EASY VIRTUE (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: based on a play by Noel Coward/Eliot Stannard; cinematographer: Claude McDonnell; editor: Ivor Montagu; cast: Isabel Jeans (Larita Filton), Franklin Dyall (Aubrey Filton), Eric Bransby Williams (Claude Robson), Robin Irvine (John Whittaker), Violet Farebrother (Mrs. Whittaker), Dacia Deane (Marion Whittaker, older sister), Dorothy Boyd (Hilda Whittaker, younger sister), Frank Elliott (Colonel Whittaker), Enid Stamp-Taylor (Sarah), Ian Hunter (The Plaintiff’s Counsel), Benita Hume (Switchboard Operator); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Micael Balkan; Grapevine Video; 1928-silent-UK)
“Sticks in the ribs like over baked mush.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Early Alfred Hitchcock (“Rich and Strange”/”The Farmer’s Wife”/”The Ring”)silent melodrama, that sticks in the ribs like over baked mush.It’s based on the outdated play by Noel Coward and is written by Eliot Stannard; it suffers greatly as a silent because we can’t even hear Coward’s crisp dialogue.
London society woman Larita Filton (Isabel Jeans) is locked into a loveless marriage with an abusive alcoholic husband, Aubrey (Franklin Dyall). Her husband accuses the innocent woman of having an affair with Claude Robson (Eric Bransby Williams), her wealthy portrait artist. The highly-publicized trial opens the pic. It tells of the brawl between the artist and the brutish hubby, after he catches wifey in his rival’s arms and attacks her but is repulsed when the artist shoots him superficially. Claude’s a suicide and leaves his inheritance to Larita, which gets the gossipers working overtime and causes a scandal during the trial where she’s named as a correspondent. The trial outcome leaves the now divorced Larita as a marked woman of “easy virtue.”
Larita escapes to the south of France resorts to try and put her past behind her, where she meets on the tennis court the handsome gentleman country bumpkin John Whittaker (Robin Irvine). The callow youth falls blindly in love with the mysterious woman and there’s a whirlwind courtship, even as she never mentions her past. The film’s best scene has Larita accepting his wedding proposal while on the phone, as we don’t see either party but know she accepts by the reaction of the eavesdroppingswitchboard operator.
Larita goes to live with John in his well-to-do family’s uptight country house in Peveril, England, and incurs the wrath of John’s narrow-minded mom (Violet Farebrother). The harridan senses Larita is hiding something and treats her badly in private but in public offers phony smiles. When it’s later revealed in the local newspapers that Larita has a scandalous reputation over the infamous trial, momma’s boy John sticks with mom even as his more sensitive colonel father (Frank Elliott) shows some sympathy for Larita.
Realizing the futility of trying to rebuild her life with a weakling like John and that she mistakenly concealed her past from him, Larita divorces him and feels dead inside.
The melodramatics were hysterical in all the wrong ways, as the vapid story is a let down. Though from a purely technical point of view, Hitchcock excels in his close-ups, clear sense of narration and in his imaginative camerawork.
REVIEWED ON 9/17/2010 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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