One of Hitchcock’s last and most popular British films before departing for Hollywood permanently, The Lady Vanishes is also one of his lightest, most delectably witty creations. Containing both a critique and a celebration of British insularity and classism, Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder’s disarmingly charming script embroils a band of strangers into a political espionage plot within the microcosmic confines of a moving train. Its mirrored layers of imagination, deception and camouflage craftily conspire to unify a brisk comedy of manners with a political thriller – Hitchcock’s perfect ode to the UK with suggestive shadows of the darker Hollywood productions to come.
Originally intended by the producers to be a vehicle for Jessie Matthews, a famous star of the British stage and screen, Waltzes From Vienna was dismissed by Hitchcock as one of his lesser efforts. Undertaken when his career was ebbing after the success of The Lodger and Blackmail, Hitchcock did admit that his biopic of Josef Strauss, Jr. – focused on his composition of “The Blue Danube” – allowed him “opportunities for working out ideas in the relation of film and music.” Lacking both the director’s approval and his distinctively suspenseful storyline, this period piece has long been ignored. Seen today, it is a charming example of Hitchcock’s flair for comedy.