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Blackmail [1929]

Director:Alfred Hitchcock
Writer:Alfred Hitchcock
Composer:Hubert Bath
Length:84 minutes
(1 hour 24 minutes)
MPAA Rating:UR
Sorting Category:Thriller
IMDB Rating:7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating:89%
Amazon Rating:4.0/5 stars
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Synopsis: Frank Webber takes Alice White out one night, but she has secretly arranged to meet another man. Later that night Alice agrees to go back to his flat to see his studio. The man has other ideas and her reaction to his advances lands her in a world of intrigue and danger.

Reaction: Well done.

Personal Rating: 7/10

Alfred Hitchcock => Director / Writer / Man on Subway (uncredited)
Hubert Bath => Composer
Charles Bennett => Play
Anny Ondra => Alice White
Charles Paton => Mr. White
Cyril Ritchard => The Artist
Donald Calthrop => Tracy
Ex-Det. Sergt. Bishop => The Detective Sergeant
Hannah Jones => The Landlady
Harvey Braban => The Chief Inspector (sound version)
Joan Barry => Alice White (voice) (uncredited)
John Longden => Detective Frank Webber
Johnny Ashby => Boy (uncredited)
Johnny Butt => Sergeant (uncredited)
Percy Parsons => Crook (uncredited)
Phyllis Konstam => Gossiping Neighbour (uncredited)
Phyllis Monkman => Gossip (uncredited)
Sam Livesey => The Chief Inspector (silent version) (uncredited)
Sara Allgood => Mrs. White

Random Trivia For This Title:

  • In one key shot, the villain Cyril Ritchard is photographed with a thick shadow (caused by the arm of an overhead chandelier) across his upper lip. Hitchcock wanted the image to evoke the old-fashioned, heavily mustached villain found in many silent films. He later called this touch "my farewell to silent pictures".
  • As Tracy (Donald Calthrop) sits eating some food which he has just gained in a first minor act of blackmail, he sits humming the tune The Best Things in Life are Free.
  • Much of the film was originally shot silent; when sound became available during the course of shooting, director Alfred Hitchcock re-shot certain scenes with sound, thus making it the Master of Suspense's first talkie. There was one complication with this change, however. Leading lady Anny Ondra had a thick German accent which was inappropriate to her character, Alice White. Joan Barry was chosen to provide a different voice for her, but post-production dubbing technology did not exist then. The solution was for Barry to stand just out of shot and read Alice's lines into a microphone as Ondry mouthed them in front of the camera. This is generally acknowledged as the first instance of one actor's voice being dubbed by another, even though the word "dub" is technologically inappropriate in this case.
  • Alfred Hitchcock filmed the silent version with Sam Livesey as the Chief Inspector, but when filming the sound version replaced Livesey with Harvey Braban.
  • Director Cameo: Alfred Hitchcock being bothered by a small boy on the underground.
  • Generally acknowledged as the first British talkie, and definitely the first sound-on-film British talkie. The Clue of the New Pin, was released in March 1929 in the British Phototone system, a sound-on-disc system using 12-inch phonograph records synchronized with the film.
  • The light levels in the British Museum were insufficient to allow Hitchcock to film the final chase scene in the museum. Without informing the producer, Alfred Hitchcock used the Schufftan process (developed by German cinematographer [?] Eugen Schüfftan). This involved taking still photos of the interior of the museum, then reflecting the photos in a mirror with certain parts of the silvering of the mirror scraped away to allow people (entering a door, for example) to be filmed through the mirror so that they appeared to be present in the museum (in later years, American development of traveling matte and other process photography methods largely replaced the Shufftan process).
  • [?] Michael Powell claims to have suggested the use of The British Museum as the location for the final pursuit, thus beginning Alfred Hitchcock's use of famous landmarks in his "chase" films.