The Parody of Britain’s Appeasement Policy in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Lady Vanishes’ – eBook


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Essay from the year 2015 in the subject Cultural Studies – European Studies, grade: 1,7, Free University of Berlin (Englische Philologie), course: Cultural Studies, language: English, abstract: What starts like a jaunty comedy soon turns into a suspense-packed spy film resulting in a trigger-happy fight for life and death. In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes a conglomerate of foolish British passengers travels on a train ‘adrift in a hostile Europe, surrounded by inimical foreigners in a world on the brink of war’ (French 2012: ‘My favourite Hitchcock: The Lady Vanishes’). When reviewers assess this exceptional espionage thriller as Hitchcock’s ‘most political film’ (Sweet 2007), they do it due to its ‘genuine sense of purpose’ (Ryel-Lindsey 2007): The film was made in 1938, shortly before Neville Chamberlain’s fatal agreement with Hitler, conceding ground to Nazi-Germany’s aggressive territorial ambitions. Disapproving of his prime minister’s indirect collaboration with the enemy, Hitchcock stages The Lady Vanishes as a critical statement on the policy of appeasement. By presenting his characters the way he does, he parodies British blindness towards the rising threat of Hitler’s Germany as a prerequisite for this very appeasement policy. Since not all of Hitchcock’s characters in The Lady Vanishes are shown as unmistakable exponents of it, this essay aims at examining those who are. For lack of space, it will be focused on the characterisation of the appeasers par excellence, Mr. Todhunter (played by Cecil Parker), and the ‘stiff-upper-lip Oxfordians’ (Ryel-Lindsey 2007) Caldicott and Charters (played by Nauton Wayne and Basil Radford). After briefly defining appeasement along with the contemporary criticism of it, Hitchcock’s artistic means of parody and his character drawing will be examined. The director strictly subdivides his film into three narrative sections (cf. Acherman 2008) not only to generate a remarkable arc of suspense, but also to satirically conduct the characters in question from innocent unworldliness to insight into reality.


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