The Lady Vanishes (1938) starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty, Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford, Googie Withers directed by Alfred Hitchcock Movie Review

The Lady Vanishes (1938)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood in The Lady Vanishes (1938)


Hitchcock annoys me. Actually he doesn't but the people who go over board when watching his movies and go looking for hidden depth and meaning, it drives me crazy at the amount of over analysis which goes on when it came to what something meant. As such in this review of Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" you won't hear me go on about the significance of a train jolt in changing the story or what the opening use of a model train and village signifies. What you will hear me say is that "The Lady Vanishes" is an entertaining comedy, thriller which trades on the British stereotype of the 1930s, from the cad to those who don't want to get involved.

After an avalanche forces many travellers to spend a night in a packed hotel in Bandrika, soon to be married Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood - The Slipper and the Rose) meets Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) when they are disturbed by a young musician, Gilbert (Michael Redgrave - Battle of Britain), playing his music loudly on the floor above their rooms. It is Miss Froy who cares for Iris when shortly before she gets on the train home the next day she is accidentally hit by a falling box and ends up conscious. But when after a doze Iris can't find Miss Froy on the train she believes something is afoot and having bumped into Gilbert they set about trying to finding the missing Miss Froy.

Dame May Whitty as Miss Froy in The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Taken as a Hitchcock thriller "The Lady Vanishes" doesn't work. Okay so it has all the parts, the mystery as to what has happened to Miss Froy and the intrigue into why other passengers on the train deny ever seeing her but it is full of holes. The most significant of these is that when you discover why Miss Froy disappeared it makes the movie nonsense although one which builds to an entertaining action ending.

But then in a way "The Lady Vanishes" is meant to be nonsense because the focus for me is on the humour, be it Gilbert being a cad to the awfully British way the others react to Iris as she tries to find Miss Froy. It is simply amusing watching Charters and Caldicott become annoyed when their chat about cricket is interrupted by something and watching Gilbert force his way into Iris's room when she tries to have him thrown out of the hotel for being noisy is just as much fun. I could go on because there is so much humour, from comical action to the hilarious sight of Charters and Caldicott sharing a single bed.

Now whilst Hitchcock's perfect pacing makes "The Lady Vanishes" a jaunty affair and his use of camera techniques makes it visually entertaining much of the reason why it works is down to the cast. Margaret Lockwood is instantly loveable as Iris, beautiful but not a weak woman whilst Michael Redgrave turns on the charm as Gilbert being a bit of a cad but also a good guy. And then there is the wonderful Dame May Whitty as Miss Froy, a typically slightly eccentric older English lady but one who makes you smile.

What this all boils down to is that "The Lady Vanishes" is one of Hitchcock's most fun movies because of its humorous use of English stereotypes. And that is why it is still worth watching. Oh I am sure for those who feel the need to over analyse Hitchcock movies there is plenty to analyse but for those who just want to be entertained "The Lady Vanishes" still does exactly that.