Film Friday: The Lady Vanishes


Promotional still from the 1938 film The Lady Vanishes, published in National Board of Review Magazine. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

I think it’s often the case when a film moves us and becomes a favourite, that we feel the pull, the magic, in our first viewing. The event becomes as memorable as the film.

But there are exceptions.

I can’t remember when or where I first saw The Lady Vanishes, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 masterpiece. It must have been on TV, but I have no recollection of it.

What I do know is that sometime in the late 1990s when I read a short story by Paul Magrs called The Lion Vanishes, (1) I understood the references: I got the joke.

I know then that I went back to the movie — even buying it on video — and the love affair began.

The Lady Vanishes (tLV)was Hitchcock’s last truly British film: indeed its success was what prompted the invitation to Hollywood.

If the name “Hitchcock” brings to mind Psycho, The Birds, or even Strangers on a Train; stop there. tLV is an altogether kinder, more gentle film shot through with wonderful British humour.

Even better — and unlike many of Hitchcock’s later films — the female characters are allowed to do more than swoon, fawn and endure violence. In many ways, the story is female-driven.

Wikipedia describes the film’s plot thus:

… based on the 1936 novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, the film is about a beautiful English tourist travelling by train in continental Europe who discovers that her elderly travelling companion seems to have disappeared from the train. After her fellow passengers deny ever having seen the elderly lady, the young woman is helped by a young musicologist, the two proceeding to search the train for clues to the old lady’s disappearance.

Released in 1938, the film’s fictional countries and political turmoils were thinly veiled references to the world war that was looming. The triumph of the British characters over the alternately evil and bumbling foreigners was inevitable, but executed with great skill and wit.

Health warning

The Lady Vanishes  had a truly execrable Hollywood remake in 1979. I can’t even bring myself to talk about it. Avoid it at all costs!

About Film Friday

Sarah at Art Expedition, and Darren, The Arty Plantsman have initiated this great new blogging project. You can find out more and see their chosen films for the week by visiting Sarah’s or Darren’s latest posts.


  1. The Lion Vanishes can be found in the short story collection Playing Out by Paul Magrs, 1997.

23 thoughts on “Film Friday: The Lady Vanishes

  1. I hate to admit it but I’ve never watched this one – not because I didn’t want to but it seems not to have aired very often in German tv, or maybe I just missed it every time it did. 😂 It sounds very good though and I’m all curious about the female role in this one!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have probably watched this, because Sunday afternoon TV was always a b&w film when I was growing up. However, I confess to only properly remembering the Cybill Shepherd version. I don’t remember it being so bad. Well, it was 1979 and I saw everything going with my uni boyfriend. Maybe we didn’t pay enough attention to the film …

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a stand-alone, it probably wasn’t bad. It just suffers in comparison with the original — as so many remakes and adaptations do.
      Apparently the BBC did a version recently that goes back to the novel, rather than Hitchcock’s film. It’s had good reviews!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Film Friday: The Lady Vanishes — Zimmerbitch | Crime/Mystery Film & Writing Festival

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s