Ivor Novello plays a schoolboy who is falsely accused of getting a girl pregnant and descends into disgrace, in Alfred Hitchcock’s dark melodrama.
“The film slips subliminally between reality and fantasy as Novello’s fate worsens... with one astounding scene in a nightclub where the arrival of daylight reveals the true decadence on the faces of its clientele.”
David Thompson, Sight & Sound, October 2007
In his second film for Alfred Hitchcock after The Lodger (1926), Ivor Novello – who wrote the source play for Dowhill – plays (somewhat implausibly at 34) model school student Roddy, falsely accused of getting a young woman pregnant. Expelled and disgraced, Roddy goes into self-imposed exile, reduced to renting himself out as a companion to lonely, wealthy women before winding up destitute and ill in Marseilles.
Unusually dark for the time it was made, Downhill is another example of Hitchcock’s much-revisited ‘wrong man’ plot. Fascinating for the way it fetishises Novello’s suffering, and with some exceptional compositions (a sickly green tint when a delirious Roddy voyages home prefigures the much later Vertigo), Downhill is one of Hitchcock’s most unfairly neglected works.
Rebellious teenagers appear throughout British cinema, from girls in reformatories in Good-Time Girl (1948) and borstal boys in Boys in Brown (1949) to juvenile delinquents in Bronco Bullfrog (1969).
Cast & credits
- Roddy Berwick Ivor Novello
- Dr Dowson, the headmaster Ben Webster
- Sir Thomas Berwick Norman Mckinnel
- Tim Wakeley Robin Irvine
- The Rev Henry Wakeley Jerrold Robertshaw
- Sybil Wakeley Sybil Rhoda
- Mabel Annette Benson
- Lady Berwick Lilian Braithwaite
- Julia Fotheringale Isabel Jeans
- Archie Ian Hunter
- dresser Hannah Jones
- Madame Michet Barbara Gott
- poetess Violet Farebrother
- sailor Alf Goddard
- Scenario Eliot Stannard
- Based on the play 'Down Hill' by Ivor Novello
- [Based on the play] Ivor Novello
- [Based on the play] Constance Collier
- Director of Photography Claude Mcdonnell
- Art Director Bertram Evans