Hitchcock Blogathon #4: Juno and the Paycock

Gasser

Juno and the Paycock (1930)

     Juno and the Paycock is anything but what we have come to expect from Alfred Hitchcock. Straight dramatic or comedic films were fairly common for Hitchcock, however, before he came to America. Despite thrillers such as The Lodger early on, he still would wait a while before making stories such as The 39 Steps his mainstay.

     No movie before or after Juno and the Paycock ever reeked so blatantly of political commentary more. Set during the Irish Revolution, the film begins with supporters of the Republic rallying together before a machine gun takes some out. We meet a rather disagreeable man, Captain Boyle and his friend Joxer who visit a bar before returning to the Boyle flat where the remainder of the action takes place. Enter Mrs. Boyle, or Juno, who is equally unpleasant but is the head of the household and meant to embody Mother Ireland, enduring any indignity her children conjure up. The two have a good-looking daughter and a son who has lost his arm fighting for the Republic. This brooding and unhappy character would several times grasp the camera’s attention. While other dialogue would continue, the lens would lock on to the man’s face, spilling over with emotion.

     The family inherits a decent sum of money and starts spending it before they acquire it. All characters are now agreeable and happy but start to lose their values. When it turns out they will not receive the inheritance after all, the Boyles must sell their home and live penniless. The end is full of trouble, however, as the daughter is revealed as pregnant out of wedlock by a man who has left her. The brother is shot down in the street and Mr. Boyle is off drunk somewhere, so Juno and the daughter leave the flat headed to her sister’s home.

     In America this movie was called “The Shame of Mary Boyle”, which seems to fixate on one minor aspect of the plot that does not arise until the end. The story is based on a successful play by Sean O’Casey, which Hitchcock had seen multiple times and greatly enjoyed. The adaptation would be worked up by Mrs. Hitchcock, who received the first of her many screen credits, always by her maiden name, Alma Reville. Alma would contribute to varying degrees in the stories for her husband’s film until the height of things in America. Early on, the two Hitchcocks and a long-time secretary would huddle together to work out the scripts. Later Alma would work with writers and her opinion was always held as sacred by the master.

The MacGuffin: Too early for a MacGuffin.

Where’s Hitch? No Hitchcock this time. His appearances were still intermittent at this point in his career.

Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!

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