Skin Game, The (1931)

The Skin Game (1931), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Two English country families at war over development of the neighborhood: the old-money gentry wants everything left as is, while the newly rich working class gent wants smokestacks. With a little covert Romeo & Juliet contact among the young people and a looming scandal for a young wife with a hidden past.

An adaptation of a play by Galsworthy, at first this seems like it will be a typical, static drawing-room drama of the early talkie era. Hitchcock had already made one such in Juno & the Paycock (1930), a dull effort.

In the Truffaut interviews the director said: "I didn't make it by choice and there isn't much to be said about it".

I found it a little better than expected, opening up in some scenes with decent composition, but proceeding in fits and starts in pacing. The best scene is a quietly exciting auction of an essential piece of land, with the camera swinging between bidders.

I also want to commend Edmund Gwenn for his up-and-coming businessman. I don't think of him as playing hard characters, being more of a jolly Santa Claus as in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Even as an assassin in Foreign Correspondent (1940) he is a pleasant companion. In this story he is affable until crossed, when a steely bitterness emerges. He has cause, the way his family has been snubbed by the old money.

After all the trauma it ends with a shot of the young people holding hands, out of sight of their warring elders.

The meaning of the title is obscure: I think it means "playing for real, without mercy", a reference to skinning animals, taking pelts.

Photographed by Jack E. Cox, a frequent collaborator in Hitchcock's early years. Hitchcock: "We shot with four cameras and with a single soundtrack because we couldn't cut sound in those days".

The IMDB has "Jack Cardiff: clapper boy (uncredited)", not his first listing by a long shot.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino.