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Yorkshire Post (06/Mar/1928) - Mr. Hitchcock's Work in 'The Farmer's Wife'



Mr. Hitchcock's Work in 'The Farmer's Wife'

At last a British studio has produced a first-rate picture which is home-made throughout — in story, in setting, in direction, and in acting. The British International version of "The Farmer's Wife," trade-shown in London last week, deserves to equal the phenomenal success of Mr. Eden Phillpotts' original play. On its not altogether tractable material, Mr. Alfred Hitchcock has bestowed his quite remark-able gift for thinking naturally in screen terms, and the result is a comedy full of humour which moves with perfect continuity from start to finish.

The rural life imagined by Mr. Phillpotts is not, perhaps, quite like any actual rural life anywhere in England today. There is a touch of caricature in it, and it is difficult to believe that any practical farmer could carry out his search for a wife quite so ineptly as does Farmer Sweetland. But if a certain comic licence be granted, the country characters are human and amusing enough, and in the film they are all splendidly cast and splendidly acted.

Mr. Jameson Thomas, hitherto best known in tense dramatic roles, is surprisingly good as the Farmer. He holds the balance admirably between comedy and farce, and there are moments when, without effort, he lets you see his thoughts on his face. Miss Lilian Hall-Davis is brisk and graceful by turn as Araminta, and the character parts are all excellently done by Mr. Gordon Harker as Churdles Ash, Mr. Gibb McLaughlin as Dunnybrig, and Miss Maud Gill as Thirza Tapper.

A Living Picture.

Finally, there is Mr. Hitchcock. I should like to understand how he contrives to give to the films that be directs that curious vitality which makes his story appear to grow on the screen as though no other medium for it were possible. I know of no other director who has this gift so fully at command. Another rare gift which Mr. Hitchcock has is that of making his cast blend their acting together into a most satisfying unity, and he is, of course, a master of the modern screen method by which everyday objects, such as chairs, clocks, and, in this case, the farmer's pants, are used to convey mental impressions and the passage of time. "The Farmer's Wife" is in its own way as good as "The Ring," which is saying a great deal. It will be most interesting to see now what emerges from the combination of Mr. Hitchcock with Miss Betty Balfour, whom he has just started directing in "Champagne."

There are some beautiful glimpses of English scenery in "The Farmer's Wife" — particularly that long view across a wooded valley to the hillside where Farmer Sweetland comes into view on his horse — and some good scenes of a meet of foxhounds. The trade-show audience was evidently delighted with the hounds in their traditionally English village setting. The applause seemed to indicate a genuine desire for English atmosphere as a relief from the endless exotic backgrounds made in Hollywood.