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  • Writer's pictureHenry K. Miller

Tuesday 25 April

John Galsworthy’s new comedy Windows opens at the Court, with a cast including Clare Greet and Ernest Thesiger.

Leon M. Lion in Number Seventeen (1932)

The Court, later renamed the Royal Court, had put on a series of Galsworthy revivals in early 1922, leading up to this new play, all produced (i.e. directed) by Leon M. Lion, a West End all-rounder. In 1925 Lion would produce and appear in J. Jefferson Farjeon’s stage thriller Number Seventeen, and reprised his role in Hitchcock’s film adaptation seven years later. Hitchcock had by then adapted Galsworthy’s The Skin Game.

The lead role in Windows was taken by Herbert Marshall, later to star in Hitchcock’s Murder (in England) and Foreign Correspondent (in the US). Further down the cast list was Leslie Banks, later to star in The Man Who Knew Too Much. But the most eye-catching Hitchcock connection is the presence of Clare Greet and Ernest Thesiger, the two known stars of Number Thirteen.

Clare Greet in Murder (1930)

Greet and Thesiger had performed together before, more than once, over the course of more than a decade. A year earlier they had performed a duologue together as part of a charity matinée for the Waifs and Strays’ Society, possibly suggesting they were friends. Thesiger had been in one of the earlier Galsworthy revivals, The Pigeon, in February–March, and he had one of the principal roles in Windows, as philosophical window-cleaner to a Highgate-dwelling novelist, played by Marshall. Greet played the novelist’s cook.

Ernest Thesiger in Windows

She was cast in a similar role in Number Thirteen, according to Hitchcock, ‘a charlady who, having bought a lottery ticket, optimistically dreamed of wealth’. Her friends become ‘honoured guests at her mansion’, and her enemies become her servants.

Was it pure coincidence that Greet and Thesiger appeared in Windows about the time they appeared in Number Thirteen? It was not unusual for British actors to spend their days acting in film studios before heading to the West End to spend their evenings on stage – Hitchcock complained about it. Greet had been performing at the Duke of York’s, again as a cook, while Three Live Ghosts was in production at Poole Street in the autumn of 1921.

It is possible that there is some link between the two productions, stage and screen, but during the week Windows opened, Poole Street was still reportedly occupied by John Gliddon and Lark’s Nest. Late March or early April would still seem to be the most likely moment for the making of Number Thirteen.


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