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Yorkshire Post (21/Jan/1936) - The Cinema World: Chocolates



The Cinema World


One of the best available accounts of modern secret service work, I should imagine, is given in Mr. Somerset Maugham's "Ashenden" stories, and it remains to be seen how far "Secret Agent," the Gaumont film derived from these stories which Alfred Hitchcock is now directing at Shepherd's Bush, will preserve the dry, terse, ironical quality of Mr. Maugham's writing. Probably we must expect a certain heightening of pace and adventure, for Mr. Hitchcock nowadays is very fond of desperate pursuits and hair-raising encounters, but the picture should be well above average, and I look forward particularly to seeing John Gielgud as Ashenden, the British agent, with Peter Lorre as the "hairless Mexican.", his shady accomplice.

During the past week Mr. Hitchcock has been working at the huge, disused Alliance Factory in western London, which served during the War, I believe, as an emergency repair shop for some of the American air squadrons in France. In Mr. Hitchcock's hands it has blossomed suddenly into a Swiss chocolate factory, complete with the latest machinery and girl workers lent by a confectionery firm. And why are Ashenden and the Mexican so interested suddenly in chocolate-making? Hush — I dare not tell you that before the film is shown.

In order to convey the real quality of most modern spying one might, perhaps, show the agent waiting interminably in a wind-swept market square in order to receive a message from some passing hawker. Then he returns to his dingy lodgings and writes out a long, dull report which, after devious transmission to headquarters, is promptly filed with a lot of other similar reports and never looked at again. This would hardly be exciting enough on the screen; but I hope all the same that Mr. Hitchcock will give us plenty of matter-of-fact details and not too much melodramatic romance.


  • The "Alliance Factory" is the Alliance Aeroplane Factory, which was built during the First World War next to Acton Aerodrome by the Alliance Aeroplane Company. The company folded in the early 1920s and from 1925 until the mid-1930s the building was leased by French car manufacturer Renault.