- Blackmail (1929 film)
name = Blackmail
caption = Original insert poster
imdb_id = 0019702
producer = Uncredited:
John Maxwell for
British International Pictures
writer = Play:
Benn W. Levy
Anny Ondra Sara Allgood
music = Uncredited:
Jack E. Cox
editing = Emile de Ruelle
distributor = flagicon|United Kingdom Wardour Films Ltd.
flagicon|USA Sono Art
released = flagicon|United Kingdom
June 30, 1929
October 6, 1929
runtime = 84 min.
language = English
"Blackmail" is a 1929 thriller/
drama filmdirected by Alfred Hitchcockand starring Anny Ondra, John Longden, and Cyril Ritchard. It's based on the play "Blackmail" by Charles Bennett. The film is considered to be the first all- talkieBritish film.
Scotland YardDetective Frank Webber (Longden) escorts his girlfriend Alice White (Ondra) to a tea house. They have an argument and Alice leaves with Mr. Crewe (Ritchard), an artist whom she has earlier agreed to meet. At his studio, Crewe sings and plays "Miss Up-to-Date" on the piano. Alice innocently flirts with the artist. He convinces her to try on a dress then attempts to assault her as she is changing. Alice grabs a nearby bread knife and stabs him to death.
Alice leaves after attempting to conceal any evidence of her presence in the flat. She has, however, unknowingly left her gloves behind. The next day Frank is assigned to the case and finds one of the gloves. He realizes the glove belongs to Alice and visits Alice at her father's shop. Local petty thief Tracey (Donald Calthrop), who saw Alice at the artist's flat earlier, interrupts the two and attempts to blackmail the couple. Frank tells Tracey his attempt will fail.
The tables are turned when Tracey becomes the chief suspect after the artist's landlady identifies him as being at the scene of the crime. Tracey flees and is pursued by the police. He clambers onto the domed roof of the
British Museumand is killed after falling through a glass panel of the dome.
Alice feels compelled to confess she killed the artist and goes to Scotland Yard. She attempts to talk to the Chief Inspector but is escorted out by Frank.
Anny Ondra- Alice White
Sara Allgood- Mrs. White
Charles Paton- Mr. White
John Longden- Det. Frank Webber
Donald Calthrop- Tracy
Cyril Ritchard- Mr. Crewe (the artist)
* Hannah Jones - Mrs. Humphries (the landlady)
* Harvey Braban - The Chief Inspector (sound version)
* Ex-Det. Sergt. Bishop - The Detective Sergeant
* Johnny Butt - Sergeant (uncredited)
Alfred Hitchcock- Man on subway (uncredited)
Phyllis Konstam- Bit part (uncredited)
* Sam Livesey - The Chief Inspector (silent version) (uncredited)
* Phyllis Monkman - Gossip (uncredited)
* Percy Parsons - Crook (uncredited)
The film began production as a
silent film. To cash in on the new found popularity of talkiesthe film's producer, John Maxwell of British International Pictures, gave Hitchcock the go-ahead to film a portion of the movie in sound. Hitchcock thought the idea absurd and surreptitiously filmed almost the entire feature in sound along with a silent version for theatres not yet equipped for talking pictures.
"Blackmail", marketed as Britain's first "all-
talkie" feature, was recorded in the RCA Photophone sound-on-filmprocess. In July 1925, a short film, "The Gentleman", had been released in London in the DeForest Phonofilmsound-on-film process. In March 1929, a feature film "The Clue of the New Pin", a part-talkie based on an Edgar Wallacenovel, was trade-shown with "The Crimson Circle", a German-UK coproduction which was also based on a Wallace novel. "Crimson" was filmed in DeForest Phonofilm, and "Pin" was made in British Phototone, a sound-on-discprocess using 12-inch phonograph records synchronized with the film.
Lead actress Anny Ondra was raised in Prague and had a heavy Czech accent that was felt unsuitable for the film. Sound was in its infancy at the time and it was impossible to post dub Anny's voice. Rather than replace Anny and re-shoot her portions of the film actress Joan Barry was hired to actually speak the dialogue off-camera while Anny lip-synched them for the film. This makes Ondra's performance seem slightly awkward. Anny Ondra's career in the UK was hurt by sound. She returned to
Germanyand retired from films after making a few additional movies and marrying boxer Max Schmeling. However, an amusing test film has survived of Hitchcock "interviewing" Ondra, in which director teases the actress and asks her some personal questions.
Hitchcock used several elements that would become Hitchcock "trademarks" including a beautiful blonde in peril and a famous landmark in the finale. Without informing the producers, Hitchcock used the
Schüfftan processto film the scenes in the Reading Room of the British Museumsince the light levels were too low for normal filming.
The film was a critical and commercial hit. The sound was praised as inventive. A completed silent version of "Blackmail" was released in 1929 shortly after the talkie version hit theaters. The silent version of "Blackmail" actually ran longer in theaters and proved more popular, largely because most theaters in Britain were not yet equipped for sound. Despite the popularity of the silent version, history best remembers the landmark talkie version of "Blackmail". It is the version now generally available although some critics consider the silent version superior. Alfred Hitchcock filmed the silent version with Sam Livesey as the Chief Inspector and the sound version with Harvey Braban in the same role.
Alfred Hitchcock's cameo, a signature occurrence in many of Hitchcock's films, shows him being bothered by a small boy as he reads a book on the
London Underground. This is probably the lengthiest cameo Hitchcock performed in his film career. As the director became better-known to audiences, especially when he appeared as the host of his own television series, he dramatically shortened his on-screen appearances.
The following two views are opposed to each other over the copyright of this work.
#Copyright is already expired in
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988because it was released more than 70 years ago.
#Copyright is available until 2050 (over 70 years from death of Hitchcock) on
Directive harmonizing the term of copyright protection#Films and photographs.In U.S., there is a contractor who releases a public domain DVDbased on the former view. On the other hand, Canal+which holds the present copyright asserts copyright continuation based on the latter view. In Japan, there are multi contractors who release public domain DVD's based on the copyright law of Japan (copyright of movies issued before 1953 has expired).
*Ryall, Tom, "Blackmail" (London:
British Film Institute, 1993)
* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0019702/ "Blackmail" at the Internet Movie Database]
* [http://www.tcmdb.com/title/title.jsp?stid=5899 "Blackmail" at the AFI/Turner Classic Movies database]
* [http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/437722/ "Blackmail" at BFI screenonline]
* [http://www.eyegate.com/cine/Blackmail/ "Blackmail" Eyegate Gallery]
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