Saturday, October 10, 2020

Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes (1938) is a British thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. The success of this film caught the attention of producer David O. Selznick. Selznick signed Hitchcock to a long-term contract and brought him to Hollywood in 1940.

Michael Redgrave, Dame May Whitty, and Margaret Lockwood

The plot involves Iris Henderson (Lockwood), a young woman returning home to get married after a European vacation with two girlfriends. An avalanche blocks the train so she ends up staying an extra night where she meets a kindly old governess and music teacher named Mrs. Froy (Dame May Whitty). When Iris finally gets on the train home, she ends up sharing a compartment with Mrs. Froy. Sometime during her journey, Mrs. Froy disappears and no one in her compartment remembers the old woman, making Iris wonder if she dreamed up their meeting or if her fellow passengers are lying. She enlists the help of Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave), a young ethnomusicologist who is somewhat skeptical of her claims.

Will they find Mrs. Froy or did Iris dream up the whole thing, the result of an accident before boarding the train.

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 (1935), Sabotage (1936), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

Alfred Hitchcock and Margaret Lockwood on the set of The Lady Vanishes

Margaret Lockwood (1916 – 1990) was an English actress who began her career on the stage but gained fame as one of Britain’s most popular movie stars during the 1930s and 1940s. She had a starring role in Bank Holiday (1938), directed by Carol Reed. The movie was a huge success and made Lockwood a star. Next up would be The Lady Vanishes (1938), which brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Lockwood didn’t take to Hollywood and soon returned to England where she made a series of popular costume dramas including The Wicked Lady (1945) co-starring James Mason.

Michael Redgrave (1909 – 1985) was an English stage and film actor and a director. He worked primarily on the British stage but had some significant film roles. He made his American film debut in Mourning Becomes Electra (1947) co-starring Rosalind Russell. For his performance, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Other notable film roles include The Stars Look Down (1940), Dead of Night (1945), and The Browning Version (1951). He is the father of actresses Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave.

Dame May Whitty (1865 – 1948) was an English stage and film actress. Whitty made her Hollywood debut at age 72 in Night Must Fall (1937) co-starring Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell. For her performance, Whitty was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. After her role for Hitchcock in The Lady Vanishes, Whitty moved permanently to Hollywood where she appeared in many classic films including Suspicion (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Gaslinght (1944), and Green Dolphin Street (1947).

The Lady Vanishes trivia

  • There is no background music, except for the beginning and end of the film
  • Motion picture debut of Michael Redgrave
  • The movie begins in the fictional European country of Bandrinka
  • Charters and Caldicott were created for the movie; they don’t appear in the novel
  • Vivien Leigh screen tested for the role of Iris Henderson

To watch the film, click on the link below.

After you watch the film, join us for a discussion on Zoom, October 13 at 6 p.m. Central Time. For links to the Zoom meeting click the Meetup link.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the Macguffin in this film? A Macguffin “is an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters, but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself.”
  2. The French film director Francois Truffaut said The Lady Vanishes was his favorite Hitchcock film and was the best representation of his work. What do you think he meant? Do you agree?
  3. What did you think of the chemistry between Lockwood and Redgrave?
  4. What did you make of the characters Charters and Caldicott?

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