THE PARADINE CASE (1948). Director: Alfred Hitchcock. NOTE: This review contains important plot points.
The Paradine Case is essentially a film about a middle-aged barrister undergoing a mid-life crisis. He falls for his beautiful client and is so convinced of her goodness and innocence that he virtually drives an innocent man he accuses of the crime in court to suicide. When his client confesses on the witness stand, he is emotionally shattered and wants to quit the bar. Okay. The trouble with The Paradine (pronounced Para-deen) Case is that this middle-aged lawyer is played by Gregory Peck with two streaks of gray in his hair which do absolutely nothing to make him look any older than a man in his thirties, which he was at the time. Although Peck can deliver his lines with authority, he is not good at displaying emotion or vulnerability (Jimmy Stewart would be have much better, as his performance in Vertigo indicates) so that much of the power of the film is completely lost. This is truly a shame because the film boasts excellent performances by a large ensemble cast, superb Selznick production values, a wonderful score by Franz Waxman, and has many good scenes and fascinating details. (Alida) Valli, as the accused murderess Mrs. Paradine, has such an expressive face that she doesn't really have to act. Charles Laughton and Charles Coburn are excellent as the judge and Peck's law partner, respectively. Ann Todd scores in a sensitive performance as Peck's wife, trying to be brave and mature as she watches her husband falling in love with an immoral woman, and Joan Chandler, so fine in Rope, offers another expert performance as Coburn's snappy daughter. Louis Jourdan, who was “introduced” in this film along with Valli, is also excellent as the man Mrs. Paradine loves with all her passion. The Paradine Case is certainly worth a look despite the fact that it isn't the masterpiece it could have been. [Hitchcock wanted to use Laurence Olivier and Greta Garbo for the lead roles!]
Verdict: Not great but definitely under-rated by many. ***.