Juno and the Paycock DVD
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Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced in 1930
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Few know of the early work of Alfred Hitchcock when he was a gun for hire ready to take on all genres. Barney Kelley tells us about this 1930 collaboration with playwright Sean O'Casey.
Alfred Hitchcock was always a more versatile filmmaker than his popular reputation as the 'Master of Suspense' would suggest. Indeed, in his early career, he tackled everything from melodrama to musicals. Juno and the Paycock is a fine example of the movies he made before dedicating himself to ticking bombs and breathless intrigue.
Juno (Allgood) is the matriarch of an impoverished family, whose hard work subsidises the drinking of her feckless hubby, 'Captain' Boyle (Chapman). A refined British solicitor brings news that the 'Captain' has been bequeathed a substantial inheritance from a distant relative and their lives are transformed – but not in the way they hope.
Sean O'Casey's play is one of the greatest classics of the Irish stage, a scathing portrait of his native land, ruthlessly chastising not just the baleful legacy of the British but the failure of the Irish to live up to the ideals of their revolution.
Hitchcock, of course, was British but here he is respectful of O'Casey and his intentions; the cast is drawn from the actors who created these roles at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin (many of whom went on to Hollywood where they earned a profitable living as scene-stealing character actors). But Hitchcock is a little more forgiving than O'Casey and tempers his film with some well placed humour.
For Hitch fans, familiar with his later work, this might seem an uncharacteristic film. And yet it's possible to recognise his undoubted cinematic mastery throughout – in a striking crane shot or a dynamic composition. This wasn't the last time Hitchcock would apply himself to a play; the lessons he learned here would stand him in good stead for his adventures on Rope and Dial M For Murder.
Hitchcock got on well with O'Casey; they planned another film together. But Hitchcock's career took a different turn (their collaboration became O'Casey's play Within The Gates). In later years Hitch would disparage those films he made outside his favourite genre but Juno and the Paycock suggests he was wrong to do so; it shows he was a master of more than just suspense.
Derived from Sean O'Casey’s acclaimed play, Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of Juno and the Paycock is one of the Master’s most unjustly neglected films.
Down in the Dublin slums, Captain Boyle is a shiftless layabout, scrounging off his hard-working wife Juno. When he learns he has inherited a great deal of money, their lives change forever.
Starring members of the cast of the original Abbey Theatre production, this powerful drama shows there was more to Hitchcock than just suspense. His skill with actors and rare ability to bridge theatre and cinema make this one of the most satisfying adaptations of a great play.
A huge success on first release, Juno and the Paycock is ripe for rediscovery.
Length: 91 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Cat No: FF06
Format: DVD B&W
- Picture and sound digitally restored from a print sourced from the BFI Film Archive.