Alfred Hitchcock Collectors’ Guide: Miscellaneous British Films

  • His Master’s Apprenticeship: detailing the preservation status of Hitchcock’s earliest works
  • He entered the fledgling film industry in the early 1920s as a lowly freelance title card designer
  • Quickly worked his way up through more responsible roles, culminating as assistant director
  • Hitchcock’s next step was to begin creating his own inimitable catalogue of classic films
  • Rose to become Britain’s top director within a few years and Hollywood soon came calling

Note: this is one of 100-odd Hitchcock articles coming over the next few months. Any dead links are to those not yet published. Subscribe to the email list to be notified when new ones appear.

Woman to Woman (1923, asst dir. Alfred Hitchcock) US window card

Woman to Woman (1923) US window card

During his early years in the British film industry throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Hitch worked on 20-odd shorts and features in various capacities and earned a sole directing credit for 27 more. Only a handful of the films on which he had lesser input survive, in varying levels of condition and completeness.

These are the British films Hitch worked on outside of his main oeuvre. Except where noted otherwise, most are lost and of the remainder only three and a half (in bold) are available on home video. Thankfully though, five of those wholly or partially extant can be viewed for free via the BFI’s wonderful Mediatheques. They also have a handful of other Hitch essentials, including the documentary Paul Merton Looks at Alfred Hitchcock (2009), in which the comedian extols the virtues of Hitch’s pre-Hollywood career.

Famous Players-Lasky (British Producers Limited)

  • The Call of Youth (1921) – title designer
  • The Great Day (1920) – title designer
  • The Princess of New York (1921) – title designer
  • Appearances (1921) – title designer
  • Dangerous Lies (1921) – title designer
  • The Mystery Road (1921) – title designer
  • Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush (1921) – title designer
  • Three Live Ghosts (1922) – title designer, art director; original lost but Soviet re-edit extant: 6 reels/5,784ft
  • Love’s Boomerang (1922) – title designer
  • The Man from Home (1922) – title designer, art director; original lost but extant w/Dutch titles:  7 reels/6,895ft
  • The Spanish Jade (1922) – title designer, art director

Islington Studios

Marjorie Daw in The Passionate Adventure (1924, asst dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Marjorie Daw in The Passionate Adventure (1924) – see here

Hitchcock Lost and Found: The Forgotten Films (2015) by Charles Barr and Alain Kerzoncuf is the most in-depth resource yet published on the films listed above, and is very strongly recommended.

London’s Hollywood: The Gainsborough Studio in the Silent Years (2014) by Gary Chapman is the definitive history of the Islington (later Gainsborough) studio where Hitch began his career, and a simultaneous account of his meteoric ascent. Author article.

Woman to Woman (1923)

Based on Michael Morton’s eponymous 1921 play, the first filmed version was directed by Graham Cutts, with Hitch assisting in several roles both credited and uncredited, writing and directing among them. Though I wouldn’t expect it to have been the most insightfully written Hitch adaptation:

“I had to write the screenplay for the movie Woman to Woman: the story of a man who has a mistress in Paris, who bangs his head, loses his memory, and starts going with another woman, who gives him a child. Well, I was 23 years old, I’d never been with a woman, and I didn’t have the slightest idea what a woman did to have a child. I had even less idea what a man did when he was with his mistress in Paris or when he was with another woman who was giving him a child.”  – 1963 interview with Oriana Fallaci

Woman to Woman (1929) with Betty Compson, US lobby card

Woman to Woman (1929) US lobby card

It’s a tragic tale of doomed romance set against the backdrop of the First World War. Despite Hitch’s lack of worldly insight, it was a commercial success, spurring Hitch and Cutts to hurriedly produce another film with Betty Compson, their imported US star, before she returned home. But the resultant effort, White Shadow, was too rushed and flopped on release. In the complete absence of Woman to Woman’s 1923 original, we’ll have to content ourselves with the 1929 talkie remake, also featuring Betty Compson and directed by Cutts’ contemporary, Victor Saville. A second remake followed in 1947, this time updated to WWII, but it’s currently unavailable. But various copies going right back to the original negative are held by the BFI Archive, so you never know. Until someone ponies up for a full restoration, circulating copies of the 1929 version are in worn but watchable condition via these unofficial releases:

Betty Compson in Woman to Woman (1923, asst dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Betty Compson in Woman to Woman (1923)

For more detailed specifications of official releases mentioned, check out the ever-useful DVDCompare. This article is regularly updated, so please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.


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