Arguably one of the worst films Hitchcock had ever made, “The Skin Game” is an uncharacteristically stagy and verbose work, adapted by Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, from a play by John Galsworthy.
The British countryside turns into a battlefield when Hornblower (Edmund Gwenn in the first of four films he would make for Hitchcock), a nouveau riche and self-man tradesman, stakes his claim to a piece of valuable forest property controlled for centuries by the “landed gentry.”
The local squire (C.V. France) and his wife (Helen Haye) refuse to acknowledge Hornblower's claim, showing contempt for his belief that money is more important than rights of blood.
In Hitchcock’s treatment, their genteel snobbery is as obnoxious as Hornblower's brash effrontery. End result is a morally ambiguous film in which there are no heroes or villains—and no involving scenario.
Neither the treacherous revenge plot nor the silly romance is well integrated into the narrative.
Hitchcock would not launch such a strong attack on the aristocracy in any of his future films.
Hitchcock himself did not like “The Skin Game,” which was a n artistic and commercial flop. He told Truffaut: “I didn’t make it by choice, and there isn’t much to be said about it.”
Running time: 87 Minutes.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville
Released: June 20, 1931 Wide
DVD: September 5, 2000
Warner Home Video
Edmund Gwenn as Mr. Hornblower
Jill Esmond as Jill Hillcrest
Phyllis Konstam as Chloe Hornblower
John Longden as Charles Hornblower
C.V. France as Mr. Hillcrest
Helen Haye as Mrs. Hillcrest