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Blackmail (1929) - Sound Test

Blackmail Sound Test

The short sequence, photographed by Jack E Cox for Blackmail (1929), has Hitchcock trying his best to embarrass the film's Czech lead Anny Ondra, who ends up giggling and turning her back to the camera...

Hitchcock: Now, uh, Miss Ondra. You asked me to let you hear
           your voice on the talking picture. 
    Ondra: Ha, ha. But, Hitch, you mustn't do that. 
Hitchcock: Why not? 
    Ondra: Well, because... I can't speak well. 
Hitchcock: Do you realise the squad van will be here any moment? 
    Ondra: No, really? Oh, my god. I'm terribly frightened. 
Hitchcock: Why? Have you been a bad woman or something? 
    Ondra: Well, not just bad, but... uh. 
Hitchcock: But you've slept with men. 
    Ondra: Oh, no! [turns away from camera to hide her laughter]
Hitchcock: You have not? Come here. Stand in your place, otherwise
           it will not come out right, as the girl said to the

           [Ondra turns away from camera, unable to stop laughing]

Hitchcock: [to the crew] That's enough.

Other actors and actresses who worked with Hitchcock have commented that the director would try his best to make them "corpse" during sound tests, with "Have you ever slept with anyone?" being a favourite question to pose to actresses. Actor Henry Kendall recalled that Hitchcock “talked to me from behind the camera and would in the ordinary way have been asking me about my experience and for details of my career, but this time the conversation took a very Rabelaisian turn, and he kept me in fits of laughter so that I could hardly do more than stand in front of the camera and shake.”[1]


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The "sound test" sequence is available on the following DVDs:


Notes & References

  1. Quoted in Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (2003) by Patrick McGilligan, chapter 5.