Elstree Calling

A marvelous sequence of music hall and variety acts on the London stage at British International Pictures for a live TV broadcast (“hold tight to your cat’s whiskers”), deep-rooted and rakehelly in a fashion quite recognizable (a showbiz quintessence) and thought by the New York Times reviewer to be “second-rate vaudeville” and untransportable.

Hitchcock, who did not even condescend to discuss it with Truffaut, certainly directed the sublime sketch of the lovers caught out, is further credited by some sources with the brilliant parody of Fairbanks & Pickford’s The Taming of the Shrew (Donald Calthrop and Anna May Wong), and of course the running gag of a television set on the fritz (upstairs it’s “workin’ marvelous”).

None of the musical numbers and comedy routines are assigned to his hand, which leaves out “Little” Teddy Brown (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”), The Three Eddies (“Tain't No Sin to Take Off Your Skin and Dance Around in Your Bones”), Helen Burnell and The Adelphi Girls (“My Heart Is Saying”), Lily Morris (“Why Am I Always the Bridesmaid?”), The Charlot Girls (“The Lady’s Maid Is Always In the Know”), The Berkoffs, The Balalaika Choral Orchestra, Jack Hulbert et al., Will Fyffe (“Twelve and a Tanner a Bottle”), Cicely Courtneidge (“I’ve Fallen in Love”), and some beautiful shots of Elstree at work.

Hitchcock the television impresario is a long shot from Tommy Handley’s presentation, in a manner of speaking.