This film, which features in Let’s Misbehave, was based on Noel Coward’s play of the same name which arrived on the West End stage in 1925. The film was directed by a young Alfred Hitchcock, then still directing silent films in Britain (before he crossed the Atlantic and made his name as the master of the thriller genre).
The original film was made in 1927 and released in England on 5th March 1928. It starred British actress Isabel Jeans in the lead role of Larita Finton, the divorcee who marries the young scion of a uppercrust family. Isabel Jeans is probably better known for her role many years later as Aunt Alicia, the grand dame of Gigi.
The performances in Easy Virtue are over the top compared to Hitchcock’s later more under-stated films, though this was a quite common feature of silent movies.
The play (and the films) deal with issues of hypocrisy and loyalty. The former is an undercurrent in Let’s Misbehave too, where men and women are judged by different sets of standards and women are more easily tainted by the label of having an ‘easy virtue’.
The film was re-made in 2008 by Stephan Elliott, featuring Jessica Biel as Larita Finton, with Colin Firth and Kristin Scott Thomas in supporting roles. It’s a seemingly lightweight film, with sumptuous art direction and beautiful period clothing. The story has been changed considerably from the previous version, though much of Coward’s witty dialogue remains, and I loved the fact that in this version Larita at last gets her happy ending.
For an interesting review of this latest version, click here.