T. it.: Il pensionante. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Marie A. Belloc Lowndes. Scen.: Eliot Stannard, Alfred Hitchcock. F.: Gaetano Ventimiglia. M.: Ivor Montagu. Scgf.: C. Wilfred Arnold, Bertram Evans. Ass. regia: Alma Reville. Int.: Ivor Novello (il pensionante), June Tripp (Daisy Bunting), Marie Ault (Mrs Bunting, l’affittacamere), Arthur Chesney (Mr Bunting), Malcom Keen (Joe, il fidanzato di Daisy). Prod.: Michael Balcon per Gainsborough Pictures 35mm. L.: 2093.
“The Lodger was the first true ‘Hitchcock’ movie”.
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog was Hitchcock’s first thriller, and his first critical and commercial success. Made shortly after Hitchcock’s return from Germany the film shows the extent to which he was inspired by the German studio system’s developments in the use of dramatic lighting.
The Lodger was a bestselling novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes, first published in 1913, loosely based on the Jack the Ripper murders. Hitchcock knew the book – and was a lifelong fan of crime fiction – and it gave him the opportunity to feature what was to become a favorite theme – the hunted man. The casting of the matinee idol Ivor Novello as the mysterious lodger who falls under suspicion also heralded another favorite device: casting against type to play off audience expectations. June Tripp, the young actress who starred as the landlady’s daughter, Daisy, was the second of a long series of actresses who were either blonde or became blonde for Hitchcock – the first was Virginia Valli, star of The Pleasure Garden. Joe, Daisy’s policeman fiancé, jokes, “I’m keen on golden hair myself, same as the Avenger is”. It soon became clear that Hitchcock had similar tastes. The film is also distinctive for its bold use of visual devices, such as the glass floor through which we can see the lodger anxiously pacing. Allegedly because of a shortage of extras, Hitchcock made his first cameo appearance and can be glimpsed both in the newsroom and as a bystander in a crowd scene.
The Lodger was a great success, and quickly established Hitchcock as a name director. But the film was almost not released at all. After a private industry screening, distributor C.M. Woolf, somewhat jealous of Hitchcock and distrustful of ‘art’, told the director, “Your picture is so dreadful, that we’re just going to put it on the shelf and forget about it”. In the end the film was released, thanks to the championing of Gainsborough boss Michael Balcon and Ivor Montagu. A few rough sequences were reshot but, more importantly, Montagu reduced the number of title cards by three quarters, and added designs by artist E. McKnight Kauffer. This was the version which was shown to the press in September 1926, to be described in glowing terms by trade journal “Bioscope”: “It is possible that this film is the finest British production ever made”.
As the negative no longer exists, the source material for the restoration was a number of nitrate prints, held at the BFI National Archive since the 1940s. The access to Ivor Montagu’s hand corrected list of edited intertitles showed that the film’s continuity had survived extremely well. The Lodger was tinted and toned on its original release, the differing colours used to dramatic effect. Particular attention was paid to the night time sequences set in thick fog which are toned blue and tinted amber.
Restored by BFI National Archive in association with ITV Studios Global Entertainment, Network Releasing and Park Circus Films. Funding provided by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, The Film Foundation, Simon W. Hessel con British Board of Film Classification, Deluxe 142, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Ian & Beth Mill.