The Farmer's Wife (1928)
|Eliot Stannard (adaptation)|
|Eden Phillpotts (play)|
|Jack E. Cox|
|97 minutes (8,731 feet)|
|black & white|
|silent with English intertitles|
|British International Pictures|
|Wardour Films (UK)|
Farmer Sweetland is a lonely old widower. He is determined to marry again and he enlists the help of his housekeeper Minta to pick a wife from the local single women. (© IMDB)
Eden Phillpotts' comic play The Farmer's Wife, based on his earlier 1913 novel Widecombe Fair, was originally staged in Birmingham in 1916. When it transferred to London in March 1924, it proved to be an enormous success and ran for over 1,300 performances at the Court Theatre, eventually ending it's run on 29th January 1927.
The huge success of the stage play meant that a film version was almost inevitable and speculation in the press as to who would direct the screen adaptation was ended when it was announced at the start of June 1927 that Hitchcock would make the film for British International Pictures. It was also announced that Phillpotts was personally "re-writing, re-shaping and expanding the plot of The Farmer's Wife himself, ready for the screen version".
Following Downhill and Easy Virtue, this was the third and final play-based adaptation by Eliot Stannard for Hitchcock. Writing in "English Hitchcock", film scholar Charles Barr describes Eliot's scenario as:
...a textbook example of intelligent adaptation, combining boldness with sympathetic fidelity. [...] As he had done in adapting Easy Virtue, Stannard constructs a lengthy new opening section, compresses the time scale, and cuts out several supporting characters..."
Stannard also wrote a second scenario based on original Phillpotts novel for British International Pictures around the same time as the one for Hitchcock. Directed by Norman Walker, this was released as Widecombe Fair in 1928 and starred Wyndham Standing, Marguerite Allan and William Freshman.
Established film actors Jameson Thomas and Lillian Hall-Davis were cast in the lead roles of Farmer Sweetland and his faithful housekeeper, alongside Gordon Harker in the comic role of the surly servant Churdles Ash. Prior to filming, it was reported that Cedric Hardwicke, who had played the role of Churdles in the stage play, would appear in the film.
Production began in October 1927 with extensive location shooting in the Devon, Somerset and Surrey countryside. In the weeks before filming commenced, local newspapers reported that Eden Phillpotts had "personally chosen the locations for the film".
The Western Daily Press reported in early October that Hitchcock was filming in Minehead, Somerset, and had told their journalist that "more of the west country scenery would be introduced, and that beauty spots in the district would be visited to acquire the background for a film which would be representative of old English country life."
With location filming completed, the production moved back to Elstree to film interiors. In early December, Mrs Lucy Baldwin, wife of the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, visited Elstree Studios and saw Hitchcock at work on the film.
According to Donald Spoto, the end of filming was celebrated at a London restaurant where Hitchcock played a practical joke on the cast and crew — the waiters had all been replaced by actors who had been instructed to be as rude and clumsy as possible.
Release & Reception
The film received an early trade screening at London Imperial Institute on 12th July 1928 before opening at the Regal Marble Arch Cinema in London on 11th February 1929.
As Hitchcock and Stannard had been relatively faithful to the popular stage play, reviews of the film were largely positive.
The Stage noted that "Alfred Hitchcock, if he is not always entirely successful, has achieved an outstanding film." Although the reviewer felt that Thomas and Hall-Davis lacked something in their performance, "Gordon Harker's portrayal of the old philosopher Churdles is a thing of joy. It is one of the best and most natural studies seen on the screen."
Whilst the Perth Western Mail praised the Devonshire countryside, the reviewer bemoaned the overuse of slap-stick, "for instance, the business with Gordon Harker's beltless trousers, which too frequently show signs of coming down".
Writing in 1936, Hitchcock said of the lead actors:
In 2002, Thomas M. Leitch summarised the film as having a "warmth and sweetness unprecedented in Hitchcock's work and unrivaled in any of his later films before The Trouble with Harry, whose tone is also softened by its rustic setting."
As part of the "Save the Hitchcock 9" campaign, started in 2010, the British Film Institute undertook a full restoration of The Farmer's Wife. The original camera negatives no longer exist and acetate duplicating positives made in the 1960s from the negatives are now the earliest-generation sources.
For further relevant information about this film, see also...
- 1000 Frames of The Farmer's Wife (1928)
- Articles about The Farmer's Wife (1928)
- Titles and Intertitles
- Web links to information, articles, reviews, etc
released in 2008
| Laquelle des Trois (1928) / Manxman (1929) - Studio Canal (France, 2008)|
R2 PAL 1.33:1
released in 2007
| The Farmer's Wife (1928) - Optimum Releasing (UK, 2007) - part of a box set|
R2 PAL 1.33:1
Cast and Crew
- Jameson Thomas - Samuel Sweetland
- Lillian Hall-Davis - His Housekeeper, Araminta Dench
- Gordon Harker - His Handyman, Churdles Ash
- Gibb McLaughlin - Henry Coaker
- Maud Gill - Thirza Tapper
- Louie Pounds - Widow Windeatt
- Olga Slade - Mary Hearn, Postmistress
- Ruth Maitland - Mercy Bassett
- Antonia Brough - Susan
- Haward Watts - Dick Coaker
- Mollie Ellis - Sibley "Tibby" Sweetland (uncredited)
- Eden Phillpots - original play
- Eliot Stannard - adaptation
- Leslie Arliss (uncredited)
- Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)
- J.E. Hunter (uncredited)
- Norman Lee (uncredited)
Art Direction by:
Notes & References
- Archive.org: Widecombe Fair
- English Hitchcock (2000) by Charles Barr, page 223. Barr reports the number of performances at the Court Theatre as being 1,324, but most contemporary newspaper reports state 1,329.
- Daily Mail (31/Mar/1927) - Film-Making Problems
- English Hitchcock (2000) by Charles Barr, pages 52-53
- Internet Movie Database: Widecombe Fair (1928)
- Western Morning News (16/Sep/1927) - The Farmer's Wife
- Alfred Hitchcock's London: A Reference Guide to Locations (2009) by Gary Giblin, page 100
- Western Morning News (16/Sep/1927) - The Farmer's Wife
- The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock (1983) by Donald Spoto, pages 101-2
- Western Daily Press (04/Oct/1927) - Somerset Scenery for the Films
- The Times (07/Dec/1927) - The Film World
- The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock (2002) by Thomas M. Leitch, page 101
- The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock (1983) by Donald Spoto, page 110
- The Stage (1928) - British films: The Farmer's Wife
- Western Mail (Perth) (19/Apr/1928) - Film Flickers
- The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock (2002) by Thomas M. Leitch, page 102
- Journal of Film Preservation (2012) - London - Restoring Hitchcock
|Hitchcock's Major Films|
|1920s||The Pleasure Garden · The Mountain Eagle · The Lodger · Downhill · Easy Virtue · The Ring · The Farmer's Wife · Champagne · The Manxman · Blackmail|
|1930s||Juno and the Paycock · Murder! · The Skin Game · Rich and Strange · Number Seventeen · Waltzes from Vienna · The Man Who Knew Too Much · The 39 Steps · Secret Agent · Sabotage · Young and Innocent · The Lady Vanishes · Jamaica Inn|
|1940s||Rebecca · Foreign Correspondent · Mr and Mrs Smith · Suspicion · Saboteur · Shadow of a Doubt · Lifeboat · Spellbound · Notorious · The Paradine Case · Rope · Under Capricorn|
|1950s||Stage Fright · Strangers on a Train · I Confess · Dial M for Murder · Rear Window · To Catch a Thief · The Trouble with Harry · The Man Who Knew Too Much · The Wrong Man · Vertigo · North by Northwest|
|1960s||Psycho · The Birds · Marnie · Torn Curtain · Topaz|
|1970s||Frenzy · Family Plot|
|view full filmography|