Rich and Strange
Rich and Strange, released in the United States as East of Shanghai, is a 1931 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 novel by Dale Collins. The title is an allusion to words of Ariel's song "Full fathom five" in Shakespeare's The Tempest.
|Rich and Strange|
UK VHS cover
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Produced by||John Maxwell|
|Screenplay by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Based on||Rich and Strange by|
|Music by||Adolph Hallis|
|Cinematography||John "Jack" Cox|
|Edited by||Winifred Cooper|
|Distributed by||Wardour Films (UK)|
|10 December 1931 (UK)|
1 January 1932 (US)
A couple, Fred (Henry Kendall) and Emily Hill (Joan Barry), living a mundane middle-class life in London, receive a letter informing them that an uncle will give them, as an advance against their future inheritance, as much money as they need to enjoy themselves in the present. Immediately Fred quits his job as a clerk and they leave on a cruise for "the Orient". Fred quickly shows his susceptibility to sea-sickness while crossing the English Channel. In Paris, both are scandalised by the Folies Bergère.
As they cruise the Mediterranean, Fred's sea-sickness keeps him in bed. During this time, Emily begins a relationship with a Commander Gordon (Percy Marmont), a dapper, popular bachelor. Finally feeling well enough to appear on deck, Fred is immediately smitten with a German "princess" (Betty Amann), who hits him in the eye with the rope ring used to play deck tennis (a combination of tennis and quoits which was at the time widely played shipboard). Both begin spending their time on board with their new paramours to the virtual exclusion of each other, and each plans to dissolve the marriage. In Colombo, the couple accidentally and awkwardly end up next to each other in a rickshaw.
When the passengers disembark at the final destination of Singapore, Emily leaves with Gordon for his home. When he reveals that the princess is a sham aiming to relieve Fred of his money, she realises she cannot go on with Gordon and returns to warn her husband. Fred does not believe her at first, but soon discovers his lover has absconded with £1000 of his money to Rangoon. He learns that she was merely the daughter of a Berlin laundry owner and a common street walker. The couple have only enough money to clear their hotel bill and to book passage home to England on a tramp steamer.
However, Fred and Emily's troubles have not ended, as 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 escape through a porthole. A Chinese junk arrives, and the crew proceed to loot the ship. When Fred and Emily board the junk, they are left unmolested and even fed. They finally return home, with their love for each other strengthened and seemingly wiser for their experiences. In the last scene, back home in London, the couple are seen arguing in a manner reminiscent of their bickering immediately prior to the arrival of the fateful letter.
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.
Copyright and home video status
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 others.
- "Alfred Hitchcock Collectors' Guide: Rich and Strange (1931)". Brenton Film.
- "Alfred Hitchcock Collectors' Guide: Slaying the public domain myth". Brenton Film.
- "Alfred Hitchcock: Dial © for Copyright". Brenton Film.
- "Bootlegs Galore: The Great Alfred Hitchcock Rip-off". Brenton Film.