Rich and Strange / East of Shanghai (1931)

Rich and Strange / East of Shanghai (1931)

“Damn the pictures and the wireless. I want some life — life, I tell you!”

When a bored accountant (Henry Kendall) receives an unexpected inheritance, he and his wife (Joan Barry) travel to Paris and then on an ocean liner, where Kendall falls for a seductive princess (Betty Amann) and Barry becomes enamored with a wealthy bachelor (Percy Marmont).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • At Sea
  • Hitchcock Films
  • Inheritance
  • Marital Problems
  • Romantic Comedy

This early talkie by Alfred Hitchcock — scripted by his wife, Alma Reville — is an unevenly paced cautionary tale against the perils of sudden wealth (turns out money can’t buy you love or stability, and can wreak havoc with loyalty — who knew?). Since Kendall is an annoying ninny, we tend to automatically side with angel-faced Barry — but it’s simply not all that interesting watching their marriage disintegrate under the pressures of romantic distractions. In an unusual twist, the couple find themselves stranded at sea, and their dehumanizing attitude towards a group of Chinese crewmen (and one woman) simply highlights how out of touch with cosmopolitan reality this naive pair is. At least it’s clear they really do belong with one another.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some creatively filmed and edited opening sequences
  • Innovative cinematography

Must See?
No; this one is strictly must-see for Hitchcock fans.


One thought on “Rich and Strange / East of Shanghai (1931)

  1. Agreed, not must-see. I wouldn’t even say it’s must-see for Hitchcock fans – or, rather, typical Hitchcock fans; the ones more accustomed to Hitchcock in fine, mature form as an artist. This is a film for those who feel they simply must see *everything* Hitchcock made.

    Certainly there is evidence of creativity here – as well as (slight) opportunities for Hitch to indulge his particular sense of humor. But (to me, anyway) it comes off more like a rudimentary work in which the director is familiarizing himself with the camera (framing, angles, etc.) – because the story itself is… not so much.

    And, yes – Kendall’s character is very annoying.

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