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Juno and the Paycock (1930)


Main image of Juno and the Paycock (1930)
DirectorAlfred Hitchcock
Production CompanyBritish International Pictures
Based on the play bySean O'Casey
Director of PhotographyJack Cox
ScenarioAlma Reville
Adapted byAlfred Hitchcock

Cast: Barry Fitzgerald (the orator); Maire O'Neill (Mrs Madigan); Sara Allgood (Mrs 'Juno' Boyle); Edward Chapman (the paycock Captain Boyle); John Laurie (Johnny Boyle)

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Captain Boyle, a shiftless idler, lives in a slum tenement in Dublin with his family. His wife June is their mainstay. On hearing that they have been left some money, they celebrate their good fortune - but it doesn't last.

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Warmly received on its release, Juno and the Paycock (1930) is seen now as a disappointing early Hitchcock film. Celebrated drama critic James Agate thought it completely justified the talking picture, but Hitchcock himself dismissed it as "just a photograph of a stage play". He and his wife Alma Reville were assigned to adapt and film Sean O'Casey's play, which had been produced in the theatre in 1925. It was a contractual obligation and his heart was not in it (although some sources suggest that Hitchcock had been introduced to the playwright by Ivor Montagu and had expressed a wish to make the film version because of his own Irish heritage).

The treatment is conservative, although Hitchcock does attempt some opening out of the play, especially at the beginning in a new scene which opens on a blank screen with a voice-over which is revealed to be a speaker at an outdoor political rally. Shots ring out and everyone scatters, mostly into the nearest bar. A cat scoots up a lamp-post. The audience is immediately made aware of the political dimension to the Boyles' story.

Hitchcock alters the characterisation of Mary Boyle from a strong-willed and independent young woman (who leads a strike in the play), to someone more conventional, who does not challenge her parents' values in the way that Jenny Hawthorne does in Hindle Wakes (filmed four times: by Maurice Elvey in 1918 and 1927, by Victor Saville in 1931, and by Arthur Crabtree in 1952).

Although the events of the story are as unrelenting as a Greek tragedy, there is much comedy too, and if anything, Hitchcock plays this up. Most of the cast were from the famed Abbey Theatre Company in Dublin, and had played in the stage production. Sara Allgood and John Longden appeared in other Hitchcock films. John Laurie appears in The 39 Steps (1935), but is best known as Frazer in TV's Dad's Army (BBC, 1968-1977). Edward Chapman appeared in Murder! (1930) and The Skin Game (1931), Hitchcock's other two film adaptations of stage plays in the early sound period.

Juno and the Paycock illustrates that even Hitchcock could not always ensure that a stage success transferred effectively to the screen, whether for technical reasons, or the fact that the well-constructed play, with its series of 'great moments', works on stage but not on film.

Janet Moat

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Video Clips
1. A mother's lament (3:32)
2. If you're Irish... (2:37)
3. The informer (4:23)
Production stills
Cox, Jack (1890-1960)
Hitchcock, Alfred (1899-1980)
Laurie, John (1897-1980)
Reville, Alma (1899-1982)
English Hitchcock
Film and Theatre: 1930s
Performance in 1930s film