THE LADY VANISHES(Gainsborough, 1938)—Espionage adventure. Director: Alfred Hitchcock; Producer: Edward Black; Script: Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on the novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White; Cinematography: Jack Cox; Music: Louis Levy; Cast: Margaret Lockwood (Iris Henderson), Michael Redgrave (Gilbert Redman), Paul Lukas (Dr. Hartz), Dame May Whitty (Miss Froy), Cecil Parker (Eric Todhunter), Linden Travers (“Mrs.” Margaret Todhunter), Naunton Wayne (Caldicott), Basil Radford (Charters), Mary Clare (Baroness), Emile Boreo (Hotel Manager), Googie Withers (Blanche), and Catherine Lacey (“The Nun”).
The Lady Vanishes, Alfred Hitchcock's* penultimate film before leaving England for Hollywood, is generally considered the quintessential British Hitchcock film, utilizing the familiar Hitchcock premise of the likeable character whom nobody will believe, within a light, comedic context. The film walks a fine line between comedy, adventure, and propaganda (the film was produced a year before Britain's declaration of war against Germany), although the film is set in the fictional country of Bandrika, supposedly somewhere in the Balkans, the uniforms and casting, notably Paul Lukas as the villain Dr. Hartz, indicate that they are really German.
Most of The Lady Vanishes takes place on a train traveling across central Europe bound for England. The basic plot is economically established early in the film as the passengers wait for their train at a Bandrikan hotel. The McGuffin Inn, the dramatic “excuse” employed by the film to bring its collection of eccentric characters together, is initiated by an elderly British woman (Miss Froy), posing as a governess, who possesses espionage information to take back to England. The early section at the inn also establishes the film's romantic premise. As Iris Henderson prepares to leave Bandrika and return, reluctantly, to England to marry a wealthy suitor, her peace is interrupted by the activities of Gilbert Redman, an ethnomusicologist gathering material for a book on folk songs. The love