Easy Virtue (1928 film)
Easy Virtue movie poster
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
C. M. Woolf
|Written by||Eliot Stannard|
|Based on||Easy Virtue
by Noël Coward
Eric Bransby Williams
|Cinematography||Claude L. McDonnell|
|Edited by||Ivor Montagu|
|Distributed by||Woolf & Freedman Film Service (UK)
Sono Art-World Wide Pictures (US)
|“||'Virtue is its own reward' they say -- but 'easy virtue' is society's reward for a slandered reputation.||”|
Larita Filton (Isabel Jeans) is on the witness stand testifying regarding her pending divorce. In a flashback, her husband, a drunken brute named Aubrey Filton (Franklin Dyall), is getting drunk in an artist's studio, as Mrs. Filton's portrait is painted. His drunkenness prevents her from being able to sit for the portrait. Meanwhile, the painter, Claude (Eric Bransby Williams), is smitten with Larita. He sends her a letter professing his desire that she leave the physically abusive Mr. Filton, and allow him to be a good husband to her instead. Later, he attempts to kiss her when her husband is not present. She rejects Claude's advances and is pushing him away, when Aubrey walks in on them appearing to be embraced. Aubrey confronts Claude. Claude runs for a gun he has hidden, and shoots but misses Aubrey. Aubrey begins to beat Claude severely with his walking cane. In the struggle, Claude shoots Aubrey, who falls to the floor, still alive. Larita rushes to her husband's side. Two servants enter separately and each see Claude standing with the gun, and run for police. As Claude watches, one servant beckon a policemen to follow her. Claude realises what he has done and looks terrified. Presumably, he shoots himself, as police in the next frame are kneeling over Claude's lifeless body. Larita seems completely uninterested in Claude, and is holding her non-mortally wounded husband lovingly in her lap on the floor. He reaches over, and picks up the note from Claude to Larita, which asked her to leave her husband, presumably seeing it for the first time.
Aubrey files for divorce on the grounds of adultery, which is why Larita is testifying her innocence in court this day. The jury rejects Larita's testimony that she was never inappropriate with the artist. The jury instead decides in Aubrey's favor, in large part considering the "proof" that Larita is quite attractive, and Claude had written a will leaving her his entire fortune ("to another man's wife! "). As Larita leaves the courtroom in shame, photographers rush to try to take her picture, and she hides her face and rushes away.
Since she is now a disgraced woman of "easy virtue", Larita leaves for the French Riviera to avoid continued unwanted attention. As she registers in the hotel that will be her new home, she remembers all the media frenzy around her, and at the last second, changes the name she writes in the registry to Larita Grey.
She is happy there, living anonymously. One day as she is watching a tennis match, she is struck in the eye by the tennis ball of a rich younger man, John Whittaker (Robin Irvine). He rushes to her aid, apologises profusely, and takes her to be tended to medically. He checks on her again the following day, and soon asks Larita to marry him. She protests that surely he must want to know more about her first. He responds that all he need know is that he loves her. They marry, and return to England to meet his family. While John's father likes Larita very much, his mother strongly disapproves even before meeting her. When they do meet, John's mother believes she recognises Larita, but cannot place from where. She questions John about where Larita comes from, and chastises him for marrying someone about whom he knows nothing. John begs his mother to be kind to her for his sake. But his mother is only kind to Larita in public. Privately, she is cold and unwelcoming, and tries to turn everyone against Larita.
As John's mother remains suspicious and cruel regarding Larita, and makes her life privately miserable, Larita begs John to go back to the South of France where they were happy. He asks why she cannot be happy in England. She tells him his family hates her, and that they are teaching him to hate her too. Later that day, John admits to his old girlfriend that his mother has helped him see that he made a huge mistake marrying Larita. Unknown to him, Larita overhears him.
After a family outing to a society event, John's sister sees Larita's picture with the Whittakers in the papers. In the caption, Larita is identified as the former Mrs. Filton. John's sister shows her mother, and Mrs. Whittaker digs up the old magazine articles about Larita's notorious adultery scandal. Mrs. Whittaker confronts Larita in front of the family, condescendingly stating, "In our world, we do not understand this code of easy virtue", as she thrusts the gossip magazine under Larita's nose. Larita responds that indeed they don't understand much of anything, and excuses herself to her room.
Mrs. Whittaker, fearing scandal and gossip about her family, tries to intimidate Larita into staying in her room during the large party the family is hosting that same evening. Instead, Larita makes a grand entrance, and disallows Mrs. Whittaker to lie about her having been indisposed with a headache. Meanwhile, realising how hopeless her situation is, she has her servant upstairs packing all her things to leave. Larita steps into a private room during the party to confide to a friend that she will leave John so he may seek a divorce, and she will not contest it, in hopes it will make it easy for John. Before leaving, she tells the old girlfriend Sarah (Enid Stamp Taylor), a local girl whom his mother had in mind as a suitable match for John, and who has been quite kind to her, "Sarah- YOU ought to have married John" , and then kisses her cheek before leaving.
In the final scene, Larita is sitting anonymously in the court gallery, weeping, as she watches John's uncontested divorce. A reporter recognises her, and runs outside to alert the others. As she exits the court, still having not identified herself to anyone there, photographers are waiting for her. For the first time since her previous court appearance, Larita is dressed all in black. This time she doesn't run from the reporters. She stops, looks at the throng of photographers waiting hungrily for her, and exclaims, "Shoot! There's nothing left to kill." And the movie ends.
- Isabel Jeans as Larita Filton
- Robin Irvine as John Whittaker
- Franklin Dyall as Aubrey Filton
- Eric Bransby Williams as Claude Robson
- Ian Hunter as The plaintiff's counsel
- Violet Farebrother as Mrs. Whittaker
- Frank Elliott as Colonel Whittaker
- Dacia Deane as Marion Whittaker
- Dorothy Boyd as Hilda Whittaker
- Enid Stamp Taylor as Sarah
- Benita Hume as Telephone receptionist (uncredited)
Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in almost all of Hitchcock's films. About 21 minutes into the film he can be seen walking past a tennis court carrying a walking stick.