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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Wednesday, March 6, 2013
7:00 p.m. The Paradine Case
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1947)

“Nice people don’t go about murdering other nice people,” says very nice Gay Keane (Anne Todd) to her lawyer husband Tony (Gregory Peck). But how nice is Tony’s client, Mrs. Paradine (Alida Valli, in her American debut)? The elegant, inscrutable Mrs. Paradine is accused of killing her blind husband. Blinded by Mrs. Paradine’s charms, Tony rises perhaps too enthusiastically to her defense, endangering not only his marriage but, perversely, his client’s life. (The Peck we see here is a far cry from Atticus Finch.) The Paradine Case was Hitchcock’s last project for producer David O. Selznick, who heavily rewrote the script and supervised the final editing. If the end result is less taut than it might have been, there is still much to appreciate in the details, from the depths of Lee Garmes’s cinematography to the scenes involving Charles Laughton as an exuberantly repugnant judge and Ethel Barrymore as his fragile wife.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by David O. Selznick, Ben Hecht, Alma Reville, James Bridie, based on a novel by Robert Hichens. Photographed by Lee Garmes. With Gregory Peck, Anne Todd, Charles Laughton, Alida Valli. (115 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Swank Motion Pictures)