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The Frightened Lady (1940)

The Case of the Frightened Lady (original title)
"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:
Isla Crane (as Penelope Dudley Ward)
Ronald Shiner ...
Roy Emerton ...
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 <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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?


The rope tied to the policeman's motorcycle disappears after he falls off. See more »


Lord Lebanon: How queer - well, we certainly do see life.
Isla Crane: And death!
See more »


Version of Criminal at Large (1932) See more »


Portrait of Isla
Music by Jack Beaver
See more »

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User Reviews

A Really Frightening Movie Experience!
30 June 2008 | by See all my reviews

Originally filmed in 1932 with Emlyn Williams (making his movie debut) and Gordon Harker (as Sergeant Totty), the movie was such a success that Wallace—reversing the usual procedure—turned his script into a stage play in which Williams (as Lord Lebanon) and Harker repeated their screen roles. Also in the 1932 movie, titled The Frightened Lady, were Cathleen Nesbitt as Lady Lebanon, while the lovely Belle Chrystall was Miss Crane, and Norman McKinnel, Inspector Tanner.

A Gothic thriller of the old school, The Case of the Frightened Lady spins an intriguing web of mystery and horror almost from the very first. I must admit I was not impressed by its trick opening which was obviously designed to fool not only the audience but the critics as well. At the conclusion of the under-the-credits sequence, director George King commences the movie proper with an odd scene in which Helen Haye faces the camera, while she and Marius Goring declaim their lines in full-blown theatrical style, their voices raised to reach the back of the gallery. At any second we expect the camera to pull back to reveal that Hayes and Goring are standing on an actual theatre set, as was done, for example, in The Hollywood Stadium Mystery (1938). But no! Before the scene has even concluded, both Haye and Goring suddenly abandon their grease-paint posturing and revert to more natural acting. So this was an expected "surprise" that happily didn't eventuate.

Another critical surprise lies in the writing and acting of Ronald Shiner's part. Although the sergeant is designed as comic relief, Shiner, for once, doesn't over-do the mugging and even plays the role with a degree of intelligence. Needless to say, we expect gifted performances from Haye, Ward and Goring, but at times Shiner even manages to hold his own in this company. However, an even bigger revelation in the acting department lies in the excellent portrayal by minor character actor George Merritt who plays a major role here and even manages to steal scenes from the principals.

King has handled his generous budget in fine style, making splendid use of his sets which, aided by Hone Glendinning's noirish lighting, provide plenty of spooky atmosphere. This brooding, riveting invocation of suspense, allied with rapid pacing and charismatic acting (even from minor players like Warwick, Thatcher and Scott), inexorably plunges us so inescapably into the maelstrom that we don't notice obvious contrivances in the plot and details that simply don't stand up to scrutiny. The script's faults, in fact, are inconsequential. While actually watching the story unfold, it remains a terrifyingly suspenseful movie experience.

In the title role, the charmingly aristocratic yet disarmingly sensitive Penelope Dudley Ward exhibits just the right note of fragile beauty as the imperiled heroine.

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