Friday, January 19, 2018

Easy Virtue (1928)

Last weekend, I got around to watching Easy Virtue off my cheap Mill Creek Alfred Hitchcock box set.

The movie starts off by telling us "'Virtue is its own reward' they say -- but 'easy virtue' is society's reward for a slandered reputation." Cut to a scene in divorce court. Larita Filton (Isabel Jeans) is in the dock, being the named defendant in a divorce case. The story of the events that led to the divorce is told through the testimony. Mr. Filton (Franklin Dyall) may or may not be a drunk and abusive to her, and when Larita sits to have her portrait painted by Claude Robson (Eric Bransby Williams), Mr. Filton becomes incredibly jealous, thinking they're having an affair. Claude accidentally gets shot in a scuffle, and Larita is found at fault in the divorce.

It was a notorious divorce case too, so Larita gets the brilliant idea to get away from it all by going to the south of France. You'd think she'd go someplace where English high society didn't, but we probably wouldn't have much of a movie then. Watching a tennis game, she's hit in the face by a tennis ball hit by John Whittaker (Robin Irvine). He tries to comfort her and immediately falls in love with her. It eventually results in new nuptials.

However, when Larita goes back to England with John, she finds that John's family hate her because they just know she must have a past that she's not telling them about. (True, she does, but nowadays there would be a lot fewer people who would have an issue with Larita's past.) They set out to discover her past.

Easy Virtue is, like a lot of Hitchcock's silents and even some of the sound movies up until about the first version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, decidedly different from what we normally think of when we think Hitchcock. That, combined with the vastly different morals 90 years on, make this one a bit difficult to sit through. I found myself wanting to knock everybody into the 21st century and get a grip. Heck, I watched the out-of-print Marilyn Monroe movie Ladies of the Chorus recently, and the mother-in-law in that one shows a modern attitude. It also didn't help that this print isn't particularly good, although that should be expected from an ultra-cheap box set. Still, Hitchcock is already showing some nice visual touches at this point in his career, starting with the shots of the judge's wig, and including the finale, which was really a shocker.

When it comes to early Hitchcock, I'd recommend starting off with The Lodger and then go to something like The Farmer's Wife. But for people who have already seen a lot of Hitchcock, why not give Easy Virtue a try?

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