Jamaica Inn (film)

Last updated

Jamaica Inn
Original movie poster for the film Jamaica Inn.jpg
US theatrical release poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Sidney Gilliat
Joan Harrison
Alma Reville
J. B. Priestley
Based on Jamaica Inn
1936 novel
by Daphne du Maurier
Produced by Erich Pommer
Charles Laughton
Starring Charles Laughton
Maureen O'Hara
Leslie Banks
Robert Newton
Cinematography Bernard Knowles
Harry Stradling
Edited by Robert Hamer
Music by Eric Fenby
Production
company
Distributed byMayflower Productions
Release date
15 May 1939
Running time
108 minutes
100 minutes (original US release) [1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish

Jamaica Inn is a 1939 British adventure thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and adapted from Daphne du Maurier's 1936 novel of the same name. It is the first of three of du Maurier's works that Hitchcock adapted (the others were her novel Rebecca and short story "The Birds"). It stars Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara in her first major screen role. It is the last film Hitchcock made in the United Kingdom before he moved to the United States. [1]

Contents

The film is a period piece set in Cornwall in 1820, in the real Jamaica Inn (which still exists) on the edge of Bodmin Moor.

Plot

The film is set in 1820 (at the start of the reign of King George IV, as mentioned by Pengallan in his first scene).

Over and above its function as a hostelry, Jamaica Inn houses the clandestine rural headquarters of a gang of cut-throats and thieves, led by innkeeper Joss Merlyn. They have become wreckers. They are responsible for a series of engineered shipwrecks in which they extinguish coastal warning beacons, causing ships to run aground on the rocky Cornish coast. They then kill the surviving sailors and steal their cargo.

One evening, a young Irish-woman, Mary Yellan, is dropped off by coach near the inn, at the home of the local squire and justice of the peace, Sir Humphrey Pengallan. She requests the loan of a horse so she can ride to Jamaica Inn to re-unite with her Aunt Patience (the wife of Joss Merlyn). Despite Pengallan's warnings, she intends to live at Jamaica Inn with her late mother's sister. It transpires that Pengallan is the secret criminal mastermind behind the wrecking gang; he learns from his well-to-do friends and acquaintances when well-laden ships are passing near the coast, determines when and where the wrecks are to be caused, and fences the stolen cargo. He uses the lion's share of the proceeds to support his lavish lifestyle and passes a small fraction of them to Joss and the gang.

In another part of the inn, the gang convenes to discuss why they get so little money for their efforts. They suspect Jem Trehearne, a gang member for only two months, of embezzling goods. They hang him from one of the rafters of the inn, but when they leave, Mary cuts the rope and saves his life. Trehearne and Mary flee the gang, narrowly avoiding capture by swimming for their lives. The next morning, they row a boat ashore to seek the protection of Pengallan, unaware that he is the gang's benefactor. Trehearne reveals to Pengallan that he is actually an undercover law-officer on a mission to investigate the wrecks. Pengallan is alarmed but maintains his composure and pretends to join forces with Trehearne. Mary overhears their conversation and goes to the inn to warn Patience that she must flee in order to avoid being arrested as an accomplice. However, Patience refuses to leave her husband.

Meanwhile, Pengallan learns of a ship full of precious cargo which is due to pass the local coastline. He informs Joss and the gang, who go to the beach, and there extinguish the coastal warning beacon, as they wait for the ship to appear. However, Mary re-lights the warning beacon, and the ship's crew avoid the treacherous rocks and sail by unharmed. The gang angrily resolves to kill Mary as revenge for preventing the wreck, but Joss, who has developed a reluctant admiration for her, rescues her and the two escape by horse-cart. Joss is shot in the back and collapses when they reach Jamaica Inn. As Patience is about to tell Mary that Pengallan is the secret leader of the wrecking gang, Pengallan shoots and kills Patience from off-camera. Joss dies of his wound as well. Pengallan then takes Mary hostage, ties and gags her, and tells her that he plans to keep her now that she has no one else in the world. He drives her, still tied up and covered by a heavy cloak, to the harbour, where they board a large ship going to France.

Back at Jamaica Inn, Trehearne and a dozen soldiers take Joss's gang into custody. Trehearne then rides to the harbour to rescue Mary and capture Pengallan, who attempts to escape. During the chase, he climbs to the top of the ship's mast, from which he jumps to his death, shouting "Make way for Pengallan!"

Cast

Character actors

Besides Laughton and O'Hara, several secondary characters are played by notable stage-and-screen character actors of the time, including "bruiser-type" actor Leslie Banks (who played Count Zaroff in The Most Dangerous Game ) as Joss Merlyn, and Robert Newton as Jem Trehearne, a suave young secret-police agent. [1]

Production

Promotional still from the film set Laughton Hitchcock.jpg
Promotional still from the film set

Charles Laughton was a co-producer on this movie, and he reportedly interfered greatly with Hitchcock's direction. Laughton initially was cast as Joss, but he cast himself in the role of the villainous Pengallan, who originally was a hypocritical preacher but was rewritten as a squire because unsympathetic portrayals of the clergy were forbidden by the Production Code in Hollywood. [2] Laughton then demanded that Hitchcock give his character greater screen time. This forced Hitchcock to reveal that Pengallan was a villain in league with the smugglers earlier in the film than Hitchcock had initially planned. [3]

Laughton's acting was a problem point as well for Hitchcock. Laughton portrayed Pengallan as having a mincing walk that went to the beat of a German waltz that he played in his head, [4] and Hitchcock thought it was out of character. Laughton also 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, Laughton brought her to Hollywood to play Esmeralda opposite his Quasimodo in 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame , where she became an international star. [1]

On release, the film was a substantial commercial success and in March 1939 Hitchcock moved to Hollywood to begin his contract with David O. Selznick. Thus Jamaica Inn was his last picture made in Britain until the 1970s. [4] [5]

Credits

Reception

Many critics were somewhat disparaging of the film, largely because of the lack of atmosphere and tension which was present in the book. The film's light-hearted, often camp, banter and portly landlord, were seen as being too far removed from the darker characters, sinister inn and coastline depicted in du Maurier's story. Today it is often considered to be one of Hitchcock's "lesser" works. [6] [7] Hitchcock expressed his disappointment with the film even before it was finished, stating that it was a "completely absurd" idea. [8] However, the film still garnered a large profit (US$3.7 million, a huge success at the time) at the box office. [3] Daphne du Maurier was not pleased with the finished production and for a while she considered withholding the film rights to Rebecca. [4] In 1978, film critic Michael Medved gave Jamaica Inn a place in his book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time . [9] but this was based on a viewing of a poor quality and incomplete US print, the only copy available at the time. [1]

Jamaica Inn, like all of Hitchcock's British films, is copyrighted worldwide [10] [11] but has been heavily bootlegged on home video. [12] Despite this, various licensed, restored releases have appeared on DVD, Blu-ray and video on demand services from Network Distributing and Arrow Films in the UK, the Cohen Film Collection in the US and many others. [1]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Laughton</span> British-American actor and director (1899–1962)

Charles Laughton was a British-American actor. He was trained in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and first appeared professionally on the stage in 1926. In 1927, he was cast in a play with his future wife Elsa Lanchester, with whom he lived and worked until his death.

Daphne du Maurier English novelist (1907–1989)

Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning,, was an English novelist, biographer and playwright.

Emlyn Williams Welsh writer, dramatist and actor

George Emlyn Williams, CBE was a Welsh writer, dramatist and actor.

Alma Reville English director, editor and screenwriter (1899–1982)

Alma Lucy Reville, Lady Hitchcock, was an English director, editor and screenwriter. She was the wife of the film director Alfred Hitchcock. She collaborated on scripts for her husband's films, including Shadow of a Doubt, Suspicion, and The Lady Vanishes, as well as scripts for other directors, including Henrik Galeen, Maurice Elvey, and Berthold Viertel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maureen O'Hara</span> Irish-American actress and singer (1920–2015)

Maureen O'Hara was a native Irish and naturalized American actress and singer, who became successful in Hollywood from the 1940s through to the 1960s. She was a natural redhead who was known for playing passionate but sensible heroines, often in Westerns and adventure films. She worked with director John Ford and long-time friend John Wayne on numerous projects.

<i>The Hunchback of Notre Dame</i> (1939 film) 1939 film by William Dieterle

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1939 American romantic drama film starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara. Directed by William Dieterle and produced by Pandro S. Berman, the film is based on Victor Hugo's 1831 novel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Newton</span> English actor (1905–1956)

Robert Guy Newton was an English actor. Along with Errol Flynn, Newton was one of the more popular actors among the male juvenile audience of the 1940s and early 1950s, especially with British boys. Known for his hard-living lifestyle, he was cited as a role model by the actor Oliver Reed and the Who's drummer Keith Moon.

Jamaica Inn Grade II listed pub on Bodmin Moor

The Jamaica Inn is a traditional inn on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall in the UK, which was built as a coaching inn in 1750, and has a historical association with smuggling. Located just off the A30, near the middle of the moor close to the hamlet of Bolventor, it was originally used as a staging post for changing horses. The 1,122 feet (342 m) high "Tuber" or "Two Barrows" hill, is close by.

<i>The Farmers Wife</i> 1928 film by Alfred Hitchcock

The Farmer's Wife is a 1928 British silent romantic comedy film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Jameson Thomas, Lillian Hall-Davis and Gordon Harker.

<i>Downhill</i> (1927 film) 1927 film

Downhill is a 1927 British silent drama film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Ivor Novello, Robin Irvine and Isabel Jeans, and based on the play Down Hill by Novello and Constance Collier. The film was produced by Gainsborough Pictures at their Islington studios. Downhill was Hitchcock's fourth film as director, but the fifth to be released. Its American alternative title was When Boys Leave Home.

<i>Murder!</i> 1930 film

Murder! is a 1930 British thriller film co-written and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Herbert Marshall, Norah Baring and Edward Chapman. Written by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and Walter C. Mycroft, it is based on the 1928 novel Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson. It was Hitchcock's third all-talkie film, after Blackmail (1929) and Juno and the Paycock (1930).

<i>The Man Who Knew Too Much</i> (1934 film) 1934 film by Alfred Hitchcock

The Man Who Knew Too Much is a 1934 British film noir political thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, featuring Leslie Banks and Peter Lorre, and released by Gaumont British. It was one of the most successful and critically acclaimed films of Hitchcock's British period.

Joan Harrison was an English screenwriter and producer. She became the first female screenwriter to be nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar when the category was introduced in 1940, and was the first screenwriter to received two Academy Award nominations in the same year in separate categories, for co-writing the screenplay for the films Foreign Correspondent (1940) (original) and Rebecca (1940) (adapted), both directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with whom she had a long professional relationship.

<i>Mary</i> (1931 film) 1931 film

Mary (1931) is a British-German thriller film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and is the German language version of Hitchcock's Murder! (1930), shot simultaneously on the same sets with German speaking actors. The film is based on the 1928 book Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson, and stars Alfred Abel and Olga Tschechowa. Miles Mander reprises his role as Gordon Druce from Murder!, though the character's name was changed to Gordon Moore.

<i>Jamaica Inn</i> (novel) 1936 novel by Daphne du Maurier

Jamaica Inn is a novel by the English writer Daphne du Maurier, first published in 1936. It was later made into a film, also called Jamaica Inn, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is a period piece set in Cornwall in 1820. It was inspired by du Maurier's 1930 stay at the real Jamaica Inn, which still exists as a pub in the middle of Bodmin Moor. The plot follows Mary Yellan, a woman who moves to stay at Jamaica Inn with her Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss after the death of her mother. She quickly finds out that the inn is an unsavoury place, mistrusted by the locals, and that her uncle is closely linked with a group of suspicious men who appear to be smugglers.

<i>The Wreck of the Mary Deare</i> (film) 1959 film by Michael Anderson

The Wreck of the Mary Deare is a 1959 Metrocolor British-American thriller film directed by Michael Anderson and starring Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston, and featuring Michael Redgrave, Cecil Parker, Richard Harris and John Le Mesurier. The screenplay by Eric Ambler was based on the 1956 novel of the same name by Hammond Innes.

<i>Jamaica Inn</i> (1983 TV series)

Jamaica Inn is a 1983 British television miniseries adapted from the 1936 novel Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. It is a gothic period piece of piracy, smuggling and murder set in northeastern Cornwall, England in the early 19th century. The series dramatizes the cultural trope of wreckers, clipper ship era pirates who employed various deceptions including mislocated lights, to lure ships to their doom on irregular rugged shorelines for subsequent plundering. It stars Jane Seymour, Patrick McGoohan and Trevor Eve and was directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frederick Piper</span> English actor

Frederick Piper was an English actor of stage and screen who appeared in over 80 films and many television productions in a career spanning over 40 years. Piper studied drama under Elsie Fogerty at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then based at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

<i>Jamaica Inn</i> (2014 TV series)

Jamaica Inn is a British drama television series that was first broadcast on BBC One for three consecutive nights from 21 to 23 April 2014. The three-part series, written by Emma Frost, is an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's 1936 gothic novel Jamaica Inn. It was poorly received, becoming a subject of controversy and making national news over its mumbling cast and other sound problems.

Mayflower Productions was a British-based film production company of the 1930s and 1950s.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Alfred Hitchcock Collectors' Guide: Jamaica Inn (1939)". Brenton Film.
  2. Harris, Richard A.; Michael S. Lasky (1 December 2002). The Complete Films of Alfred Hitchcock (revised ed.). Citadel Press Film Series.
  3. 1 2 Leitch, Thomas (31 May 2002). The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock: From Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Vertigo. Facts on File.
  4. 1 2 3 Duguid, Mark. "Jamaica Inn (1939)". filmonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 November 2007.
  5. Brenner, Paul. "The Lady Vanishes". Allmovie. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  6. Spoto, Donald (1999). The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock . Da Capo. pp.  184–185. ISBN   0-306-80932-X.
  7. Griffin, Susan; Nadel, Alan (1 March 2012). The Men Who Knew Too Much: Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock. Oxford University Press. p. 204. ISBN   978-0-19-976442-6 . Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  8. McDevitt, Jim; Juan, Eric San (2009). A Year of Hitchcock: 52 Weeks With the Master of Suspense. Scarecrow Press. p. 113. ISBN   978-0-8108-6388-0.
  9. Michael Medved: The Fifty Worst Films of All Time
  10. "Alfred Hitchcock Collectors' Guide: Slaying the public domain myth". Brenton Film.
  11. "Alfred Hitchcock: Dial © for Copyright". Brenton Film.
  12. "Bootlegs Galore: The Great Alfred Hitchcock Rip-off". Brenton Film.