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Rich and Strange (1931)


Main image of Rich and Strange (1931)
Production CompanyBritish International Pictures
ScenarioAlma Reville, Val Valentine
From the novel byDale Collins
AdaptationAlfred Hitchcock
CinematographyJack Cox, Charles Martin
DirectorAlfred Hitchcock

Cast: Percy Marmont (Commander Gordon); Betty Amann (Princess); Elsie Randolph (the old maid Miss Imrie); Aubrey Dexter (colonel); Hannah Jones (Mrs Porter)

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A married couple go on a world cruise to escape their humdrum lives. But their relationship begins to fall apart when they both become attracted to other people.

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Rich and Strange, released in December 1931, was Hitchcock's third sound film (not counting the revue Elstree Calling (d. Adrian Brunel, 1930), to which he contributed), and it begins with an entertaining and cleverly choreographed dialogue-free sequence, following Fred (Henry Kendall), an office worker, on his way home in the rain. As they leave the office, Fred's colleagues open their umbrellas in unison, until Fred finds that his own doesn't work. Fred's journey on a crowded tube train - resembling a comic scene in the earlier success Underground (d. Anthony Asquith, 1928) - shows that 'rush hour' hasn't changed much in 70 years.

Hitchcock claimed Rich and Strange was inspired by his honeymoon with Alma Reville in 1926. Hitch's biographer, Donald Spoto, called it "one of his most openly autobiographical films". The names of the central characters, Fred and Emily, certainly suggest Alfred and Alma.

In fact, the film was an adaptation of a novel by the Australian author Dale Collins, published in 1930. Critic Charles Barr has suggested that the story may have been written by Collins in conjunction with the Hitchcocks, but admits that there is little evidence that it was.

Like The Ring (1927), the film features a couple separated by a more glamorous other, with the difference here being that both partners are distracted. Hitchcock also has some fun using a wobbling camera to evoke seasickness, as he did in Champagne (1927).

Hitchcock told director and critic Peter Bogdanovich that the film contained an inventive cameo in which Fred and Emily meet the director and tell him their story, to which he replies, "No, I don't think it'll make a movie". However, the scene is not in any known print, and it may have been just an invention.

The part of Emily was played by Joan Barry, who had earlier supplied Anny Ondra's voice in Blackmail (1929). Percy Marmont, who plays Emily's would-be lover, turned up in Secret Agent (1936) and Young and Innocent (1937), while Elsie Randolph, who plays a foolish fellow passenger, reappeared some 40 years later in Frenzy (1972).

The film was not a success, and signalled the beginning of the end for Hitchcock's relationship with BIP. After directing one more film, Number Seventeen (1932) and producing another, Lord Camber's Ladies (d. Benn W. Levy, 1932) he left the studio.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. The daily grind (2:42)
2. I want some life! (2:43)
3. Locked together (1:51)
4. Luck turns (4:05)
Behind the scenes stills
Production stills
Cox, Jack (1890-1960)
Hitchcock, Alfred (1899-1980)
Proud, Peter (1913-1989)
Reville, Alma (1899-1982)
English Hitchcock
Tales from the Shipyard