The Skin Game (1931, Alfred Hitchcock)

skingame

An occasional series where I review a randomly selected movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock…

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

A rivalry between two families leads to a dangerous secret being revealed…

When this movie was made, audible dialogue was still something of a novelty. The opening title cards, in fact, advertise that it’s ‘a talking film’. But to modern ears, you sometimes wish it were silent: the first scene is an awful clipped and stilted chat between two young people from rival families. You half expect Miles Cholmondley-Warner to wander in.

The plot concerns some farming land, which has been sold on the proviso that the existing tenants are allowed to stay. When the new owners renege on the deal, however, it causes tensions. And this leads to the murky past of the new owner’s daughter, Chloe (Phyllis Konstam), being revealed: she once earnt money by pretending to be the ‘other woman’ in divorce cases.

The obvious theme hanging over the film is a fear of progress, of industry, of change. A bucolic landscape could soon be eaten up by new smoky, mucky, dirty factories; ‘scandal’ could soon destroy a family’s all-important reputation. But it’s fairly run-of-the-mill stuff. Some interest comes from the casting of Edmund Gwenn – later Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – as the nouveau riche Mr Hornblower. He’s reprising the role from a silent 1921 version of the same story.

Four trees in Longmeadow out of 10

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