Friday, June 20, 2008

Ivor Novello the Serial Killer?

Although he'd made several films before The Lodger (1926), director Alfred Hitchcock dated his career from the making of this movie. It was his first critical and commercial success – and also his first suspense flick.

The Lodger – a silent film - is one of the earliest cinematic treatments of the Jack the Ripper theme. Fog-bound London is terrorised by a serial killer known as "The Avenger" who specialises in killing young blonde women. Everyone is paranoid.

One night a Nosferatu-like lodger turns up on the doorstep of a family boarding house. Wearing a hat and overcoat, and swathed in a scarf, only his piercing eyes are visible. When he removes his outdoor garments Ivor Novello is revealed to be the epitome of the aristocratic dandy.

Novello was counter-cast as the potential psycho - his romantic idol looks played off against the rather odd persona of the lodger. However, in order not to upset the Welshman’s legion of female fans, Hitchcock was under strict instruction to ultimately exonerate his main character. It simply wouldn’t do for Novello to play a homicidal maniac.

At this stage of his career Novello was considered to be more of a musical idol than a screen star, but the success of The Lodger soon changed all of that. It turned out to be the box office smash of 1926. In truth Novello was pretty limited as a screen actor but Hitchcock managed to get the best out of him. The director, aware of his leading man’s secret homosexuality, coaxed a performance from him that is both camp and martyred.

Anyway, here’s a nice publicity shot from the movie.