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SKIN GAME, THE (director/writer: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriter: from the play by John Galsworthy/Alma Reville; cinematographer: Jack E. Cox; editors: A.R. Gobbett/Rene Marrison; cast: Edmund Gwenn (Mr. Hornblower), Helen Haye (Mrs. Amy Hillcrist), C.V. France (Squire John Hillcrist), Jill Esmond (Jill Hillcrist), Phyllis Konstam (Chloe Hornblower), John Longden (Charles Hornblower), Herbert Ross (Mr Jackman), Dora Gregory (Mrs. Jackman), Frank Lawton (Rolf Hornblower), Edward Chapman (Dawker), Donald Frankau (Auctioneer); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Maxwell; Laserlight; 1931-UK)
“All talk and no action.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An uncharacteristically bad Alfred Hitchcock (“Dial M for Murder”/”The Birds”/”Rich And Strange”) directed film that’s all talk and no action. Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville adapted it from the 1920 play by John Galsworthy. It’s a creaky and stagebound film, with stiff dialogue. Galsworthy had it in writing that not one word of his play could be changed, which left Hitchcock in a bind.

Set in a small country English village in Lancashire, where aristocratic landowner Hillcrest (C. V. France) sells part of his estate to a pugnacious upstart self-made rich man, the Scotsman Mr. Hornblower (Edmund Gwenn), who then plans to evict longtime tenants even though he verbally promised not to and plans to change the environment with real estate speculation. This starts off a family clan war, that gets dirty. Mrs. Hillcrist (Helen Haye) finds out that Chloe Hornblower (Phyllis Konstam), the loud mouth patriarch’s daughter-in-law, was a prostitute and she uses this secret to blackmail the speculator and force him to stop constructing an ugly pottery factory on their doorstep.

Hitchcock in an interview with Francois Truffaut said: “I didn’t make it by choice, and there isn’t much to be said about it.”

Jill Esmond, who plays Jill Hillcrist, was married to Laurence Olivier at the time.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”