It’s Saturday morning and I am watching a classic Hitchcock movie, which means I am watching another movie from the Legends of Horror box set. As much as I am loving the movies in this box set, I am still a little annoyed that not all of the movies in it are necessarily horror movies. Take today’s movie for example. Now this is another early drama of Hitchcock’s but it had been previously done as a silent picture about 10 years earlier. Let’s see just how good of a movie The Skin Game (1931) is.
The plot: Three men head into a field and begin clearing the trees, which causes Jill Hillcrist, the daughter of a wealthy family, to grow concerned. Meanwhile, in the city, Mr. Hornblower, a businessman, is buying up properties and then forcing the people that live on the land out so he can build factories there. Some of the people go speak to Mr. Hillcrist about what is happening and he gets upset over Hornblower’s actions. When Hornblower comes over to speak with Hillcrist, Hillcrist argues with Hornblower over his kicking families out of their homes but Horblower says he needs to do this to make room for his factories, which leads to them arguing about how the other person lives their life or handles their wealth. When an auction comes up for some land that is close to the Hillcrist estate, Hilcrist and his family attend the auction to try and buy up the land. Their agent, Dawker, is instructed to try and get it for £6000, but not to go over £7000 unless he gets the signal from Hillcrist. As they wait for the auction to begin, Jill notices Hornblower’s daughter in law, Chloe, looking faint and goes to help her. As the auction commences, the price reaches £6000 and the Hillcrists’ think they have won the auction when Hornblower suddenly bids. When the price reaches £7100, Dawker stops bidding at a signal from Hillcrist but just before Hornblower wins, Hillcrist increases the bid. The bidding reaches £9000 and Hornblower refuses to go higher but as the auctioneer is about to announce Hillcrist as the winner, a third party bids £9500. Hillcrist chooses not to bid, as he feels it was worth it to keep the property out of Hornblower’s hands even if he didn’t win it himself. As they are all leaving, Dawker goes to speak with the man who placed the winning bid while Jill says she feels like Chloe looks ill because of the man. As they are about to drive off, Hornblower stops to talk with the Hillcrists and informs them that he is the winner of the property, as the man who won was his agent and since Hillcrist forced him to bid soo much on the land, he will build his factories in order to make some money off of it. Before they leave, Mrs. Hillcrist goes to speak with Dawker, who is still talking to the man, and Jill wonders what they are talking about. Mr. Hillcrist goes to find out, though his wife says he should leave it alone, and learns a secret concerning Chloe’s past before she married Charles Hornblower. Mrs. Hillcrist sends Hornblower a note to discuss Chloe’s past and Hornblower speaks with Chloe asks her if she knows what Mrs. Hillcrist is talking about but Chloe denies that there is any story and says she is probably making things up. Later that night, Chloe meets with Dawker outside the house and tells him to drop the story, offering to pay him but he refuses. When her husband Charles comes to talk with her, she asks him if he would ever leave him due to something she had done in the past but he feels like this has to do with the Hillcrists’ letter and then gets upset and says he will be happy to have the factories built so they can smoke the Hillcrists out of their homes. The next day, Jill is talking with Rolf Hornblower, as they used to be friends, but both of them choose to stand by their family’s actions and end up ending their friendship. Meanwhile, Hornblower arrives at the Hillcrist house to speak with Mrs. Hillcrist about her notes and she informs him that Chloe used to be a prostitute that was used as “the other woman” in pre-arranged divorce cases. Hornblower doesn’t believe them and gets Chloe to disprove their lies but Chloe denies it at first but when two men that she “worked” with appear, she reluctantly confirms it and begs Hornblower not to tell Charlie. Hornblower tells Chloe to go wait in the car, then asks Mrs. Hillcrist what she wants in order to keep this story secret and she tells him she wants him to sell them the land for £4500. Hornblower is outraged but agrees to the terms and swears Mrs. Hillcrist and Dawker to secrecy over the matter of Chloe’s past. That night, Chloe goes to the Hillcrist’s house and overhears Jill and Mr. Hillcrist talking about Chloe’s past and lets out a gasp, alerting them to her presence. Chloe tells Mr. Hillcrist that Charlie is coming to talk to him about the story and begs him not to tell him and Hillcrist says he won’t. Chloe then explains her past and how fortunate she was to find happiness with Charlie and is worried that he will leave her. When Charlie shows up, he demands to know what the story is and Hillcrist says it is nothing but Charlie refuses to believe him and says he will get the truth from Dawker and end his marriage with Chloe if need be. Some time later, Mrs. Hillcrist speaks with Dawker and asks what happened. Dawker explains that Charlie had come up to him and Dawker had not said anything but after Charlie threatened and goaded him, he ended up telling him the truth. Mrs. Hillcrist is upset, as it goes against their word with Hornblower but Dawker tells her that the whole village already knows there is a scandal involving the Hornblowers. Mr. Hornblower shows up and demands they return the deed to the land as they have gone back on their word, and begins struggling with Dawker to get it. Meanwhile, Chloe had drowned herself in the pond outside the Hillcrist’s house and Charlie fishes her out of the pond and brings her to the house, causing his father to stop fighting. Jill and Mrs. Hillcrist start to get some help but Hornblower refuses their help and tells Rolf to help Charlie take her body to the car. He then approaches Mr. Hillcrist and says he ruined him and his family and he hopes to be able to do the same to him or someone in his family, calling Hillcrist a hypocrite when he tries to apologize as he leaves. The Jackmans enter the house and thank Hillcrist for letting them go back to their homes but Hillcrist is still in shock over what happened and after they leave, admits that he forgot that they existed.
This was a little confusing but a decent movie for the most part. The acting was ok, with Helen Haye (Mrs. Hillcrist) and Edmund Gwenn (Mr. Hornblower) doing a good job in their roles, which were apparently reprisals of their roles from the original film. Phyllis Konstam was also good in her portrayal of Chloe, displaying a lot of emotion towards the end of the movie when she tries to get Mr. Hillcrist to lie in order to keep her secret from Charlie. The story was a little weak, trying to showcase class warfare, which is a common theme, as well as the difference between people who inherit their wealth and those who earn it but it all ended up kind of falling flat. There honestly didn’t feel like there was a lot of drama until the end of the movie and although it did it’s job in getting you to feel some emotional connection with Chloe’s pain, though it was more tragic rather than sympathetic, I honestly didn’t feel anything for anyone else in the movie. A decent movie but I would still rather watch one of his horror movies.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5