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DOWNHILL (aka: WHEN BOYS LEAVE HOME) (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: Eliot Stannard/from the play As Source Material by Ivor Novello & Constance Collier; cinematographer: Claude McDonnell; editor: Ivor Montagu; cast: Ivor Novello (Roddy Berwick), Isabel Jeans (Julia), Ian Hunter (Archie), Ben Webster (Dr. Dawson), Lilian Braithwaite (Lady Berwick), Norman McKinnel (Sir Thomas Berwick), Robin Irvine (Tim Wakely), Sybil Rhoda (Sybil Wakely), Annette Benson (Mabel), Jerrold Robertshaw (Rev. Henry Wakely); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Balcon; PRS; 1927-silent-UK)

Blame Novello for this turkey, Hitchcock did all he could to make this creaky story work with some creative visuals.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The fourth film of Alfred Hitchcock (“Vertigo”/”Rear Window”/”Psycho”)has such a ridiculous story line,that not even some inventive experimental dream sequences by the future Master can save this bomb.It’sbased on a hit play by Ivor Novello and Constance Collier, and stars Novello in the title role. When sixth-form boarding school rich boyand rugby star Roddy Berwick (Ivor Novello), with a golden future, accompanies his room-mate Tim Wakely (Robin Irvine) to a bun shop, Tim takes the forward shop girl Mabel (Annette Benson) in the back and impregnates her. But when she goes to the Headmaster (Ben Webster), she accuses the innocent Roddy, son of Sir Thomas (Norman McKinnel) and Lady Berwick (Lilian Braithwaite), figuring he has more dough than the reverend’s kid. When Roddy fails to tell the Headmasterthe truth and takes the fall for his friend so he can keep his scholarship, Roddy is kicked out of school on the spot and can only reply “Does this mean, sir, that I shall not be able to play for the Old Boys.”When his upset parents hear about his dismissal, the irate dad sends him packing and he treks to the West End to be a chorus boy. Inheriting some dough, he’s seduced by a gold-digger actress, Julia (Isabel Jeans), and marries her, and when she runs through all his money she runs off with another man. Roddy’s again crushed by those he trusts, but survives by finding work in Paris as a taxi dancer and gigolo. But his downhill slide continues and he can’t justify being a gigolo and ends up ill and alone living in the slums of Marseilles. His luck changes when some sailors feel sorry for the lad and help him return to England. It ends on a happy note, as Roddy’s family welcomes him back to the family in London.

Blame Novello for this turkey, Hitchcock did all he could to make this creaky story work with some creative visuals and showed flashes of his laterfilmmaking skills. But not one bit of this story makes sense or is believable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”