Alfred Hitchcock

It. tit.: Il declino. Sog.: dall’opera teatrale omonima di David L’Estrange [Ivor Novello, Constance Collier]. Scen.: Eliot Stannard. F.: Claude McDonnell. M.: Lionel Rich. Scgf.: Bert Evans. Int.: Ivor Novello (Roddy Berwick), Isabel Jeans (Julia), Ian Hunter (Archie), Annette Benson (Mabel), Robin Irvine (Time Wakely), Norman McKinnell (Sir Thomas Berwick), Barbara Gott (Madame Michet). Prod.: Michael Balcon per Gainsborough Pictures. 35mm. L.: 2916 m. D.: 105’ a 20 f/s. Tinted.


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

 After the critical and commercial success of The Lodger, Gainsborough Pictures were keen to reunite Alfred Hitchcock and Ivor Novello. A convenient vehicle suggested itself in the stage play Down Hill, written by Novello with Constance Collier, under the combined alias David L’Estrange. Downhill is one of the darkest of Hitchcock’s early films and follows the fall from grace of promising public school head boy Roddy Berwick. It features a succession of predatory and manipulative female characters who torment Novello’s hapless young hero: the tuck shop girl who falsely accuses Roddy of fathering her child; the selfish and mercenary actress who marries him for his inheritance, then abandons him when the money runs out; the venal night club ‘Madame’ who exploits his penury by hiring him out to dance with her lonely, ageing clients. It’s not hard to imagine that the playreflects the experiences of Novello himself, a gay matinee idol oppressed by unwanted female attention. One might even include him in the lineage of Hitchcock blondes imperilled and vulnerable and prey to the camera’s fetishistic gaze. We are used to seeing Hitchcock’s heroines in their underwear, but here we see Novello shirtless in an early scene. Later, in a gloriously Hitchcockian scene, we see him in a series of personas as the camera pulls back to reveal him firstly as a tuxedo clad gentleman, then a waiter, then a petty thief, before we realise he is actually an extra in a West End musical, bobbing up and down with the rest of the cast in as humiliating a position as any chorus girl might have found herself. This is clearly the sensation that Hitchcock is trying to deliver: we are significantly more shocke at the maltreatment of a boy by scheming women than we are to a girl being similarly maltreated by men. Hitchcock was characteristically disparaging about the film in later interviews, but Downhill is a deceptively rich and often elegant work and although he later found the descending escalator a clumsy symbol for Roddy’s downward trajectory, it works well in the context of the late silent movie of the 1920s and is echoed later in the film with his descent in a lift. Most striking is the nightmare scene in which the delirious Roddy sees hallucinations of his father and his past tormentors. Inspired by his memory of stage lighting, Hitchcock had the sequence tinted a sickly green to express the character’s nausea and mental turmoil. Many years later, hewould employ a similar device in Vertigo

The original negative of Downhill does not survive so the restoration was based on two vintage nitrate prints – from the BFI and from the EYE – Film Institute. The prints had their original tinting and toning so that it was possible to restore the colour that Hitchcock used so expressively in his silent films. Reproduction of the tones and tints found in three films, The Pleasure Garden, Downhill and The Lodger, has constituted a major aspect of BFI restoration project. In the absence of scripts or other primary documentation, it appears that these are the only Hitchcock films which were released domestically in tinted and toned prints.

Copy From

Restored by BFI National Archive in association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment and Park Circus Films.
Restoration funding provided by Simon W Hessel con Deluxe 142 e The Headley Trust.