|Rich and Strange|
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Screenplay by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Based on||Rich and Strange by|
|Produced by||John Maxwell|
|Cinematography||John "Jack" Cox|
|Edited by||Winifred Cooper|
|Music by||Adolph Hallis|
|Distributed by||Wardour Films (UK)|
|10 December 1931 (UK)|
1 January 1932 (US)
Rich and Strange, released in the United States as East of Shanghai, is a 1931 romance film directed by Alfred Hitchcock during his time in the British film industry. The film was adapted by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville, and Val Valentine from the 1930 novel by Dale Collins. The title is an allusion to words of Ariel's song "Full fathom five" in Shakespeare's The Tempest.
A London couple, Fred (Henry Kendall) and Emily ("Em") Hill (Joan Barry), live a mundane middle-class existence. But that changes upon receipt of a letter informing them an uncle will advance them as much money as they need to enjoy themselves now rather than after his passing. So Fred quits his job, and they both travel across the channel to France. After sampling Paris's hot spots, they book passage on an ocean liner bound from Marseille for the Orient. However, Fred becomes seasick, leaving Em alone on board. To soak up time, she becomes acquainted with Gordon (Percy Marmont), a dapper, popular bachelor. Later, upon recovery, Fred is smitten with a German princess (Betty Amann). As the voyage progresses, Fred and Em spend more and more time with their new paramours, to the virtual exclusion of each other.
Upon arriving in Singapore, Fred and Em's marriage is in shambles. Em prepares to leave with Gordon for his home in Kuala Lumpur. However, before boarding the train, Gordon reveals that Fred's princess is actually a sham -- a con artist, using him until his money runs out. Em now realizes she can't allow Fred to fall into this trap, so she abandons Gordon to warn her husband. But it's too late. Fred discovers his "princess" has just left for Rangoon, with £1000 of his money. Fred and Emily have only enough left to book passage home to England on a tramp steamer. Later, the ship is abandoned after a collision in the fog. They are trapped in their cabin and prepare themselves for a watery end. In the morning, however, they awake to find the ship still afloat, and they escape through a porthole. A Chinese junk arrives, and the crew proceed to loot the ship. Fred and Em rescue a cat from their sinking ship and board the junk. But later, they discover the crew have cooked the cat and served it to them for dinner. So much for the romance of experiencing faraway places. Fred and Em finally arrive home with their love strengthened and apparently wiser for their experiences.
The film exhibits techniques developed by Hitchcock in his later films. Most notable are the shipboard sets, including a recreation of a full-size ship in a water tank. The director also experimented with camera techniques and shot compositions, most prominently in the film's innovative opening sequence, which shows city office workers leaving work at the end of the day. This dialogue-free scene was made on a specially-constructed set and filmed in a single continuous pan shot, and is followed by an extended comedic sequence depicting Fred's workaday travails as he travels home on the train.
Released during Hitchcock's period between The Lodger (1927) and his breakthrough hits The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The 39 Steps (1935), Rich and Strange was a failure at both the British and US box office. The film's lack of commercial and critical success is often attributed to the fact that there is dialogue for only about a quarter of the film, and that many features of silent films remain, including scene captions, exaggerated acting styles and heavy makeup. Hitchcock's experiment in pre-sound emotive performances over dialogue was possibly another contributing factor. An early scene of Fred leaving work for home via the London Underground is very reminiscent of Chaplin and highly dissimilar to typical Hitchcock staging.
Rich and Strange, like all of Hitchcock's other British films, is copyrighted worldwide but has been heavily bootlegged on home video. Despite this, various licensed, restored releases have appeared on DVD from Optimum in the UK, Lionsgate in the US and many others.