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The Camera LiesActing for Hitchcock$
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Dan Callahan

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197515327

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197515327.001.0001

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The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Secret Agent, Sabotage

The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Secret Agent, Sabotage

(p.55) 7 The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Secret Agent, Sabotage
The Camera Lies

Dan Callahan

Oxford University Press

Hitchcock hit his stride in the mid-1930s with a series of adventurous stories in which he drew major performances from Peter Lorre as the unpredictable villain in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Robert Donat as the sensitive hero and Peggy Ashcroft as an abused wife in The 39 Steps (1935), and Sylvia Sidney in Sabotage. Hitchcock allowed Lorre a lot of creative freedom within his frames, and he took full advantage of the quicksilver talent of Donat and Ashcroft while carefully controlling Sidney in Sabotage so that the scene where she murders her husband (Oskar Homolka) is a triumph for both herself and for Hitchcock. Less happy was Lorre’s exaggerated performance in Secret Agent (1936), where Hitchcock allowed his actor to Go Big in a way that lacked the structure and surprise of Lorre’s work in The Man Who Knew Too Much. But by using the affable Robert Young as the villain in Secret Agent, Hitchcock showed how effective it could be to cast against type.

Keywords:   Peter Lorre, Robert Donat, Peggy Ashcroft, Sylvia Sidney, The 39 Steps, Sabotage

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