Easy Virtue (1927) – reviewed by George

Alfred Hitchcock’s 7th film deals with a divorce case and its aftermath, and it is based on a play by Noel Coward. Seems strangely unlike the material either man is associated with.
Isabel Jeans, whose billing is a hundred percent alone above, plays Larita Filton, being sued for divorce on grounds of infidelity. And there is a jury! No simple divorce court action here.
Larita sat for a portrait by the painter Claude Robson (Eric Bransby Williams), and she is charged with posing disrobed, which I guess would be considered extremely inappropriate and even indecent in 1927. But she wasn’t disrobed! The painting in shown in court and she is dressed in a floor-length garment with longish sleeves. Yes, it is low-cut, but it hardly constitutes “indecent”. Her expression is pensive. She is a beautiful woman, and that may affect the judgment of the viewer. Her husband, Aubrey Filton (Franklin Dyall) comes to visit the sitting, and begins to drink, yet the effect of the liquor is so quick that the conclusion that he started drinking somewhere else is inescapable. The two men are rather youngish, but the artist is handsome and the husband decidedly not. Larita asks Aubrey not to drink, and he gets huffy and starts to berate her while still drinking.
Someone in the courtroom is taking notes, and on their pad we read “Was the maid always present when Larita Filton disrobed?” So Larita is losing points right and left. But now it looks like they’re suggesting she changed into the costume in front of the painter.
A scene in the studio with Claude touching Larita’s wrist to place it as it was yesterday. She winces and reveals that Aubrey hurt her when they got home. Claude says, “He’ll never get another drink in this studio!”
The note-taker writes: “The artist and the woman he pitied alone together. Pity is akin to love.” A note from Claude to Larita is introduced. It reads, “Darling, why suffer that foul brute when you know I’d give everything I have in the world to make you happy. Claude”
The next scene in the studio is cleverly staged: Claude is talking to Larita and holding her hand. The camera shows them from the side and nothing untoward is happening. Aubrey enters and is looking at Claude’s back, and he can glimpse part of Larita’s face over Claude’s shoulder. From this angle they look definitely guilty. Aubrey is furious and moves in swinging his cane. Claude fires a pistol at Aubrey without effect, and Aubrey beats Claude unmercifully with his cane – until he, Aubrey, collapses. The maid enters, sees Aubrey on the floor and Claude standing over him with the gun still in his hand. She covers her face and leaves, and summons a policeman from the street. Larita moves to Aubrey to comfort him, and he shows her Claude’s note, which he has found.
The note is now in Larita’s hand as she has had to read it to the court. And the plaintiff’s attorney (Ian Hunter) now asks, “Is it not a fact that the co-respondant had already made a will leaving you his entire fortune?” And the note-taker writes, “Nearly 2000 a year!”
Then the jury is sent to deliberate – and we see that the note-taker is a woman on the jury! And their verdict is “We find Larita Filton guilty of misconduct with the late Claude Robson”. LATE! What happened?
Now, her privacy gone, her treatment by the press horrid, and Claude dead, she moves to the Mediterranean. As previously observed Larita is a beautiful woman. She naturally attracts the attention of men, and she likes the attention. Soon she is engaged to a man who looks younger than she, John Whittaker (Robin Irvine). He is wealthy, attractive, they meet cute, what’s not to like? Well, he doesn’t want to live on the continent, but to go home to rejoin his family, a controlling mother, a thoroughly nice father, an older sister, and a younger sister. They are played by (in order) Violet Farebrother, Frank Elliott, Dacia Deane, and Dorothy Boyd. There is also Sarah (Enid Stamp Taylor) whom mama had planned John’s marriage to. Now what troubles has Larita walked into?
All of the acting is good, but Ian Hunter stands out as Aubrey’s divorce attorney who now becomes Larita’s only friend. The final line in the film is Larita’s and it is a humdinger.
Script by Eliot Stannard, Adapted from the play by Noel Coward, and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

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