Rich and Strange

Rich and Strange

UK Special Edition DVD
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by John Maxwell
Written by Alfred Hitchcock
Alma Reville
Val Valentine
Starring Henry Kendall
Joan Barry
Music by Adolph Hallis
Cinematography John "Jack" Cox
Charles Martin
Edited by Winifred Cooper
Rene Marrison
Distributed by British International Pictures
Release dates
10 December 1931 (UK)
1 January 1931 (US)
Running time
92 min. (UK)
83 min. (US)
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Rich and Strange (1931), released in the United States as East of Shanghai, is a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock during his time in the British film industry. The film was adapted by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville, and Val Valentine from a novel by Dale Collins.


A couple, Fred (Henry Kendall) and Emily Hill (Joan Barry), living a mundane middle class life in London, receive a letter informing them that an uncle will give them, as an advance against their future inheritance, as much money as they need to enjoy themselves in the present. Immediately Fred quits his job as a clerk and they leave on a cruise for "the Orient". Fred quickly shows his susceptibility to sea-sickness while crossing the English Channel. While in Paris, both are scandalised by the Folies Bergère.

As they cruise the Mediterranean, Fred's sea-sickness keeps him in bed. During this time, Emily begins a relationship with a Commander Gordon (Percy Marmont), a dapper, popular bachelor. Finally feeling well enough to appear on deck, Fred is immediately smitten with a German "princess" (Betty Amann), who hits him in the eye with the rope ring used to play deck tennis (a combination of tennis and quoits which was at the time widely played shipboard). Both begin spending their time on board with their new paramours to the virtual exclusion of each other, and each plans to dissolve their marriage. In Colombo, the couple accidentally and awkwardly end up next to each other in a rickshaw, not knowing the other had even gotten off the ship.

When the passengers disembark in the final destination of Singapore, Emily leaves with Gordon for his home. When he reveals that the princess is a sham only out for Fred's money, she realizes she cannot go on with Gordon and returns to warn her husband. Fred does not believe her at first, but soon discovers his lover has absconded with £1000 of his money to Rangoon. He learns that she was merely the daughter of a Berlin laundry owner and a common adventuress. The couple have only enough money to clear their hotel bill and to book passage home to England on a "tramp steamer".

However, Fred and Emily's troubles have not ended, as the ship is abandoned after a collision in the fog. They are trapped in their stateroom and prepare themselves for a watery end. In the morning, however, they awake to find the ship still afloat, and extract themselves through their porthole. A Chinese junk arrives, and the crew proceed to loot the ship. When Fred and Emily board the junk, they are left unmolested and even fed. They finally return home, with their love for each other appreciated and seemingly wiser for their experiences. In the last scene, back home in London, the couple are seen arguing in a manner reminiscent of their bickering immediately prior to the arrival of the fateful letter.



The film is most notable for the techniques used by Hitchcock that reappeared in his later films. Most notable are the sets, including a recreation of a full-sized ship in a water tank, used in the final act of the film. The director also experimented with camera techniques and shot compositions.


Released during Hitchcock's period between The Lodger (1927) and his breakthrough hits The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The 39 Steps (1935), Rich and Strange was a consummate failure at both the British and US box office. The film's lack of commercial and critical success is often attributed to the fact that there is dialogue for only about a quarter of the film, and that many features of silent films remain, including scene captions, exaggerated acting styles and heavy makeup. An early scene of Fred leaving work for home via the London Underground is very reminiscent of Chaplin and highly dissimilar to typical Hitchcock staging. Hitchcock's experiment in pre-sound emotive performances over dialogue was another contributing factor, in addition to the seemingly rambling plot and a general lack of Hitchcock's trademark suspense exhibited in previous and subsequent films.

Title origins

The film's title comes from Ariel's Song in Shakespeare's The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Home media

In 2005, the French media company Canal+ obtained the rights to Rich and Strange and nine other early Hitchcock films. Lionsgate Home Entertainment licensed at least five of the films and released Rich and Strange in a collection of early Hitchcock films on 6 February 2007. The five films have been digitally remastered with improved sound and video.[1]


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