30 user 35 critic

When Boys Leave Home (1927)

Downhill (original title)
Not Rated | | Adventure, Drama, Thriller | 1928 (USA)
Public schoolboy Roddy Berwick is expelled from school when he takes the blame for a friend's charge and his life falls apart in a series of misadventures.


Alfred Hitchcock


Constance Collier (as David L'Estrange), Ivor Novello (as David L'Estrange) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Ivor Novello ... Roddy Berwick
Ben Webster ... Dr. Dowson
Norman McKinnel ... Sir Thomas Berwick
Robin Irvine ... Tim Wakeley
Jerrold Robertshaw Jerrold Robertshaw ... The Rev. Henry Wakeley
Sybil Rhoda ... Sybil Wakeley
Annette Benson ... Mabel
Lilian Braithwaite ... Lady Berwick
Isabel Jeans ... Julia Fotheringale
Ian Hunter ... Archie
Hannah Jones ... Dresser
Barbara Gott ... Madame Michet
Violet Farebrother ... Poetess
Alf Goddard Alf Goddard ... Sailor


Public schoolboy Roddy Berwick is expelled from school when he takes the blame for a friend's charge and his life falls apart in a series of misadventures. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A College Hero round whom is woven a picture of Love and Treachery. (Print ad- The recorder ((Port Pirie, South Australia)) 3 July 1928)


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Second of two films Ivor Novello made with director Alfred Hitchcock. The first one being "The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)" where he plays the title character. Novello was openly gay and was very successful despite homosexuality being a crime in Britain at the time. Also, he is noted for composing the song "Keep the Home Fires Burning", which became a hit during WWI. See more »


In the first scene when Roddy catches the ball, he is holding the sides of it, but in the next shot, he is holding the top and bottom of it. See more »


[first lines]
Dr. Dawson: I wish you had more boys like Roddy to send us, Sir Thomas.
See more »


Referenced in Shepperton Babylon (2005) See more »


I Want Some Money
Words by Herbert Rule & Fred Holt.
Music by L. Silberman.
Played on the gramophone machine by Mabel; even though Downhill is a silent film, the accompanying music would have referenced this song as it underscores elements of the plot.
See more »

User Reviews

Ivor Novello Suffers
15 January 2011 | by drednmSee all my reviews

I watched Alfred Hitchcock's DOWNHILL (1927) starring Ivor Novello. I thought this was a fascinating film although it's not very well regarded.

Novello plays a wealthy Oxford student who stupidly takes the blame after a vindictive waitress points him out (his father is rich) as her seducer. The real seducer is his friend, but he takes the blame, assuming it will all blow over. But he gets expelled and sent home where his father pitches a fit and calls him a liar. Novello storms out of the house.

Cast into the cruel world, Novello must find his own way. In a brilliant sequence, following an intertitle that announces "make believe" we see a well dressed Novello holding a cup of coffee, but as the camera pulls back we see that he is holding a tray and serving coffee to a flashy couple (Isabel Jeans, Ian Hunter). Well at least he has a job! But then as the couple heads to the dance floor the camera pulls back again and we suddenly realize that, as the couple starts dancing, they are on a stage. The audience comes into view and a line of high-kicking dancers races out onto the stage.

Jeans turns out to be a selfish woman involved with Hunter. There is never enough money. Novello becomes a hanger-on until he receives a telegram with news about an inheritance. Jeans quickly marries Novello and starts spending freely. Time passes. Jeans and Hunter are sitting in a lavish bedroom. She's endlessly sitting at dressing tables, admiring herself and her jewels. Novello comes home and find a pile of bills, an overdrawn notice from the bank, and Hunter in the closet. The apartment is in her name and he's thrown out into the cruel world.

Next we find Novello as a taxi dancer in Paris. He seems to have a "manager" who sells his dances and possibly more. While he dances we see a middle-aged age woman (Violet Farebrother) sitting at a table. She can't take her eyes off him. She arranges for an introduction. He babbles away, telling her his sad story while her eyes frankly devour him. Amazing sequence. But as morning dawns and the blinds are raised, Novello finally see this tawdry world of drunks and dissolutes and once again goes out into the cruel world to Marseilles.

Sick and broke, Novello is saved by a pair of sailors and put on a ship back to England after they find a returned letter. Do they think there will be a reward? During the voyage, Novello hallucinates and relives his past accounts with all the horrid women in his life. This is a beautifully done scene. Finally he arrives home.

I cannot think of another film from this era where the male is the societal victim and who, through nobility, suffers as he descends to the depths at the hands of women. Novello is actually playing a twist on the many Ruth Chatterton roles where she follows this sort of journey to find redemption and/or death. Along with The Lodger, this may be Ivor Novello's best film performance.

As for Hitchcock, there are many great scenes here and lots of symbolism as Novellos is seen on escalators and elevators going down, down, DOWN.

31 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 30 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »






Release Date:

1928 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

When Boys Leave Home See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Gainsborough Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (2012) (theatrical) | (2012 restoration)

Sound Mix:



Black and White (sepia/black & white) (tinted and toned)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed