The Louis Jourdan Website - The Paradine Case
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Robert Hichens (novel), Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville, Ben Hecht, James Bridie (adaptation), David O. Selznick (screenplay)
Other Cast Members: Gregory Peck, Charles Laughton, Ann Todd, Alida Valli, Charles Coburn, Ethel Barrymore, Joan Tetzel, Leo G Carroll
Filming from December 1946 to early 1947 with premier in December 1947 from Vanguard Films by The Selznick Studio
Louis Jourdan plays the valet of a murdered man whose testimony causes the accused wife to change her plea when he admits they were lovers.
The pet project of David O. Selznick for a decade and a half before it came to the screen, THE PARADINE CASE is a courtroom drama in which a wife is accused of poisoning her husband.
Regrettably for all concerned, the production of this film was fraught with difficulty. In a drive to perfect it, the screenplay originally cast by Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, ended up being re-written by David O. Selznick on a daily basis as shooting progressed.
As such, the film leaves many strands and performances which are extraneous to the main story, and in addition to the fact that the enactment of the actual murder remains confusing (according to Hitchcock, he couldn't visualize it himself), there are a plethora of male-female triangles which detract from rather than enhance the movie.
Into all this ambiguity, enter Louis Jourdan making his first English-language picture, and most unfortunately, along with the two main stars, not the choice of the director.
A favorite part among those he's played, Louis Jourdan's dark role as valet to the murdered man, and in a liaison with the wife, offered a brooding and complex character to portray, and could have provided a great springboard for a serious acting career in Hollywood.
But the dialogue and disinterest of the director - by the time filming commenced, only going through the motions to complete his contract with Selznick - meant that what showed up on screen from both Louis Jourdan and Alfred Hitchcock was credible, but not what it could have been.
Louis Jourdan never worked with Hitchcock again, and one savors the thought of what memorable performances the great director might have produced from him in films like Dial M for Murder, Strangers on a Train, North By Northwest, To Catch a Thief or as (most especially) the obsessed widower in Vertigo, etc. The pairing might have netted even stronger pictures than those which already bask in glory.
But he wasn't alone. Gregory Peck, who became a close lifelong friend of the Jourdans after they clicked on THE PARADINE CASE, never worked again with Hitchcock either, despite the artistic and box office success of their earlier collaboration in “Spellbound.”
In all aspects, the roles in THE PARADINE CASE remained undeveloped. A number could have been omitted from the film completely to concentrate on the lawyer's infatuation with Mrs. Paradine (something which drives the film, but is never explored) and of course, her relationship with the valet, peeling away the multitudinous layers of this intriguingly malevolent individual Louis Jourdan played.
In the hotel scene with Gregory Peck, there's even a hint that the director might have liked to have built the film's action around this Hitchcockian character with so much smoldering underneath - but the Selznick script went for a pick-and-mix approach, and there was nothing to work with.
Had the possibility been available, it would have made quite a motion picture! One which Hitchcock would not have disowned.
Though having worked with Italians on some films, Louis Jourdan's previous experience in the cinema had been in the comfort zone of French. In THE PARADINE CASE, not only was he making his first attempt to act in English, but the set for him was what he referred to as a “virtual Tower of Babel,” with English being offered up by US, British and Italian actors all speaking it with different accents.
He also vividly recalls the day when after a violent clash between the legendary director and old friend Charles Laughton, Hitchcock, exasperated, shouted, “there are three unbearable crosses for a director: child prodigies, clever animals, and you, Charles Laughton.”
A comprehensive analysis of the film
Discussion of the film
Click the image below to watch Louis Jourdan as the French Canadian valet giving testimony about the murder and his relationship with Colonel and Mrs. Paradine.
For a curiosity - Louis Jourdan's performance being dubbed into French by another actor - click the following image.
More images of Louis Jourdan from THE PARADINE CASE
Destroyed on the stand
Departing court in confusion
appearing at the lawyer's door
Promoting his new contract player in THE PARADINE CASE, David O. Selznick issued the aboveadvertisement