Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Passionate Adventure, The (1924)


Main image of Passionate Adventure, The (1924)
35mm, 7,923 ft, black & white, silent
DirectorGraham Cutts
Production CompanyGainsborough Pictures
ProducerMichael Balcon
Assistant DirectorAlfred Hitchcock
ScreenplayAlfred Hitchcock
From the novel byFrank Stayton
PhotographyClaude Mcdonnell
Art DirectorAlfred Hitchcock

Cast: Alice Joyce (Drusilla St. Clair); Marjorie Daw (Vickey); Clive Brook (Adrian St. Clair); Lilian Hall-Davis (Pamela); Victor McLaglen (Herb)

Show full cast and credits

Stuck in a marriage without children or passion, Adrian seeks adventure in London's East End.

Show full synopsis

Shot in spring 1924, The Passionate Adventure was the first production to be released by producer Michael Balcon's new Gainsborough studios, but is best remembered today for the contribution of the young Alfred Hitchcock, two years before his directorial debut with The Pleasure Garden (1926).

After making Woman to Woman (1923) and The White Shadow (1924) in partnership with Victor Saville and John Freedman, Balcon founded the new company with the earlier films' director, Graham Cutts. They continued to use the Famous Players-Lasky studio in Islington, and kept on a crew that included assistant director, art director and scenarist Alfred Hitchcock. Clive Brook was retained as male lead, once again playing opposite an American star, this time Alice Joyce.

Adapted by Hitchcock from a novel - with an 'exchange of guilt' plot prefiguring some of his later films - by Frank Stayton, it was sold as a social problem film, going "right to the root of the social institution of marriage", in particular childlessness and the dwindling of 'passion', a theme some reviewers found distasteful. The Evening Standard's Walter Mycroft - later a Hitchcock collaborator - preferred to praise it for "absolute skill in production and for inspiration in setting".

Writing in February 1924, Cutts explained his thinking in an article titled "What Does the Public Want?" The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari, Germany, 1919), he wrote, "is too violent a swing into the realms of mental experiences to be universally acceptable, but along that line future developments lie if the public is to have the variety and breadth necessary to hold it". The heavily symbolic door that separates the central couple's bedrooms is a reflection of this tentative approach to German Expressionist style, taken further by Cutts's gifted assistant.

Foreshadowing Hitchcock's often-quoted remarks on 'pure cinema', Cutts was also reported as aiming "to eliminate the explanatory letterpress [i.e. title cards] as much as possible, as it is his belief that the perfect film is one which tells its own story in a series of pictures". The climactic fight scene, with its moody, suspenseful build-up, casts a similarly suggestive light on the younger man's development.

Henry K. Miller

Note: the BFI National Archive's copy of this film - the only copy known to survive - is a European release print with German intertitles

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. The locked door (1:03)
2. The adventure of war (2:53)
4. The showdown (7:18)
Always Tell Your Wife (1923)
Blackguard, The (1925)
Prude's Fall, The (1925)
White Shadow, The (1924)
Cutts, Graham (1885-1958)
Hall-Davis, Lilian (1897-1933)
Hitchcock, Alfred (1899-1980)
The Shaping of Alfred Hitchcock