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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

The Lady Vanishes (1938)


Cast:

  • Alfred Hitchcock, Director

  • Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, Writers

  • Louis Levy and Charles Williams, Music

  • Margaret Lockwood as Iris Henderson

  • Michael Redgrave as Gilbert

  • Paul Lukas as Dr. Hartz

  • May Whitty as Miss Froy

  • Cecil Parker as Mr. Todhunter

  • Linden Travers as "Mrs." Todhunter

  • Naunton Wayne as Caldicott

  • Basil Radford as Charters

*Recognition:

  • The Lady Vanishes was released on October 7, 1938 based on the 1936 book, The Wheel Spins, by Ethel Lina White.

  • When The Lady Vanishes opened in the UK it was an immediate hit, becoming the most successful British film to that date. It was also very successful when it opened in New York.

  • The Lady Vanishes was named Best Picture of 1938 by The New York Times. In 1939, Hitchcock received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, the only time Hitchcock received an award for his directing.

  • The American film critic and historian Leonard Maltin gave the film four out of four stars in his Movie Guide and included the film in his list of 100 Must-See Films of the 20th Century.

  • The Guardian called the film "one of the greatest train movies from the genre's golden era", and a contender for the "title of best comedy thriller ever made". The film frequently ranks among the best British films of all time.

  • In 2016, Empire ranked the film at No. 82 on their list of "The 100 best British films".

  • In 2022, Time Out magazine ranked the film at No. 54 on its list of "The 100 best thriller films of all time".

  • The Lady Vanishes currently holds a 98% among critics on RT, a 98 score on Metacritic, and a 3.9/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Did Miss Froy disappear, and where did she go?


Plot Summary: Director Alfred Hitchcock weaves his cinematic magic in "The Lady Vanishes," a taut thriller that showcases his signature blend of suspense, wit, and intrigue. Set against the backdrop of a quaint European train journey, this film is a testament to Hitchcock's storytelling prowess and his ability to captivate an audience from start to finish.


The story revolves around a seemingly ordinary train ride from a fictional European country to England. As a diverse group of passengers share the cramped compartments, Hitchcock masterfully introduces us to a charming ensemble of characters, each with their quirks and secrets. Enter the enigmatic Miss Froy, an English governess, who mysteriously disappears on the train. Her sudden absence triggers a wave of doubt, paranoia, and conspiracy theories among the passengers.


Our unlikely hero, the skeptical but charming Gilbert (played by Michael Redgrave), teams up with the determined Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) to unravel the baffling disappearance of Miss Froy. What follows is a heart-pounding race against time as they attempt to uncover the truth behind her vanishing act.


Hitchcock's genius lies in his ability to blend humor with suspense, and "The Lady Vanishes" is no exception. Hitchcock's direction is impeccable with meticulously crafted scenes and a pacing that keeps the audience on edge throughout. The train itself becomes a claustrophobic labyrinthine setting that mirrors the characters' increasing sense of confinement and paranoia. With its unforgettable characters, razor-sharp dialogue, and Hitchcock's signature touch, this film remains a timeless classic and a testament to the enduring power of cinematic storytelling.


Did You Know:

  • In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Alfred Hitchcock revealed that this movie was inspired by a legend of an Englishwoman who went with her daughter to the Palace Hotel in Paris in the 1880s, at the time of the Great Exposition: "The woman was taken sick and they sent the girl across Paris to get some medicine in a horse-vehicle, so it took about four hours. When she came back she asked, 'How's my mother?' 'What mother?' 'My mother. She's here, she's in her room. Room 22.' They go up there. Different room, different wallpaper, everything. And the payoff of the whole story is, so the legend goes, that the woman had bubonic plague and they dared not let anybody know she died, otherwise all of Paris would have emptied." The urban legend, known as the Vanishing Hotel Room, also formed the basis of one segment of the German portmanteau film Eerie Tales (1919), So Long at the Fair (1950) (in which the missing person was the young woman's brother as opposed to her mother) and Into Thin Air (1955), starring Hitchcock's daughter Patricia Hitchcock.

  • The cricket-obsessed characters Charters and Caldicott were created especially for this movie and do not appear in the novel written by Ethel Lina White, but they proved to be such popular characters that they were teamed up in ten more movies. They reappeared in Night Train to Munich (1940) (also starring Margaret Lockwood) and Millions Like Us (1943), two movies also written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder. They also starred in the BBC Radio serials "Crook's Tour (1940)" (which was also made into a movie), and "Secret Mission 609." They were played in the 1979 remake by Arthur Lowe and Ian Carmichael. In 1985, they reappeared in the BBC Television mystery mini-series, Charters & Caldicott (1985), played by Robin Bailey and Michael Aldridge.

  • The tune that Gilbert is humming is the early 20th-century standard "Colonel Bogey March", later made even more famous in the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).

Best Performance: Alfred Hitchcock (Director)/Margaret Lockwood (Iris)

Best Secondary Performance: Michael Redgrave (Gilbert)

Most Charismatic Award: Margaret Lockwood (Iris)/Alfred Hitchcock (Director)

Best Scene:

  • Late Night Showtunes

  • Miss Froy Helps Iris

  • The Lady Vanishes

  • Searching the Luggage Car

  • Finding Miss Froy

  • Eluding Dr. Hartz

  • Shootout

  • Epilogue

Favorite Scene: Eluding Dr. Hartz/The Lady Vanishes

Most Indelible Moment: Iris Leaving Her Fiance/The Shootout


In Memorium:

  • John Cairney, 93, Scottish actor (A Night to Remember, Cleopatra, Jason and the Argonauts), author and painter.

  • Steve Harwell, 56, American singer (Smash Mouth, “Walkin’ on the Sun,” “All Star” and a cover of “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby”)

  • Marcia de Rousse, 70, American actress (True Blood, St. Elsewhere, Schooled).

  • Gary Wright, 80, American singer-songwriter ("Dream Weaver", "Love Is Alive") and musician (Spooky Tooth).

  • Jimmy Buffett, 76, American singer-songwriter ("Margaritaville", "Cheeseburger in Paradise"), founder of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Gilbert: Come on, sit down, take it easy. What's the trouble?

Iris Henderson: If you must know, something fell on my head.

Gilbert: When, infancy?


Gilbert: Can I help?

Iris Henderson: Only by going away.

Gilbert: No, no, no, no. My father always taught me, never desert a lady in trouble. He even carried that as far as marrying Mother.


Charters: You can't expect to put the two of us up in the maid's room.

Hotel Manager: Well don't get excited. I'll remove the maid out.


Iris Henderson: You're the most contemptible person I've ever met in all my life!

Gilbert: Confidentially, I think you're a bit of a stinker, too.


Gilbert: What was she wearing? Scotch tweeds wasn't it?

Iris Henderson: Oatmeal tweeds.

Gilbert: I knew it had something to do with porridge.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 5

Impact/Significance: 8

Novelty: 6

Classic-ness: 6.75

Rewatchability: 5.75

Audience Score: 8.85 (89% Google, 88% RT)

Total: 40.35


Remaining Questions:

  • Why wouldn't you waive your white flag before exiting the train so they don't shoot at you?

  • How come Miss Froy then Miss Kummer couldn't communicate while bandaged since they weren't unconscious?

  • How are you taking a trip by train to Britain?

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