THE LODGER (1926) B/W "silent" 90m dir: Alfred Hitchcock
w/Ivor Novello, June, Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, Malcolm Keen, Eve Gray, Maudie Dunham, Daisy Campbell
The third film directed by Alfred Hitchcock deals in a masterful way with the effect of crime on ordinary people. The suspenseful story concerns a lodger (Novello) who befriends Daisy (June), the daughter of the folks he's rooming with. Daisy's fiancé, who is a detective, becomes so jealous he thinks the lodger is the mysterious strangler of women who's currently terrorizing London.
From Francois Truffaut's book, Hitchcock, which is based on his 1962 interviews with the director:
"FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT. The Lodger, I believe, was your first important film venture.
"ALFRED HITCHCOCK. That's another story. The Lodger was the first true 'Hitchcock movie.' I had seen a play called Who Is He?, based on Mrs. Belloc Lowndes's novel The Lodger. The action was set in a house that took in roomers and the landlady wondered whether her new boarder was Jack the Ripper or not. I treated it very simply, purely from her point of view. Since then there have been two or three remakes, but they are too elaborate.
"F.T. In actual fact, the hero was innocent. He was not Jack the Ripper.
"A.H. That was the difficulty. Ivor Novello, the leading man, was a matinee idol in England. He was a very big name at the time. These are the problems we face with the star system. Very often the story line is jeopardized because a star cannot be a villain.
"F.T. I gather that you would have preferred the hero to turn out to be Jack the Ripper?
"A.H. Not necessarily. But in a story of this kind I might have liked him to go off in the night, so that we would never really know for sure. But with the hero played by a big star, one can't do that. You have to clearly spell it out in big letters: 'He is innocent.'
"F.T. You know, I am rather surprised that you would consider an ending that failed to provide the public with the answer to its question.
"A.H. In this case, if your suspense revolves around the question: 'Is he or is he not Jack the Ripper?' and your reply, 'Yes, he is Jack the Ripper,' you've merely confirmed a suspicion. To me, this is not dramatic. But here, we went in the other direction and showed that he wasn't Jack the Ripper at all.
"I ran into the same problem sixteen years later when I made Suspicion with Cary Grant. Cary Grant could not be a murderer.
"F.T. Would he have refused?
"A.H. No, not necessarily. But the producers would surely have refused. The Lodger is the first picture possibly influenced by my period in Germany. The whole approach to this film was instinctive with me. It was the first time I exercised my style. In truth, you might almost say that The Lodger was my first picture.
"F.T. A very good movie which showed great visual inventiveness. I really enjoyed it.
"A.H. As a matter of fact, I took a pure narrative and, for the first time, presented ideas in purely visual terms. We took fifteen minutes of a winter afternoon in London, starting about five-twenty. We opened with the head of a blond girl who is screaming. I remember the way I photographed it. I took a sheet of glass, placed the girl's head on the glass and spread her hair around until it filled the frame. Then we lit the glass from behind so that one would be struck by her light hair. Then we cut to show an electric sign advertising a musical play, Tonight, Golden Curls, with the reflection flickering in the water. The girl has drowned. She's hauled out of the water and pulled ashore. The consternation of the bystanders suggests that a murder has been committed. The police arrive on the scene, then the press. The camera follows one of the newsmen as he moves toward a telephone. He isn't a local reporter, but a wire-service man who is calling his office. And now I proceed to show everything that happens as the new spreads around.
"First, the item is typed out on the wire-service machine so that we are able to read a few sentences. Then it is forwarded on the teletypes. People in clubs learn the news. Then there is a radio announcement, with people tuned in to the broadcast. Finally, it is flashed on an electric news sign --- you know, like on Times Square. And each time, we give additional information, so that you learn more about the crime. The man murders only women. Always blonds. He invariably strikes on a Tuesday. How many he has killed to date. Speculation on his motives. He goes around dressed in a black cloak and carries a black bag. What is in that bag?
"Through all the different means of communication, the information begins to spread, and finally, the evening papers are out on the street. Now we show the effect on various people. Fair-haired girls are terrified. The brunettes are laughing. Reactions in the beauty parlors or of people on their way home. Some blonds steal dark curls and put them under their hats.
"Lend me your pen a moment. I want to show you a shot, though we were never able to get it right. I showed the back of a small London news van. The back windows are oval. There were two men sitting in the front, the driver and his mate. You see them through the windows --- just the tops of their heads. And as the van sways from side to side, you have the impression of a face with two eyes and the eyeballs are moving. Unfortunately, it didn't work out.
"Now, we follow one girl home. There is her family and her boyfriend, a detective from Scotland Yard, and they are kidding him: 'Why aren't you arresting Jack the Ripper?' They go on for a while, teasing and laughing. And then the atmosphere changes because the lights become dimmer. And mother suddenly turns to her husband. 'The gas is going down. Put a shilling in the meter, will you, please?' Now it is dark everywhere. Just then there is a knock at the door. Mother goes to open it. Here a quick crosscutting to the shilling being dropped into the meter. Back to mother opening the door and then the lights go up. There is a man in a black cloak, pointing to the sign that says 'Rooms to Let.'
"So I didn't bring the leading man on until fifteen minutes after the beginning of the film. They show him to his room. Now, father falls off his chair with a loud crash. The new lodger is unnerved by the noise and this makes him appear suspicious to the others. In his room the man paces up and down. You must remember that we had no sound in those days, so I had a plate-glass floor made through which you could see the lodger moving back and forth, causing the chandelier in the room below to move with him.
"Naturally, many of these visual devices would be absolutely superfluous today because we would use sound effects instead. The sound of the steps and so on.
"F.T. In any case, in your recent movies, there are far fewer special effects. Nowadays you use an effect only when it's necessary to generate emotion, whereas in the past you seemed to put them in just for the fun of it. I don't imagine you would show someone through a glass floor now.
"A.H. That's the change of style. Today I would simply use the swaying chandelier.
"F.T. I mention this because some people claim that your movies contain a great many gratuitous effects. I believe, on the contrary, that your camerawork is becoming almost invisible. In many pictures the director attempts to provide the Hitchcock touch by placing the camera in an unlikely spot. I have in mind, for example, Lee-Thompson, a British director. In one of his so-called Hitchcockian pictures the star goes to fetch something from the refrigerator, and oddly enough, the camera is located inside the refrigerator, in the rear. Would you have done it that way?
"A.H. Certainly not. That's like shooting through the fireplace, behind the flames.
"F.T. The finale of The Lodger , when the hero is handcuffed, suggests a lynching.
"A.H. Yes. When he tried to climb over the railings. Psychologically, of course, the idea of the handcuffs has deeper implications. Being tied to something ... it's somewhere in the area of fetishism, isn't it?
"F.T. I don't know, but I have noticed that handcuffs have a way of recurring in your movies.
"A.H. Well, look at the way the newspapers like to show people being taken to jail in handcuffs.
"F.T. True. In fact, sometimes they even circle the handcuffs with a white line.
"A.H. I remember one time when they showed the head of the New York Stock Exchange being jailed. He was handcuffed to a Negro. Later on I used that in The Thirty-nine Steps.
"F.T. Yes, a man and a woman linked to each other. Handcuffs are certainly the most concrete --- the most immediate --- symbol of the loss of freedom.
"A.H. There's also a sexual connotation, I think. When I visited the vice museum in Paris, I noticed there was considerable evidence of sexual aberrations through restraint. You should try to go there sometime. Of course, they also have knives, the guillotine, and all sorts of information. Anyway, getting back to the handcuffs in The Lodger, I think the idea was inspired, to a certain extent, by a German book about a man who spends a whole day in handcuffs and tells about all the problems he runs into during that day.
"F.T. Would that be From Nine to Nine by Leon Perutz? I believe [director F.W.] Murnau was interested in doing a screen version of it around 1927.
"A.H. It might be that one.
"F.T. Is it farfetched to suggest that in the scene where the man in handcuffs is backed up against the railing, you were trying to evoke the figure of Christ?
"A.H. When the people try to lift him and his arms are tied together? Naturally, that thought did occur to me.
"F.T. All of this adds up to the fact that The Lodger was really the first Hitchcockian picture, primarily through the theme that recurs in almost all of your later works: a man accused of a crime of which he's innocent.
"A.H. That's because the theme of the innocent man being accused, I feel, provides the audience with a greater sense of danger. It's easier for them to identify with him than with a guilty man on the run. I always take the audience into account.
"F.T. In other words, it's a theme that satisfies the audience's fascination with the clandestine, while also allowing it to identify with the character. Most of your works are about an ordinary man who is involved in an out-of-the-ordinary situation.
"Wasn't it in The Lodger that you made your first personal appearance on the screen?
"A.H. That's right. I was sitting in a newsroom. ...
"F.T. Did you do it as a gag? Was it superstition? Or was it simply that there weren't enough extras?
"A.H. It was strictly utilitarian; we had to fill the screen. Later on it became a superstition and eventually a gag, and I'm very careful to show up in the first five minutes so as to let the people look at the rest of the movie with no further distraction.
"F.T. I understand The Lodger was a great hit.
"A.H. It was first shown to the staff of the distribution company and the head of their publicity department. They saw the film and then made their report to the boss: 'Impossible to show. Too bad. The film is terrible.' Two days later the big boss came down to the studio to look at it. He arrived at two-thirty. Mrs. Hitchcock and I couldn't bear to wait in the studio to know the results and we walked the streets of London for an hour and a half. Finally, we took a cab and went back. We were hoping our promenade would have a happy ending and that everyone in the studio would be beaming. What they said was: 'The boss says it's terrible.' And they put the film on the shelf, canceled the bookings that had been made on the basis of Novello's reputation. A few months later they decided to take another look at the picture and to make some changes. I agreed to make about two. As soon as the picture was shown, it was acclaimed as the greatest British film made up to that date.
"F.T. Do you remember what the distributors' objections were?
"A.H. I can't remember. I suspect that the director who had me fired as his assistant was still being 'political' against me. I know he told someone, 'I don't know what he's shooting. I can't make head nor tail of it.'"
Notes for lecture on the film:
THE LODGER: Hitchcock called it: 1st true Hitchcock film: 1st that truly engaged him:
Hitchcock: learning how to make movies: learning how to put it all together: his 3rd film:
Alma: credited: assistant director
when LODGER filmed: Alfred & Alma were in love:
their wedding: December 1926: after release of LODGER:
LODGER: cemented their personal love story
LODGER: based on Marie Belloc Lowndes' 1913 novel: very successful
1916: turned into play: big hit; Hitchcock: fan of both:
but film makes significant departures from both novel & play:
example: book: wide assortment of victims:
film: victims: all curly-haired blonde women:
1st known instance of blonde fixation in Hitchcock film:
totally invented by him
Eliot Stannard: worked with Hitchcock: credited with scenario for:
Hitchcock's 1st film: THE PLEASURE GARDEN:
from LODGER on: worked on every silent Hitchcock film
script for LODGER: credited to Stannard: really written by 3 people:
Stannard, Hitchcock, Alma Reville:
Alma: considered most important contributor
story of a series of murders that take place in London:
blonde “girls”: young women: on Tuesday nights: in same area of London
paper with triangle drawn on it with “The Avenger” written inside
start of film: mini-doc: imagine yourself: time when newspapers only media:
how crime is reported / reactions: from likely victims
then: 1 family: Daisy & her parents
in LODGER: 1st appearance of many themes: Hitchcock returned to over & over again:
mistaken identity: wrong man
blonde woman: major component of Hitchcock films:
LODGER: Daisy: played by June
staircases: never merely staircases in Hitchcock films:
LODGER: birds eye shot of hand on railing descending:
becomes act full of menace
NOTORIOUS: last scene: staircase:
full of suspense, drama, romantic meaning, complexities
cameo: back to camera: seated at desk in newsroom: talking on phone:
telling cameo: 1st one: in newspaper office: saying:
he's part of world, too: part of telling stories
big set piece: climax: classic Hitchcock:
goes from closed, claustrophobic story: to pub:
out to streets: mob chasing lodger
religious symbolism: crucifixion / Pieta
influence of expressionism: geometric design to titles // shadows // angles
Hitchcock: fortunate to work on 1st 2 films as director in German studios:
during height of German expressionism:
watched Murnau filming LAST LAUGH: greatly influenced LODGER:
LODGER: looks like German expressionist film: lighting, camera angles
gliding, moving camera: like Murnau's
using film to show psychological states, subjective POV:
will become hallmark of AH films
plate glass floor shot: expressionist technique: expressing state of mind
Hitchcock: also influenced by Russians: quick cuts for shock effect
when LODGER completed: at studio: 2 main enemies of film:
1. C.M. Woolf: controlled distribution
2. Graham Cutts: Hitchcock had been asst. director on 2 films:
WOMAN TO WOMAN / WHITE SHADOW
Woolf: blamed Hitchcock for "WHITE SHADOW incident":
film: expected to bring in lots of $:
Hitchcock: asst. director, scenic director, co-scenarist:
when released: complete disaster
Woolf: blamed Hitchcock for "artistic touches":
saw same thing happening when LODGER being filmed:
expected another flop for studio
Cutts & Woolf together: both had interest in Gainsborough:
tried to block release of LODGER:
could have stopped AH's career as director
Balcon: brought in Ivor Montagu: ran film society:
greatly influenced by Soviet filmmakers:
credit: "Editing and Titling .........Ivor Montagu":
made some editing changes: particularly: climax: chase sequence
when film released: became huge hit: sealed Hitchcock as 1 of greatest directors
design of opening credits unusual: Hitchcock recruited US artist:
E. McKnight Cawper: to design credits & title cards:
helped revolutionize British poster art
credits typeface: reinforces German aesthetic
Hitchcock, Cawper & Montagu: all members of British Film Society:
German films: frequently on program
Hitchcock: also drawn to editing techniques of Russians:
2 primary influences on young Hitchcock: Germans & Russians:
hard to say which more important to his work
Russian & German influences: work together in LODGER:
used to set mood & orient audience to story information
1st image: woman screaming: blonde woman: golden curls:
no single image more emblematic of Hitchcock film:
2 other AH films start this way: MURDER! / TO CATCH A THIEF:
also: Janet Leigh: PSYCHO / Tippi Hedren: BIRDS:
opening: 1st: sketching in character types in crowd: humble Cockney lower-class types:
like people he observed as boy: voyeurism
Hitchcock specialty: behind-the-scenes procedural overtures:
big fan of newspapers: gives us journey of news story:
from scene of crime to newsboys on streets shouting headlines:
background detail: fascinated audiences of 1920s: new technology
technique: brings us up-to-date with case without lots of intertitles
character of avenger: stand-in for Jack the Ripper:
Hitchcock: grew up in Leytonstone: near Whitechapel: beginning in 1888:
where Ripper killed women: stabbed & mutilated them
character of Avenger: 1st MacGuffin
newsboys calling out headlines: disappears from Hitchcock's US films:
but comes back when setting is England:
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT / FRENZY
AH: spent large part of his career pursuing Jack the Ripper:
LODGER to SHADOW OF A DOUBT to PSYCHO to FRENZY:
he never forgot Jack the Ripper
another characteristic Hitchcock scene:
chorus girls backstage: in progressive stages of undress:
voyeuristic director turns his audience into voyeurs
complex staging & composition: titillating male members of audience:
reminds us of golden curls & Avenger: we're both titillated & frightened:
"the enjoyment of fear"
Hitchcock: loved going backstage: often:
leading ladies: actresses, chorus girls, fashion models
fascinated by their glamour: but also by reality behind their mask:
Wyman & Dietrich: STAGE FRIGHT
Kelly: REAR WINDOW
scene: landlord, landlady, Joe: dialog: reminds us of what's happening with Avenger:
cops: let him get away: bumbling cops: in Hitchcock films:
Hitchcock: did not believe in law enforcement or courts or capital punishment:
Hitchcock: lets us know right away: Joe isn't too bright
also: meticulous re: setting of home: right for class of characters
"cookie cutter moment": Joe & heart:
visualizes content & emotion of scene: without using intertitles
lodger arrives: Ivor Novello: helped set mold for Hitchcock men:
Hitchcock's 1st chance to exploit star popularity & subvert audience expectation:
Novello: 1st dashing Hitchcock killer: big legion of female fans:
success of film depended on them: but Novello was gay
Bunting home: spooky house: also: #17 / REBECCA / PSYCHO
various levels all connected by stairway
lodger: prototype of recurring Hitchcock figure:
Olivier in REBECCA
Grant in SUSPICION
Cotten in SHADOW OF A DOUBT
Todd in STAGE FRIGHT
Perkins in PSYCHO
all “lodger-figures": existing in a state of suspense:
affects our knowledge of them:
all: do not know own nature
glass ceiling: plate glass floor shot: camera pointed up, swaying of lamp, etc:
we can almost hear footsteps: silent film: visuals replace sound
expressionist technique: expressing state of mind
Daisy & lodger: 1st scene together: breakfast: Hitchcock: many scenes around eating meals:
Hitchcock: focuses on knife in lodger's hand: teasing audience:
only hint of danger & sexual tension
days later: Daisy & lodger: playing chess: scene with poker: crosscutting: downstairs:
Hitchcock: teasing us with suspicion re: Lodger
Joe: handcuffs Daisy: joke gone sour: also alludes to sexual fetishism:
handcuffs: also figure in film's climax:
also in Hitchcock: objects/signs: introduced in opening scenes:
come into play at end: circle back
Tuesday night: complex sequence: intercutting:
police / London streets / suspicious landlady / lodger:
lighting effects: expressionistic
AH: crowd scenes: often: dark figures in foreground:
obstacles block view: legs, hats, etc.: audience involvement stimulated
next morning: news of Avenger's latest victim: Joe: as clumsy a lover as he is a cop
fashion parade: lodger: bewitched by Daisy:
VERTIGO: same kind of fashion parade: Scotty buys clothes for Judy
police procedural scene: necessary for story:
common in Hitchcock's silent films: disappears after that
later films: Hitchcock more interested in wrong man or villain:
than in misguided efforts of law enforcement
skepticism re: police: gives modern aspect to films:
Hitchcock: departs only 1 time: FRENZY:
penultimate statement re: psycho killers
FRENZY: theories of police: all wrong:
they arrest & convict wrong man:
but then: something remarkable in Hitchcock's universe:
inspector: decides he may have made mistake:
decides to continue investigation:
leads to satisfying conclusion:
Hitchcock's final & deepest commentary on police
Daisy: bathtub / lodger: upstairs: brooding: goes downstairs:
1920s: lodger couldn't go into bathroom:
later: 1960: PSYCHO: stranger goes into bathroom
tender encounter between Daisy & lodger: bathroom door between them
Daisy: as Hitchcock heroine: she's plucky survivor: like other of his women:
THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH: 1934: Jill: shoots better than police
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT & LIFEBOAT:
women can tough it out in lifeboat in ocean
BIRDS: Melanie: battles army of birds:
Daisy: stands firmly in that tradition:
defending lodger vs. Joe & police & mom & dad
Daisy’s predicament: characteristic of Hitchcock’s dramas:
about girl growing up into a woman:
appearance (as if by magic) of a mysterious man: man may either:
1. have power to make girl’s romantic dreams come true -or-
2. be a monster: REBECCA / SUSPICION / MARNIE
Hitchcock & leading ladies: he poured himself into them:
advising on hair & makeup, dictating their wardrobes:
even: sometimes: giving them precise line readings:
but: always strived for natural, unaffected quality
Daisy: subjective character thru whose point of view:
we increasingly view lodger: character without suspicion:
80 + years later: June Tripp's performance holds up
street scenes: filmed on actual locations: fans gathered: no problems: silent film
arrest of lodger: Joe: realizes he's made mistake:
mixing personal vengeance with duty
lodger's backstory: done using flashbacks: he's cleansed of any blame:
Hitchcock: satisfying front office & Novello's fans
Ivor Novello: big star: couldn't be killer: way novel ends:
way Hitchcock handles him: raises suspicion
same situation: Cary Grant: SUSPICION
but: once we know backstory:
we know for sure he's not Avenger: some of suspense gone
public chase: aroused mob pursuing lodger thru street of London:
saved in nick of time by Joe:
quick cuts: montage: sequence most heavily influenced by Russians
Christian / Catholic symbolism:
crucifixion of lodger: Hitchcock's Catholicism
film's coda: Hitchcock: detested sugary happy endings:
39 STEPS: ending filmed with Donat & Carroll married: discarded:
end in final film: dying man, chorus girls:
their hands reach & come together: handcuffs dangling
REAR WINDOW: happily ever after thwarted:
Kelly: reading fashion magazine behind book on Himalayas
LODGER: genuine happy ending for film: re-edited version approved for release:
September 1926: opened to critical & box office raves
with LODGER: Hitchcock had arrived full-blown:
artist with competent understanding of public
end: lodger & Daisy: embrace & kiss: typical happy ending:
but: in background winking at us: "golden curls":
reminding us: perhaps real Avenger still loose
shot ends with beautiful moving camera shot: "à la Murnau":
F.W. Murnau: 1 of Hitchcock's cinematic gods
curly blonde heroine, blundering police, wrong man theme, triangular love story:
became blueprint for much of rest of AH's career:
all this in LODGER: part of film's legacy
triangles in story: love triangle / family triangle /
triangle: lodger, Joe & Avenger
also triangles: credits / intertitles
after Hitchcock arrived in US: tried to drum up support for remake of LODGER:
wanted to stick to novel: especially ending: Selznick: wouldn't bite:
eventually: 1944: LODGER: remade by Universal:
tried to be faithful to novel: strong film:
but lacks edgy style & gripping power of Hitchcock's film
LODGER: model for self-conscious Hitchcock narrative:
acknowledges its own indirectness: withholding info:
not a conventional detective story: clues not part of it: non-deductive:
only clues given prove how well Hitchcock can keep a secret
compels us to recognize film’s power:
showing us what we both dread and desire to view
power to acknowledge that lodger’s state of suspense is like our own:
provokes us to acknowledge that our natures - like the lodger’s -
may be monstrous
Joe: original of a Hitchcock type: like Frank in BLACKMAIL:
police detective: unconscious of his violent nature:
desire for vengeance
abuses official power - breaks with discipline of calling
fundamental Hitchcock paradigm:
freed for romantic union by damnation of guilty double who can’t marry
“wrong one”: condemned from childhood to life of isolation:
sacrificed so innocent double can marry
Daisy in bathtub: door in b/g: same set up as shower scene in PSYCHO
Daisy’s vulnerability: someone could come thru door
lodger under mother’s control: as in PSYCHO: she’s kept alive thru son
Lodger in bed at end: doctor’s pronouncement: end of PSYCHO