The Blackmail Theme in Hitchcocks Films

Some examples of the blackmail theme and where it occurs in Hitchcock's films

Blackmail, 1929

Tracy (Donald Calthrop) is blackmailing Alice (Anny Ondra, dubbed by Joan Barry) and Frank (John Longden). He saw that Alice was at the artist the night he was killed; ha also has one of her gloves, which can be used as evidence against her.

Rebecca 1939/1940

Rebecca's lover Jack Favell (George Sanders) tries to blackmail Maxim showing him a letter from Rebecca urging him excitedly to meet her, which seems to suggest she was not suicidal.

Stage Fright, 1949/1950

When Nellie Goode (Kay Walsh) uncovers the deception that is going on, Eve (Jane Wyman) manages to buy her off with blackmail money. With time running out, she persuades Smith (Michael Wilding) to accompany her to a garden party where Charlotte (Marlene Dietrich) is singing on stage in a large tent.

I Confess, 1952/1953

The murderered lawyer blackmailed the Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter) who was in love with Father Logan (Montgomery Clift)

Dial M for Murder, 1953/1954

Tony (Ray Milland) has been investigating Captain Lesgate - aka Charles Alexander Swann (Anthony Dawson) in order to blackmail him into committing the murder. Tony tells Swann of Margot's affair, including a love letter from Mark (Robert Cummings) which she once kept in her handbag. Six months ago, Tony stole the handbag and anonymously blackmailed her. After tricking Swann into leaving his fingerprints on the letter, Tony offers to pay him £1,000 to kill Margot (Grace Kelly). If he refuses, Tony will turn him in to the police as the blackmailer.





Blackmail (1929)

Blackmail was made and released in 1929, both as a silent movie and with sound.
Production Company: British International Pictures
Based on a play by Charles Bennett


The silent version is available on DVD in Europe at





Anny Ondra... Alice White (dubbed by Joan Barry)
Sara Allgood... Mrs. White
Charles Paton... Mr. White
John Longden... Detective Frank Webber
Donald Calthrop... Tracy
Cyril Ritchard... The Artist
Hannah Jones... The Landlady
Harvey Braban... The Chief Inspector (sound version)
Ex-Det. Sergt. Bishop... The Detective Sergeant


Alice White-saken (Hitchcock: Blackmail)

In Norway Blackmail was released as Alice White-saken (The Alice White Case) in 1929. The journalist in this clip is happy to hear an English sound movie, and thus "be spared of the American slang" and "terrible [American] palatale sounds". After having seen Blackmail, the journalist has high hopes for the future of the sound film.






The Lodger, 1926/1927 The lodger tells Daisy that he promised his mother that he wouldn't rest before the serial killer who calls himself the Avenger is caught
The detective sees in double-exposed images the elements apparently linking the lodger to the murders.
Easy Virtue, 1927 During the trial against Mrs. Filton for misconduct in marriage there are several flashbacks.
Blackmail, 1929 Alice sees the hand of the murdered artist in a flashback when she is waiting to cross the street on her way home.
Saboteur, 1942 In the truck with the funny truck driver (Murray Alper), Barry Kane sees the envelopes Fry lost on the floor in the airplane factory at the beginning of the film in a double exposed flashback. This helps him remember the name of the farm (Deep Springs Ranch) where he could find Fry. A similar flashback occurs when suzy drops Mr. Tobin’s letters on the floor.
Bon Voyage, 1944              
Aventure Malgache, 1944              
Spellbound, 1944/1945 John Ballantyne (Gregory Peck) remembers the accident when his brother is impaled on the fence.
Stage Fright, 1949/1950 The lying flashback, one of the most discussed flashbacks in cinema history. Can a flashback lie? (At about the same time Akira Kurosawa made Rashomon, a film depicting the rape of a woman and the murder of her samurai husband through the differing flashback accounts of four witnesses. Three of them must be wrong.)
Hitchcock to Truffaut on the flashback in Stage Fright: "I did one thing in that picture that I never should have done; I put in a flashback that was a lie. [...] Strangely enough, in movies, people never object if a man is shown telling a lie. And it's also acceptable, when a character tells a story about the past, for the flashback to show it as if it were taking place in the present. So why is it that we can't tell a lie through a flashback?"
I Confess, 1952/1953 When the girls tell the detectives that they saw a priest leaving the murder victim's house, we see this in a flashback.
When Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter) is telling about her being the young Father Logan's (Montgomery Clift) girlfriend and how she later got married and met the lawyer who blackmailed her, we see all this in a lengthy and narratively weak flashback.
Frenzy, 1971/1972 When the serial killer Bob Rusk (Barry Foster) remembers where the tiepin is, he sees fragments of Babs (Anna Massey) being murdered.

Aberrant Women Motif in Hitchcock's Movies

  • Alice (Blackmail)
  • Sylvia (Sabotage)
  • Lady Henrietta Flusky (Under Capricorn)
  • Marion Crane (Psycho)
  • Melanie Daniels (The Birds)
  • Marnie (Marnie)