The plot synopsis is fairly standard, though it reveals a sensibility that we would today find boggling. Larita Filton is in the midst of a divorce from her drunkard husband and at the same time ensnarled in a bit of impropriety with a painter (Claude) who has been commissioned to do her portrait. Larita does finally escape her marriage but her honor and reputation is sullied forever when she’s “found guilty of misconduct” with Claude. Her reputation in tatters, she escapes to the French Riviera. There she meets John who falls desperately and almost immediately in love with her. Larita keeps mum about her past and only John’s mother suspects that something might not be on the up-and-up. The couple are quickly married but not shortly after, the meddling mom finds a picture of Larita in the paper and the connection with her scandalous past is made. Remaining married is, of course, unthinkable and Larita steps aside so that John can divorce with his honor intact.
Despite the lack of actual audible dialog, the movie doesn’t suffer from a vacuum of memorable quotes. Early on, the love interest, Claude, writes Larita a love note and it’s as sappy and as generic as could be possibly imagined:
Why suffer that foul brute when you know I’d give anything I have in the world to make you happy?
Near the end, the Larita spars with John’s mother in a manner so standard between generations that it’s almost cliché:
Mother: In our world we do not understand this code of Easy Virtue
Larita: In your world you understand very little of anything
Larita’s position is summed up quite nicely by her closing line: “Shoot, there’s nothing left to kill!” Her virtue lost, her prospects dim, there is nothing else for her to live for. Sensibilities have certainly changed, haven’t they?
Visually, there are a few interesting moments as well. During some of Larita’s time in the Riviera she takes in a few sporting events and it occurred to me as I watched (somewhat bored, honestly) that audiences of the time might very well have been fascinated by the prospect of watching filmed sport. With the cinema still a relatively new and novel art, things we find mundane today would doubtless have been viewed with breathless wonder. Also, earlier on, John anticipates the response to his proposal from Larita by phone and we’re treated to an extended segment of the telephone operator connecting their call and then reacting as she listens in on their conversation. These are images of a day long, long past.
To close, while I’ll admit that I didn’t find much Hitchcock in “Easy Virtue” I did find plenty of 1928 which is almost as good. While these bygone relics don’t entertain in the way that modern movies do, they do act to make us think and help us to know where society has gone before. Whether these changes are progress or regress is left as an exercise to the viewer.