Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Hitchcock: The Skin Game (1931)

Yet another play adapted for the screen by Hitchcock himself, the play being by John Galsworthy.  Some sources cite him as having some input on the screenplay as especially adapted for the new "talkies," other just credit him as the playwright.  Hitchcock wife Alma is credited with the scenario--which suggests to me that it may have been her who brought the project to him in the first place; even by the time of the pre-production of The Birds she was still working very closely with him on projects; in fact, it's still unclear who actually green lighted that the role of Melanie Daniels be awarded to Tippi Hedron.  Alma, along with Lew Wasserman, were there when Hitchcock offered it to her.  In any case, this was one of the transitional projects that had a script with silent and talkie instruction (still hedging their bets, such as they had been doing since Blackmail).  The story revolves around a feud between two families, one old money, one neuvo-riche.  Well that's it on the surface.  The back story is the passing of agrarian society into an industrial one, and all the harm and damage that industrialization can cause.  It quite clear where the sentiments of the film lie:  the Hornblowers are newly rich, hell bent on "modernizing."  Mr. Hornblower (Edmund Gwenn, who is best known for his role as Santa in Miracle On 34th Street just 3 years later), has a nasty habit of sending away poor farming families in a small English town the family has descended on and replacing their farms with factories.  The Hillcrist family, which has been in the town for centuries fights back by attempting to look into the various backgrounds of the Hornblower family--basically to blackmail them to leave town, if possible.  Of course, this being based on a one-sided morality play, they find something shameful and have no persona shame in using it.

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