Lifeboat (1944)


Lifeboat is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s few limited-setting films. The film took place during World War II and was based on true events at the time, in this case the German U-boat sinkings of American civilian ships. Hitchcock “noticed that the Nazi blitzkrieg affected all areas”[1] and used this time period to engage the American audience. By using limited-setting, Hitchcock was able to provoke increased interpersonal and situational tension, humor, and suspense in the audience. The aspect of the movie that Hitchcock found most comical was that the “characters lose their class status.”[2] The boat acts as an equalizer and the passengers no longer have their previous class. His idea of humor affected his relationship with the author of the novel the film was based off of, John Steinbeck, and with the producer, David O. Selznick. Although Steinbeck was nominated for an award he still “requested his name be removed from Lifeboat.”[3] The relationships between Hitchcock and Selznick also was affected when Hitchcock refused to listen to his views on budgeting and the movie ended up being a failure in terms of cost.

 [1] Hark, Ina Rae. “We Might Even Get in the Newsreels’: The Press and Democracy in Hitchcock’s World War II Anti-Fascist Films,” in Alfred Hitchcock: Centenary Essays. London: British Film Institute, 1999, 333-347.
[2] Smith, Susan. Hitchcock Suspense, Humour and Tone. London: British Film Institute, 2000.
[3] Schultz, Jeffrey. Critical Companion to John Steinbeck: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark Books, 2003



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