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Manxman, The (1929)


Main image of Manxman, The (1929)
35mm, black and white, silent, 8163 feet
DirectorAlfred Hitchcock
Production CompanyBritish International Pictures
ScenarioEliot Stannard
Original storyHall Caine
PhotographyJack Cox

Cast: Carl Brisson (Pete Quilliam); Malcolm Keen (Philip Christian); Randle Ayrton (Caesar Cregeen); Anny Ondra (Kate Cregeen)

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In a small Isle of Man fishing community, two men, friends since childhood, find themselves in love with the same woman. Rejected by the girl's father, Pete leaves to find his fortune in Africa, and Philip sees his chance with Kate.

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The Manxman, released by British International Pictures in 1929, was Hitchcock's last silent film, and one of his very best. Adapted from a novel by Hall Caine, which had already spawned a successful stage play and a previous film adapation (d. George Loane Tucker, 1916), it was Hitchcock's last collaboration with writer Eliot Stannard, whose credit appears on all but one of the silent films.

Set in a remote Isle of Man fishing community - but actually shot, beautifully, in Cornwall - The Manxman is a tragic love triangle, which most closely resembles The Ring (1927) of any of Hitchcock's earlier work.

Neither Hitchcock nor producer John Maxwell were happy with the film, but it was a commercial success, and was described in Bioscope as a film of "remarkable power and gripping interest". Certainly, the film, although stagey in places, effectively demonstrates the extent to which Hitchcock's visual style had developed.

Two scenes in particular stand out. The first shows the illicit lovers, Philip and Kate, meeting on the beach, where Philip reveals to Kate that her fiancé Pete is not dead as she imagined, but is at that moment returning by sea. Meanwhile we see Pete's ship on the horizon, although there is no indication that either Kate or Philip see it. The effect is that we see the ship as the lovers do - as a symbol of impending disaster. Kate is forced by duty to marry Pete, and Philip must play the part of loyal friend. The second scene follows this one, and shows Kate and Philip preparing to meet Pete. The couple's guilty discomfort is contrasted with Pete's exuberant joy in a scene which uses no title cards, relying instead on the editing which focuses attention on the lovers' anxious exchange of glances.

The lead roles went to two foreign stars, the Dane Carl Brisson, also in The Ring (1927) and Polish actress Anny Ondra, subsequently to star (minus her voice) in Blackmail (1929), and to Malcolm Keen, also of The Mountain Eagle (1926) and The Lodger (1926).

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. A secret rendez-vous (4:57)
2. Gloomy wedding day (3:52)
Production stills
Brisson, Carl (1897-1958)
Hitchcock, Alfred (1899-1980)
Ondra, Anny (1903-1987)
Stannard, Eliot (1888-1944)
Literary Adaptation
Silent Hitchcock
Silent Lovers