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Prude's Fall, The (1925)


Main image of Prude's Fall, The (1925)
35mm, 6,675 ft, black & white, silent
DirectorGraham Cutts
Production CompanyGainsborough Pictures
Produced byMichael Balcon
 Victor Saville
Assistant DirectorAlfred Hitchcock
ScreenplayAlfred Hitchcock
From the play byRudolf Besier
 May Edington
Art DirectorAlfred Hitchcock

Cast: Jane Novak (Beatrice Audley); Julanne Johnston (Sonia Roubetsky); Warwick Ward (André Le Briquet); Hugh Miller (Marquis De Rocqueville); Gladys Jennings (Laura Westonry); Miles Mander (Sir Veville Moreton)

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A French captain persuades a rich widow to become his mistress, but it is a scheme to test her love.

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Originally a stage vehicle for Gerald du Maurier and first performed in 1920, The Prude's Fall was announced in the spring of 1923 as the latest film by Graham Cutts, then completing Woman to Woman (1923) at the Poole Street studio in Islington. A 23-year-old Alfred Hitchcock, who served as Cutts' assistant director, art director, and scenarist, was said to be at work on the adaptation. In the event, however, Cutts and company made The White Shadow (1924) instead, and The Prude's Fall was held over for almost two years, eventually going on to the floor at Islington in February 1925 after a reportedly disastrous location shoot in Switzerland and Italy.

Cutts' and Hitchcock's relationship was at a low ebb after the production of The Blackguard (1925) at the Ufa studios outside Berlin the previous autumn. Hitchcock and his not-yet-wife Alma Reville, who served as something akin to second assistant director, claimed to have 'carried' the badly behaved Cutts through the later stages of the shoot. The Blackguard's American star Jane Novak was retained for The Prude's Fall, and it was probably rushed into production to minimise the cost of keeping her on. At any rate, the film was completed in haste and tinkered with at leisure. Cutts completed a subsequent film - The Rat (1925) - before The Prude's Fall was shown in public.

At the start of April 1925 producer Michael Balcon passed the film to Adrian Brunel, owner of a Soho 'film hospital', to direct re-shoots, pad out with intertitles, and edit. A few months later, writing from the Munich set of his directorial debut The Pleasure Garden (1926), Hitchcock told Brunel he had heard it had emerged "a new being". Yet it was barely released in Britain, and was described by Variety as "film junk".

To film historians, however, the surviving fragments of The Prude's Fall will never be 'junk', but a valuable piece of Hitchcock prehistory.

Henry K. Miller

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Video Clips
1. 'Long life and happiness' (2:23)
2. A shocking proposal (2:27)
Always Tell Your Wife (1923)
Blackguard, The (1925)
Passionate Adventure, The (1924)
White Shadow, The (1924)
Cutts, Graham (1885-1958)
Hitchcock, Alfred (1899-1980)
The Shaping of Alfred Hitchcock