Sog.: dal romanzo Oasis e dall’opera teatrale Those Common People di Miles Mander. Scen.: Alma Reville, Miles Mander. F.: Walter Blakeley. Mo.: Arthur Tavares. Scgf.: Wilfred Arnold. Int.: Miles Mander (Sir Hugo Boycott), Madeleine Carroll (Madeleine Boycott), John Loder (David, Lord Harborough), Ella Atherton (Nina de Landé), Margot Armand (Sylvia Finlay), Ivo Dawson (Derek Finlay), Margaret Roach (Phoebe Chivers), John St. John (Dickie), Naomi Jacob (Dot), Bernard Vaughan (maggiordomo), Walter Wichelow (Mr Impitt), Theodore Mander (Stephen), Beryl Egerton (domestica). Prod.: Gainsborough Pictures 35mm. L.: 2213 m. D.: 88’ a 22 f/s. Bn.
The First Born, adapted by Miles Mander from his own novel and play, deals with the double standards of the upper classes and the tension between conformity and a more modern morality. It concerns the relationship between Sir Hugo Boycott (Mander) and his young bride Madeleine, sensitively played by a pre-blonde Madeleine Carroll. Their relationship is intense and passionate but founders when she fails to produce an heir. He leaves for North Africa where he has a native mistress, while she is persuaded to pass off an illegitimate child as her own in order to bring him back. The patched-up relationship, built on dishonesty, begins to fracture. The treatment is unusually ‘adult’ and made with a degree of invention. The most striking example is a handheld camera sequence as Boycott stalks through the marital bedroom to tease and torment his wife in the bath. The film is masterly in its construction and continuity for which we almost certainly have to thank Alma Reville who wrote the scenario. One scene in particular is very ‘Hitchcockian’ – impossible to mention without giving away the plot but you’ll know it when you see it. Could it be that the famous ‘Hitchcock touch’ is as much to do with Mrs as with Mr? Perhaps that would be to overstate the case but whatever the balance of contribution between Mander as director and Reville’s scripting skills the film is a tour de force of late silent filmmaking.