SCREEN-L Archives

February 2005, Week 2


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
"Steven P. Hill" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 13 Feb 2005 17:15:04 -0600
text/plain (49 lines)
Dear colleagues: 

The title "Woman Alone" seems to be the source of some confusion,  at least in my mind, although there 
may have been some method in the madness originally.  Perhaps a historian of 1930s British cinema holds 
the key. 

Pre-history.  Back in 1912 and 1917 in the US there had been two obscure films,  each entitled "Woman 
Alone," starring Mabel Trunnelle and Alice Brady, respectively.  In 1934 in England, Brunel directed an 
obscure film entitled "Menace" (starring Varconi), later re-titled "Sabotage."  As obscure as the three films 
seem to have been, it seems improbable they could have contributed to the following confusion. 
_ __ __ _ __ __ _ __ __ __ __ _ __ __ __ __ __ 

In 1936, after Hitchcock had directed an adapation of Maugham's "Ashenden" spy stories under the film 
title "Secret Agent," Hitch went on to tackle Joseph Conrad's important story, "Secret Agent" (c. 1900-10), 
whose setting was 20th-century London.  But Hitch had just used up Conrad's own title on his prior 
Maugham  adaptation.  Not surprisingly,  a new title was devised,  "Sabotage,"  to replace Conrad's literary 
title.  The  resulting Hitchcock film  emerged from Gaumont-British Studio in 1936, starring Sylvia Sydney 
& Oskar Homolka, and under that film title "Sabotage" became part of the Hitchcock canon.   

In that same year, 1936, the Russian-American couple,  producer-director Eugene Frenke and actress 
Anna Sten,  came to the UK and filmed a drama set in pre-revolutionary Russia (1936, Garrett-Klement 
Pictures [?], starring Sten & Henry Wilcoxon).  This Sten vehicle, from a story by Fedor Otsep (Ozep), bore 
clear  resemblances to "Land in Captivity" ("Zemlya v plenu"), a 1928 Russian film starring Sten & written- 
directed  by Otsep.  But Sten & Frenke's 1936 British film gained a completely new title.  In fact, it gained 
TWO new titles, one  supposedly British and  one supposedly American, "Woman Alone"and "Two Who 
Dared." But which was the British title and which was the American is unclear -- sources seem to 
contradict each other.  Don't turn the page yet -- the plot thickens. 

Both the above 1936 British films, Hitchcock's and Frenke's, were then imported to the USA, and, it would 
appear, both underwent further title changes.  Hitch's "Sabotage" supposedly was re-titled "Woman 
Alone," for reasons that escape my understanding.   Equally unfortunate, the Frenke-Sten film lost its 
initial British  title and acquired a new US title.  (One of Frenke's titles was "Woman Alone," thus coinciding 
with the US  title of the Hitchcock film...) 

Is some of the  above muddle an artifact of confused historiography, i.e., was the 1936-37 reality not 
that confused, after all?  Perhaps  later historians (myself first of all) have mixed things up and made the 
original reality  SEEM TO BE a Caligaresque  nightmare?  Or was the good German  montebank of Robert 
Wiene alive and  well in London & New York in  1936-37...? 

With considerable confusion, 
Steven P Hill, 
Cinema Studies & Slavic Langs., 
University of Illinois (USA). 
_ __ _ __ _ __ __ _ __ __ _ __ __ _ _ 

Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama: