The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog

A landlady suspects that her new lodger is the madman killing women in London.


“There is a cut to a sign reading ‘room to let’. The mother, adopting the obsequiesness of the landlady toward the potential tenant, points to the stairs. This is a striking framing that will reccur in later Hitchcock thrillers, most notably in Psycho. The lodger stares into the depths of this frame, reinforcing our impression from the previous shot that he is turned inward. The camera gives us no access to the scène he is envisioning in his mind's eye. It's a recurring Hitchcock strategy to engender the impression of a mysterious connection between an imagined scène and a real scene. After Daisies mother, showing the lodger the room to let, turns on the lights, the camera following his gaze, pans along the wall to a painting of a beautiful woman with long blond hair. Then Hitchcock cuts again to the lodger, to yet another pan, across a painting of a blonde, but this shot ends by framing a painting depicting an incident in the life of Saint George. He is freeing a woman, chosen to be sacrificed to the dragon. But is the lodger here allegorically to rescue Daisy or is he the dragon. The sight of this last painting provokes a quick cut to the most remarkable shot of the film. The lodger is staring in the direction of the camera. Behind him is a painting framed within a frame within the frame. The way he is staring ahead into the middle distance creates the impression that he is again turned inward, absorbed in a scene he is envisioning in his mind's eye. But as he steps forward, his movement causes his figure in the frame to be doubled by an image of himself with his back to the camera. In the frame within the frame, we now know is a mirror. Unreal though she is, the woman in the painting holds him enthralled, as if with the power of her gaze. He is viewing her from outside her world, just as we are outside the projected world, that holds us enthralled. Uncannilly, objective reality in The Lodger and subjective reality — the painting he’s seeing and the scene he’s envisioning in his minds eye — our world and the projected world are fused.”

William Rothman1


“Walter Wanger, the producer of Hitchcock’s second American picture, Foreign Correspondent, arranged for Hitchcock’s name to be used over the air, but interestingly not the man himself. This condition was agreed upon on condition that a pitch for Foreign Correspondent is mentioned sometime during the broadcast. To add some flavor to the deal, Wanger threw in Edmund Gwenn and Herbert Marshall, both of whom had considerable roles in the film. According to Herbert Marshall, he and Hitchcock decided on The Lodger by Marie Belloc-Lowndes as the story to bring to the airwaves, a chilling gothic tale about Jack-the-Ripper that happened to be a favorite of both Marshall and Hitchcock. The director, of course, directed a movie version of the story for Gainsborough Studios in 1926. Marshall portrayed the mysterious lodger whose actions at night (such as walking the streets alone) went unexplained. Co-starring were Edmund Gwenn and Lurene Tuttle as the rooming-house keepers who start to suspect that their new boarder might be the notorious "Saucy Jack." Wilbur Hatch, whose music would later be featured (stock music, mostly) on television's Alfred Hitchcock Presents, composed and conducted the music for the program. Gwenn was actually repeating the role taken in the 1926 film by his brother, Arthur Chesney. Lurene Tuttle would work with Hitchcock twenty years later in Psycho (1960).  Adapted the script for radio was not a technical challenge, but a slight alteration to the story was made. The true identity of the mysterious lodger would not be given away. Instead, the story ended rather abruptly and the entire cast, including Alfred Hitchcock, spent the last remaining minutes discussing the possible conclusions. Since the purpose of Forecast was to present experimental dramas, and to test the listening audience’s reaction, why not give the eavesdroppers something to write in about? Keeping in mind that Hitchcock himself would not become a familiar figure in American living rooms until the 1950s, most of the listening audience was unaware of how his voice sounded. With this notion in mind, character actor Joseph Kearns with a British accent played the role of Hitchcock; indeed, the famed director wasn't even present during the program's drama. A recording of this episode does circulate among collector and upon hearing the program it is evident that Hitchcock merely lent his name to the show and nothing more simply for the sake of publicity. Such a conclusion leads to the suspicion that Herbert Marshall was less than candid when he mentioned that he and Hitchcock both decided on The Lodger as the story of choosing.”

Charles Huck, Martin Grams, Jr.2

  • 1William Rothman, "New interview with film scholar William Rothman on Hitchcock’s visual signatures," The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog. DVD. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 1927; New York: Criterion, 2017.
  • 2Charles Huck, Martin Grams, Jr., "GOOD EVENING: Alfred Hitchcock on Radio,", 2003.


François Truffaut: The Lodger is uw eerste belangrijke film...

Alfred Hitchcock: Dat is een ander verhaal. The Lodger was de eersre echte ‘Hitchcock-film’. Ik had een toneelstuk gezien, Who is he?, gebaseerd op de roman The Lodger van mevrouw Belloc Lowndes. Het speelde zich af in een huis waar gemeubileerde kamers werden verhuurd, en de hospita vroeg zich af of de nieuwe huurder nou Jack the Ripper was of niet. Ik behandelde het heel simpel, zuiver vanuit haar standpunt. Sindsdien zijn er twee of drie remakes van geweest, maar die zijn te ingewikkeld.

Truffaut: De held was in feite onschuldig. Hij was geen Jack the Ripper. 

Hitchcock: Dat was de moeilijkheid juist. Ivor Novello, de acteur, was een idool in Engeland. Hij had een grote naam in die tijd. Dat was een van de problemen van het ‘sterrensysteem’. Heel vaak werd het verhaal in de waagschaal gesteld omdat een ster nu eenmaal geen slechterik kan zijn.

Truffaut: Ik begrijp hieruit dat u liever gezien had dat die acteur zich als Jack the Ripper had ontpopt?

Hitchcock: Niet persé. Maar in zo’n verhaal als dit had ik hem de nacht in willen sturen, zodat niemand het ooit zeker zou weten. Als de held door een ster gespeeld wordt kun je dat niet doen. Je moet het duidelijk in grote letters uitspellen: Hij is onschuldig. 

Truffaut: Het verbaast me nogal dat u een einde zou overwegen dat het publiek geen antwoord op zijn vraag zou verschaffen.

Hitchcock: In dit geval, wanneer je hele suspense draait rond de vraag: “Is hij nou wel of niet Jack the Ripper”, en je antwoordt dan: “Ja, hij is Jack the Ripper,” dan heb je alleen een vermoeden bevestigd. Voor mij is dat niet dramatisch. Maar hier gingen we de andere kant op en lieten zien dat hij Jack the Ripper in het geheel niet was.”

François Truffaut en Alfred Hitchcock in gesprek1

  • 1François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock/Truffaut (Amsterdam: International Theatre Bookshop, 1988), 30-47. Vertaald door Loes Goedbloed.
UPDATED ON 11.12.2023
IMDB: tt0017075