Strange Boarders

Strange Boarders
Directed by Herbert Mason
Produced by Edward Black
Written by Sidney Gilliat
A. R. Rawlinson
E. Phillips Oppenheim
Starring Tom Walls
Renée Saint-Cyr
Googie Withers
Ronald Adam
Music by Charles Williams
Cinematography Jack E. Cox
Edited by Michael Gordon
Release dates
  • May 1938 (1938-05) (UK)
  • 1 August 1938 (1938-08-01) (U.S.)
Running time
74 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Strange Boarders is a 1938 British comedy thriller film, directed by Herbert Mason, produced by Edward Black for Gainsborough Pictures and starring Tom Walls, Renée Saint-Cyr, Googie Withers and Ronald Adam. The film is an adaptation of the 1934 espionage novel The Strange Boarders of Palace Crescent by E. Phillips Oppenheim,[1] and was well received by critics. The Los Angeles Times described it as "a long series of laughs as well as thrills".[2]


A seemingly innocuous and respectable elderly lady is knocked down and critically injured by a bus on a London street. When the police search her handbag to find out her identity, they are astonished to discover a series of top secret military blueprints. The secret service are alerted and arrive at the hospital to question her, but she laughs in their faces before quietly dying.

The man for the job is top secret service agent Tommy Blythe (Walls), who happens to be on honeymoon with new wife Louise (Saint-Cyr). He is summoned back to London under conditions of absolute secrecy, not allowed to divulge any details even to Louise, who naturally does not believe his unconvincing cover story and jumps to the conclusion that he is having an affair.

Enquiries lead to the Notting Hill boarding house where the dead woman lived and Tommy takes a room there incognito to try to infiltrate what is assumed to be a nest of spies. Louise follows him to London and confronts him, and he is forced against orders to take her into his confidence. She also takes a room and the couple pretend not to know each other, giving their names as a Mr. Bullock and a Miss Heffer. Together they set about the task of observing and investigating the sundry assortment of fellow lodgers, knowing that some are completely innocent while others harbour dark and treacherous secrets which threaten the very nation. From the grasping landlady Mrs. Dewar (Irene Handl) and the meek maid Elsie (Withers), through to fellow boarders including a blind man (Adam), a Boer War colonel and his wife apparently in retirement, a travelling salesman, a scatty old biddy and a merchant of Argentinian meat, all come under suspicion before the wily pair of sleuths manage to untangle the web of lies and false leads to reveal who in the household is or is not a traitor.



Filming took place in Pinewood Studios.


  1. Leith and Poague, 2011, p. 282
  2. "Strange Boarders" Los Angeles Times, 07-09-1938, p.13. Retrieved 15-10-2010


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