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The Frightened Lady (1940)
"The Case of the Frightened Lady" (original title)

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"Mark's Priory". the family seat of the Lebanons, is a house of terror to Ilsa Crane, secretary and niece of Lady Lebanon. The strange behavior of two sinister butlers, Gilder and Brooks, ... See full summary »



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Complete credited cast:
Marius Goring ...
Penelope Dudley-Ward ...
Isla Crane (as Penelope Dudley Ward)
Helen Haye ...
Felix Aylmer ...
George Merritt ...
Ronald Shiner ...
Patrick Barr ...
Roy Emerton ...
George Hayes ...
John Warwick ...


"Mark's Priory". the family seat of the Lebanons, is a house of terror to Ilsa Crane, secretary and niece of Lady Lebanon. The strange behavior of two sinister butlers, Gilder and Brooks, adds greatly to her fear and her sole consolation lies in the sympathy extended her by young Lord William "Willie" Lebanon. A young architect, Richard Ferraby, arrives from London to inspect the ancient home in regards to renovations, and he and Isla are immediately attracted to each other. Lady Lebanon tells her son that he must marry Isla to carry on the family name but Lord Willie tells her he has no intentions of marrying. Later, the family physician, Dr. Amersham, arrives and it is evident he has some unrevealed hold over Lady Lebanon. The chauffeur, Studd, hints that he knew Aversham in India and that Aversham was discharged from the Indian Army under unsavory circumstances. Isla and Richard find the chauffeur murdered and the suspicion falls on the gamekeeper, Tilling, whose wife had been more... Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


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Release Date:

7 November 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Frightened Lady  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Version of The Case of the Frightened Lady (1938) See more »


Portrait of Isla
Music by Jack Beaver
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User Reviews

An excellent traditional British murder mystery
5 January 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This film, based on a stage play by Edgar Wallace, is one of those traditional British murder mysteries set in an enormous aristocratic mansion with all kinds of supercilious people, suspicious servants, stupid detectives, and maidens in distress. But it is by no means as corny as it sounds. The film is dominated by the powerful presence of Helen Haye, an actress with the cutting edge of a diamond blade, who lashes everyone in sight with her reproving tongue. She is Lady Lebanon, the matriarch of the establishment, and don't you forget it! Her friend is Dr. Amersham, played by Felix Aylmer, and he even outdoes her in supercilious arrogance. What a pair! Between them, they so dominate the screen that there is barely space for the other players to make their presences known much of the time. The maiden in distress (the one who is 'frightened') is played by Penelope Dudley-Ward (1914-1982, sometimes credited only as Penelope Ward), who only appeared in 12 films between 1935 and 1944, retiring after that. From 1948 to 1976, she was married to Sir Carol Reed, and during the time that I knew him towards the end of his life, I met her, though I only ever exchanged a few polite words with her, as she never joined me and Carol for our chats over gin and tonic in their vast living room with the enormously high ceiling in their splendid house in Kings Road. (They had removed the floor above that room so that the room was two storeys high rather than one.) Alas, I retain little impression of her, so must make do with what I see in these old movies instead. Now they are all gone, even Tracy Reed, Lady Reed's daughter, who died in 2012. Sic transit gloria mundi, I suppose. Helen Haye is so outstanding in this film that it is worth recalling some of her other notable film performances, of which there were 60 altogether. One particularly remembers Hitchcock's THE 39 STEPS (1935), THE SPY IN BLACK (1939), THE REMARKABLE MR. KIPPS (1941), THE MAN IN GREY (1943), ANNA KARENINA (1948), and HOBSON'S CHOICE (1954). What a career! However, the truly inspired performance in this film is by Marius Goring as the young Lord Lebanon, Helen Haye's son. He really outdoes himself in this one. (He had already appeared with Helen Haye the year before this in THE SPY IN BLACK (1939, see my review).) The reasons why the Lebanon family are called Lebanon in this story is that they 'go back a thousand years' and were active in the Middle East at that time as crusaders. Helen Haye is determined to 'continue the line' and keeps urging her bachelor son, who is obsessed with composing music, to marry Penelope Dudley-Ward, which he, unlike Carol Reed in real life, is strangely loathe to do. George King does an excellent job of directing this tale, which could easily have been creaky, but does not creak. King never rose to be one of the famous British directors, despite directing 54 titles, retiring in 1949. Many or most of his films are unavailable and no one alive has seen them, which makes it rather difficult to evaluate his contribution to the cinema. Certainly this film has countless twists and turns and surprises and never drags. Considering that it started out framed by a proscenium (as a stage play), King got it moving and avoided the claustrophobic feeling we often get from stage plays adapted for the screen. When watching this, be careful not to become 'a frightened lady'!

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