Movie Review – “The Lady Vanishes” – an Alfred Hitchcock Classic Thriller (1938)

Alfred Hitchcock has delighted British and American audiences for several generations with his mystery stories which are sometimes farcical but always entertaining. He has also been able to cast his films with the most popular movie stars of the day which is the case with “The Lady Vanishes.”

Margaret Lockwood, who plays Iris Henderson in the film, was one of the most beautiful English stars ever to grace the screen. Michael Redgrave, who portrays Gilbert in the same film, also possessed charismatic good looks. He is the father of Vanessa, Lynn and Corin who inherited their father’s acting genes and capitalized on it just as their father did.

Whenever Paul Lukas shows up in a film, we know there will be trouble as he is usually the bad guy in the story. He does not let us down here as he is portrayed as the evil Dr. Hartz who causes great disruption to the travelers on this particular train ride. The lady who vanishes, Miss Troy, is none other than the great Dame May Whitty who was honored as a Dame of the British Empire in 1918.

The travelers are forced to spend a night in a remote hotel when an avalanche causes the train to be rerouted for a time. Iris is befriended at this time by Miss Froy and they join together in one of the train’s compartments. When Miss Froy disappears, no one believes Iris that she had ever existed, since Iris had been injured earlier when a potted plant fell on her head from a window sill.

Gilbert is very much attracted to the beautiful Iris and seeks to help her although he too has doubts about the existence of Miss Froy. Enter Dr. Hartz, who has come aboard with a patient on a stretcher whose head and face are wrapped in bandages, and who is being looked after by a nun. When Gilbert and Iris notice that the nun is wearing high-heeled, patent leather shoes, they sense that Dr. Hartz is up to no good. They manage to sneak into Dr. Hartz’ compartment while he is dining and find that the sleeping patient is indeed the missing Miss Froy.

Miss Froy explains to Gilbert that she is a British spy who has been enlisted to bring a message to London which is encoded in a musical tune. She asks Gilbert to memorize the tune in case she doesn’t make it through. We know the tune as the familiar “Colonel Bogey March.”

Of course, Gilbert and Iris have fallen in love and when they reach London, they head for the Marriage License Bureau so that they can marry. The Bureau is in a building where they hear the tune being played in a nearby room. They enter and find Miss Froy playing the piano, as she has made it through also.

Alfred Hitchcock has made it a practice to be seen in a cameo role in each of his movies. He may have started the custom in “The Lady Vanishes” as I noted that the carriage driver who transports them after their marriage at the end of the film bears a striking resemblance to the director.

It is always a pleasure to watch a Hitchcock movie; he is the master of suspense and mystery. His movies never grow old.


Movie – “The Lady Vanishes” (1938)