Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Sylvia Sidney and Oskar Homolka star in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Sabotage”

Sabotage (1936) is a British espionage thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Sylvia Sidney, Oskar Homolka, and John Loder. The film is loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent (1907).

John Loder and Sylvia Sidney
Mr. and Mrs. Verloc (Oskar Homolka and Sylvia Sidney) own a movie theater in London. During the showing of a movie one evening, all the lights go out in the city, forcing Mrs. Verlog to refund her customers.

The power outage was caused by sand in the bearings of a generator, causing the blackout. When an undercover detective (John Loder) spots Mr. Verloc entering the theater after the blackout, he suspects foul play. Could Mr. Verloc be guilty of sabotage?

Hitchcock was still four years from coming to Hollywood, but his reputation in Europe was well known. So well known that American actress Sylvia Sydney was more than willing to work with the director in the U.K.

The film was praised in the American press and is considered one of Hitchcock’s great films from his British period.

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films, many are classics that have been honored and studied for years. Some of Hitchcock’s classic films include The 39 Steps (1939), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

Sylvia Sydney (1910 – 1999) was an American stage and film actress. Sydney was a major movie star during the depression with starring roles in An American Tragedy (1931), Fury (1936), Dead End (1937). In 1936, she starred in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, an early three-strip Technicolor film. When Sydney made Sabotage, she was the highest-paid actress in movies, earning $10,000 per week. She made a total of $80,000 for that film. Later in her career, she appeared in supporting roles in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973), Beetlejuice (1998), Used People (1992), and Mars Attacks! (1996) which was her final film role.

Oskar Homolka (1898 – 1978) was an Austrian film and theater actor. Homolka performed on the stage in Austria, Germany, and London. He starred in silent films in Germany but left that country with the rise of National Socialism. He eventually found his way to the United States where he had a successful career as a character actor in Hollywood. Some of his popular Hollywood films include Comrade X (1940), Ball of Fire (1941), and I Remember Mama (1948) for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Other films include The Seven Year Itch (1955), War and Peace (1956), and The Tamarind Seed (1974).

John Loder (1898 – 1988) was a British film actor who had a successful career in British films before immigrating to Hollywood where he became a leading man opposite some of the top actresses of the day like Ruth Chatterton. Some of his famous Hollywood films include How Green Was My Valley (1941), Now, Voyager (1942), and Old Acquaintance (1943). Loder was married to Hedy Lamarr (1943 – 1947); they co-starred together in the film Dishonored Lady (1947).

Filming a crowd scene in Sabotage

Sabotage trivia:

  • Robert Donat was Hitchcock’s first choice to play Ted, but he was under contract to Alexander Korda who refused to release him.
  • Mrs. Verloc’s first name is never mentioned in the film.
  • Simpson’s was a real restaurant in London and Hitchcock’s favorite.
  • Director Quentin Tarantino gave the film a nod in a scene from Inglourious Bastards (2009).

To watch the film on YouTube, click on the link below. This is by far the best version of the film on the channel.

After you’ve viewed the film, please join us for a discussion on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time on Zoom. The Zoom invitation and link are below.

Stephen Reginald is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Discussion of "Sabotage"
Time: Sep 8, 2020, 06:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 784 7804 6762
Passcode: jhKZ7z

Questions for discussion:
1. Does this film feel like a Hitchcock film to you?
2. Do you see any of the “typical” Hitchcock touches?
3. Do you think there is a difference between Hitchcock’s English and American films?
4. What do you suspect was the nature of Mr. and Mrs. Verloc’s relationship.
5. Does this film remind you of any other Hitchcock?

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