The Lady Vanishes
is a 1938 British Thriller (genre) film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas and May Whitty.< name="imdb"></> Written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder based on the 1936 novel The Wheel Spins
by Ethel Lina White, the film is about a beautiful English tourist travelling by train in Europe who discovers that her elderly travelling companion seems to have disappeared from the train. After her fellow passengers deny ever having seen the elderly lady, the young woman is helped by a young musicologist, and the two proceed to search the train for clues to the old woman's disappearance. The film features Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, who for the first time, play the characters Charters and Caldicott, two single-minded cricket enthusiasts who are rushing back to England to catch the last days of a Test cricket.
The Lady Vanishes
is Hitchcock's penultimate film made in the United Kingdom before his move to the United States.< name="allmovie"></> It was made in the Gainsborough Studios in Islington, London. Following three films that did not do well at the box office, the success of The Lady Vanishes
confirmed the opinion of American producer David O. Selznick that Hitchcock indeed had a future in making films in Hollywood.< name="tcm"></> The film remains one of Hitchcock's two or three best known British films.< name="spoto-art-71"/> A remake of the film, also titled The Lady Vanishes (1979 film)
, was made in 1979, and in March 2013 the BBC broadcast The Lady Vanishes (2013 film) for television. It starred Tuppence Middleton as Iris.
English tourist Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) arrives at the "Gasthof Petrus" inn in the fictitious country of Bandrika, "one of Europe's few undiscovered corners". Iris is returning to Britain to marry a "blue-blooded cheque chaser", but an avalanche has blocked the railway line. The stranded passengers are forced to stay the night at the inn, including Charters and Caldicott, cricket enthusiasts who want to return to England to see the last days of the Test cricket.
That evening, Iris complains about loud folk music coming from the room above her. She has Gilbert (Michael Redgrave), the guilty musician, thrown out of his room, only to have him move into hers, forcing her to capitulate.
Miss Froy (May Whitty), a former governess and music teacher listens to a tune performed by a folk singer under her window. Unseen by her, the singer is killed.
The next morning, before catching the train, Iris is hit on the head by a planter apparently aimed at Miss Froy, who then helps Iris onto the train. Also on board are Charters and Caldicott, Gilbert, and a lawyer named Todhunter and his mistress "Mrs. Todhunter". As a result of her injury, Iris blacks out. After the train is moving, Iris wakes up in a compartment with Miss Froy and several strangers. She joins Miss Froy in the dining car for tea. Unable to be heard above the train noise, the elderly lady writes her name on the window with her finger. Soon after, they return to their compartment, where Iris falls asleep.
When Iris awakens, Miss Froy has vanished. The strangers in her compartment say they know nothing about an English lady. Even Todhunter in the next compartment, who spoke with Miss Froy earlier, pretends not to remember her. Iris searches, but cannot find her. She meets up with Gilbert, who agrees to help. Dr. Hartz (Paul Lukas), a brain surgeon, says Iris may be suffering from concussion-related hallucinations. Charters and Caldicott also claim not to remember Miss Froy, because they are afraid a delay would make them miss the cricket match.
Another lady appears, dressed exactly like Miss Froy, but Iris and Gilbert continue to search. They are attacked by a knife-wielding magician, Signor Doppo. They start to suspect that Dr. Hartz's patient, whose face is covered by bandages, is Miss Froy. Dr. Hartz tells his fellow conspirator, dressed as a nun, to kill the couple; convinced they will soon be dead, he admits to being involved in the conspiracy. The false nun does not follow Hartz's instructions out of loyalty to her fellow countrywoman; Gilbert and Iris escape, free Miss Froy and replace her with one of the conspirators.
When the train stops near the border, Dr. Hartz discovers the switch. He has part of the train diverted onto a branch line, where soldiers await. Gilbert and Iris inform their fellow passengers what is happening. When the train pulls to a stop, a uniformed soldier requests that they all accompany him. Todhunter attempts to surrender, waving a white handkerchief, and is shot dead. Another soldier fires and wounds Charters in the hand.
During the gunfight, Miss Froy reveals to Gilbert and Iris that she is a British agent who must deliver a message to the Foreign Office in Whitehall. The message is encoded in the tune that the folk singer sang. Gilbert memorises the tune. With his help, Miss Froy slips away into the forest. Gilbert and Caldicott then commandeer the locomotive, and the group escape across the border.
In London, Charters and Caldicott discover the Test Match was cancelled. Iris jumps into a cab with Gilbert in order to avoid her fiancé, and Gilbert kisses her. They arrive at the Foreign Office, but Gilbert is unable to remember the vital tune. Then he hears the melody on the piano; they are joyfully reunited with Miss Froy.
- Margaret Lockwood as Iris Henderson
- Michael Redgrave as Gilbert
- Paul Lukas as Dr. Hartz
- May Whitty as Miss Froy
- Cecil Parker as Mr. Todhunter
- Linden Travers as "Mrs." Todhunter
- Naunton Wayne as Caldicott
- Basil Radford as Charters
- Mary Clare as Baroness
- Emile Boreo as Hotel Manager
- Googie Withers as Blanche
- Sally Stewart as Julie
- Philip Leaver as Signor Doppo
- Selma Vaz Dias as Signora Doppo
- Catherine Lacey as the Nun
- Josephine Wilson as Madame Kummer
- Charles Oliver (actor) as the Officer
- Kathleen Tremaine as Anna
The Lady Vanishes
was originally called The Lost Lady
, and young American director Roy William Neill was assigned by producer Edward Black (producer) to make it. A crew was dispatched to Yugoslavia to do background shots, but when the Yugoslav police accidentally discovered that they were not well-portrayed in the script, they kicked the crew out of the country, and Black scrapped the project. A year later, Hitchcock could not come up with a property to direct to fulfil his contract with Black, so he accepted when Black offered The Lost Lady
to him. Hitchcock worked with the writers to make some changes to tighten up the opening and ending of the story, but otherwise the script did not change much. and Shepherd's Bush, and on location in Hampshire, including at Bordon and Longmoor Military Camps,< name="imdblocations"></> was the first to be made under an agreement between Gaumont British and MGM, in which Gaumont provided MGM with some of their Gainsborough films for release in the UK, for which MGM would pay half the production costs if MGM decided to release the film in the US. In the case of The Lady Vanishes
, however, </> In his review for BFI Screenonline
, Mark Duguid wrote that the film was "arguably the most accomplished, and certainly the wittiest of Hitchcock's British films, and is up there with the best of his American work".< name="bfi"></> Duguid singled out the young writing partnership of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, noting:
The American film critic and historian Leonard Maltin gave the film four out of four stars in his Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide
,< name="tcm"/> and included the film in his list of 100 Must-See Films of the 20th Century.< name="amc"></>
=Awards and honours=
The Lady Vanishes
was named Best Picture of 1938 by The New York Times
. In 1939, Hitchcock received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, the only time Hitchcock received an award for his directing.< name="tcm"/>< name="imdbawards"></>
Charters and Caldicott
The humorous characters Charters and Caldicott proved to be so popular that they were featured in three somewhat related films that were made by other writers and directors. Night Train to Munich
(1940) was the first of the three and was directed by Carol Reed. This film was also written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder and starred Margaret Lockwood (playing a different character than in The Lady Vanishes
) as well as Rex Harrison. Night Train to Munich
was given a DVD release by Criterion.
The duo also appeared in 1941 in Crook's Tour
written by Barbara K. Emary and directed by John Baxter. This film was included as a bonus feature on the Criterion DVD and Blu-ray release of The Lady Vanishes
. The last film to feature the Charters and Caldicott characters was Millions Like Us
(1943), which was once again written by Gilliat and Launder, who also assumed the role of directors. Hitchcock had nothing to do with any of these films, and indeed he had relocated to Hollywood by the time they went into production.
- Rich, Nataniel (2007). "The Lady Vanishes: Hitchcock's First Hitchcock Film" in Slate (magazine). 4 December 2007.
Category:1930s thriller films
Category:British spy films
Category:Comedy thriller films
Category:Films about missing people
Category:Films based on mystery novels
Category:Films directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Category:Psychological thriller films
Category:Films set on trains
Category:Films set in a fictional European country