Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



If you watch very many of these early Hitchcock silent films, you might be struck, as I have been, by how very ordinary most of them they are. Yes, film scholars have studied them for years and can point out this or that scene that fits right in with the Hitchcock style, and they’re right, you can spot these things. But what I ask myself is, how many hundreds of other films by other forgotten directors were as good as these, as stylish as these, and nobody watches them because who the heck was Nigel Bottomly? The plain truth was that these films are entirely unremarkable, of their time, badly dated, and made because Hitch was still learning his craft and had to make something. He had to make a living, like all struggling young artists, and if the studio said they wanted this script called Champagne made, he had to make it. I don’t know, maybe he actually did choose this one because he liked somehing about it, but I think it’s just as likely he did it because it was what was available.

It’s the story of a rich and spoiled jazz baby whose father made his fortune selling champagne. How spoiled is she? When her boyfriend embarks on an ocean cruise she steals Daddy’s aeroplane and flies out to the ship, where she has to be rescued. The plane? Why, it sinks. It didn’t have enough fuel to fly back home, anyway.

She flirts with a mysterious man, making her seasick boyfriend jealous. Back in Paris, partying hard, Daddy informs her that the fizz has gone out of the champagne business. They are broke. She adapts faster than I would have expected. She decides to sell her jewels, but is robbed on the way to the pawn shop. She gets a job in a cabaret handing out carnations, and is not really competent to do even that. She meets the mysterious gentleman there. Boyfriend comes in, gets steamed and jealous that she’s working there (boyfriends get steamed at everything in movies from this era). It’s true that the place is really a high-class dime-a-dance joint for these “flower girls,” but still. No need to get on your high horse, asshole. Then she finds out her father’s bankruptcy was all a lie, “to teach her a lesson she will never forget.” This is announced in a newspaper headline! Furious, she contacts the mysterious stranger and they are about to embark on a cruise to America, but she has second thoughts about sharing a cabin with him. Not to worry. Boyfriend arrives, they kiss and make up, then who should pop in but Daddy, who reveals the stranger was hired by him to prevent her elopement. She finds this very funny all of a sudden. Its all very silly and more than a little stupid, but there are some funny scenes, and Betty Balfour—the British Mary Pickford—is quite a good little actress.