Birds of Prey (1930 film)

Birds of Prey, also known in the United States as The Perfect Alibi, is a 1930 British mystery film produced and directed by Basil Dean, from a screenplay he co-wrote with A.A. Milne from Milne's play which was known as The Perfect Alibi in the United States and The Fourth Wall in the United Kingdom. The film starred Dorothy Boyd, Robert Loraine, Warwick Ward, C. Aubrey Smith, and Frank Lawton. and starring Robert Loraine, Warwick Ward and Frank Lawton, and was produced at Beaconsfield Studios by Associated Talking Pictures.[3]

Birds of Prey
Directed byBasil Dean
John E. Burch (assistant)
Produced byBasil Dean
Written byA.A. Milne[1]
Basil Dean[1]
StarringDorothy Boyd
Robert Loraine
Warwick Ward
C. Aubrey Smith
Frank Lawton
Music byErnest Irving[1]
CinematographyJack MacKenzie[1]
Robert G. Martin[1]
Edited byJack Kitchin[2]
Distributed byRKO Pictures
Release date
  • 18 November 1930 (1930-11-18) (Premiere-UK)[1]
  • 1 April 1931 (1931-04-01) (US)[2]
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


At his country estate, Arthur Hilton (C. Aubrey Smith) is regaling his dinner guests of his exploits as a police officer decades earlier in Africa. He keys in a case where he had to track down a gang of three men who were suspected of a series of murders. He does stumble on them, but they actually end up capturing him. Fortunately, he was able to talk his way out of that predicament, and later on tracked them down again and captured them. One was hanged for his crimes, while the other two were sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Little does Hilton know that two of his dinner guests, Edward Laverick (Warwick Ward) and Edward Carter (Robert Loraine), are the two men who he sent to prison. They have vowed revenge, and prior to dinner, they exact it, killing Hilton. However, they have planned it to look like a suicide on the part of the elderly aristocrat. Initially, their plot seems successful, as the local constables who arrive to investigate the incident buy into the suicide scenario.

Hilton's nephew, Jimmy Hilton (Frank Lawton), and his girlfriend Mollie (Dorothy Boyd), who also happens to be the ward of the elder Hilton, become suspicious of the story told by the two men, and begin their own investigation. Their questioning leads them to arrive at the truth, and the two murderers are apprehended.


(Cast list as per AFI and BFI databases)[1][2]


Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times gave the film a lukewarm review, praising several of the players, particularly Smith and Ward, while questioning the abilities of some of the other actors, such as Loraine. He felt the direction was uneven, stating the overall production, "may not be endowed with imaginative direction, but, because of the author's intriguing story and C. Aubrey Smith's excellent performance, it succeeds in being an entertaining study of a cool, calculating murderer".[4]


Rupert Downing also contributed to the screenplay.[5]

The film's art direction was by Clifford Pember.[2]

Jack Hawkins made his screen debut in this film.[1][2]

The play on which this film is based was produced in London at the Haymarket Theatre in 1928.[6] The play, under the title, The Perfect Alibi, was produced on Broadway at the Charles Hopkins Theatre on Broadway from November 1928 through July 1929.[7]


  1. "Birds of Prey". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 20 August 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  2. "The Perfect Alibi: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on 29 March 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  3. Wood p.69
  4. Hall, Mordaunt (20 April 1931). "The Perfect Alibi: A Careful Murderer". New York Times. Archived from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  5. Downing, Rupert (1940). If I Laugh. London: George G Harrap. p. 2.
  6. Kershaw, Baz (2004). The Cambridge History of British Theatre: Volume 3. Cambridge University Press. p. 160.
  7. "The Perfect Alibi". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 19 August 2014.


  • Low, Rachael. Filmmaking in 1930s Britain. George Allen & Unwin, 1985.
  • Perry, George. Forever Ealing. Pavilion Books, 1994.
  • Wood, Linda. British Films, 1927-1939. British Film Institute, 1986.
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