technical wizardry is in vain, for a number of reasons. Firstly, with the exception of one or two short scenes, there is no real suspense in the story at all. Whether through Selznick's hackery or Hitchcock's disinterest, we can see all the major plot points coming a mile off and there is very little in the characters that pulls us through and keeps us hooked. At 114 minutes, the film is way too long for such a simple story, and it keeps filibustering in a bid to convince us that there is more going on that we realise.

In the absence of either a meaty story or genuinely gripping characters, The Paradine Case becomes just another procedural drama. Hitchcock had very little time for mystery as an intellectual process, believing that unless it was married to emotional engagement with an audience, there would be no reason to care. In the courtroom scenes he is a victim of his own argument: even when the characters are at their most histrionic, the drama falls flat because we haven't formed enough of an emotional bond to feel any tension about their predicament.

In Murder!, his only previous courtroom drama of sorts, Hitchcock wasted very little time on the facts of the case: he used the deliberating jury solely to set up the character of Sir John as an emotionally involving protagonist. After that, he could lead the audience through the various twists by putting this character in danger or under time constraints, giving us all the same information but with an emotional attachment to boot. Watching The Paradine Case is like reading a dry case history: all the facts are there in plain order, but we have no psychological connection to it.

This lack of engagement we have with the characters is rooted as much in the direction as the central performances. Gregory Peck is good, but nowhere near as good as he was in Spellbound two years earlier; the last in a long line of actors to play the role, he was probably too young for the part. The other male performers are either caricatures (Charles Laughton's judge) or, in the case of Louis Jourdan, have their character traits so clearly displayed that there is nowhere for them to go.

The women get dealt an equally duff hand. Ann Todd gives her all but her character is weak, drifting into melodrama way too often and making contradicting statements about her attitude to the case. Joan Tetzel, who plays the precocious daughter of Peck's colleague, gets far too little screen time to demonstrate her intelligence. And then there is Alida Valli (credited solely as 'Valli'), who remains one of the most grating and irritating screen presences of her age. Her typically haughty and preening demeanour may be more at home here than it is in The Third Man, but in either case she comes across as so utterly horrible that you give up caring long before the end.

The Paradine Case is a plodding, pedestrian Hitchcock effort which does not deserve to be glowingly remembered. Whether as a cautionary tale of producers' involvement in filmmaking or an example of a bored director, it serves little purpose other than as a stopgap between the commercial success of Notorious and Hitchcock's more experimental works later on. Beyond its technical innovations and occasional moments of brilliance, there is precious little in it that one would care to defend.
Mr Awesome Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
March 21, 2011
You'd think a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Gregory Peck would be a home run, but somehow this film about a rich widow on trial for the murder of her husband just falls flat. Peck plays her lawyer and it's his job (according to the script) to somehow helplessly fall in love with her, but the whole thing isn't quite convincing. The script is probably most to blame, the "racy" subject matter probably wasn't even racy when the film was made, let alone now. The lawyer's wife seems more interesting than the dull and vaguely foreign woman on trial. Who knows, maybe that's the whole point: that Peck's character is just bored with his life and is jumping at the first bit of intrigue to come his way. It's really a strain to find anything remarkable about this film.
AJ V
Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2010
An okay movie, not Hitchcock's best. It has a familiar story, the actors aren't great, and it's got some pretty boring scenes.
jjnxn jjnxn
Super Reviewer
½ May 16, 2008
A Hitchcock misfire. Starts well and certainly has a great cast but bogs down in the middle and never picks back up. Gregory Peck is a fine actor but is just too young for his part and it hurts the film.
kenscheck kenscheck ½ March 25, 2014
Gregory Peck stars as a British lawyer who takes on a case of a woman accused of murdering her blind husband, and seemingly falls for her (which causes obvious issues with himself and his wife). It is a solid courtroom drama, and Peck is always a likable leading man. Certainly not on of Hitchcock's most creatively successful films, but as is so often the case with Hitch it is a watchable classic film.
jackwaldron jackwaldron February 15, 2011
One of the most disappointing Hitchcock films I've seen. After watching the film on TCM Ben Mankiwiecz told the audience that Hitchcock and Selznick completely disagreed on casting, with Hitch wanting Olivier and Bergman to star. I completely agree with Hitchcock. Selznick's insistence on Peck and Valli destroyed this film. Both are miscast and this miscasting allows for the characters to be completely and utterly unlikable. Even the ancillary characters are sickening. The story is rather thin and extremely convoluted. There is the great traditional Hitchcock production to the film, but that is it.
jam233 jam233 June 19, 2009
This is not vintage Hitchcock, but anything Hitchcock does is worth watching. It is a very complex courtroom drama, a bit too complex, but the performances by Charles Laughton, Ethel Barrymore and Charles Coburn keep your interest focused on the film. They are all excellent. An underrated gem.
catbox9 catbox9 June 30, 2008
This Hitchcock film is a courtroom drama starring Gregory Peck amongst others. The movie is about a woman, Mrs. Paradine, whose blind husband has recently been poisoned. She is arrested accused of murdering her husband. Gregory Peck is to be her lawyer. What follows is a bit of courtroom drama mixed with a bit of romance and suspense. The film starts out rather slow and isn't all that exciting until the court scene. The courtroom part of the film is most excellent, but unfortunately only takes up about a third of the film.

The acting, is much like the plot. There's nothing terribly great other than the courtroom scenes with one exception - Mrs. Paradine's character, portrayed by Alida Valli, is very well-acted.

Overall, this is a decent effort, but not one of Hitchcock's best. It was the last film he made under David O. Selznick. It's worth seeing for a Hitchcock fan, but the film isn't quite good enough for me to say it's a must-see for anyone else.

77.5/100
C+

UP NEXT: Either My Fair Lady or Spellbound.
Michael M ½ September 13, 2014
Even Hitchcock had some duds. This overly melodramatic courtroom drama is one of them.
Patryk C ½ July 27, 2012
As much as I have always admired Hitchcock's work, I just couldn't bare the monotony and flatness that surround The Paradine Case. Unfortunately, this film is probably one of the most boring and least interesting of all of the great director's works. The storyline is very slow and simple, and there aren't any spectacular suspenseful moments that he accustomed us to so frequently. Sadly, in times of so many fast-paced and impressive courtroom thrillers and dramas (i.e. Witness for the Prosecution, Anatomy of a Murder, Judgment at Nuremberg) this movie really deserved the bad reputation that it gained in the first few years after its original release. If it weren't for the well-known director and notable movie stars, the movie would probably end up as some long-forgotten B-grade flick that no one would really want to watch. However, the viewer might admire the very beautiful scenery, sets, and costumes shown in the picture. On the plus side, very involving courtroom scenes and great acting by Gregory Peck, Alida Valli and Ann Todd. In the end, The Paradine Case looks more like a soap opera designed for TV, not a substantial film.
Kenneth B July 30, 2008
While this is the weakest of the Hitchcock/Selznick films that I have seen it still isn't as bad as some of the reviews might suggest. It is decidedly unspectacular however it is solid enough. Not really one for repeat viewings though.
Sergio O March 3, 2012
Too chatty and the story is bad, but I love it on a technical level. The cinematography is among the best in Hitchock. The shadows in this!
Blake P November 17, 2011
Even though most people don't always like this Hitchcock gem, "The Paradine Case" is still compelling, well acted, and never boring. Successful lawyer Anthony Keane (Peck) is assigned to an exotic client, Maddalena Paradine (Valli) a woman accused of killing her blind and much older husband. The more he gets involved in the case however, Keane falls harder for his client which temporarily destroys his marriage (Todd) and trust in others. In the long run, however, Keane learns more about his client, and some of the facts may not be as pleasant as he thought. "The Paradine Case" was Alfred Hitchcock's follow up to the extremely successful "Notorious", which starred Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Yes, "The Paradine Case" is nowhere near as good, and is not as suspenseful as many of the other master's films, I admit that it is one of my favorite courtroom dramas. It might fail as a romance film or even a drama, but the story itself is very compelling, and the screenwriters pull the complicated story off wonderfully. Obviously, the film was to be one of the "star-studded pictures" that were extremely popular in the day, and it does, and has some of the most popular actors of the time, like Gregory Peck, Charles Laughton, Charles Coburn, and Ethel Barrymore. But in the long wrong, it's the cast of unknowns as the supporting players that make the film succeed. Valli, Ann Todd, and Louis Jordan had planned to make this movie popular with American audiences, but the film was a commercial failure and it didn't live up to what they had hoped. Even so, they give the best performances in the film, and in every scene they're in they out-stage the actors that were so much bigger than them. "The Paradine Case" is definitely not one of Hitchcock's best films in terms of comparing, but it succeeds so well in the acting department that it's almost too hard to say this isn't a good film.
moviebuff18cab moviebuff18cab August 30, 2006
THE PARADINE CASE (1947)
Daniel Mumby Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
March 15, 2011
With all the horror stories that come out of Hollywood about studio interference and troubled productions, it is easy to assume that these phenomena are relatively new. Ever since the firestorm surrounding Heaven's Gate, it has been common practice to let producers walk over directors where necessary, even if the finished product suffers artistically. But a quick glance at something like The Paradine Case reveals that this had been going on for much longer, and with the same underwhelming results.

The Paradine Case is the final collaboration between Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick, which had begun with the Oscar-winning Rebecca and recently resulted in Notorious, considered by many to be Hitch's finest film. What had started as a good albeit sparky marriage slowly began to disintegrate as both parties' priorities changed. While Selznick wanted more direct control over the films he financed, playing it safe to assure box-office appeal, Hitchcock wanted to experiment, doing 10-minute takes and shooting simultaneously with multiple cameras.

This disharmony behind the camera was present throughout production. Hitchcock and his wife had produced a script adapted from the original novel, which had then been polished by the Scottish playwright James Bridie. But Selznick was deeply unsatisfied with their efforts, so much so that after viewing the rushes each day, he would send re-writes to the set and order Hitchcock to reshoot yesterday's scenes. The film went vastly over-budget as Selznick attempted to assert his authority, right down to him taking over the editing behind Hitchcock's back.

As a result of these shenanigans, The Paradine Case feels like a deliberate duff note, like the bad album that a band releases to fulfil their contact before going off to do something more interesting. Faced with constant interference and with no control over the final cut, it's fair to assume that Hitchcock simply gave up. The film is still technically interesting, and has flashes of both suspense and directorial genius. But these sections of brilliance are counterpointed by long swathes of inconsistent mediocrity, some of it irritating, some it is ridiculous and all of it disappointing.

The story of The Paradine Case is very simple: a barrister is asked to defend a woman accused of murdering her husband, and in the process of defending her he falls in love with her. It's the sort of silly, predictable plot which, had the film been made in the 1980s or 1990s, would have formed the basis of a sleazy, straight-to-video erotic thriller. In fact, in its bid to be upmarket and serious despite its cheesy origins, the film could be seen as the long-term influence on Jagged Edge or Basic Instinct.

Sidney Lumet once said that "in a well-written drama, the story comes out of the characters. The characters in a well-written melodrama come out of the story." The Paradine Case is a melodrama because our involvement comes less from what the characters do as to the way in which they are drawn. The most obvious example of this is Mrs Paradine herself: we know quite clearly from the start whether or not she did it, but we don't exactly know why she did it (if she did). As the film moves on, her status as a femme fatale or possible black widow becomes clearer, and it is not certain whether the same fate will befall Andre Latour if and when she tires of him.

The Paradine Case does deserve plaudits for its technical execution. Hitchcock, ever looking to push the boundaries of what was possible, captured the majority of footage in long takes, only calling cut when there was no film left in the camera. Because Selznick took charge of editing, there's no way of telling how he would have assembled this mountain of footage, and therefore how similar it would have been to his other such experiments on Rope and Under Capricorn. But the use of long takes, married to some very fine crane shots, give the film a sense of slow-burning flow and poise that it might otherwise have lacked.

The other major technical point of interest is in the capturing of the courtroom, which replicated the Old Bailey to the last detail on the strict instructions of Selznick. Unlike a lot of internal sets, the courtroom was built with a ceiling to allow for very low angles, giving the barristers a greater air of authority. These scenes were also unusual for being filmed simultaneously on at least four cameras, which allowed Hitchcock to pick the angles he wanted for every revelation which keeping the energy up on the long takes.

But ultimately, all this technical wizardry is in vain, for a number of reasons. Firstly, with the exception of one or two short scenes, there is no real suspense in the story at all. Whether through Selznick's hackery or Hitchcock's disinterest, we can see all the major plot points coming a mile off and there is very little in the characters that pulls us through and keeps us hooked. At 114 minutes, the film is way too long for such a simple story, and it keeps filibustering in a bid to convince us that there is more going on that we realise.

In the absence of either a meaty story or genuinely gripping characters, The Paradine Case becomes just another procedural drama. Hitchcock had very little time for mystery as an intellectual process, believing that unless it was married to emotional engagement with an audience, there would be no reason to care. In the courtroom scenes he is a victim of his own argument: even when the characters are at their most histrionic, the drama falls flat because we haven't formed enough of an emotional bond to feel any tension about their predicament.

In Murder!, his only previous courtroom drama of sorts, Hitchcock wasted very little time on the facts of the case: he used the deliberating jury solely to set up the character of Sir John as an emotionally involving protagonist. After that, he could lead the audience through the various twists by putting this character in danger or under time constraints, giving us all the same information but with an emotional attachment to boot. Watching The Paradine Case is like reading a dry case history: all the facts are there in plain order, but we have no psychological connection to it.

This lack of engagement we have with the characters is rooted as much in the direction as the central performances. Gregory Peck is good, but nowhere near as good as he was in Spellbound two years earlier; the last in a long line of actors to play the role, he was probably too young for the part. The other male performers are either caricatures (Charles Laughton's judge) or, in the case of Louis Jourdan, have their character traits so clearly displayed that there is nowhere for them to go.

The women get dealt an equally duff hand. Ann Todd gives her all but her character is weak, drifting into melodrama way too often and making contradicting statements about her attitude to the case. Joan Tetzel, who plays the precocious daughter of Peck's colleague, gets far too little screen time to demonstrate her intelligence. And then there is Alida Valli (credited solely as 'Valli'), who remains one of the most grating and irritating screen presences of her age. Her typically haughty and preening demeanour may be more at home here than it is in The Third Man, but in either case she comes across as so utterly horrible that you give up caring long before the end.

The Paradine Case is a plodding, pedestrian Hitchcock effort which does not deserve to be glowingly remembered. Whether as a cautionary tale of producers' involvement in filmmaking or an example of a bored director, it serves little purpose other than as a stopgap between the commercial success of Notorious and Hitchcock's more experimental works later on. Beyond its technical innovations and occasional moments of brilliance, there is precious little in it that one would care to defend.
Mr Awesome Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
March 21, 2011
You'd think a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Gregory Peck would be a home run, but somehow this film about a rich widow on trial for the murder of her husband just falls flat. Peck plays her lawyer and it's his job (according to the script) to somehow helplessly fall in love with her, but the whole thing isn't quite convincing. The script is probably most to blame, the "racy" subject matter probably wasn't even racy when the film was made, let alone now. The lawyer's wife seems more interesting than the dull and vaguely foreign woman on trial. Who knows, maybe that's the whole point: that Peck's character is just bored with his life and is jumping at the first bit of intrigue to come his way. It's really a strain to find anything remarkable about this film.
Jose V December 4, 2010
Even though it is minor Hitchcock, it is still a pretty great film... Alida Valli is mesmerizing, the story interesting and the acting pretty solid all around...
unknown unknown ½ August 10, 2009
Do any of you remember the TV show called The Practice that played on ABC maybe 10 years ago, which focused on the underhanded maneuvers committed by a legal defense firm? At its best, The Paradine Case is no better than a good episode of The Practice and probably would be as long if not for the film constantly switching to an ill conceived and forced love triangle. I?m the first to admit that I am not the best judge of a engaging romance story, but I think most would find this side show clunky.

The Paradine Case could still be salvaged with its better half, if not for the repeated build up of dramatics followed by less than stirring results (insert balloon deflation sound here). Hitchcock fans should still check this one out as it does have it moments (especially the courtroom scenes) but I think Hitch was still figuring out his groove at this point in his career.

Psycho
The Lady Vanishes
Strangers On a Train
Number 17
Spellbound
Shadow of a Doubt
Vertigo
The Birds
Suspicion (Hitchcock?s preferred vision)
Rope
Notorious
To Catch a Thief
The 39 Steps
Sabotage
Rear Window
Frenzy
North by Northwest
The Paradine Case
Suspicion (Studio vision that was produced)
Family Plot
Saboteur
Marnie
Zeppo1 Zeppo1 ½ July 21, 2009
**1/2 (out of four)

Not one of the great Hitchcock movies. It does, however, offer some moments of interest.

Gregory Peck is hired by a beautiful woman who is accused of murdering her blind, older husband. His job is to defend her.

While very well shot, Hitchcock seems a little tired and his heart is just not into the film. Many of the courtroom scenes drag and there is not much energy to the production.
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