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Jamaica Inn

Original film poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Erich Pommer
Charles Laughton
Written by Daphne du Maurier
Sidney Gilliat
Joan Harrison
Sidney Gilliat
Alma Reville
J. B. Priestley
Starring Charles Laughton
Maureen O'Hara
Emlyn Williams
Music by Eric Fenby
Cinematography Bernard Knowles
Harry Stradling
Editing by Robert Hamer
Distributed by Mayflower Pictures Corporation Ltd.
Release date(s) 15 May 1939 (UK)
13 October 1939 (US)
Running time 98 min.
Country  United Kingdom
Language English

Jamaica Inn is a 1939 film made by Alfred Hitchcock adapted from Daphne du Maurier's novel of the same name, the first of three of du Maurier's works that Hitchcock adapted (the others were her novel Rebecca and short story "The Birds").

The film is a period piece set in Cornwall in 1820; the real Jamaica Inn still exists, and is a pub on the edge of Bodmin Moor. The score was written by Eric Fenby.

Jamaica Inn starred Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara. Critics disparaged the film and today it is considered one of Hitchcock's lesser films.[1] However, the film still garnered a large profit (3.7 million dollars, a huge success, at the time) at the box office.[2]

Contents

Production

Charles Laughton was a co-producer as well, and he interfered greatly with Hitchcock's direction.

Laughton was originally cast as the uncle, but he cast himself in the role of villain, which was originally to be a hypocritical preacher, but was rewritten as a squire because unsympathetic portrayals of the clergy were forbidden by the Production Code in Hollywood.[3]

Laughton then demanded that Hitchcock give his character, Squire Pengallon, greater screen time. This forced Hitchcock to reveal that Pengallon was a villain in league with the smugglers earlier in the film than Hitchcock had initially planned.[2]

Laughton's acting was a problem point as well for Hitchcock. Laughton portrayed the Squire as having a mincing walk, to the beat of a German waltz which he played in his head,[4] while Hitchcock thought it was out of character.

Some good did come out of Laughton's meddling, though. He demanded that Maureen O'Hara be given the lead after watching her screen test (her acting in the screen test was sub par, but Laughton could not forget her eyes). After filming finished, Charles Laughton brought her to Hollywood to play Esmeralda opposite his Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where she became an international star. In March 1939, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood to begin his contract with David O. Selznick, so Jamaica Inn was his last British picture, as well as one of his most successful.[4]

Daphne Du Maurier was not pleased with the finished production, and for a while she considered withholding the film rights to Rebecca.[4]

Plot

OH LORD, WE PRAY THEE - NOT THAT WRECKS SHOULD HAPPEN - BUT THAT IF THEY DO HAPPEN, THOU WILT GUIDE THEM TO THE COAST OF CORNWALL FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE POOR INHABITANTS. SO RAN AN OLD CORNISH PRAYER OF THE EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY, BUT IN THAT LAWLESS CORNER OF ENGLAND, BEFORE THE BRITISH COASTGUARD SERVICE CAME INTO BEING...

Jamaica Inn is headquarters to a gang of smugglers, led by the innkeeper Joss (Leslie Banks). The smugglers conceal coastal beacons in order to cause ships to run aground. Then they loot the wrecks and kill the surviving sailors.

Mary (Maureen O'Hara), the orphaned niece of Joss's wife Patience (Marie Ney) comes to live at the inn, and saves the life of Traherne (Robert Newton), a gang member lynched by his fellow smugglers for embezzling. Traherne is actually an inside man, trying to bring down Joss' gang. They flee the inn and seek the protection of Sir Humphrey Pengallon, the local magistrate, little knowing that that he actually protects Joss' gang, as he needs the loot in order to maintain his lavish lifestyle.

Traherne and Mary must race against time to stop a ship from being wrecked, and an unlikely love affair blossoms.

Character actors

Besides Laughton and O'Hara, secondary characters are played by several notable stage-and-screen character actors of the time, including "bruiser-type" actor Leslie Banks (who played General Zharov in The Most Dangerous Game) as Joss Merlin, and Robert Newton in an uncharacteristic role as Jem Trahearne, a suave young secret-police agent with no trace of Irish accent.

Copyright status

Like other Hitchcock works made for British International Pictures, the copyright status of this film is unclear at present, meaning that it is widely accepted as being in the public domain. This status means that it is widely available in both the VHS and DVD format at very modest prices but that the quality of most available copies tends to be quite poor, as there is little profit motive for any would-be restorer of the work.

References

  1. ^ Spoto, Donald (1999). The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. Da Capo. pp. 184–185. ISBN 030680932X.  
  2. ^ a b Leitch, Thomas (2002-05-31). The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock: From Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Vertigo. Facts On File. http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~muffin/jamaica_irony.html.  
  3. ^ Harris, Richard A.; Michael S. Lasky (2002-12-01). The Complete Films of Alfred Hitchcock (revised edition ed.). Citadel Press Film Series. http://www.britmovie.co.uk/directors/a_hitchcock/filmography/023.html.  
  4. ^ a b c Duguid, Mark. "Jamaica Inn (1939)". filmonline. British Film Institute. http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/441604/index.html. Retrieved 2007-11-11.  

External links








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