Alfred Hitchcock Conducts a Politically Incorrect Sound Test on the Set of Blackmail (1929)

Above we have a young Alfred Hitch­cock on the set of Black­mail (1929), con­duct­ing a rather naughty sound test with actress Anny Ondra (1929).

In case you don’t know the back­sto­ry, Black­mail was orig­i­nal­ly meant to be a silent film. How­ev­er, with talkies becom­ing the rage, Hitch­cock decid­ed mid-stream to make the film a talkie. That deci­sion did­n’t come with­out its own prob­lems. Anny Ondra, a Czech actress, spoke Eng­lish with a heavy accent and could­n’t pass as a Lon­don­er in the film. So Hitch­cock per­formed some cin­e­ma mag­ic and had Eng­lish actress Joan Bar­ry dub Ondra’s lines. In those days, dub­bing could­n’t take place in post-pro­duc­tion. It all had to hap­pen in real-time. Thus, as the cam­era rolled, Bar­ry stood out­side the frame and spoke the dia­logue into a micro­phone, while Ondra pan­tomimed the words. Through­out, Hitch­cock direct­ed Ondra while lis­ten­ing to Bar­ry through a pair of head­phones.

hitch with hair

You can watch Black­mail (Britain’s first talkie fea­ture film) online here or find it in our col­lec­tion of 23 Free Hitch­cock Films Online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

37 Hitch­cock Cameo Appear­ances Over 50 Years: All in One Video

Lis­ten to François Truffaut’s Big, 12-Hour Inter­view with Alfred Hitch­cock (1962)

The Plea­sure Gar­den, Alfred Hitchcock’s Very First Fea­ture Film (1925)

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.