250 Favorite Classic Films in no particular order
Night Must Fall (1937)
Well, here we all are perfectly ordinary English people. We woke up this morning thinking, hmmm, here’s another day. We got up, looked at the weather, talked… Here we all are still talking and… all the time…there may be something lying in the woods, hidden under a bush… with two feet showing, perhaps a high heel catching the sunlight with a bird perched on the end of it, and the other, the other stockinged foot with blood that’s dried on the stocking… and somewhere, somewhere there’s a man walking about and talking just like us, and he got up in the morning, and he looked at the world… and he killed her.

“The Lady Vanishes,” 1939. My favorite film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s, it starts in the snowbound mountains of a fictional European nation and veers into a long train ride into hostile territory, hitting many of Hitchcock’s pet concerns along the way. The two cricket-obsessed lingerie salesman who are forced to share a bed were so popular they went on to star in their own films, radio shows and even a TV series. Dame May Whitty is one of the most delightful older women in any Hitchcock film, and she gets to do some wonderfully silly things like outrun gunfire and whistle a tune that somehow carries the secret clause in a treaty. Probably the most whimsical film Hitchcock ever made. 

They’ll tell you at MGM about how brainy, how cultured their Miss Garson is. And she is that. But nothing gets her like a love story. When she started working on “Madame Curie,” her current film, she read every book on that remarkable woman. But what got Greer were Marie Curie’s notes about making jam, notes scribbled in the midst of most scientific reports. “A womanly woman,” sighs Miss Garson, quite unaware that she is also describing herself.

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Suspicion (1941)

Suspicion is a terrific psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and stars Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine.  Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Nigel Bruce, and Dame May Whitty also co-star.  Fontaine won an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Suspicion.

This type of psychological theme occurred in many of Hitchcock’s films like Notorious, Spellbound, Rebecca, and others.  In Suspicion, Fontaine is swept off her feet by Grant who seems too good to be true with his good looks and charm.  However, he’s a con-man and never held an honest job in his life. Fontaine spends the entire movie wondering what’s true and what isn’t.

The Lady Vanishes

1938, Alfred Hitchcock

Full disclosure, I love movies set on trains. I’m not entirely sure what it is, whether it’s the close setting, the constant feeling of motion, the ensemble of characters all placed together or what, but if your movie is set mostly or fully on a train there’s a much higher chance of me being a big fan of it. As a result, one of the many reasons why Alfred Hitchcock is one of my favorite directors definitely has to be his fondness for setting scenes on those locomotives.

The Lady Vanishes is one of the all too rare films that sets practically its entire plot on a train, and it’s absolutely one of the best as well. Adapted from a story by Ethel Lina White into a screenplay from Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, the premise here is deceptively simple; the young and beautiful Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) meets Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) the night before they are to be on a train ride together. Iris is hit on her head the morning of, and after Miss Froy helps her into their cabin, she dozes off and awakens to find that Miss Froy is gone.

The twist is that no other passengers on the train say that they ever saw the older woman, making Iris look crazy and setting the plot for a mystery to find out the truth of what happened to this kind old woman. Iris is helped by Gilbert (Michael Redgrave), an abrasive man she had met the night before, as the passengers continue their attempts to deceive the young woman into thinking that her encounters with Miss Froy were all in her head. The audience knows that Froy exists, as we are made aware that several of the characters have their own personal motivations for lying about their knowledge of her existence, so the mystery centers entirely around discovering what happened and why this conspiracy is afoot.

Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave have a charming chemistry that makes their pairing a joy to watch all the way through the breezy 96-minute duration, and all of the supporting actors deliver in their various parts. In particular, the team of Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford as passengers Caldicott and Charters add a comedic charm to the proceedings that provides a perfect balance (the two had such great chemistry that they were reunited as the same characters two years later in Carol Reed’s Night Train to Munich). With a bevy of twists and turns, The Lady Vanishes is a wonderful early Hitchcock feature that builds to an exhilarating climax.


Film #238 of The 365 Film Challenge.