Hitch Films A Play


Good evening…

Ever heard of Juno and the Paycock? Any Irish people reading this probably have, but the rest of us, not so much. I hadn’t, either, although I’ve owned the movie for a couple of decades or so. That’s what I get for buying a Hitchcock collection sight unseen from the bargain bin at Wal-Mart, but I digress.


Anyway, while Jamaica Inn is commonly referred to as Hitchcock’s worst film, it has nothing on Juno and the Paycock, which is such a huge misstep it doesn’t feel like a Hitchcock movie.

The film takes place in Dublin during the Irish Civil War, and the Boyle family are trying to keep their collective head above water. Wife Juno (Sara Allgood) calls husband Jack (Edward Chapman) a “paycock,” which is “peacock” with a brogue. In other words, Jack is a self-important bum, or a scrub, if anyone prefers that term. Their son, Johnny (John Laurie) lost an arm in the fighting and sits in the family’s apartment all day long, haunted by the sounds of gunfire.


Things might be looking up, though, as daughter, Mary’s (Kathleen O’Reagan) new boyfriend, Charles (John Longden), who’s a lawyer, has just told the family that they’ve come into a small inheritance.

To say all of the Boyles are over the moon is an understatement. They borrow against the amount they think they’re getting, bringing home new furniture, a Victrola, and they live large for a bit, having their friends over and singing a bunch of fake Irish ditties like “If You’re Irish, Come Into the Parlour.” It’s a wonder they didn’t belt out “Who Threw the Overalls In Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder” for good measure, but oh well.


Unfortunately, it’s all too good to last. Charles turns out to be a scoundrel, Johnny is arrested by IRA, or Irish Republic Army operatives, and there’s been a mistake as far as the money goes. It doesn’t end happily.

Oh golly, there are so many problems with Juno and the Paycock. Well, the movie and the print. In some parts we hear audio but there’s no video, all through the movie people’s heads are cut off, and the dialogue is almost unintelligible in spots. It makes it really tough to dope out the plot or any kind of nuance. I can’t figure out if the scenes were just framed badly or if the film is so warped that whoever did the digital transfer just went with whatever came out. The British Film Institute owns Paycock‘s one existing film negative, but it’s never been restored and, like several of Hitchcock’s early film titles it’s heavily bootlegged.


What sort of saves the movie is Sara Allgood’s performance. When things get bad, and by that I mean really, really bad, her grief is almost visceral and she prays in front of the Virgin Mary statue, the sole object left in her living room. It’s hard not to wonder if this character will ever smile again because she’s hit bottom with such force. Allgood had played Juno in the original play, and it was a wise decision to recreate the magic for the screen.

The other good thing about Paycock is that it marks the debut of one Barry Fitzgerald, who played the Paycock in O’Casey’s original play, but in the movie for some reason he was given the tiny role of the Orator which is over in about five minutes. I guess this was done because of Fitzgerald’s inexperience with film acting, but even in his brief time onscreen he’s more compelling than Edward Chapman, whose Paycock was pretty flat.


And I don’t know if Hitchcock made one of his famous cameos, but if he did, it was probably during one of the few crowd scenes, but the film looks so bad that no one’s face is all that visible, and most of the action takes place in the Boyle living room anyway.

The other thing, which isn’t so much of a problem as it is a characteristic of early sound films, is that the camera is very static. Just as Tom Stoppard would do decades later with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are DeadHitch would basically park the camera and start shooting. The difference is that Stoppard didn’t have to work with early sound equipment.


Paycock is a straight adaptation of Sean O’Casey’s original play, and the author himself hand-picked Hitchcock to direct it. The two of them had been friends for a while, and O’Casey knew what HItchcock could do. Only O’Casey wanted Hitchcock to film the play the way he wanted it filmed. Hitch had to practically twist arms to shoot any of the play outside. It’s interesting to think what might have happened if Hitchcock could have put his own slant on the material, but we’ll never know.

At the time of release, audiences liked the film well enough and then promptly forgot about it. O’Casey’s play has been adapted for various mediums in the years since, though, so his reputation couldn’t have been hurt that much. He was satisfied with the film. As for Hitchcock, while he felt meh about the whole thing, it was probably a good learning experience for him.


No, Juno and the Paycock is not a great movie, apart from a few fine performances. Would it be a better film if restored? Errrrr, that’s hard to say, but it definitely couldn’t hurt.

For more from the Master of Suspense Blogathon, please see Maddy at Classic Film and TV CornerThanks for hosting, Maddy, and thanks for letting me join at the last minute–it was a blast. Thanks for reading, all, and I hope to see you tomorrow for a new Shamedown…

Juno and the Paycock is available on DVD from Amazon.

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If you’re enjoying what you see on Taking Up Room, please look for additional content on Substack, where you’ll find both free and subscriber-only articles. I publish every Wednesday and Saturday.


Morgan, Jack. “Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Juno and the Paycock,” Irish University Review, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Autumn – Winter, 1994), pp. 212-216.

10 thoughts on “Hitch Films A Play

  1. Hi Rebecca. This is one of the few I still need to see. I’ve heard nothing but bad things about it, so it’s nice to hear that the wonderful Sara Allgood and Barry Fitzgerald do great work in it at least. One day I shall have to be brave and check it out myself, but for now I’ll thank you for going ahead of me and reporting back!🤣

    Interesting to read about Hitch and O’Casey’s friendship and how he requested the film be shot. As you say, it might have had a different outcome if he’d been able to put his own stamp on the film.

    Thanks so much for joining.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was wading my way through early Hitchcock last year. Didn’t get around to Juno and the Paycock, but I totally understand the frustration about the quality of the prints. With the exception of The Lodger and Blackmail, these films can be hard to sit through on their own terms (I love Hitchcock, but between 1925 and 1933, he was still struggling to settle into his niche), but the warped images and garbled sound make it all the more difficult.
    Still, I have to wonder if Juno is as bad as Number Seventeen, released around this period. Now THAT’S Hitchcock’s worst!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, I’ll have to look for that one next–it’s probably in the bargain bin set, too. And yeah, Hitch was still finding his sealegs during that period, but it’s still kinda fun to see where he started. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really good review! I have never seen or heard of this movie either, but it is interesting to hear about Hitchcock’s older films. Wonder why ‘Juno and the Paycock’ was never restored, especially since Hitchcock has become a household name when it comes to film? By the way, I nominated you for The Pick My Movie Tag! Here’s the link to my post:


    Liked by 1 person

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