The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes, from 1938, is the story of a group of travelers on a trans-European train who are delayed in a small fictional country called Mandrika.

The passengers cram into the small village hotel, where socialite Iris Henderson meets an old governess called Miss Froy. But shortly after the journey restarts, Miss Froy disappears.

The Lady Vanishes was originally called The Lost Lady, and a young American director was assigned by producer Edward Black to make it.

A crew was dispatched to Yugoslavia to do background shots, but when the Yugoslav police accidentally discovered that they were not being shown in a favorable light in the script, they kicked the crew out of the country, and Black scrapped the project.

A year later, Hitchcock couldn't find a film to direct to fulfill a contract obligation with Black, so he accepted when the producer offered The Lost Lady to him. The Lady Vanishes was the next-to-last film Hitchcock made in England before going to L.A. & Hollywood.

At first, Hitchcock considered Lilli Palmer for the female lead, but went instead with Margaret Lockwood, who at the time was relatively unknown. Michael Redgrave was also unknown to the cinema audience,but was a rising stage star at the time.

He was reluctant to leave the stage to do the film, but was convinced by John Gielgud to do so. As it happened, the film, Redgrave's first leading role, made him an international star.

It was remade in 1979 and starred Elliot Gould, Cybil Shepherd & Angela Lansbury.

Several themes of the movie (someone vanishing from a moving vehicle, a dizzy woman as only witness, writing on the window as proof, etc.) reappear in the 2005 thriller Flightplan, starring Jodie Foster.

Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born in 1899 and was grew up in a very strict Catholic family. As a child, Hitchcock was sent to the local police station with a letter from his father.

The desk sergeant read the letter and immediately locked the boy up for ten minutes and then the sergeant let young Alfred go, explaining, "This is what happens to people who do bad things."

Hitchcock had a morbid fear of police from that day on.

He never did learn to drive and he cited this phobia as the reason, because a person who doesn't drive can never be pulled over and given a ticket. It was also cited as the reason for the recurring "wrong man" themes in his films.

Hitchcock’s first job in film was designing titles for films. In 1923, he got his first chance at directing when the director of a film fell ill and Hitch completed the movie.

Hitchcock’s famous tradition of making cameo appearance in his movies started with this film. Watch for a portly young Hitchcock on the station train platform near the end of the film.

His cameos became so popular that he eventually began making his appearances near the beginning of his films, because he knew viewers were watching for him and he didn't want to divert their attention away from the story's plot.

For Lifeboat in 1944,a film about a small group of people trying to survive on a small boat, he had a hard time figuring out how to do one of his signature cameos. He eventually came up with the idea to have his picture in a newspaper advertisement for weight loss that is floating among some debris around the boat.

His famous profile sketch, most often associated with his TV series, actually from a Christmas card he designed himself.

By 1942, Hitchcock had developed such a reputation that film companies began to call his films after him, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho & Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy.

He was a close friend of Albert R. Broccoli, well known as the producer of the James Bond - 007 franchise.

And although he was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, Hitchcock never won. He did win the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968 where he delivered one of the shortest acceptance speeches in Oscar history: he simply said "Thank you."

Hitchcock’s wife of almost 60 years, Alma Reveille, was his closest collaborator and contributed to all of her husband's films, usually without a credit. She would be shown stories, scripts, storyboards and all the film elements, right through to the final edit.

Other collaborators said that the greatest compliment that Hitchcock would give was to say "Alma loved it."

But Alma does get a credit in this film…...for continuity.

In 1979, when Hitchcock was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award, he said this famous quote:

"I beg permission to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation, and encouragement, and constant collaboration.”

“The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen….and their names are Alma Reville." 

He died in 1980 and his wife Alma died 2 years later.

Margaret Lockwood, playing Iris Henderson, named her daughter Julia after Julius Caesar to commemorate her birth by Caesarian operation.  She had a film & TV career well into the 1970s.

This movie was Michael Redgrave first major film role. He was the patriarch of England’s most celebrated theatrical family and the father of Lynn Redgrave, Corin Redgrave, & Vanessa Redgrave, all renowned actors.

And his grandchildren include Natasha Richardson, Joely Richardson, and Jemma Redgrave, who were also noted actresses.

You may remember recently that his granddaughter, Natasha Richardson, who was married to Liam Neeson, died suddenly after falling and receiving a head injury while skiing in Canada.

Michael Redgrave was bisexual and his wife Lady Rachel Kempson recounted that when she proposed to him, Redgrave said that there were "difficulties to do with his nature, and that he felt he ought not to marry".

She said that she understood, it didn't matter and that she loved him -   they were married in 1935. In spite of his occasional affairs, his marriage to Lady Rachel Kempson endured for almost 50 years.

Dame May Whitty, Miss Froy, was the first actress to be awarded a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE), the female equivalent to knighthood, in 1918.

But she didn’t receive the award for her acting - she received it for her hospital work during World War I.

She also received 2 Oscar nominations for Night Must Fall and Mrs. Miniver.

Paul Lukas, playing Dr. Hartz, won an Oscar in 1944 for Watch on the Rhine, and you may recognize him as Professor Arronax in Disney’s 20,000 leagues Under the Sea.

The script is witty and entertaining with some very clever lines.

Although The Lady Vanishes is one of Hitchcock's early low-budget black and white British films, and the fake model shots at the start of the film are painfully obvious, this movie gives us a hint of the future talents of Alfred Hitchcock.