Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dame May Whitty

Dame May Whitty in The Lady Vanishes,
Dame May Whitty, 1965-1948

TCM aired Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes this evening in prime time. Dame May Whitty plays the title role; governess Miss Froy, who's returning from a made-up country in Central Europe back to England. She meets young woman Iris Henderson (played by Margaret Lockwood) just before boarding the train, but Iris wakes up during the train ride to discover that Froy has gone missing! And she can't get anybody to believe that Froy even existed -- until Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave) comes to believe it. I won't give away any more of the story line, except to say that it's filled with Hitchcock's twists, turns, and a MacGuffin. If you missed The Lady Vanishes on TCM, you'll be pleased to know that it's out on DVD.

If you want to see more of Dame May Whitty, though, you can just tune in to TCM on March 14 at 8:00 PM ET: TCM will be showing Gaslight. Ingrid Bergman stars as Paula Alquist, a young woman whose aunt, a famous opera singer, was murdered. She's in Italy recovering, where she meets Gregory Anton (played by the suave Charles Boyer). They fall in love right away, get married, and return to Paula's old home in London. But all is not right with their marriage, as Gregory is browbeating Paula, and she seems to be going mad as a result. Why is he doing it? Well, that would give away the whole story!

Dame May Whitty plays Bessie Thwaites, an elderly woman who meets Paula in Italy at the start of the movie, and then is surprised to find that they're neighbors in London. Her role isn't as big here as it is in The Lady Vanishes, but she's still fun to watch. The other supporting roles, however, may be more interesting: Joseph Cotten plays a Scotland Yard detective who suspects something's going wrong with Paula, and is determined to figure out what. He'd be fine if he were playing an American detective, but as a Scotland Yard man, he seems miscast. The best of the supporting roles, however, is that of Gregory and Paula's young maid: that's a teenaged Angela Lansbury in her first movie role.

Gaslight is also available on DVD.

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