Movie's Better VIII: The Lady Vanishes
I have to level with you, dear library readers: I haven't had the opportunity to read the original source material, mostly known by the movie's title, but originally called The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White (1936). Few have read this incredibly hard to find book, which is not in the public domain due to the movie (which is in the public domain, ironically). As I checked review sources, found none, and eventually ended up trolling the Internet, I decided to go with a clever blogger's description of the book as “vintage crime at its best.”
There ara a couple reasons I (maybe, incredibly) contend Hitchcock's adaptation to be an improvement over an original I haven't read:
1.) Hitchcock's track record. Psycho, Rear Window, Rebecca (which we're showing March 26th), and on and on, all terrific improvements over thier source material.
2.) Alma Reville. We all know his wife served as go-between, edited the films, and still cooked the big man dinner. But she was also a terrific screenwriter and script doctor, immeasurably improving his many adaptations.
3.) I'll add a third. Frank Launder joined forces with Sidney Gilliat here, and together they wrote, directed and produced over 40 terrific British films, but this is one of their best.
Also, two poor adaptation/updates stand in instructive contrast. The Lady Vanishes (1979), starring Cybill Shepherd and The Lady Vanishes (2013), starring Tuppence Middleton continued to hold onto Hitchcock's title while apparently ruining the core story. Lastly, The Lady was also serialized in six weekly 15 minute parts on BBC Radio 2, which is supposed to be OK, but no match for the original...film that is, which was a favorite of both Orson Welles and Francois Truffaut.
Will it be a favorite of yours? Come see for yourself this Wednesday! And check out the rest of our film series, Dial H for Hitchcock.
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