Hitch on the Hump: Secret Agent (1936)
An English spymaster with a single letter name is briefing his agent, whose death has been faked, on his dangerous mission. He tells him there will be beautiful women, exotic locations, and unusual contacts, but his mission is one that will benefit crown and country. Along the agent’s path he will encounter beautiful women and treacherous double dealers, but he’s got a mission to kill and he intends to see it through no matter how distasteful it may be. If you think I was describing any number of adventures by Ian Fleming’s British secret agent James Bond, then you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. While 007’s adventures often contained all of these points, today, of course, I am talking about Hitchcock and more specifically his 1936 film Secret Agent.
This was Hitchcock’s third spy oriented film in a row, after The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps, and this time he turned to W. Somerset Maugham’s novel Ashenden: Or the British Secret Agent for inspiration. Maugham, best known for his novel Of Human Bondage, served in World War I as an intelligence officer and modeled the stories contained in Ashenden on his own experiences. For his film Hitchcock settled on two stories from the novel, “The Traitor” and “The Hairless Mexican”, and along with a stage adaptation by Campbell Dixon, a script was culled together by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Charles Bennett (Blackmail, The 39 Steps, Foreign Correspondent, etc.). As usual, and much to the consternation of Bennett, after the script was finished Hitchcock invited writers Ian Hay and Jesse Lasky Jr. (the future scribe behind The Ten Commandments) to punch up the dialog.
That wraps it up for this week, but come on back next Wednesday for the first of two special posts this month when Hitch on the Hump becomes Guests on the Hump. My first guest is the awesome Christine Makepeace of Paracinema magazine, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for all of us!
Secret Agent is in the public domain so I am happy to be able to link it here in its entirety.