Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments



The Paradine Case (1947)

 



Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions
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The Paradine Case (1947)

Hitchcock's film noirish, stagy courtroom drama was a very dialogue-rich and slow-moving tale. It was based upon the 1933 novel by Robert Smythe Hichens, and noted as Alfred Hitchcock's final film for producer David Selznick. The Hitchcockian tale of romantic obsession shared similarities with the director's later masterpiece Vertigo (1958) about a smitten lawyer who self-destructively fell in love with his alluring female client. It also contrasted the two clearly opposite females in the film - a married, rational, optimistic and mature blonde, and a dark-haired, elegant, foreign-born, strikingly-beautiful and sophisticated suspected murderess.

The film's main character was a classic, beautiful and poisonous femme fatale, the film's title character Mrs. Maddalena Anna Paradine (Alida Valli in her first Hollywood role). She was a seductive nymphomaniacal adulteress who was responsible for the deaths of two men and the near destruction of another.

In "the recent past," the attractive, exotic and glamorous Italian widow, Mrs. Paradine, was living in London. During the opening sequence, she was charged with poisoning her older, blind, retired WWI war-hero husband Colonel Richard Patrick Paradine on May 6, 1946, presumably to obtain his wealth.

The Paradine family's solicitor, Sir Simon Flaquer (Charles Coburn), hired one of his colleagues - respected and distinguished barrister Anthony "Tony" Keane (Gregory Peck) to defend Mrs. Paradine. He had a reputation for not always defending the wealthy class. (Keane was married for 11 years to pretty, sympathetic, devoted and kind-hearted blonde wife Gay (Ann Todd)).

In regards to the case, Keane's wife Gay offered her opinion about the female defendant: "I don't believe she did it...Well, nice people don’t go about murdering other nice people....And anyone who wasn't nice wouldn't have married that poor blind man." Tony retorted that she was delusional about nice people: "So it's your opinion that nice people never murder their husbands?" Gay was concerned that the time-consuming case would interfere with their lives. Shortly later, they spoke about how their planned anniversary trip to Switzerland (possibly changed to Italy after Tony met the Italian widow) would be affected by the trial.

When visited by Keane in the foreboding and sparse H.M. (Holloway) prison while awaiting trial, the glamorous Mrs. Paradine was described as "a strange woman, with an almost mystic calm." She expressed worry that people would pre-judge her as a gold-digging female who married her helpless blind husband in order to kill him for an inheritance: ("Saying I married a helpless blind man for his money and then killed him for money"). The already-infatuated Keane immediately denied her guilt, took her side and fantasized that as a beautiful woman, she had sacrificed so much in marrying a blind man: "Weren't you his eyes?...You devoted your whole life to this splendid fellow. Freely. Gladly.... It was a sacrifice. A sublime sacrifice." Shortly later, Simon Flaquer's daughter Judy (Joan Tetzel) predicted about Tony: "Can't you just see Tony giving another one of his great performances. Riding to the rescue of beauty in distress." Later, Keane described Anna as "strangely attractive."

Anthony "Tony" Keane with His Client Mrs. Paradine in Prison Before Trial

During his interactions with his attractive client, trial lawyer Keane soon became blinded, bewitched and obsessed by Anna himself. He learned that she had been promiscuous (a woman of easy virtue), and a victimizer of men before and during her marriage: ("It will not shock you, I assume, to learn that I am a woman, what would you say, a woman who has seen a great deal of life"), a fact that she had shared with her husband ("I kept nothing from him"). To Keane's surprise, she confessed that she had taken advantage of an older, rich, married and respected man when she was a teenager - and there were many others.

A discussion ensued between Flaquer and Keane about how difficult it would be to defend Anna in a case involving a blind man committing suicide on his own. There was mention of the Colonel being possibly assisted by his mysterious but devoted 30 year-old Canadian valet André LaTour (Louis Jourdan) of many years. Flaquer stated his strong belief: "This wasn't suicide, and it wasn't assisted suicide, it was murder." Flaquer believed Mrs. Paradine was guilty.

Keane felt otherwise and wanted her to plead not-guilty: "We have the very simple and very obvious fact that Mrs. Paradine is not a murderess - she's too fine a woman." Flaquer disagreed: "Indeed? I was of the impression that she'd been a woman of very low estate and rather easy virtue." The distinguished but bewitched and enraptured trial lawyer Keane unquestioningly believed Anna's innocence from the start, although she was obviously guilty. He believed he would be nobly defending her virtue: "I intend that the rest of the world shall see her as I do, as a noble, self- sacrificing human being that any man would be proud of." Overly-dedicated and lustful toward Anna himself, Keane was determined to indict Andre LaTour as Anna's scapegoat - believing he was guilty of the crime instead of Anna. He suspected that "there's something between Mrs. Paradine and that valet."

Turning 'detective' in the case, Keane visited the Paradine country estate known as Hindley Hall in Cumberland (the Lake District), in order to interview LaTour and "nose around a bit." He discovered the estate was up for rent now that it was vacated. He suspected rumors circulating that LaTour might have been Anna's lover - when he learned that LaTour lived in the house, not the servant's quarters. During one late night encounter with LaTour, Keane was told that the manservant believed Anna was evil and that he despised her - to his surprise:

How can you know her? If you did, I should not need to tell you that only Almighty God or the Black Devil himself knows what's going on in that head of hers....What I say is true. I know her. And I will tell you one thing more. I will tell you about Mrs. Paradine. She's bad, bad to the bone. If ever there was an evil woman, she is one.

Upon his return to London, Keane visited Anna in prison and told her LaTour's resentful assessment of her: "LaTour hates you. You know that? He hates you most bitterly. He said, he said you're an evil woman." He then asked: "What existed between you and LaTour?" but received an unsatisfactory answer. After he became exasperated by her, she asked him to drop the case. He softened, asked for forgiveness, and then vowed to defend her: "I shall do my best to defend you."

At one point, although Keane suggested dropping the case, his wife Gay continued to support her husband's work on the case. When he returned from the Lake District, she reinforced her earlier vow to be supportive: ("Do you think I-I could ever want anything bad for you?"), and urged him to find the enigmatic Anna innocent. She reasoned that she didn't want to lose her infatuated husband if Anna was executed - she knew that he would be emotionally devastated by her loss, and it would affect his future career. She told him:

"It's not easy to face the thought of losing you. We've been really married, really truly married as few people have been. Yes, I've lain awake alone, night after night, and I've been tempted to pray that she - but I've come to a conclusion, Tony. I want her to live. I want very much for her to live. And I hope she gets free, scot free. Free to kill. Or, to take other wives' husbands or do anything else that comes into that beautiful head of hers.... I care very much (what happens to her), not for any noble reason. I do hate her, but because I want all this business over and done with, and an end to your being all mixed up, part lawyer, part lover....alright, frustrated lover, then. Yes, and part husband still."

She also expressed her feeling that their love wouldn't survive if he lost the case:

"All I ask is that she lives so the fight can be an even one. Because, if she dies, you're lost to me forever. I know you'd go on thinking that you love her. You'll go on imagining her as your great lost love....You don't love her, no, you don't. I may not be the cleverest woman in the world, and there are lots of things I don't know. But there's one thing I know better than anyone else. I know you.....I don't want you to say anything, but I do ask you for the most brilliant job of your career. I want you to win this case. I want you to get her free."

Mrs. Paradine was put on trial in London in the Old Bailey Courthouse, autocratically and tyranically ruled over by offensive, lecherous presiding Judge Lord Thomas Horfield (Charles Laughton). She pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering her husband on May 6th, by administering poison in a glass of burgundy brought with his dinner into his bedroom, according to the Crown's Chief Prosecutor Sir Joseph Farrell (Leo G. Carroll). He contended that the defendant was inordinately patient:

Heaven knows what sultry fires were banked within. It would've been a considerable strain to any ordinary woman, no doubt. But this woman, the prosecution contends, is no ordinary woman. She had patience. She could wait. This was indeed no ordinary woman.

During the trial's examination of LaTour by Keane, Keane was able to discredit or question the truthfulness of some of LaTour's testimony. It was called into question whether Mrs. Paradine invented a story or not about LaTour being discharged and told to leave the Colonel, causing a quarrel. LaTour also confessed that he had poisoned the Colonel's sick old hunting dog two years earlier (with a single dose of poison from the vet), but denied being involved in the Colonel's death.

In a break during the trial, Anna was upset that Keane suspected LaTour of murder, and she defended his innocence: ("I objected when you wanted to make it appear that Andre had helped my husband kill himself. I objected even to that. And now you make him out to be a murderer...I will not have you making Andre a murderer"). Keane was shocked by her denouncement of his heroic efforts, and then privately admitted his love for his client - something that compromised his judgment and impartiality: ("I was idiot enough to fall in love with you"). And then she made a startling accusation: "You're my lawyer, not my lover." She made it clear that she didn't want him to bring down LaTour: "You are not to destroy him. If you do, I shall hate you as I've never hated a man."

It was eventually revealed during further testimony that LaTour was indeed Anna's secret adulterous lover and was having a secret affair with her - possible motivation for the original murder of the husband. LaTour attempted to shift blame: "It was she who dragged us both down. I hated every moment with her, but God forgive me, I couldn't help myself!"

When Keane began his defense of Anna before calling her to the stand, he again stressed the point about Anna's sacrificial marriage:

"A sacrifice made cheerfully by a beautiful woman while still fascinating, and still young, in order to bring the light of her affection into the darkness of a blinded man's life."

As a witness, Anna explained her reasoning for the possibility of LaTour's dismissal by the Colonel during a quarrel - he had become "too familiar" with her and was forcing himself on her sexually: ("He - he took liberties") - although she dubiously asserted that she resisted him and complained to her husband about it. Then, she further implicated herself in her husband's death (or a cover-up of LaTour's guilt), by admitting that she (not LaTour) had washed and dried the burgundy glass that contained the poison. With that bombshell admission, the case was adjourned until the next day.

The strategy for Keane to condemn LaTour (and therefore save Anna) ultimately backfired. After testifying to his own guilt about the affair (but not admitting to poisoning the Colonel), LaTour (who felt tremendous pressure on the stand) killed himself. The next day, sensational news was announced in court: ("...the witness LaTour has done away with himself"). Keane immediately concluded that LaTour had killed himself because he had betrayed his master.

Furious and also completely distraught and shaken over LaTour's unnecessary death, Mrs. Paradine confessed to her guilt - that she had poisoned her husband because of her lustful desire for LaTour ("The man I love is dead"). It was confirmed that the seductive Anna had succeeded in inducing LaTour to make love to her, even though it tore him up inside. She wanted to run away with him to be free and live together, but LaTour declined because of his honor. Her admission was devastating:

Andre knew I killed the blind man. Andre knew it. I didn't tell him, but he knew it.

Although Keane tried to control her admissions of guilt and self-incrimination, she responded: "I have nothing more to say to you, Mr. Keane. I loved Andre LaTour - and you murdered him. My life is finished; it is you yourself who have finished it. My only comfort is the hatred and contempt I feel for you!"

According to her, LaTour had no part in the plot to kill the Colonel - she was entirely responsible for the murder. She also hatefully chastised, denounced and contemptuously accused the disreputable Keane for his improper handling of the case, and for his part in destroying her real love, LaTour, by causing his suicide.

In front of the court, a weakened and faltering Keane confessed that Anna's words rang true - he concurred that he had major shortcomings, had made errors of judgment and incompetence during her defense, and asked for forgiveness before requesting to be excused from the case in an aborted speech ("My lord, I regret that I can go on no longer").

For her crime, Mrs. Paradine was sentenced to execution (by hanging): ("The Paradine woman will be hanged after three clear Sundays")..

Despairing and guilt-ridden, Keane's law practice and his marriage to Gay were nearly destroyed from the emotional pressure and stress. He ultimately reconciled with his conciliatory and supportive wife who vowed to stand by him ("I was proud of you today"). Keane felt such public shame that he considered quitting the bar. But she encouraged him to remain steadfast, strong, and committed to his work:

"The most important moment in your life is now. My husband is the most brilliant man I've ever known. You can throw away your career and become a beachcomber if that's what you want....Oh Darling, don't you understand that I want you back on the job just as fast as ever you can. And I hope you've a tough case. Very tough. So that it will take the very best you have. Winning every verdict you're after."

Keane Reconciled and Supported by His Wife


Anna Paradine (Alida Valli) - Receiving News of Her Arrest for Murder


Defense Lawyer "Tony" Keane (Gregory Peck) with Wife Gay (Ann Todd)




Keane Growing Closer to Mrs. Paradine


Sir Simon Flaquer (Charles Coburn) - "It was murder!"


Keane's Long-Suffering Wife Gay


Anna's Portrait Carved into Her Bed's Headboard in the Country Estate


Colonel's Valet Andre LaTour (Louis Jourdan): "She's bad, bad to the bone"


Keane to Anna: "What existed between you and LaTour?"


Gay to Keane: "I want very much for her to live..."


Mrs. Paradine's Entry into Courtroom Trial


Chief Prosecutor Sir Joseph Farrell (Leo G. Carroll)



Mrs. Paradine On Trial



Barrister Anthony Keane


Anna Upset with Keane's Tactics Against LaTour



Anna (regarding LaTour): "He - he took liberties!"

Keane: "Did he try to make love to you?"


Anna's Confession: "The man I love is dead"



Keane Chastised by Anna for Destroying LaTour - He Confessed His Shortcomings Before the Court

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