“‘Virtue is its own reward’ they say - - but ‘easy virtue’ is society’s reward for a slandered reputation.”
It is interesting to look back at novels and films to see how much a person’s reputation and character mattered in high society and even regular society. One of the things that kind of makes me laugh and also makes me angry was how society saw divorce as something scandalous almost like a plague when today we really do not see divorce as a problem. The topic of divorce in old novels and films makes me laugh because looking at how they though it was so wrong when today we just feel bad is crazy. It makes me angry because it always seems to be the woman who is scandalized and become a plague in society that men should not marry. The Alfred Hitchcock silent film Easy Virtue deals a scandalous divorcée and the next man she marries.
Larita Filton is on trial for divorce. Her abusive drunk husband is filing for divorce against her citing adultery. In flashbacks we see the story. Larita was having her portrait painted by an artist named Claude. Her husband Aubrey stumbled into a session completely drunk leaving Larita unable to sit for her portrait for a while. When Larita comes back to have her portrait finished Claude confesses his love for her and wants to kiss her. Larita rejects his advances but it is too late for her husband to see she is rejecting Claude. He believes that his wife and the artist are intimate together. Claude tries to shoot the husband but misses. The husband then comes over and starts beating Claude. Claude in self-defense shoots the husband but does not mortally wound him. In desperation that he will be arrested Claude kills himself. The court will not listen to Larita that even though her husband is an awful human she was still there for him when he was wounded and she rejected Claude. All the court sees is that she is beautiful and that Claude changed his will that everything be left to her, a married woman. The court rules in the husband’s favor and she is branded a woman of “easy virtue.”
To get away from all the press, Larita goes to the south of France. Even though she does not want any attention she soon gets it because she is flirty and pretty. All the men at the hotel crowd around her. One young man named John Whittaker catches her fancy. John is very sweet to her and soon proposes marriage. Larita is unsure because they know nothing about each other. John assures that all he needs to know is that he loves her and she finally agrees to marry him.
John takes Larita back to his family estate in London. Right away his mother does not like Larita. John was supposed to marry another girl named Sarah. At dinner his mother places Sarah between John and Larita but that does not stop the couple from talking around Sarah. The mother feels she has seen Larita somewhere and finally finds a newspaper article about her divorce. Soon the mother starts to make John hate Larita.
The situation gets so bad that Larita decides to leave John so he can divorce her and she will make it uncontested. Once again Larita is back in a divorce court at the end of the film.
Easy Virtue was an interesting Hitchcock film to watch because it was not a film you would think when his name comes to mind. There is nothing suspenseful about Easy Virtue it is a straight up drama. But if you are familiar with Hitchcock’s films you will know there is usually an overbearing, evil mother in them which is what Easy Virtue had with John’s mother. I have to say in terms of direction this was one of my favorite Hitchcock films. His direction was so different when compared to his later films. There was a surrealistic quality to it. Some of the camera angles and shots were fantastic. Easy Virtue as a story was alright. I was not too crazy about it; it is a story that has been told countless times and it is one that gets on my nerves so bad. Besides the story I definitely recommend seeing Easy Virtue especially if you are into film-making and if you are a fan of Hitchcock’s films.