Juno and the Paycock (1930) - full review!
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and written by Sean O'Casey with scenario by Hitch’s wife Alma Reville, this successful O'Casey play did not translate well to the silver screen. Instead, it's a plodding mess, though it does serve as a rather inauspicious (talkie) film debut for the Irish character actor, and future Oscar winner, Barry Fitzgerald (Going My Way (1944)). Ignoring the fact that this drama's story is nothing like the director's later works, the film is still completely lacking any evidence of his technique or mastery of the camera (unlike many of his other early films). The film does precede and resemble in many ways director John Ford's The Informer (1935), but the plot's main thrust is how a poor Irish family's prospects change when they learn they are to receive a substantial windfall.
An orator (Fitzgerald) sets the Dublin scene: hard times have befallen this Irish community, but everyone is urged to buck up and pull together before gunshots ring out and the crowd has to scatter. So these Irish are poor amidst fighting for their freedom from the British who occupy "their" country. Former sea Captain Boyle (Edward Chapman) is now the loafer patriarch of one of these families, but his wife Juno (Sara Allgood, reprising her role from the O'Casey play) "wears the pants", though occasionally (e.g. in front of non-family members) she lets him think he does. The Boyles have a son, Johnny, who walks with a bad hip and is missing an arm from his freedom fighting days. However, the director makes no secret of the fact that it was Johnny who ratted out a compatriot (though apparently not for money, as Victor McLaglen’s character does in the aforementioned Ford film). This is discussed in harsh tones by his father, the Captain, and his friend ‘Joxer’ (Sidney Morgan) in Mrs. Madigan’s (Maire O'Neill) pub. The Boyles also have a comely daughter named Mary (Kathleen O'Regan), who's courted by Jerry (Dave Morris) until Charles Bentham (John Longden) whisks her away with news that her father is to receive a 1,500-2,000 pound inheritance. Upon learning of their fortune, the family and their fast friends sing joyously during an impromptu party in their once shabby home, now outfitted with a Victrola (record player) and new furniture.
*** SPOILERS ***
It seems the party was the highpoint of the Boyles’s celebration as things go downhill from there. As it turns out, there is no inheritance (perhaps it was just a ruse by Bentham to bed Mary). Though the Captain learns of this, he's able to keep it a secret until the creditors come calling. Joxer turns on him first, and seems to be the one who's spreading the "rumor" of the absence of an inheritance. The tailor wants his 13 pounds; Madigan, who wants the bar tab paid, takes the Victrola for her 3 pounds owed; the furniture store repossesses their 20+ pounds worth of merchandise. Johnny is killed by those who learned about his snitching; Mary shames her father when he learns from his wife that his daughter is pregnant. Jerry provides Mary a brief bit of hope, proclaiming his love and offering to take her back now that Bentham has disappeared, until he too learns of her "condition". Juno laments the fact of their poverty to the Lord.