TV Pick: Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Jamaica Inn’ Airs On Cohen Film Classics

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1939 film Jamaica Inn airs tonight on KCET as part of its Cohen Film Classics program. I attended a Tuesday screening of the film that was held at the SilverScreen Theatre in West Hollywood. Cohen Media Group and Cohen Film Classics host Charles S. Cohen served as the evening’s host. More details on the film and the event is found after the jumpl

Though the evening had the prospect of rain, I still trudged from the San Fernando Valley to Los Angeles to finally watch a Hitchcock movie on the big screen. Pictures of Hitchcock on set and with his family were provided during the reception area courtesy of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library, and the room was filled to the brim with cinephiles.

The best part of the evening came from Cohen’s interview with actor Norman Lloyd, who gave lively recollections on working with Hitch on Saboteur (Lloyd also starred in Spellbound). Hitchcock’s granddaughters Terre Carrubba and Katie Fiala were also on hand to give personal recollections of the master of suspense (one of the granddaughters mentioned it was her first time seeing Jamaica Inn).

Although munching on pastries and alcoholic beverages, as well as listening to Hitchcock recollections, made the evening a memorable one, the biggest takeaway is that Jamaica Inn, though not considered one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest films, is still an excellent film.

The picture, based on the Daphne Du Maurier book, centers on a young Irish woman named Mary (Maureen O’Hara in her screen debut!) who travels to Cornwall to live with her aunt (Marie Ney). Mary’s stay at Jamaica Inn, however, is fraught with danger since her unscrupulous uncle (Leslie Banks) is actually part of a gang of smugglers who plunder ships off the rocky coasts. Charles Laughton is Sir Humphrey Pengallan, a seeming aristocrat and justice of the peace who actually ends up being he leader of this cutthroat outfit.

Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut in their seminal series of interviews that he was “unhappy” with Jamaica Inn and that Laughton “wasn’t really a professional film man.” Thankfully Hitchcock short-changed his own film, as Laughton is wonderful as the mentally unstable manipulator. Fans of O’Hara’s strong willed nature will get a glimpse of that in Jamaica Inn as well, and Marie Ney also does fine supporting work as Mary’s woefully resigned aunt.

Robert Newton, Charles Laughton, and Marie Ney in ‘Jamaica Inn’ (KCET & Cohen Film Classics)

Even if you’re not a huge Hitchcock fan, Jamaica Inn is a worthy watch thanks to the O’Hara and Laughton dynamic (seeing Mary and Sir Humphrey go toe to toe is worth the price of admission).

***Jamaica Inn airs tonight on KCET and 9 pm et/pt on Link TV (DISH Network 9410, DirecTV 375).

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