Due to snow, and an avalanche, passengers on a train get stranded overnight in the tiny European town of Bandrikan. They must stay at an overcrowded inn for the night. Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) is an English tourist who is heading back home to be married. Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave) is a musician. A couple having an affair are traveling as Mr. and Mrs. Todhunter (Cecil Parker, Linden Travers). Two Englishmen, Caldicott (Naunton Wayne) and Charters (Basil Radford) are also part of the passengers.
The next morning they hustle for the train. A new passenger, Miss Froy (May Whitty), just finished her job as a governess in Bandrikan and is now returning to England. Iris and Miss Froy met the night before. Before they board the train a planter drops from a window sill and hits Iris on the head. She recovers and boards the train but soon passes out. When she regains consciousness she is in a train compartment. With her are Miss Froy and several other passengers. Miss Froy suggests they have some tea so they head to the dining car. Iris is still a little woozy.
Miss Froy is particular about her tea. She gives the waiter a package of the tea she always drinks. After they finish their tea they return to their compartment. Miss Froy suggests that Iris take a nap and says that she should feel better when she wakes. Iris nods off. When she wakes up Miss Froy is gone. When she asks the other people in the compartment about her they tell her that there was no lady with her, she was alone. Iris begins looking through the train car for Miss Froy. Everyone she asks says they never saw her.
Iris runs into Gilbert Redman. Iris and Redman had words the night before when he was making too much noise in the room above her. At first Redman and Iris are a little short with each other. When he realizes she had been hurt he decides to be chivalrous and help her find her friend. Together they get nowhere. Everyone repeats their statements that there was no Miss Froy and Iris was alone.
On board the train is Dr. Egon Hartz (Paul Lukas). He is a brain specialist. He tells Iris that the blow on her head may have affected her and made her remember things that didn’t actually happen. Then Iris sees a woman dressed in the clothes she described that Miss Froy was wearing. When confronted the woman turns out to be a woman named Madame Kummer (Josephine Wilson).
Iris is beginning to accept that there really was no Miss Froy until she sees where Miss Froy spelled her name in the fog on the window next to the table where they had their tea. Redman becomes convinced when he sees the discarded package of specialty tea Miss Froy reportedly gave to the waiter. Now the question is where is Miss Froy and why is everyone lying?
“The Lady Vanishes” was released in 1938 and was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is a British mystery film loosely based on the 1936 novel “The Wheel Spins” by Ethel Lina White.
The film is so much more than a mystery film. It’s also a thriller and an espionage film with some good comedic undertones. Hitchcock has a way of inserting a little comic relief that is organic to the story. Although the two Englishmen Caldicott and Charters add some additional comedy as well. The mystery holds up all the way to the climax of the film. It’s one of Hitchcock’s lesser remember films but it’s one of his best.
The language spoken in Bandrikan is fake; however, when the hotel manager Boris speaks to room service to order the champagne for Iris’ room he exclaims "Oy vey iz mir" which is Yiddish for "Oh woe is me."
To avoid political controversy the British Board of Film Censors wouldn’t allow the foreign enemy in the film to be specifically identified as Germans.
Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo is near the end of the movie at Victoria Station. He is wearing a black coat, holding a black hat in his hand and smoking a cigarette.
In 1939, Hitchcock received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director. It was the only time Hitchcock received an award for his directing.