The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Film Review


Release Date: 7 October, 1938

Studio: Gainsborough Pictures

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Dame May Whitty, Paul Lukas

Special Notes: TCM Classic Film Festival, 2013

This film was shown in the Riding the Rails category at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival. Actor, producer and director Norman Lloyd, and film critic and historian Leonard Maltin discussed the film.


In an alpine village, a group of British vacationers board a homebound train. Whitty and Lockwood share tea and talk to several other passengers in a compartment. Lockwood naps, and when she awakes, Whitty is gone, and none of the other passengers remember her. Only Redgrave accepts Lockwood's story that Whitty was on the train. Their search for her is unsuccessful, until they note that the nun attending the well-bandaged patient of Dr Lucas is wearing high heels. They find an unconscious Whitty under the wrappings. The rescue of Whitty leads to an attack on the passengers by Lucas and his assistants who want to stop Whitty from delivering important information to the British Government. Lucas also intends to eliminate the people who know about her presence.


Norman Lloyd, who discussed Alfred Hitchcock and the film with Leonard Maltin, was the producer and a director on Hitchcock's television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1957-1962) and Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1963-1965). As an actor, Lloyd has a memorable death scene in the Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942). Lloyd discussed the introductions to Hitchcock's shows. Hitchcock introduced each show with wit, and the introductions were major elements of the programs. The introductions were written by James B. Allardice, who had a wild imagination. He found in "Hitch" a vessel to express his views of the world, and "Hitch" was a ready collaborator. The television series made Hitchcock a star and a world figure.

Hitchcock's films contain suspense and humor, and The Lady Vanishes, arguably the finest film he made in England, is an excellent example. Particularly amusing are the two English cricket fans, Caldicott and Charters (played by Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford), who are obsessed with the test matches. The pairing of Wayne and Radford made such a popular comic duo that they were subsequently featured in very similar roles in several other films (notably Dead of Night, 1945).