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The Paradine Case

The Paradine Case(1948)

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NOTES

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The film's opening title card reads: "David O. Selznick presents his production of Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case." According to news items in Film Daily, Selznick purchased the rights to Robert Hichens' unpublished novel in 1933, when he was at M-G-M. Howard Estabrook was assigned to write the screenplay, and an August 18, 1933 HR news item reported that John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore and Diana Wynyard would star. Selznick originally bought the story with Greta Garbo in mind, and an early treatment by Hichens, contained in the file on the film in the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, reveals that Garbo was the author's inspiration for the character of "Mrs. Paradine." However, as Selznick wrote in an unrelated 1946 memo, reproduced in a modern source, "Unfortunately, Miss Garbo has always had an aversion to the story and even today won't play it."
       M-G-M first submitted a draft of the screenplay to the PCA in 1935, but was warned that the story was unlikely to be approved because the leading character was an adulteress and a murderess who used perjured testimony to win an acquittal and later commited suicide. The PCA also objected to the characterization of the presiding judge as a sadist who enjoyed sentencing people to death. M-G-M agreed to write a new treatment, but the studio did not submit another draft to the PCA until November 1942, when approval was granted. In August 1946, Selznick submitted a new draft, and shortly thereafter, the suicide was eliminated from the plot.
       In a modern interview with Franois Truffaut, Hitchcock stated that he and his wife, Alma Reville, wrote the first draft of the screenplay, and that he then brought in Scottish playwright James Bridie to polish it. However, Hitchcock recalled, "Selznick wanted to do the adaptation himself; that's the way he did things in those days. He would write a scene and send it down to the set every other day-a very poor method of work." Although only Selznick and Reville receive onscreen writing credits, SAB and the Variety and Hollywood Reporter reviews credit both Bridie and Reville with the adaptation. On an additional dialogue submission to the PCA in December 1946, the credits read: "screenplay by James Bridie, adaptation by Alma Reville, additional dialogue by Ben Hecht."
       In late February 1946, Hollywood Reporter announced that Hitchcock would direct The Paradine Case, and that Laurence Olivier would star. Modern sources report that the following actors were considered for leading roles: Maurice Evans, Joseph Cotten, Alan Marshal, James Mason and Ronald Colman for "Anthony Keane"; Ingrid Bergman and Hedy Lamarr for Mrs. Paradine; Claude Rains for "Lord Thomas Horfield"; and Robert Newton for Mrs. Paradine's lover. Contemporary sources add the following actors to the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed: Carl Harbord, Colin Keith-Johnston, Lumsden Hare, Rose McQuoid, Elspeth Dudgeon, Gilbert Allen, Harry Hayden, Edgar Norton, James Fairfax, George Pelling and Alec Harford. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo in the film by appearing as a man carrying a cello at the railway station.
       Studio press materials in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library add the following information: The set used for the courtroom scenes was "an exact reproduction" of London's central criminal court, known as the Old Bailey. Unit manager Fred Ahern was permitted to observe courtroom procedure and take photographs inside the building. The replica cost $80,000 and took eighty-five days to build. Unlike most film sets, the Old Bailey set was constructed with ceilings to accommodate the many low camera angles. According to press releases, The Paradine Case, which was filmed on three sound stages at the Selznick lot in Culver City, was the first picture in Selznick's career [as an independent producer] that did not require some sort of location shooting. A January 4, 1948 Hollywood Citizen-News news item cited Hitchcock's "new film technique," in which four cameras-each trained on one of the principal actors-were used simultaneously to shoot the courtroom sequence. A February 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that while multiple camera photography had been used before, all the cameras had previously been trained on the same subject.
       Following the film's premiere in late December 1947, trade paper reviews listed the running time as 129-132 minutes, but Selznick decided to trim the film before its general release. The viewed print ran 114 minutes. In what the Los Angeles Times called "something absolutely new in inauguratory film events," the film opened simultaneously at two theaters that were across the street from each other in Westwood Village. A March 17, 1948 Variety news item reported that, after opening the film in Los Angeles, New York and Miami Beach, Selznick pulled the film from distribution while he devoted all his energy to the opening of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. He also wanted to benefit from the exposure Valli was receiving for her second U.S. film, The Miracle of the Bells. When the film opened in London in January 1949, News Review criticized the "indiscriminate hold-ups in the showing of American films in Britain," blaming the Rank Organisation's domination of the British film circuits and the stiff forty-five percent quota in favor of British films required by the Board of Trade.
       Ethel Barrymore was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to Celeste Holm in Gentleman's Agreement. The Paradine Case marked the American film debuts of Italian actress Valli (1921-2006) and French actor Louis Jourdan (1919-), and was Hitchcock's last film under his contract with Selznick. An adaptation of the film was broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre on May 9, 1949 and starred Joseph Cotton, Valli and Jourdan.