Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Cuckoo in the Nest (1933)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Peter Wyckham and his wife Barbara are about to set off by train from Paddington station to visit friends in the country. Peter leaves the carriage for a moment to buy a newspaper and bumps into an old friend, Marguerite Hickett, who he hasn't seen since her marriage to MP Claude Hickett. She is also travelling to the country but they become so engrossed in conversation that they do not notice the train pulling out - with a dismayed Barbara on board - until it is too late.

Peter hires a car and offers Marguerite and her little dog a lift, but the car breaks down miles from anywhere, as dusk falls. A "local yokel" guides them - eventually - to the nearest inn, which is run by a very prim and pious widow. It has only two bedrooms, both of which are occupied, but as Peter and Marguerite arrive they see a young hiking couple being evicted from one of them for not being married. Peter hastily assures the landlady, Mrs. Spoker, that they are husband and wife, and, registered as Mrs and Mrs Hickett, they settle down for the night.

Marguerite takes the lumpy bed while Peter tries to find a comfortable and draught-free place on the floor. The little dog is banished to the stable, but when it starts howling, Marguerite insists that Peter goes outside into the pouring rain to bring it in. It runs off into the night. Peter, now soaked through, incurs the wrath of Mrs Spoker, who is exasperated by all the disturbances.

Meanwhile, Barbara has called tearfully on her parents, Major and Mrs Bone. She thinks that Peter has run away with Marguerite. Mrs Bone tells her to travel down by the morning train, but she herself is determined to surprise her son-in-law in bed with Marguerite by travelling down that very night with her husband, who is in a state of almost permanent intoxication. They take the wrong train and have to hire a dilapidated old taxi-cab to take them the rest of the way. They eventually reach the village in the middle of the night and surprise Peter, wearing a towel in place of his rain-soaked trousers, in the bedroom with Marguerite. An irate Mrs Spoker orders the whole party downstairs to spend what is left of the night in the parlour. Major Bone is breaking into the locked bar, when Alfred, the general handyman, opens the door from the other side and lets Peter and the Major in.

The following morning, the real Mr Claude Hickett MP arrives and so does Barbara. Major Bone coaches Peter on what to say to her and how to handle the situation. The little dog, found by the "local yokel", is reunited with Mr Hickett, and Barbara and Peter are reconciled when he explains that Marguerite and her real husband spent the night at the inn while he drove on to stay in the next town.. However, Barbara is surprised to discover that her parents are also at the inn, and when Marguerite and Claude appear, Peter's story is revealed to be a lie. Enraged, Barbara drives off, but Peter gives chase on the back of the local vicar's motorcycle. He catches up with her and climbs into the car to beg her forgiveness.