***½/**** Image A Sound A Extras A+
starring Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Paul Lukas, Cecil Parkerscreenplay by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, based on The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
by Walter Chaw There's something ephemeral about Ms. Froy (Dame May Whitty), from her sudden appearance at a hotel desk to her first words obscured by ambient noise, to her initial exit facilitated by an invisible hand. She seems from the start a metaphor, the first of Hitchcock's women-as-metaphor, leading up to his gaggle of Birds and an unlikely companion in that way to the seagulls-into-women who discover a body at the beginning of the previous year's Young and Innocent. She occupies a space as well with the unnamed second Mrs. De Winter in Hitch's American debut, Rebecca: a cipher, without an identity of her own, the MacGuffin made flesh and the embodiment, in The Lady Vanishes, of perhaps the director's desire to pursue his career across the pond, with only a contractual obligation to Jamaica Inn standing in his way. (The Lady Vanishes starts in a way station, yes? Gateway to greater adventure.) Indeed, the picture cemented David O. Selznick's interest in Hitchcock, the irony being that unlike the majority of his work before and after, The Lady Vanishes' production was already well under way before he hopped onto the saddle. On second thought, maybe it was the idea that Hitchcock could be a hired gun that attracted Selznick--a belief that holds countless ironies of its own.