This isn’t really a chat-review, but I haven’t posted one in a while and I really liked this movie, so … heck. Just pretend you and I are having tea while I tell you about it.
I’ve been a Hitchcock fan since age nine, when my dad traumatized me for life by showing me The Birds. I think Rebecca is still my favorite, but there are so many good ones.
Many years later and still a fan of classic movies in general, I finally watched The Lodger, a silent film from 1927, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest hit and what he himself called the first real Hitchcockian film.
The movie is based on a novel that was based on the Jack the Ripper murders. Why I didn’t watch this film sooner, I haven’t a clue. (Well, I didn’t really know I liked silent movies until a few years ago.) But anyway, last night I did.
The gist of the movie is that there’s a serial killer murdering blonde women in London—every Tuesday, on the dot. During this tragic time, a mysterious lodger (played by Ivor Novello) appears at the boarding house of an older couple. This couple happens to have—oh, look!—a young and lovely BLONDE daughter Daisy (played by an actress named just June), who works as a clothing model and is sort-of dating—oh, look!—a detective of sorts.
The funniest part of the movie was when I was watching the first 10 minutes, and was getting bored. I thought that the detective was the new lodger, and he wasn’t anything interesting to look at. So I thought I’d save the movie for another time when I had a better attention span. Before I did turn it off, however, Ivor Novello shows up, and I’m like, “OH, HELLO I THINK I SHALL STAY.”
This is what he looks like the first time you see him in the movie:
(LOOK, I KNOW I HAVE PROBLEMS, OKAY?)
The thing with old movies is that you have to be wearing classic-movie goggles that help you look past a few things:
1. The style of acting. Example: Clara Bow in The Wild Party is adorable, but if you don’t recognize her exaggerated movements and facial expressions as holdovers from the silent era, you’ll just think she’s a clown. Also, a lot of movies in the 1920s and 30s (and other time periods, I know) were adapted from plays, at a time when theater and cinema were not quite separate art forms yet. This makes movie acting more theatrical than it is now. Second example: the long, talky, dramatic scenes in movies like Death Takes a Holiday.
2. The style of makeup. Movies being still a newish technology, the makeup on actors was still more theatrical, meant to emphasize features for far-away audiences, rather than cinematic, natural styles designed for close-ups. (Example: the dark eye shadow and lip color that became a hallmark of the 1920s flapper, but which you can see on both men and women in silent films, and in the following pictures)
The makeup thing was definitely something I had to get past in The Lodger, but only for a few minutes. Ivor Novello was a handsome, handsome man, and the lodger and Daisy definitely have chemistry, which is a testimony to how good silent movies can be.
. . .
Unfortunately, the landlady, the detective, and the audience begin to suspect that the mysterious lodger could be this serial killer. Besides his late-night comings-and-goings, in general the lodger is a bit … well, “off-kilter” and “quirky” are really the nicest ways to put it. It doesn’t help that the talented Hitchcock also took a page from the German expressionists at the time when he shot the movie.
Of course, the lodger is suspicious … but is he guilty?
Well … who knows?
(Me. I know. But I’m not saying.)
Side Trivia: Ivor Novello was in a few movies, but he became more famous for composing and playwriting than acting. There is a music award named after him, and a 7′ statue of him in his hometown of Cardiff, Wales. Novello is also portrayed by Jeremy Northam in the very excellent Gosford Park (highly recommended for Downton Abbey fans, as it was also written by Julian Fellowes before he apparently lost his touch).