The other day I agreed with Self-Styled Siren‘s comment that Alfred Hitchcock‘s Lifeboat (’44) is “very unappreciated” — I assumed she meant “wrongly” — by saying that Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak, Hume Cronyn, Henry Hull and Walter Slezak are excellent and that Hitch’s studio-water-tank simulation of the North Atlantic easily out-verisimiltudes Waterworld.
The discussion began with my mentioning the forthcoming Masters of Cinema Bluray version, due in mid April.
Siren said that Lifeboat is “a good example of our mutual pal Glenn Kenny‘s argument that a confined space can still be very cinematic.” Or my view that any limitation (including not having enough money) always encourages creativity. Lifeboat is the first of Hitchcock’s four confined-space films, the others being Rope (’48), Dial M for Murder (’54), and Rear Window (’54).
There are two great moments in the above clip. The first happens at 2:20, just after Bankhead has lost a priceless diamond bracelet after she and the others have tried fishing with it (“I can recommend the bait…I should know, I bit on it myself”). The second happens at 8:55 after a young German sailor, pulled aboard after his ship has gone down, is disarmed after pointing a gun at the lifeboat crew. And Hodiak says, “What are you going to do with people like that?” Cronyn says, “I don’t know…I was thinking of Mrs. Igley and her baby…and Gus.” And Bankhead says, “Well, maybe they can answer that.”
The writers were John Steinbeck, Jo Swerling, Ben Hecht, Alma Reville, MacKinlay Kantor and Patricia Collinge.
Lifeboat is one of many hundreds of films made since the early 1920s that are sharper and deeper and of more lasting value than The Artist. Don’t get me started.