NOTE: This movie is seventy-five years old, but to be fair, I should warn folks there are spoilers in the following comments.
While traveling back to England from a holiday in a tiny mittel-Europa country, a young woman befriends a charming but enigmatic governess. When the governess disappears, the young woman finds it hard to convince anyone she ever existed.
My favorite Hitchcock film, a fine blend of subtle humor and suspense, with wonderful performances from the entire cast. Some have complained that the first half is slow-moving, and indeed it does drag slightly (especially in the gasthaus scenes). These scenes do however serve to show how very English the main characters are, and how utterly out of their element they are in the fascistic Ruritanian country of Bandrika. Indeed, this whole film is a meditation on Englishness, especially what it was like to be English at the first rumblings of what would become World War Two. Redgrave starts off as an unlikable boor, but becomes Lockwood’s most steadfast ally, while the cricket-obsessed, culturally blinkered, Charters and Caldicott are content to watch and observe; when forced to action, though, they do so without complaint and a shrugging resolve to get it done. On the other hand, Parker’s spineless barrister might as well be waving Chamberlain’s little paper and shouting “Peace in our time” when he is gunned down. It is worth noting that all of the English in this film are basically upper middle class, and they are saved by Lacey’s nun, the one working class English character in the film.
Finally, while Miss Froy is the vanishing lady of the title, it’s also true that Lockwood is, as well. In forgoing marrying the gormless Fotheringale for the musicologist Redgrave, she loses her chance to be a Lady, at least a titled one.
Followed by a quite dire remake in 1979, as well as a BBC TV movie in 2013. The latter, while more faithful to Ethel Lina White's source novel, is not particularly good.