Hitchcock's first sound film utilized the new sound technology in a
rather creative way off-camera. Hitchcock's lead actress, Anny
Ondra, had a strong Eastern European accent that was difficult for
English audiences to understand, so Hitchcock's solution was to have
British actress Joan Barry speak Ondra's lines of dialogue
The film concerns a woman who kills a
man who tries to assault her. Ondra plays Alice White who,
while having dinner in a fancy English nightspot with her
husband-to-be Scotland Yard Detective Frank Webber (John Longden),
begins to flirt with an artist (Cyril Richard) seated at the next
table. The artist invites her up to see his studio, and she
goes but balks when the artist asks her to pose in the nude.
When the request becomes a demand, Alice stabs him to death.
She rejoins her fiancée and tries to
forget the murder, but her conscience keeps bothering her. To
make matters worse, sniveling rat Tracy (Donald Calthrop)
materializes to blackmail Alice for the crime.
Alfred Hitchcock's first talkie, and not a bad effort at all.
The whole film was almost completed, when sound came in and
revolutionized the industry; Hitchcock was forced to re-shoot some
sequences and add others to make the film a mostly-talking film,
something like Alan Crosland's The Jazz Singer (1927).
leading lady, Anny Ondra, had a very thick continental accent, not a
problem for a silent film, but a real liability for a talkie.
Hitchcock overcame the problem by having another actress speak the
lines onstage, offscreen, while Ondra simply mouthed them for the
camera. Since dubbing was unknown at the time, this was the
only method; then, too, the camera was confined to a soundproof
shooting booth, and so the mobility of Hitchcock's camera is
During one long sequence, Cyril Ritchard
as Crewe, the artist, sits down and plays a piano solo seemingly to
keep the audience interested, but the film ends with a thrilling
chase through the British Museum (mostly accomplished using
miniatures, and the Schufftan Process, which allowed full-scale
backgrounds to be reelected into the lens of the camera through a
series of mirrors).
It's interesting to see how Hitchcock
deals with sound, when it was clearly thrust upon him at the last
minute, and while not a front-rank Hitchcock, it is still a
remarkable historical document of an artist finding his way through
a medium that has suddenly been transformed by advancing technology.