‘A Story of the London Fog? Adulterated Modernisms in The Lodger’s Inter-titles’
That Ivor Montagu was invited by Michael Balcon to refine The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (Hitchcock, UK, 1926) is well known. The film’s avant-garde tendencies can, in part, be attributed to Montagu’s involvement. Little emphasis has been placed, however, on the striking inter-title designs which Montagu commissioned from E. McKnight Kauffer. Indeed, there is a paucity of research on inter-titles in general. Among the most elaborate inter-title designs of the surviving silent films, Kauffer’s semi-abstract works fuse several European avant-gardes. This stylistic promiscuity evokes the narrative’s theme of split-personalities and the sense of ambiguity which pervades the film. At the same time, typography and simple animation is used to combine classical causality with expressionism. This paper explores the contribution of the designs to The Lodger as a whole, and seeks to contextualise them in terms of Kauffer’s other work. Kauffer (an American) designed posters which, for many, constituted the epitome of popular modern design in 1920s Britain. Kauffer’s posters drew on cubism: in The Lodger’s inter-titles, cubism is deployed to fuse expressionism with constructivism, two European modernisms which were absent from Kauffer’s other work. British audiences were thus exposed to adulterated forms of these continental avant-gardes through The Lodger’s inter-titles, long before the styles were widely known in Britain in their own right. The paper will analyse the specific ways in which expressionism and constructivism are employed in Kauffer’s inter-titles, tracing these influences back to Kauffer’s membership of the Film Society and his association with Ivor Montagu.