The Manxman

The Manxman (1929) is a silent film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Based on an 1896 romantic novel The Manxman by Hall Caine, the director began work on the film just two weeks after the birth of his daughter, Patricia Hitchcock. This was the last silent film Hitchcock directed before he made the transition to sound film with his next film Blackmail. The Manxman was filmed almost entirely in the small fishing village of Polperro in Cornwall.

The film tells the story of two childhood friends, a poor fisherman, Pete Quilliam (Carl Brisson), and a lawyer, Philip Christian (Malcolm Keen). Pete is in love with Kate (Anny Ondra), but when her father, Old Caesar (Randie Ayrton), refuses to consent to their marriage, Pete sets off for Africa to make his fortune, asking Philip to take care of Kate until he returns. In his absence, Kate and Philip fall in love. When news reaches them that Pete was killed, they begin planning their lives together, as Philip prepares to assume the position of Deemster, the island’s chief magistrate. The news is false however, and Pete returns to the island a wealthy man. Old Caesar agrees to let Kate marry him, and neither she nor Philip have it in them to break Pete’s heart. As the wedding party proceeds in an old mill, Old Caesar sternly warns the newlyweds to remember how serious the vows of marriage are.

Kate is still in love with Philip. Shortly after a daughter is born, she decides to leave Pete, leaving him both the child and a note saying that she loves another man. However, Philip is about to become the Deemster and is unwilling to give up his career for her. Frustrated, she returns to Pete to take the baby, telling him that he is not the father, but he refuses to believe her or hand the child over. Distraught, Kate leaves and attempts to commit suicide by throwing herself off the quay, a crime on the Isle of Man. Kate is brought to trial on the first day that Philip serves as Deemster. He is reluctant to sentence her, and when Pete appears in the courtroom to plead for his wife, he agrees to hand her over to him. Kate refuses to go, and Old Caesar, who is watching, gets up and condemns Philip for being the “other man”. Philip admits this and leaves the court. In the final scene, Philip and Kate prepare to leave the Isle of Man and come to Pete’s house to pick up the baby. In a shot reminiscent of the theater, Kate picks up the child, while Philip and Pete stand at opposite ends of the room. She brings the child over to Pete to say one last goodbye, and he breaks down, having lost everything. Philip and Kate leave the cottage to the jeers of the villagers, who have been watching the scene.

The film has different names in various countries. The original UK title is “The Manxman”. In Italy the film is known as “L’isola del peccato”, in Spain the name of the movie is “El hombre de la isla de Man”, in Portugal it’s “Pobre Pete!”, in Germany “Der Mann von der Insel Man”, in Hungary it’s “A Man-szigeti ember”, in Denmark it’s “Manboen”, in Finland it’s “Man saaren tuomari” or “Mansaaren tuomari”, in Greece it’s “Exileosis dikaiou” and in Argentinia and Venezuela the move is known as “La isla del pecado”.

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