Downhill (1927) (When Boys Leave Home)

Movie review coming on 1/1/2022

Film and Plot Synopsis

A young Englishman named Roddy winds up expelled from school when he takes the blame for a pregnancy his friend Tim is responsible for. This begins a life of estrangement from his family and a series of misadventures that costs him his sanity.

‘Downhill (When Boys Leave Home)’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Downhill (1927) (When Boys Leave Home)Downhill (aka When Boys Leave Home) begins at an English boarding school for upper-class boys. We meet the virtuous Roddy Berwick (Ivor Novello). He is the star captain of the school’s rugby team along with his best friend, Tim Wakeley (Robin Irvine). Off the field, the boys have a more than passing interest in a low-class waitress named Mabel (Annette Benson). She’s trouble too.

When she turns on her feminine wiles, both men react differently. Tim cavorts and dances with her, but Roddy sticks to his proper upbringing. This doesn’t please Mabel, and the day after Roddy spurns her advances, Mabel goes to the school’s headmaster, Dr. Dawson (Ben Webster), and tells him she’s pregnant. Dr. Dawson calls Roddy and Tim into his office where Mabel implicates Roddy as the father.

However, she never danced the horizontal tango with Roddy; only Tim (maybe), but Tim can not afford expulsion because he needs to win a scholarship if he’s to get into Oxford University. Roddy decides to cover for his friend and take the blame, even going so far as to promise Tim he will never reveal the truth. What does Tim offer in return? Nothing.

Dr. Dawson expels Roddy from school, and when he heads home, he finds that his father, Sir Thomas Berwick (Norman McKinnel), inexplicably thinks his son is guilty of this hussy’s false accusation; even though Roddy seems to have never given him any reason to think he’d lie to his father. Upset, Roddy leaves home forever.

No word again on the status of Tim, Mabel, the baby, the lie, or what’s going to happen to them all, but Roddy’s downward spiral has begun.

Out on his own, Roddy finds work as an actor in a theatre. It’s grunt work, but he catches a break when he inherits £30,000 from a relative. The theater’s leading actress, Julia Fotheringale (Isabel Jeans) knows a free ride when she sees one, and she plays Roddy like a fiddle. The two soon marry even though she’s hot and heavy with her leading man, Archie (Ian Hunter). In short time, Julia bleeds Roddy dry. Once she gets all of Roddy’s money out of him, she kicks him to the curb and Archie moves in.

Starting to lose his sanity, Roddy finds himself in a Paris dancehall where he works as a male taxi dancer (gigolo). But that doesn’t last long as his self-loathing due to romancing old women for money eats away at him.

Then Roddy has a psychotic break, and he winds up in a Marseilles shanty, all alone except for the delirium running through his head. From this point on, we don’t know what’s a figment of his imagination and what is reality, but when some sailors find him, they take pity on him (partially because they are hoping for a large reward).

They send him home on a ship, to be with his family again. When he sees his father, he tells Roddy that he learned the truth about the waitress’ baseless claim during Roddy’s absence. He and his wife warmly welcome him home, and Roddy resumes his previous life as the star rugby player as if nothing ever happened.

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Woolf & Freedman Film Service released Downhill on October 24, 1927. Alfred Hitchcock directed the film starring Ivor Novello, Ben Webster, and Norman McKinnel.

User Rating: 2.87 ( 3 votes)
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