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The Lady Vanishes

By Christopher Skokna | Posted 1/9/2008

While Alfred Hitchcock may have joked about his actors being cattle, in 1938's The Lady Vanishes, the director's penultimate British movie, he treats them more like toys. In fact, the whole movie is a giant play set from the very start, when the camera swoops over an obvious model of a perfect little central European ski village into an inn overcrowded with characters out of central casting. They're stuck there thanks to a snowstorm, and amid the madness guest Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) befriends the elderly Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty). After boarding a train to head home, Miss Froy vanishes from Iris' sight, and no one but kindly musicologist Gilbert (a dashing Michael Redgrave) believes her story. It's a stock situation--someone seemingly impossibly disappears from an enclosed place and nobody seems to remember him or her--but Hitchcock's crisp direction and, especially, those kooky characters, including a rather silly pair of cricket-loving British public school grads (Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford), make The Lady Vanishes fly by engagingly. This lightness is appropriate for Hitchcock's funniest movie, but its anti-isolationist message comes through clearly.

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