Easy Virtue

1927, Movie, 79 mins

Review

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Adapted from the play by Noel Coward, this dissection of the prejudices of English country artistocrats shows Alfred Hitchcock in fine early form. Larita Filton (Isabel Jeans), an educated modern woman, is trying to put her past behind her. Married to an abusive drunk (Franklin Dyall), she saw her reputation ruined when he sued for divorce on the grounds that she was having an affair with the artist (Eric Bransby Williams) hired to paint her portrait. She wasn't, but her husband's word prevailed and Larita was branded a woman of "easy virtue." She flees to the French Riviera, where she meets and marries a younger Englishman, John Whittaker (Robin Irvine), making the mistake of concealing her past. The trouble begins when the newlyweds return to the family estate: Whittaker's mother (Violet Farebrother) and jolly hockeysticks sisters (Dacia Deane, Dorothy Boyd), who expected Whittaker to marry his local sweetheart (Enid Stamp-Taylor), dislike the sophisticated Larita on sight. Only Colonel Whittaker (Frank Elliott) keeps an open mind, but he's outnumbered by the shrewish ladies, and they're determined to drive Larita away. Hitchcock's innovative touches are already in evidence in this early word — in one clever sequence, he reveals Whittaker's proposal of marriage through an eavesdropping telephone operator — but Coward's strength was sparkling dialogue, which makes his work a poor fit for the silent cinema. leave a comment

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