Program of films by Alfred hitchock

Early Hitch – British Films of the Thirties

In film history, the switch to sound technology was the beginning of a great
revolution in the medium, causing tremendous change throughout the industry.
This event staggered even Hitchcock, who suddenly faced many creative dilemmas.

Hitchcock’s British films, made before World War II, are often overshadowed
by his American movies. Outstanding films, such as The Thirty-Nine Steps,
Sabotage, and The Lady Vanishes, fell into oblivion because of the masterpieces
made between 1958 and 1963, (from Vertigo to The Birds). However, audiences have
always adored Hitchcock, and it would be wrong to assume that the 1930s were a
relatively uninteresting or unimportant time of his career.

In film history, the 1930s were truly a time of revolution in the medium, when
the switch to sound technology caused widespread changes in film poetics and
rhetoric. This staggered Hitchcock, who suddenly faced many creative dilemmas
and unpleasant surprises as a result. His first sound film, Blackmail (1929),
originally began as a silent film, but when it became obvious that the audience
would no longer tolerate silent films, it had to be finished as a sound film.
However, the film still kept the euphoric beginning, which resembles a silent
film exhibition.

This was a time of searching for new stylistic and rhetorical figures, and in
this quest, Hitchcock was slow to catch on. For example, he hesitated to use
so-called "off dialogues", and so in his film Rich and Strange (1932) there is
only one sound (dialogue) overlap. On the other hand, Fritz Lang showed his
excellence in such situations. At that same time, in the 1930s, Lang, as well as
Renoir, created greater films than the best director of the twentieth century

In addition, the new film rhetoric raised the issue of which literary works are
most suitable for films. This was a source of ironic frustration for Hitchcock,
since at that time he was adapting the greatest writers of his entire career -
Sean O' Casey, W. Somerset Maugham, and Joseph Conrad. It must have wrongly
seemed to him that a great literary work was a guarantee for a great film. Later
in his career, he used works by inferior writers to create great films. (By the
way, the writer who at the time understood film best in England and who worked
then as a film critic, Graham Greene, did not much value his fellow-country
man’s films. He favored Fritz Lang and Julien Duvivier among others).

In those years, one had to re-think story and genre, and here Hitchcock found
the right path. In this phase, he still relied on the classic story line and his
typical plot became one that was not limited only to films of pursuit. Hitchcock
discovered which themes connected to travel (running away and/or pursuit), help
to strengthen the development of a story line and make the use of ellipses
easier. Therefore, and not just as a curiosity, in many of those films, as well
as later in his career, trains played an important role. Hitchcock is a
twentieth century artist, but he is not a director of airplanes, as for example
was Hawks. However, there is no harm in that; Dickens wrote in the time of
trains but was more a writer of stagecoaches. Still, he remains the unique

In the 1930s, with respect to film genre, there developed a passion for adapting
detective novels and similar screenplays. Hitchcock, too, directed detective
films but then decided for a genre usually referred to as the “thriller”.
Namely, as Hitchcock himself stated, detective stories may appear arbitrary, and
the audience may get tired waiting for the end of the film, when the all-knowing
and unharmed detective will point his finger at the murderer. It is much more
exciting when an ordinary man is placed in an extraordinary situation, and when
a wrongly accused man is forced to undertake an investigation on his own. Then
the audience is able to identify itself with the hero much more than it would
with an institutionally protected professional. Considering the mystery, instead
of solving a classic detective enigma, the viewer will sometimes be more excited
if he, in some phases of the story, knows more than the hero does: then the
viewer will hold his breath over the hero and a real sense of suspense is
experienced. The abundance of style and content is revealed in the domain of who
knows what and who knows more. Overall, this means that Hitchcock presumed that
a more active viewer may exist.

While, at that time, Hitchcock was still not interested in the crowd-pleasing
motifs of reality and fantasy, and even though he had not yet touched the sphere
of irrational causality, and had not yet discovered the antagonist that is in
many ways superior to the reckless protagonist, he was already, in the 1930s, a
pioneer of his genre.

It appears that for Hitchcock the 1930s were a time of earthquakes. However, the
time between 1930 and 1933 was the time before a catastrophe, a period of
wandering and failures, as well as nervous slips even into musicals. (The
previously described prescription, Hitchcock discovered after he tried to find
himself through eight previous his films). He ultimately found himself in the
film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), when he began to work for the producer
Michael Balcon. Until then he was just a big hope. (Ante Peterlić)