*/**** Image A Sound B Extras C
starring Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, Norman Lloyd, Otto Kruger
screenplay by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, Dorothy Parker
directed by Alfred Hitchcock
by Walter Chaw When I think of Saboteur, which isn't often, it's as the first American project Hitchcock developed largely without his beloved assistant Joan Harrison, who left after co-writing the first draft (seeing in the opportunity to produce The Phantom Lady her chance to wriggle out from under Hitch's shadow), and, maybe more significantly, without his most essential collaborator, wife Alma Reville, then away in New York with their daughter Pat, who had just won the lead role in a play. They left creative absences Hitch tried to fill--disastrously, I think--with Algonquin Roundtable alumni Peter Viertel and Dorothy Parker. (If there's a case to be made about the importance of Alma to Hitchcock's career, it may be useful to examine those films where we know she was absent.) I also think of Saboteur, when I do, as an attempt at an "all-American" film of the kind Hitchcock, fearing he'd left Britain trailing with him too much of the old country, was desperate to make. The desire to embrace his adopted culture is so conspicuous it becomes uncomfortably obvious in multiple instances (stops at the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, and even the Hoover Dam) that setting has fatally superseded narrative. His follow-up, the Thornton Wilder-penned Shadow of a Doubt, is the all-American Hitchcock that works, locating the country's heart in the introduction of a human stain into a small town and a wholesome family.