The Lady Vanishes – Alfred Hitchcock
Their sense of decorum is offended when they are relegated to the maid’s room at the inn, but even in this predicament, they insist on changing, into evening clothes for dinner. They are then forced, because of the overcrowded conditions, to share a table and even cheese with Miss Froy, whom they characterize as a “queer old bird” after politely informing her that they “never judge any country by its politics.” Their overriding concern throughout the film is to return to England in time to see the championship cricket matches. Reduced to reading an American newspaper, the only newspaper available, they murmur disgustedly that “Americans have no sense of proportion” since the sports section “has nothing but baseball and not a word about cricket.” Later, in the midst of the gunfight, their main concern is whether they will get to the cricket matches on time; however, true to their unflappable British tradition, they remain cool and imperturbable during the crisis. Having both survived the gun battle and helped Gilbert get the train started so that they can all escape, they are dismayed to find when they arrive in London that the cricket matches have been cancelled because of floods. Indeed, the news of the cancellation is the only time they show very much emotion during the entire film. The roles, perfectly played by Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford, proved to be so popular that these actors frequently played similar roles in later films.
Margaret Lockwood as Iris and Michael Redgrave as Gilbert are partic-ularly good in providing the romantic comedy aspect of the film with their antagonism for each other turning to love; they are equally adept at conveying the bewilderment of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circum¬stances. Dame May Whitty is convincing as the little old lady spy, Miss Froy.
As usual in an Alfred Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes has tension and a good sense of pace as well as several ingenious touches. Particularly note¬worthy is the manner in which the film starts out rather ordinarily with the characters having nothing more serious to worry about than finding a room in a crowded hotel. Although the opening section does not reveal the main plot of the film, it does introduce the characters to one another and to the audience without wasting one scene. Also clever is the manner in which Hitchcock. manipulates the evidence of Miss Froy’s disappearance. Each time Iris thinks she has definite proof, it seems to vanish; and likewise, each time she gets so discouraged that she begins to doubt her own memory, new evidence appears. To this carefully controlled confusion, Hitchcock adds the further dimension that Iris can never be quite sure who is with her and who is against her. For example, she keeps telling Dr. Hartz what she discovers only to find out, nearly too late, that he is one of the conspirators who have caused the disappearance of Miss Froy. The Lady Vanishes is vintage Hitchcock, with the imprint of this master filmmaker evident from the overall conception of plot to the slightest detail of filming.