Thinking about THE PARADINE CASE (1947)
I decided to revisit this movie, having not seen it in 15 years or so. It’s not a film which is well thought of in Hitchcock’s filmography, often sitting next to the likes of JAMAICA INN (1939) or STAGE FRIGHT (1951) in critical assessments. But I do recall enjoying it all those years ago, so a further assessment was warranted.
The Paradine Case is half legal courtroom drama and half Hitchcockian ‘wrong man’ genre (except it’s a ‘wrong’ woman here). The cast is very impressive and producer David O Selznick must take the credit for that.
Hitchcock tells the story, for the most part, from the point of view of Peck’s lawyer. Peck’s obsession with Mrs Paradine has clear parallels with Scottie’s desire for Madelaine in Hitchcock’s most critically-acclaimed work, VERTIGO (1958). In fact, there’s a great scene in which Peck surveys the imprisoned woman’s bedroom – complete with a headboard bearing her face – which could have easily been woven into that film. It may not approach the artistic or technical heights of VERTIGO, but you can clearly see the building blocks for Hitchcock’s personal vision here.
We get a glimpse of perhaps what Hitchcock was really trying to show at times. This is most noticeable in relation to Charles Laughton’s lascivious judge, who has had barley any screen time before a leering POV shot puts our eyes with his and straight on Anne Todd’s bare-fleshed shoulder. The whole picture is ostentatiously about lust and the danger it leads to. Peck’s quest is not really driven by a yearning to find out who killed Colonel Paradine, rather it is to confirm to his carnal self that Mrs Paradine and Latour were engaging in sexual activity.
There is a lot going on here and it’s more deserving of the praise associated with Hitchcock’s other movies. It may not be NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959), but it’s still an excellent motion picture.