🎥 Jamaica Inn – 1939
The Story …
The film is set in 1820 (at the start of the reign of King George IV, as mentioned by Pengallan in his first scene).
Over and above its function as a hostelry, Jamaica Inn houses the clandestine rural headquarters of a gang of cut-throats and thieves, led by innkeeper Joss Merlyn, they have become wreckers.
They are responsible for a series of engineered shipwrecks in which they extinguish coastal warning beacons, causing ships to run aground on the rocky Cornish coast. They then kill the surviving sailors and steal their cargo.
One evening, a young Irish-woman, Mary Yellan, is dropped off by coach near the inn, at the home of the local squire and justice of the peace, Sir Humphrey Pengallan. She requests the loan of a horse so she can ride to Jamaica Inn to re-unite with her Aunt Patience (the wife of Joss Merlyn).
Despite Pengallan’s warnings, she intends to live at Jamaica Inn with her late mother’s sister. It transpires that Pengallan is the secret criminal mastermind behind the wrecking gang; he learns from his well-to-do friends and acquaintances when well-laden ships are passing near the coast, determines when and where the wrecks are to be caused, and fences the stolen cargo. He uses the lion’s share of the proceeds to support his lavish lifestyle and passes a small fraction of them to Joss and the gang.
In another part of the inn, the gang convenes to discuss why they get so little money for their efforts. They suspect Jem Trehearne, a gang member for only two months, of embezzling goods.
They hang him from one of the rafters of the inn, but when they leave, Mary cuts the rope and saves his life. Trehearne and Mary flee the gang by hiding in a cave that is only accessible by a row boat. The next morning the boat drifts away and their location is discovered. They narrowly avoid capture by swimming for their lives. After reaching the shore they seek the protection of Pengallan, unaware that he is the gang’s benefactor.
Trehearne reveals to Pengallan that he is actually an undercover law-officer on a mission to investigate the wrecks. Pengallan is alarmed but maintains his composure and pretends to join forces with Trehearne. Mary overhears their conversation and goes to the inn to warn Patience that she must flee in order to avoid being arrested as an accomplice. However, Patience refuses to leave her husband.
Meanwhile, Pengallan learns of a ship full of precious cargo which is due to pass the local coastline. He informs Joss and the gang, who go to the beach, and there extinguish the coastal warning beacon, as they wait for the ship to appear. However, Mary re-lights the warning beacon, and the ship’s crew avoid the treacherous rocks and sail by unharmed. The gang angrily resolves to kill Mary as revenge for preventing the wreck, but Joss, who has developed a reluctant admiration for her, rescues her and the two escape by horse-cart. Joss is shot in the back and collapses when they reach Jamaica Inn.
As Patience is about to tell Mary that Pengallan is the secret leader of the wrecking gang, Pengallan shoots and kills Patience from off-camera. Joss dies of his wound as well. Pengallan then takes Mary hostage, ties and gags her, and tells her that he plans to keep her now that she has no one else in the world. He drives her, still tied up and covered by a heavy cloak, to the harbour, where they board a large ship going to France.
Back at Jamaica Inn, Trehearne and a dozen soldiers take Joss’s gang into custody.
Trehearne then rides to the harbour to rescue Mary and capture Pengallan, who attempts to escape. During the chase, he climbs to the top of the ship’s mast, from which he jumps to his death, shouting “Make way for Pengallan!”
- Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
- Written by Sidney Gilliat, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville and J. B. Priestley
- Based on Jamaica Inn 1936 novel by Daphne du Maurier
- Produced by Erich Pommer and Charles Laughton
- Cinematography : Bernard Knowles and Harry Stradling
- Edited by Robert Hamer
- Music by Eric Fenby
- Production Company : Mayflower Productions
- Distributed by Associated British Picture Corporation
- Release Date : 15 May 1939
- Charles Laughton as Sir Humphrey Pengallan
- Leslie Banks as Joss Merlyn
- Maureen O’Hara as Mary Yellen
- Robert Newton as James ‘Jem’ Trehearne – Sir Humphrey’s Gang
- Marie Ney as Patience Merlyn
- Horace Hodges as Butler (Chadwick)
- Hay Petrie as Groom (Sam)
- Frederick Piper as Agent (Davis)
- Herbert Lomas as Tenant (Dowland)
- Clare Greet as Tenant (Granny Tremarney)
- William Devlin as Tenant (Burdkin)
- Emlyn Williams as Harry the Pedlar – Sir Humphrey’s Gang
- Jeanne de Casalis as Sir Humphrey’s friend
- Mabel Terry-Lewis as Lady Beston
- A. Bromley Davenport as Ringwood (credited as Bromley Davenport)
- George Curzon as Captain Murray
- Basil Radford as Lord George
- Wylie Watson as Salvation Watkins – Sir Humphrey’s Gang
- Morland Graham as Sea Lawyer Sydney – Sir Humphrey’s Gang
- Edwin Greenwood as Dandy – Sir Humphrey’s Gang
- Mervyn Johns as Thomas – Sir Humphrey’s Gang
- Stephen Haggard as The Boy, Willie Penhale – Sir Humphrey’s Gang
- John Longden as Captain Johnson
- Aubrey Mather as Coachman
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