1938’s The Lady Vanishes for the Hitchcock Blogathon

My post today is for the Third Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films.  Please visit Maddy’s site and read other great posts written by Hitchcock fans and classic movie fans! I love a mystery movie with a good, suspenseful plot, great acting, and at the end of it all, glad that I spent the time given to watching it.  About 5 years ago while perusing TCM’s monthly schedule, I noticed an Alfred Hitchcock film that I had never heard of before, 1938’s The Lady Vanishes, so I recorded it and viewed it and it fit into my category of movies that I absolutely love.This film was director Alfred Hitchcock’s last film to make in his native England before he sailed across the pond to begin making films in Hollywood.  Set in 1938 Europe, mainly aboard a train, with a bit of some eccentric travelers, the story’s heroine sets out to prove herself right about another passenger who mysteriously vanishes.

Iris Henderson(Margaret Lockwood) has been on a European holiday but has to head back to England via a train, her fiance awaiting her there.  Due to an avalanche covering an area of the train tracks, the passengers have to disembark and spend the night at an Inn.  Among the fellow passengers is an elderly, retired governess, Miss Froy(Dame May Whitty), two rabid cricket enthusiasts Charters(Basil Radford) and Caldicott( Naunton Wayne), a music professor Gilbert Redman(Michael Redgrave), a businessman and his mistress, Mr. Todhunter(Cecil Parker) “Mrs.” Todhunter(Linden Travers), and a gentlemanly Dr. Hartz(Paul Lukas).  At the Inn, Iris befriends Miss Froy, is irritated by the music professor and his loud folk music, and is accidentally hit on the head by a falling flowerpot-ouch! Could that flowerpot have been meant for one of the other travelers?

Margaret Lockwood(Iris) looking over the script with director, Alfred Hitchcock.

Iris having a toast with her friends before her departure for England.

The next day dawns, the tracks are cleared, and it’s all aboard for the trip to England.  The first 30 minutes or so of this movie is more of a comedic tinged portrayal of mostly British travelers just wanting to get back to jolly old England and frustrated by the avalanche, by the Inn, etc.  However, once the journey really begins, so does the mystery and a sinister air.  Iris spends part of the trip having a lovely visit with Miss Froy and they share tea together. After Iris takes a nap, she can’t find Miss Froy and other passengers claim they haven’t seen an elderly lady aboard the train!  Did Iris dream Miss Froy up?  Could this be a reaction from the hard hit on the head?  Iris won’t accept the other passengers words and is determined to find Miss Froy.  She is able to convince the music professor, Gilbert, to help her in her quest and it doesn’t hurt that he’s pretty handsome, and that she is pretty beautiful-sorry fiance in England!  I can’t divulge too much more about the plot, but a nun(Catherine Lacey) will be involved, a musical tune, and the cricket obsessed travelers, the adulterous businessman and his mistress-all will join forces for the good with Iris and Gilbert.  Dr. Hartz? Not as gentlemanly as we first assume-watch out for him!

THE LADY VANISHES, Dame May Whitty, Margaret Lockwood, 1938, meeting on a train.

Iris asking other passengers if they have seen Miss Froy.

Gilbert and Iris need to be very wary of Dr. Hartz!

The intrepid British travelers, on the side of good.

Yes, Hitchcock makes his cameo in the film so be on the lookout for him.  The Lady Vanishes was based on the 1936 book The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, and the screenplay was written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder.  It has been ranked as the 35th best British film by the British Film Institute.  TCM airs it from time to time and it will air on April 19th at 11:15 p.m. eastern time/10:15 p.m. central time.  Be sure to tune in for a great Hitchcock film, before he took his career West!

9 responses to this post.

  1. I think Maggie Lockwood is dreamy. Good review!


  2. Can’t believe I STILL haven’t seen this one, despite all the great things I’ve heard about it. But I’m really looking to watching this now that I’ve read your review. 🙂


  3. Nice review of a delightful movie!


  4. Posted by maddylovesherclassicfilms on February 9, 2019 at 6:57 PM

    Isn’t this one great? Such a good combination of mystery, thrills, romance, comedy and action. Brilliant performances. I love Gilbert and Iris and their bickering slowly turning into affection and love.

    Thanks for joining me, Jenni.


    • Oh, yes! Lockwood and Redgrave had great chemistry in this film and it was the first Redgrave film I’d ever seen. I had heard of him, of course, but hadn’t bothered to watch any of him films prior to this one. I had read that his star was on the rise due to stage work, and when Hitchcock had asked him to be in this film, he was going to turn it down, but then he discussed the offer with John Gielgud who encouraged him to make the film. Glad that Redgrave listened to Gielgud’s advice!


      • Posted by maddylovesherclassicfilms on February 9, 2019 at 7:01 PM

        It’s one of my favourite performances from Michael Redgrave, so funny and likeable. I’m glad he took the advice to star in this too!

      • Have you seen any of Lockwood’s other films? If not, I’d recommend The Wicked Lady, where she has great chemistry with James Mason. I think it parallels Gone With The Wind, a bit, in that Lockwood is an evil, scheming woman, and it’s set in 1660s England, give or take a couple 100 years.

      • Posted by maddylovesherclassicfilms on February 9, 2019 at 7:06 PM

        Yes, I have seen loads of her films. She is one of my favourite actresses. Love The Wicked Lady so much. She’s also great in Love Story, Jassy and The Man In Grey.

  5. […] Portraitsbyjenni talks all about The Lady Vanishes […]


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