Downhill ★★½

His boy’s school roommate has gotten a shop girl pregnant, but she accuses Ivor Novello whose family is rich. Novello accepts the blame to save his roommate’s scholarship. Expelled, Novello goes home. His father berates him, and Novello leaves home . He moves to Paris where the young, inexperienced, and innocent Novello is incapable of supporting himself. He is preyed upon by the people he meets. After a hasty marriage to an adulterous actress ends in penury, he becomes a paid dancer in a club but is unable to cope with the greedy matron and
predacious, middle-aged women patrons. Sliding downhill, Novello ends up sick and delirious among the wharf rats of Marseilles. These people put him on a ship for England. In London, Novello confusedly wanders home and is joyfully greeted by his parents who have learned the truth about his sacrifice.

In the antithesis of the pluck and luck rise of a poor boy to fame and wealth, this rich boy declines into poverty and squalor. The term “boy” is rather misplaced with Novello who, despite his attempts to look like a wide eyed innocent, is obviously an adult.

The film is slow moving and rather boring but notable because it is one of the nine silent films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The theme of an innocent man unjustly accused of some untoward act was used frequently by Hitchcock. See The Lodger (1927), also starring Novello, for a better example. Downhill does have some notable Hitchcock “touches” including his first use of a tracking shot, a dream sequence shown with superimpositions and blurred shots, and several expressionistic scenes in the sordid dens of Marseilles.

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