The police find the actress, Diana Baring, near the body of her friend. All the circumstantial proofs seems to point to her and, at the end of the trial, she is condemned. Sir John Menier, a jury member, suspects Diana's boyfriend, who works as an acrobat wearing a dresses. Written by
Claudio Sandrini <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A German version called Mary (1931) was filmed at the same time using German actors, but the same sets. See more »
When Sir John and the Markhams discuss their next move in front of the boarding house (and Hitchcock makes his cameo appearance by walking in front of them), an old-style floor microphone is plainly visible near the left edge of the screen. See more »
People ought to be ashamed of themselves, kicking up all that racket at this time of night.
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This is a brilliant early work by Alfred Hitchcock, a film full of ingenuity and originality, and showing unmistakable signs of Hitchcock's developing genius. It stars Herbert Marshall, in one of his finest performances as the conscience-stricken character Sir John Menier, a famous stage actor who serves as a juror for the trial of a woman named Diana Baring, who is accused of murder. Strangely enough, Diana Baring is played by a well-known British actress of the time called Norah Baring. Despite being a double-Baring, she does not bare anything but her own polite doubts and hesitancies, being so highly bred that she dare not even be so presumptuous as to try to defend herself. Norah Baring has that high wavering voice, exceedingly thin figure, and shy, saintly manner of the born victim. Such women were fashionable in England in the 1930s. They spoke like overgrown children, with the most perfect diction. Considering how over-mannered and feeble most English men were at that time, perhaps such victim-women were all they could cope with. When the story begins, Baring is found sitting in a kind of trance in front of a fire where a girl who was her friend lies dead, with a poker beside her covered in blood. She continues to sit there looking straight ahead of her in a daze while the police come in and investigate the crime scene in an oafish and clumsy manner, getting their own fingerprints all over everything and acting like the proverbial Mr. Plod. They ask her what happened and she says she cannot remember anything. So this is an excellent start to a jolly good Hitchcock drama. Baring is convicted of murder and due to hang. Marshall had held out against a bullying jury until he finally caved in and agreed to a guilty verdict. But then he had juror's remorse and set about actively trying to prove her innocence before she could be executed. His investigations become more and more complicated, and Baring is unwilling to help him, and in any case genuinely cannot remember what happened. Apparently, Baring thinks it is only good manners to submit to the verdict. If she ever had an ego, it had certainly drained out of her long ago, like rainwater going down a street culvert. Can Marshall possibly accomplish anything against all these odds? He is determined and indomitable. A most fascinating understated and inspired performance is given by Esme Percy, as the ambiguous character Handel Fane, who is both an actor and a trapeze artist who likes to dress in drag. In an understated performance laden with unspoken implications, Percy gives the character all the poignant underpinnings of a man tormented by his own contradictory impulses, and weighed down by the loneliness of his cross-dressing compulsion. It is an amazing psychological study of an extreme character type. Percy certainly was underrated in his career and his excellent interpretation of this difficult character helps make the entire film a true classic.
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