Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 39
  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    9,605
    Liked
    151 times
    Jonathan Mostow on Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938).



    It's a perfectly decent little movie: it's got an intriguing set-up (an old governess, Miss Froy, disappears without trace from a train), appealing central turns from Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood and Dame May Whitty (as Froy), and clever dialogue by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder.



    But what can it possibly have that the likes of Notorious (1946), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960) lack?



    I never get to ask the question, though, for the simple reason that Mostow clearly doesn't think much of The Lady Vanishes either.



    "I went back a few years ago just out of curiosity to see the movie," he says, "and it totally didn't hold up for me. It's kind of a light… it's sort of like… I don't know what it is.''



    The plot thickens. "It's funny," he says. "It's like when someone says, 'What did you have for lunch yesterday?', and you can't remember. As soon as someone says, 'What's your favourite movie?', my mind goes blank. Maybe it's because I'm coming here to England that I thought of The Lady Vanishes.



    "You know," he continues, "with any film that really makes an impression, you have to talk about where you were in your life when you saw it.



    And I must have been 11, and my father took me to see it in this great old repertory movie theatre, in Connecticut, this old theatre that no longer exists, that was built probably right when silent movies came in, almost a creaky old barn.



    "When I saw the movie again, I was bored - but when I was a kid, I was hooked. It was the seemingly impossible situation of their being on this train, and in a compartment, and Hitchcock sets up the character, and all of a sudden she's gone.



    "Where could she have gone? They're on a train, and the train doesn't stop: how could she disappear? And the main reason I picked this film is because it completely describes all the movies that I've made.



    "And in fact I believe I made Breakdown because I had this film rattling in my subconscious for so many years; making that film was almost the only way of expunging it.''



    For anyone unfamiliar with Breakdown, it's worth pointing out two things: that it is one of the most relentlessly gripping thrillers to have come out of America in the past 10 years; and that "the lady vanishes" is in fact a perfect synopsis of its plot.



    "In Breakdown," says Mostow, currently riding high with his blistering, bone-crunching Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (now on general release), "this woman vanishes, but how could she just vanish out of nowhere?"



    How indeed? Kurt Russell plays Jeff Taylor, moving with his wife, Amy (Kathleen Quinlan) to start a new life in California. When their Jeep falters in the middle of nowhere, an apparently friendly trucker (the late JT Walsh) offers Amy a lift to a diner to call for a tow-truck, while Jeff waits for it to arrive.



    But not only does Jeff, forced to make his own way to the diner, find no trace of them there; when he later happens upon the trucker, he denies ever having met Jeff or Amy.



    "So," says Mostow, "you have this impossible situation, then you have the fact that you just don't know what's going to happen next in the story, which is true of all my movies.



    "I hate it when I see a film and I can check my watch and say, well, there's 45 minutes left, our hero's going to fight the arch-villain, etc etc.''



    Mostow, it would seem, has a personality trait invaluable in a director of thrillers: a low boredom threshold. "I do get bored very easily," he says. "But, although I love movies where I don't know what's going to happen next, at the same time I don't want to feel that things are random and unpredictable.



    "I like the sense that the movie is moving forward, which is why all my pictures have been road pictures: Breakdown was a road picture, when I was going to direct The Game it actually was more of a road picture." (The Game was too "complex", he says, so he executive produced it instead, with David Fincher as director, and wrote the equally excellent cheaper Breakdown.)



    "U-571 is a road picture, too - they're in a submarine, but they're moving from point A to B - and so is Terminator 3.



    "So," he continues, "the physical circumstances of the characters going from A to B are just intrinsically fascinating to me, and I think it's because The Lady Vanishes is one of the first movies I ever saw. It was my first Hitchcock movie, my first suspense movie, and it left such an indelible impression on me that I guess I thought, well, that's what movies should be like.



    "I remember how I felt, watching the movie - I was so caught up in the suspense of it. I was only 11 then, don't forget," he adds in a whisper.



    "I can't wax philosophical about specific aspects of the movie," he continues, "because I don't remember them - I have a more gestalt overview of it. From the emotional sense memory of the movie, though, it was incredibly influential on me.



    "I think," he adds, "that had I seen some other Hitchcock movie at that age, perhaps I'd be making a different kind of movie now."



    But, given the fruits that The Lady Vanishes has evidently borne, we can only be thankful that, all those years ago, Mostow was taken to such an ordinary film.

  2. #2
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    4
    Liked
    0 times
    I also love this film...

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Country: England
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Posts
    4,804
    Liked
    7 times
    Not my favourite Hitchcock, but I have to say The Lady Vanishes is a far less boring film than anything Mr Mostow has given us so far.....

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Posts
    1,812
    Liked
    1 times
    ..was on Sky the other day. Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael were watchable in it, but not as watchable as Cybill Shepherd..............

  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Posts
    1,386
    Liked
    4 times
    name='penfold']Not my favourite Hitchcock, but I have to say The Lady Vanishes is a far less boring film than anything Mr Mostow has given us so far.....


    Well said, Mark, - the arrogance of the bloke: "it totally didn't hold up for me!"



    Prat!



    rgds

    Rob

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain vaggmk1938's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    1,443
    Liked
    12 times
    I think that it holds up pretty well. I cannot remember when I first saw it, but it was certainly in the 1950s. I own a copy and watch it perhaps once a year.



    "Night Train to Munich" is another Lockwood movie I have and also like to rewatch. Basil Radford and Naughton Wayne are in both, of course, and though funnier, I think, in TLV, they are a wonderful pair of loyal, true-blue, single-minded dimwits.



    For a take-off on cricket, the opening scene of "The Final Test"--the American arriving in London during a Test Match and reading the newsboys' plaques is priceless and worth the price of admission for the film just for that short sequence.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    5,960
    Liked
    103 times
    Didn't Charters and Caldicott (like Laurel and Hardy ...?) share a double bed in the early hotel scene in this film ?










    Charters and Caldicott, the bumbling friends in Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, were not added just for comic relief. They were symbolic of a peculiarly British obstinacy in the face of Nazi aggression, says Matthew Sweet



    Saturday December 29, 2007

    The Guardian



    The Nazis might have dreamed them up to make us feel foolish. A pair of well-fed Englishmen - snobbish, blimpish, sexless and self-regarding. Careless of everything but their petty obsessions. Careless of everything but cricket. You can imagine Lord Haw-Haw offering them as exemplars of British complacency and amateurism, enumerating their stupidities from a bunker studio in Berlin, sneering their names into the microphone: Charters and Caldicott.

    Charters and Caldicott are the two chronically unimpressed Englishmen among the cast of foreign crooks and conspirators hurtling westwards in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. Charters was played by Basil Radford - sleepy bovine eyes, roast-beef figure, a scar from the trenches on his right cheek. Caldicott was played by Naunton Wayne - slight, sulky, insouciant. Radford was a clergyman's son from Chester who collected china bulls, dreamed of playing Henry VIII and lived on Old Burlington Street in a house once occupied by Lord Byron. Wayne was a solicitor's son from Llanwonno, Glamorganshire, who had risen from the concert party on Barry Island, through the non-stop variety at the London Pavilion, to a starring role in a British film musical called Going Gay. The Lady Vanishes turned them into a double act. "As inseparable in the public mind as mild and bitter or mustard and cress," as one newspaper put it.



    Charters and Caldicott sauntered into the culture in September 1938, a few days before Neville Chamberlain landed at Heston airport with a fateful piece of paper in his hand. They struck such a chord with audiences that the characters - or this pairing of actors, in copycat roles with suspiciously similar names - bumbled through British films and radio series until the 1980s. Odd, when you consider how obnoxious they are for so much of their debut film.

    In The Lady Vanishes, Charters and Caldicott are the men who hold the key to the mystery of the title - and yet refuse to yield it and save the heroine. Iris Matilda Henderson, played by Margaret Lockwood, is a young socialite travelling back to London to be married to a drearily well-connected fianc�. A few hours into the journey, she suspects that her sanity has deserted her. She's certain that she has just had tea in the dining car with Miss Froy, a friendly septuagenarian with oatmeal tweeds and a pleasantly crumpled face. But now the old lady has gone missing, and nobody on the train will admit to having seen her. Miss Froy has become the victim of a kidnap plot. She is a British spy couriering a clause of an international treaty, encoded as the first few bars of a Balkan folk song - but now she's trussed up in bandages inside a closed compartment, guarded by a sour-faced nun in high-heeled shoes. It's that kind of picture.



    Charters and Caldicott know that Miss Froy was on the train. They met her in the dining car, when Charters was using sugar cubes to plot out a contentious moment from a legendary England-Australia test match. (The names of the players suggest that it's from the notorious "Bodyline" tour of 1932-33.) Asked by Iris to recall the incident and prove that Miss Froy was more than a figment of her imagination, Charters and Caldicott play dumb, afraid that any admission will delay their progress to view some leather-on-willow action at Old Trafford. "We were deep in conversation," snaps Charters. "We were discussing cricket." Iris is baffled and disgusted. "I don't see how a thing like cricket can make you forget seeing people," she protests. Charters's portcullis crashes down. "Oh, don't you?" he bristles. "Well, if that's your attitude, obviously there's nothing more to be said. Come, Caldicott." They disappear - and Iris is consigned to hours of mental agony.



    The Lady Vanishes is one of the least analysed pictures in the Hitchcock canon; critics have always preferred to pick over the railway-bookstand Freudianism of his American films. When Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol wrote their pioneering study of the director, they concluded that the film "requires little commentary". The critic Geoffrey O'Brien has argued: "The Lady Vanishes is the film that best exemplifies Hitchcock's often asserted desire to offer audiences not a slice of life but a slice of cake." Watching the film again, in a bright new print struck by the British Film Institute, that seems to me to be an unsupportable position. The Lady Vanishes is the most political film that Hitchcock ever made. It is a parable about Britain during the appeasement years. It is also Hitchcock's guilty farewell to his homeland - the work of a man who suspected that war was coming, and had already decided to sit it out in Hollywood drinking orange juice.

    Geographically, the journey on which Charters and Caldicott are propelled is a train ride through the Balkan state of Brandrika, but the critical history of the film shows that many viewers thought they were watching a story set in Austria on the eve of the Anschluss. Spiritually, the pair's journey is from self-absorbed triviality to uncompromising engagement with the enemy. At the beginning of the picture, they are models of insular indifference - by the last reel, their revolvers are blam-blam-blamming away as soldiers surround their stranded railway carriage, and Charters is nursing a bloody gunshot wound. It's a version of the journey made by many British people at the end of the 1930s - and it was one on which Hitchcock himself, much to the disgust of many of his friends and colleagues, refused to embark.



    The Lady Vanishes owes its place in the Hitchcock canon to a misfortune suffered by a second unit director called Fred Gunn. In 1936, Gunn was despatched to Yugoslavia to gather some location shots for a new film thriller about a group of English tourists caught up in political upheaval in the Balkans. The script - then called Lost Lady - had been adapted from Ethel Lina White's novel The Wheel Spins. The adaptors were Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, a smart pair of screenwriters under contract to Gainsborough Studios. Roy William Neill, an American expatriate who had been working in Hollywood since 1917, was assigned to direct. Just before Gunn departed for Belgrade, Gilliat urged him to tear out the first few pages of the script, which outlined a mischievous moment of associative montage. The plan was to cut from a gaggle of Nazis goose-stepping across the screen to a gaggle of geese doing more or less the same thing. Gilliat explained that if the authorities in Belgrade were permitted to look at those pages, the crew would be forced to forage elsewhere for nice shots of peaks and lakes and forests. But the pages stayed.



    Then, early in the shoot, Gunn tripped over a length of railway track and broke his ankle. Somebody in a peaked cap had a gander at the first few scenes, and Gunn found himself on a train back to Calais. Neill moved on to another picture. The project was abandoned. And then, the following year, Hitchcock, searching around for one last film to make before boarding the boat to America, picked up Launder and Gilliat's script and announced his intention to film it - if they would write a new opening and add some violent twists to the last reel. As rewrites progressed, all three men realised that the film was being colonised by two minor characters. Two Englishmen with a cricket fixation.



    Charters and his friend - named Spanswick in the 1936 draft of the script, after Gilliat's gardener - are the invention of the screenwriters. At first, they were just a pair of act one exposition devices - like the servants who hugger-mugger in the footlights at the top of a Shakespeare play and fill you in on what's going down with the rich folks. We would have clocked them chugging across a mountain lake on a steamer, discussing the ghastly political situation and grumbling about the inadequacies of the transport system. ("We order things better on Windermere, old man.")

    "They were intended to walk round the steamer and through the customs and that was it," Gilliat told the film critic Geoff Brown in the mid-1970s. "But of course they stuck."

    They stuck, I think, because if there was one prediction that could be made about the kind of country that Britain would have become under Nazi occupation, it's that there would have been no place in it for men as trivial as Charters and Caldicott. And that made their casual clubroom banter, a meandering, throwaway humour, into a weapon of war - one that was deployed with enthusiasm for the rest of the 1940s.



    They returned in another Launder and Gilliat script, Night Train to Munich (1940), helping Rex Harrison to stay undercover in Hitler's Germany; passing secret messages under doughnuts; attempting to buy a copy of Punch at a newspaper stand, but finding only Mein Kampf. "I understand they give a copy to all bridal couples here," declares Radford. "Oh," replies Wayne, "I don't think it's that sort of book, old man."



    The following year, Radford and Wayne had their names above the title in Crook's Tour, in which Charters and Caldicott blunder from Baghdad to Budapest, pursued by Nazis who mistakenly believe them to be British agents intent on blowing up an Iraqi oil pipeline. Launder and Gilliat gave them a cameo in Millions Like Us (1943), seeding a British beach with landmines. ("Must remember not to bathe here after the war," notes Caldicott.) Film companies without the rights to use the characters cast Radford and Wayne in roles with the same shtick and the same cultural resonance. They were golfing rivals in Ealing's portmanteau horror picture Dead of Night (1942) and a pair of blabbermouthed travelling companions whose careless talk costs lives in The Next of Kin (1942). They were Major Bright and Captain Early, two slow-witted former intelligence officers who set up as private detectives in It's Not Cricket (1949). The characters even survived the deaths of Radford and Wayne in the 1970s remake of The Lady Vanishes and a 1985 BBC comedy thriller serial by Keith Waterhouse. By then, Charters and Caldicott were a vague nostalgic memory.

    When Radford suffered his final heart attack in October 1952 - reaching for a beer in a Mayfair restaurant - British newspapers printed daily bulletins on his progress and saluted his skill in portraying "the stoical stupidity of the tweedy British character". His obituary in the Times described his customary role as "the Englishman of a popular romantic convention. No great shakes as a thinker, this Englishman never lost his sense of values, and in the thick of fearful hazards was less dismayed by the likelihood of imminent capture than by the news that England had collapsed in the second innings."



    It sounds irresponsible - repulsive, even. Unless, perhaps, you recall that David Low cartoon in the Evening Standard in which Chamberlain was depicted as a nervous batsman at whom Mussolini and Hitler are bowling a hand grenade. Or reflect that if German tanks had ploughed up the grass at Lord's, or German troops goose-stepped by the gates of Old Trafford, then fusty middle-aged clubmen might have been this country's last line of defence - dusting off their service revolvers to make one last stand from the bar of the cricket pavilion.

    During the war, Lord's was requisitioned by the RAF. The Oval became a prisoner of war camp. Cricket grounds up and down the country were ploughed and planted. It's said that the war killed class deference, in cricket as much as in the rest of national life; that it created the possibility for a more just and equal society.



    But if the second world war was a battle to preserve the British way of life, that means it was also a battle to preserve British complacency, British snobbery, British amateurism, British silly insularity. And while swastikas flying over Whitehall were a real and frightening possibility, it's easy to understand why these two characters became so attractive to audiences sitting in the dark of the Essoldo, dreaming of peace - dreaming of living in a country fit for fools like Charters and Caldicott.



    The Lady Vanishes will be screened at BFI Southbank, London SE1, on dates throughout January. Details: bfi.org.uk/020 7928 3232.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    3,771
    Liked
    86 times
    Matthew has given the wrong date for Dead of Night. Instead of 1942 it should be 1945. But the rest of the article is fine.



    Nick

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: Canada
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Posts
    679
    Liked
    0 times
    Quote Originally Posted by julian_craster
    Didn't Charters and Caldicott (like Laurel and Hardy ...?) share a double bed in the early hotel scene in this film ?
    I'm sure you're right. Later on they're caught sharing a toilet. Always get a kick out of that pair and their shenigans!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Posts
    9,605
    Liked
    151 times
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Rattigan
    I'm sure you're right. Later on they're caught sharing a toilet. Always get a kick out of that pair and their shenigans!
    Iirc they were in the lobby getting the cricket scores, then later enter the story on the platform or in the train dining car?

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: UK
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    278
    Liked
    0 times
    Was the BBC series any good? Robin Bailey and Michael Aldridge would seem to be good casting.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Posts
    1,386
    Liked
    4 times
    Quote Originally Posted by julian_craster
    No great shakes as a thinker, this Englishman never lost his sense of values, and in the thick of fearful hazards was less dismayed by the likelihood of imminent capture than by the news that England had collapsed in the second innings."



    It sounds irresponsible - repulsive, even. Unless, perhaps, you recall that David Low cartoon in the Evening Standard in which Chamberlain was depicted as a nervous batsman at whom Mussolini and Hitler are bowling a hand grenade.
    I wouldn't have used the word "repulsive". Anyone who might think that, fails to understand the subtleties of the British character in wartime. To be fair, the point is acknowledged by the author of this interesting piece. I wasn't aware of the earlier project to film the book.



    (Nit-picking mode) there is one other error: the "book for bridal couples" joke came in "The Lady Vanishes", not "Night Train to Munich" as seems to be implied here (at least I think it did!)



    The "sharing the double bed" came about because they had to have the maid's room in the overcrowded hotel - which was the spur for more jokes about sharing the maid. It seems only recently that two males sharing a double bed has acquired the connotations it now has. It hardly caused comment when Morecambe and Wise did it in the 1970's.



    rgds

    Rob

  13. #13
    Super Moderator Country: UK batman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Posts
    27,595
    Liked
    255 times
    Quote Originally Posted by ican
    Was the BBC series any good? Robin Bailey and Michael Aldridge would seem to be good casting.
    I enjoyed it. Not a classic but good fun.



    Bats.

  14. #14
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    3
    Liked
    0 times
    I absolutely love this film, I remember seeing it on the telly on one of many "days off" at Uni... I missed the very start and so didn't know what I was viewing but upon being hooked and totally absorbed by it I knew it was something special!



    Mostow made the frankly ridiculous U571 with Jon Bon Jovi, so I don't really credit his opinion here... as for me, well I have just paid �17.00 smackers for Criterion's brand new spankingly fime DVD of "The Lady Vanishes" which I fully recommend to anyone who loves this Hitchcock thriller.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: UK Brief Encounter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    1,852
    Liked
    10 times
    I'm off to see it later!

  16. #16
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    29,732
    Liked
    418 times
    Quote Originally Posted by julian_craster
    Charters and Caldicott, the bumbling friends in Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, were not added just for comic relief. They were symbolic of a peculiarly British obstinacy in the face of Nazi aggression, says Matthew Sweet
    My favourite Charters & Caldicott moment is in the somewhat similar Night Train to Munich (1940).



    Stuck in Europe and in the face of Nazi agression you have the following delightful exchange:

    Charters: I bought a copy of Mein Kampf. Occurred to me it might shed a spot of light on all this... how d'ye do. Ever read it?

    Caldicott: Never had the time.

    Charters: I understand they give a copy to all the bridal couples over here.

    Caldicott: Oh, I don't think it's that sort of book, old man.



    Wonderful characters



    Steve

  17. #17
    Senior Member Country: UK image45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    578
    Liked
    0 times
    Quote Originally Posted by robbie71
    I also love this film...
    To be honest its very hard not to isn’t it! When I was a small child I used to look forward to the Sunday afternoons when it was most often shown so I could enjoy this lovely flowing pleasant English gem. It was not until I got older and studied the British 1920’s silent films and early 1930’s sound films of Mr Alfred Hitchcock that I discovered it was one of his films that I loved because it was a great film rather than because I new it was directed by himself.



    Excellent I must get the DVD out and watch it soon indeed.


  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: UK
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    193
    Liked
    1 times
    I love the exchange where the undercover nasty protests his Englishness and therefore his innocence by saying �I went to Oxford!� . Michael Redgrave nevertheless clobbers him with a chair and when asked �why did you do that?� answers �Well, I went to Cambridge�.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Country: Lithuania Cooper S's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    485
    Liked
    4 times
    Quote Originally Posted by julian_craster
    Saturday December 29, 2007

    The Guardian



    ...It is also Hitchcock's guilty farewell to his homeland - the work of a man who suspected that war was coming, and had already decided to sit it out in Hollywood drinking orange juice....
    I'm sure I heard somewhere that Hitchcock was actively encouraged to go to Hollywood to promote the British cause. Foreign Correspondent certainly helped bring home the reality of the 'European' war to the US.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: Aaland dremble wedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    4,269
    Liked
    85 times
    My favourite British film and one I enjoy more each time I see it.



    And it gives me the excuse to post a picture of my favourite actress of the period: Linden Travers




Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Lady Vanishes on Blu-Ray
    By CaptainWaggett in forum Latest DVD Releases
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 09-12-11, 11:17 AM
  2. The Lady Vanishes
    By CaptainWaggett in forum Radio Talk
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 31-10-11, 12:44 AM
  3. The Lady Vanishes.Showcase Channel
    By flynn in forum Films on TV
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-04-11, 02:15 PM
  4. The Divorce of Lady X (1938), Network DVD
    By JamesM in forum Latest DVD Releases
    Replies: 19
    Last Post: 15-04-10, 10:13 PM
  5. The Lady Vanishes
    By donna in forum Film Locations
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 28-04-08, 01:12 PM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts