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Saboteur

Screening on Film
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
With Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, Otto Kruger.
US, 1942, 35mm, black & white, 108 min.
Print source: Universal

Conceived as an American variation on The 39 Steps, Saboteur’s double chase plotgave Hitchcock license to exploit the monumental scale of his adopted homeland. Robert Cummings stars as a factory worker ensnared in a wartime espionage plot that carries him from the California desert to the Statue of Liberty. That the worst of the saboteurs shield themselves behind a veneer of wealth and respectability surely owes something to radical novelist Dorothy Parker’s acerbic screenwriting, though Hitchcock himself showed a subversive streak in wanting to cast cowboy star Harry Carey as the villainous rancher eventually played by Otto Kruger. Art director Robert Boyle helped Hitchcock achieve the mélange of larger than life set pieces, setting the stage for their subsequent collaborations on North by Northwest, The Birds, and Marnie. Produced at a vulnerable moment in the director’s American career, Saboteur was the box office success the director needed to secure that rarest Hollywood commodity: creative control.

PRECEDED BY

  • Bon Voyage

    Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
    With John Blythe, the Moliére Players.
    UK, 1944, 35mm, black & white, 26 min.
    French with English subtitles.
    Print source: Milestone Films

Despite the dramatically tight budget of Hitchcock's second propaganda short in support of the French Resistance, the director nevertheless managed to secure the talents of camerman Günther Krampf, who had worked with F.W. Murnau, and composer Benjamin Frankel, a regular collaborator of Noel Coward’s. Fittingly, the cast was drawn primarily from the Moliére Players, a group of French actors exiled to London due to the war. Bon Voyage depicts a tale of escape and survival behind enemy lines from two very different points of view, and unlike Aventure Malagache it was widely distributed throughout liberated France and Belgium.

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