The Times (18/Jan/1927) - "The Lodger"
(c) The Times (18/Jan/1927)
- keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, Arthur Chesney, Gainsborough Pictures, Ivor Novello, June Tripp, Malcolm Keen, Marie Ault, Marie Belloc Lowndes, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)
MARBLE ARCH PAVILION.
A Gainsborough Film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, from the novel by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes.
"To-night... Golden Curls... To-night... Golden Curls."
Mr. Hitchcock has used the electric sky-sign, advertising a revue, as a symbol that appears again and again throughout his narrative. After its first appearance we see a murdered girl lying on the ground ; she is the Avenger's sixth victim and, in common with all the others, she has light hair. The news spreads. The tape-machine ticks it out; the printers print it ; the newspaper vans distribute it ; the chorus of Golden Curls read it in their dressing-room and the mannequins at a dressmaking establishment read it in theirs. There is, it seems, not a fair-haired woman in London that does not tremble in her decorative underclothes and go in terror of her life. Yet, though we see them tremble, we do not participate in their fear. The dark atmosphere of terror and the steady regard for character which were the making of Mrs. Belloc Lowndes's book are dissipated by the sky-signs, the tape-machine, the frocks, and the absence of frocks. It is Jack-the-Ripper or the Avenger who should be brooding over London ; instead it is " Golden Curls... To-night... Golden Curls."
And when a stranger knocks at the door of Daisy Bunting's parents and asks for a lodging in their house ; when we should all be wondering whether this dark young man, with a mysterious handbag and his face muffled in accordance with the police reports, is indeed the Avenger ; when, observing that Daisy has fair hair, we should be in exquisite anxiety for her fate, there is no escaping the fact that Daisy is June Tripp and the lodger Mr. Ivor Novello, to whom, and through whom, no harm, in the films, can come. It takes the sting out of excitement. It might, indeed, have been possible to forget that June was June and Mr. Novello Mr. Novello, if Mr. Hitchcock had concentrated on any other aspect of Daisy and the lodger than their insipid charm. But that on the screen would never have done ; the spirit of a good tale must perish so that the camera be not denied its close-up kisses, its soft yearnings over breakfast trays, and its whisperings through bathroom doors. The Lodger lias become, in consequence, a story, not primarily of mystery, but of the landlady's daughter (who, of course, being a mannequin, is becomingly dressed) and the young man upstairs. Mr. Malcolm Keen, the detective, is appropriately jealous, and Mr. Arthur Chesney and Miss Marie Ault come much nearer than anyone else to preserving the novel's genuine atmosphere. One or two of Miss Ault's scenes, when she hears her lodger go out at night and is terrified by her suspicions, are an indication of the manner which, if the book was to be justly interpreted, should have pervaded the film. They are quiet and unforced; they have that shrewd insistence upon the truth of ordinary life and character by which Mrs. Lowndes obtained a great part of her effect. But the film has nothing else that is their equivalent. It has frittered away terror in garish irrelevance.