The Manxman (1929)


Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Eliot Stannard & Hall Caine

The story is one of a love triangle. There are two friends on the Isle of Man: one is a young superstar lawyer, who is in line to become the next Deemster, the other is a lowly fisherman, but they have been best of friends since childhood. The fisherman, Pete, is in love with the innkeeper’s daughter, Kate, but the innkeeper does not approve of Pete for his lowly status, so he won’t allow them to marry. As a result, Pete leaves Kate in the hands of Philip, the lawyer, while he goes abroad to make his fortune. However, the plot twists when, while Pete is gone, Phil and Kate fall in love, a marriage her father will surely approve of. But Phil’s family, on the other hand, does not approve of him marrying below him, let alone being seen with Kate at all. Pete is thought dead, but isn’t and when he returns, a whole new mess is created.

The story is quite intriguing. And the way that Hitchcock lets it unfold is quite good. This film is certainly not a classic, in fact it is a remake of a 1916 film of the same name. But Hitch manages to capture those fleeting stunning visuals and the camera always seems to be where it should be. The acting, by Carl Brisson, Anny Ondra, and Malcolm Keen is superb. The two male actors play such different characters and their facial expressions and body movements tell the story all their own in this, Hitchcock’s last silent film. It really is wonderful. And Ondra, the female lead, is very beautiful as Kate. I can remember saying to myself in the beginning that there is something about her that I even found contemporary. Certainly there is a style and mold of female stars from the 20s and 30s and she could fit in there, but she is someone that didn’t look all that different from somebody that I could see walking down the street today. I don’t know if that was the make-up, or if she was just the kind of woman whose beauty transcends time.

The film is heartbreaking in many ways, each character realizes a heartbreak and must cope with it and learn to overcome it. For what it is, it is a very strong film worth seeing at some point I think.

*** – Good

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