Posted by: reederwi | August 21, 2010

Ethel Barrymore, The Paradine Case (1947)

Alfred Hitchcock was known as The Master of Suspense. His films ranged from the terrifying (Psycho) to the dark and disturbing (Shadow of a Doubt). Hitchcock’s 1947 The Paradine Case (a lesser-known and even lesser regarded Hitchcock film) is a legal courtroom drama that is based on the 1933 novel of the same name by Robert Hitchens. The story centers on a glamorous foreigner Maddalena Anna Paradine (Valli), who is arrested for poisoning her blind, wealthy husband, Colonel Richard Paradine, a British war hero. Sir Simon Flaquer (Charles Coburn), the Paradine’s solicitor, retains superstar barrister Tony Keane (Gregory Peck) to defend Mrs. Paradine. After their first meeting, the happily-married Keane falls madly in lust with his beautiful client. Doing whatever he can to save her, Keane attempts to pin the murder on the Paradine’s young valet, Andre Letour (Louis Jourdan). This is an uphill battle for Keane since Mrs. Paradine has a rather checkered past- including marrying Colonel Paradine for his money and having a thing for her handsome valet. Keane puts his reputation on the line by defending Mrs. Paradine with his heart instead of his head. During the courtroom scenes, the lustful barrister is stunned to learn that he’s taken the wrong tact with his less than innocent client. Presiding over the courtroom is the hilariously acid tongued Lord Thomas Horfield (Charles Laughton) who has little patience for Keane’s courtroom dramatics. Lord Horfield has some of the best lines in the film- he’s lusty and lecherous and gets big laughs thanks to his offhanded commentary. The film’s courtroom scenes are somewhat dry, but Hitch works his magic with the camera to provide some beautifully-filmed imagery.

The Paradine Case was nominated for one Academy Award in 1947. The film’s lone nominee was veteran actress Ethel Barrymore, nominee, (142) for her role as Lady Sophie Horfield. Although her role as trial judge Lord Horfield’s wife is paper thin, Barrymore has one outstanding scene in which she trades contrasting views on justice with her brash, unsympathetic husband. This film marked Barrymore’s third nomination for Best Supporting Actress (and her second consecutive nomination- she was nominated the previous year for her supporting work in The Spiral Staircase). Barrymore lost the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress to Celeste Holm in Gentleman’s Agreement.

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