Alfred Hitchcock Retrospective: Part I
February 4 - March 31
Presenting a retrospective of Alfred Hitchcock's work, spanning the director's entire career, from the silent films he made in England to the blockbuster entertainments he directed in Hollywood.
Part I: The British Hitchcock (February 4-March 31) focuses on the British pictures, including THE LADY VANISHES, THE 39 STEPS, the original THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and the silent films BLACKMAIL and THE LODGER.
(Part II: Hitchcock in Hollywood and Part III: The Master of Suspense coming later this year!)
BLACKMAIL (Sound Version)
Originally made and released in 1929 as a silent film, BLACKMAIL was partly reshot and released that same year as the first British talkie. Hitchcock displays an intuitive sense of the new medium, using sound design to heighten psychological tension and underpin the guilt of the heroine (Anny Ondra) who, having killed in self-defense, is haunted by mentions of the word "knife" and being blackmailed. The film was shot on location in London, lending verisimilitude to Hitchcock's first major chase sequence and bravura finale, where the police tail the blackmailer to the domed roof of the British Museum's Reading Room.
DIR/SCR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Benn W. Levy, based on the play by Charles Bennett; PROD John Maxwell. UK, 1929, b&w, 85 min. NOT RATED
Fri, Feb 4, 7:20; Sun, Feb 6, 2:15
Unconvinced of a young actress's guilt in the murder of a fellow troupe member—despite overwhelming circumstantial evidence—jury member and eminent stage actor Herbert Marshall resolves to reinvestigate the case himself. As he pieces together the events of the night of the murder, he comes up with an ingenious trap to catch the real killer: holding auditions for a new play based on the sensational murder case. Hitchcock's third sound film already shows him a deft innovator in the new medium, including what many consider to be the first use of a voiceover to represent an internal line of thought: Marshall pondering the case while shaving!
DIR/SCR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Walter C. Mycroft, Alma Reville, based on the novel "Enter Sir John" by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson; PROD John Maxwell. UK, 1930, b&w, 97 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Feb 5, 8:45; Tue, Feb 8, 7:00
THE SKIN GAME
The Hillcrists, a family of rural landowners, become embroiled in a bitter feud with rising industrialist Mr. Hornblower (Edmund Gwenn), who has evicted the tenant-farming Jackman family from property he bought from the Hillcrists. As the two families lock into a battle of wills and property speculation, where the old money increasingly loses out to the new, the Hillcrists resort to morally dubious methods of persuasion. Based on a popular John Galsworthy play, this very British drama of rural class conflict makes for a fascinating curio in the Hitchcock canon.
DIR/SCR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Alma Reville, based on the play by John Galsworthy; PROD John Maxwell. UK, 1931, b&w, 81 min. NOT RATED
Tues, Feb 15, 8:45; Wed, Feb 16, 8:45
RICH AND STRANGE
After an exquisite opening sequence of cleverly choreographed tedium, office drone Henry Kendall declares to wife Joan Barry that he's had enough. Luckily Kendall's rich uncle has offered them funds, and they leave on a world cruise. Putting in to exotic ports of call--first to Paris, then Marseille, Port Said, Ceylon and Singapore—Barry and Kendall each find themselves courted by, and falling for, more worldly fellow passengers: she, Commander Gordon (Percy Marmont) and he, "the Princess" (Betty Amann). Will they lose each other in their search for adventure? Hitchcock teasingly told interviewers that the script was inspired by his and wife Alma's own honeymoon cruise.
DIR/SCR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Alma Reville, Val Valentine, based on the novel by Dale Collins; PROD John Maxwell. UK, 1931, b&w, 82 min. NOT RATED
Tues, Feb 15, 7:00; Thu, Feb 17, 9:10
THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934)
Vacationing in snowy St. Moritz, English couple Leslie Banks and Edna Best innocently stumble upon international intrigue after a cryptic message is delivered to Best at the casino by her dying dance partner, who is assassinated by creepy Peter Lorre and his goons. Before Banks and Best can go to the authorities, they discover that their daughter has been kidnapped, and their silence is the ransom if they're ever to see her again. Back in England, the couple must set about solving the mystery themselves. In 1956, at the height of his career, Hitchcock would remake this film with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day, but for many, this British original remains the best.
DIR/PROD Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Charles Bennett, D.B. Wyndham-Lewis; PROD
Michael Balcon. UK, 1934, b&w, 75 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Feb 19, 1:00; Sun, Feb 20, 2:30; Mon, Feb 21, 5:15; Wed, Feb 23, 9:30
Number Seventeen is a deserted house by a railway depot that, in the course of one night, will see a succession of criminals and unusual characters come and go, all circling around a stolen necklace and a plan to escape to the continent. No one is sure who to trust, and as false identities are exposed (and reexposed!) and double and triple—crosses mount, the action shifts from the house to one group's pursuit of the other by bus and train—executed with Hitchcock's beloved models—and a thrilling climax. Notable for Hitchcock's first use of a MacGuffin to set the plot into motion, which is ultimately secondary to the action that unfolds.
DIR/SCR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Alma Reville, Rodney Ackland, Joseph Jefferson Farjeon, based on his play; PROD Leon M. Lion, John Maxwell. UK, 1932, b&w, 63 min. NOT RATED
Sun, Feb 20, 1:00; Mon, Feb 21, 1:00
THE 39 STEPS
At a London vaudeville show, Robert Donat meets a mysterious woman who tells him of a spy plot up in Scotland. The next morning she's dead in his apartment, leaving Donat with an impossible story to explain to the police, so he's off to Scotland to do what must be done himself. Sometimes called the NORTH BY NORTHWEST of Hitchcock's British period, this film deftly combines thrilling adventure with droll comedy, a fast-paced and fun entertainment that set the mold for many Hitchcock movies to come.
DIR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, based on the novel by John Buchan; PROD Michael Balcon. UK, 1935, b&w, 86 min. NOT RATED
Fri, Feb 25, 9:30; Sat, Feb 26, 10:00; Sun, Feb 27, 7:15; Tue, Mar 1, 9:30; Wed, Mar 2, 7:00, 9:00; Thu, Mar 3, 9:45
THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG
Live Musical Accompaniment by Andrew Simpson!
***Update: THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG will now be presented on an archival 16mm film print!
A killer stalks a London neighborhood, murdering fair-haired lovelies every Tuesday night for the past several months and leaving behind a mysterious calling card that describes him as "The Avenger." Could it be Ivor Novello, the spooky new tenant at the local rooming house? Hitchcock's first thriller, while not the first movie he directed, was the first one he considered to bear his artistic signature. (It's also the first in which Hitchcock appears in a cameo, which became a standard practice.)
DIR/SCR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Eliot Stannard, based on the novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes; PROD Michael Balcon, Carlyle Blackwell. UK, 1927, b&w, 80 min. Silent with live accompaniment. NOT RATED
Sat, Feb 26, 3:00
His death at the front faked for the papers, novelist-turned-soldier John Gielgud accepts a new identity and a spy mission to Switzerland, where he's teamed with high-living assassin "the General" (Peter Lorre) and the beautiful Madeleine Carroll, a fellow agent assigned cover as his wife. Seeking to disrupt a German-Ottoman military deal, the team must battle through red herrings, double crosses, self-doubt and a fatal case of mistaken identity. Dynamic set pieces and a scene-stealing performance by Lorre make for crackling screen entertainment.
DIR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, Alma Reville, Jesse Lasky Jr., based on the novel "Ashenden" by W. Somerset Maugham; PROD Michael Balcon. UK, 1936, b&w, 86 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Mar 5, 1:00; Sun, Mar 6, 7:00
Suspecting London cinema operator Oscar Homolka of terrorist activity, Scotland Yard detective John Loder goes undercover. He ingratiates himself with Homolka's American wife, Sylvia Sydney, and her young brother Desmond Tester, but not in time to uncover Homolka's latest plot—a bomb hidden in a birdcage, carried unwittingly by Tester through the city. Hitchcock's command of suspense, combining the audience's knowledge of a threat unknown to the characters with little feints and digressions to ratchet up the tension, is masterful. Based on the Joseph Conrad novel "The Secret Agent," Hitchcock had to change the title because he'd used it for a previous film.
DIR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Charles Bennett, based on the novel "The Secret Agent" by Joseph Conrad; PROD Michael Balcon. UK, 1936, b&w, 76 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Mar 12, 1:00; Sun, Mar 13, 1:00
YOUNG AND INNOCENT
Aspiring screenwriter Derrick De Marney is wrongly accused of murdering an actress he was involved with, and goes on the lam in the English countryside until he can clear his name. But the constable's daughter, Nova Pilbeam (Betty in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH), enamored of the dashing young fellow and convinced of his innocence, tags along. An underappreciated gem!
DIR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Charles Bennett, Edwin Greenwood, Anthony Armstrong, Gerald Savory, Alma Reville, based on the novel "A Shilling for Candles" by Josephine Tey; PROD Edward Black. UK, 1937, b&w, 82 min. NOT RATED
Mon, Mar 21, 7:20; Tues, Mar 22, 7:20
Hitchcock's final British picture before departing for the US and REBECCA, was, like that film, based upon a Daphne du Maurier novel. Eighteen-year-old Maureen O'Hara, having recently lost her mother in Ireland, travels to her Aunt Patience in Cornwall seeking refuge, but instead finds Gothic intrigue. Her uncle is involved with a pirate gang of "wreckers," their boss none other than the local squire and justice of the peace, Sir Humphrey Pengallan (Charles Laughton). After O'Hara assists Robert Newton, a member of the gang sentenced to hang for stealing, she's drawn into a dangerous intrigue.
DIR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Sidney Gilliat, Joan Harrison, Alma Reville, J.B. Priestley, based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier; PROD Erich Pommer, Charles Laughton. UK, 1939, b&w, 105 min. NOT RATED
Tues, Mar 22, 9:10; Wed, Mar 23, 9:10
THE LADY VANISHES
The greatest of Alfred Hitchcock's British films; not just the template for his later Hollywood films in its deft blend of suspenseful mystery and wry comedy, but a hugely influential film for all moviemaking. Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood become embroiled in a mystery aboard a transcontinental train after Lockwood witnesses the strange disappearance of fellow traveler Dame May Whitty. Their search for clues among a parade of bizarre and sinister passengers uncovers an international espionage ring and imminent danger.
DIR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder, based on "The Wheel Spins" by Ethel Lina White; PROD Edward Black. UK, 1938, b&w, 97 min. NOT RATED
Fri, Mar 25, 9:20; Sat, Mar, Sat 26, 9:45; Sun, Mar 27, 9:15; Mon, Mar 28, 9:20; Tue, Mar 29, 9:15; Wed, Mar 30, 9:00; Thu, Mar 31, 7:10, 9:15
BLACKMAIL (Silent Version)
Live Musical Accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra!
In this psychological thriller, a woman (Anny Ondra) has killed in self-defense, and is subsequently haunted by mentions of the word "knife" and being blackmailed. The film was shot on location in London, lending verisimilitude to Hitchcock's first major chase sequence and bravura finale, where the police tail the blackmailer to the domed roof of the British Museum's Reading Room. Originally made and released in 1929 as a silent film, BLACKMAIL was partly reshot and released that same year as the first British talkie. The enormous success of the sound version and the passing of the silent film era relegated the silent version to undeserved obscurity, and it was only recently rediscovered and restored. "Watching the original version of BLACKMAIL today confirms that what would be known as Hitchcock's first sound film was also his last and best silent film." – Rafael Film Center
DIR/SCR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Benn W. Levy, based on the play by Charles Bennett; PROD John Maxwell. UK, 1929, b&w, 85 min. Silent with live accompaniment. NOT RATED
"The best in the world at accompanying silent films." – Roger Ebert
Alloy Orchestra is a three-man musical ensemble that writes and performs live accompaniment to classic silent films. Working with an outrageous assemblage of peculiar objects, they thrash and grind soulful music from unlikely sources. Performing at prestigious film festivals and cultural centers in the US and abroad (the Telluride Film Festival, Louvre, Lincoln Center, Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences, National Gallery of Art and others), Alloy has helped revive some of the great masterpieces of the silent era.
Sun, Mar 27, 3:00
Tickets $20, $17 AFI Members & Students