On watching the film closely (once again) I saw something that had not registered before – a rather tantalising and interesting visual connection – that the famous dress-designer Dolly Tree made an appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger (1926)
The mannequin parade (shown twice) was filmed at the Islington studio in June 1926 and all the gowns, estimated to be worth £10,000 at the time, were supplied by Peron Couture. The proprietor Jean Peron arrived in person at the studio to supervise the scenes. Since Dolly Tree was chief designer, and by some accounts an investor in Peron Couture, it is more than likely that the gowns displayed were created by her. I have placed this side-story in context of the making of The Lodger in my book London’s Hollywood.
Interestingly, one of the models, in the first dress parade, who proceeds Daisy (June Tripp) descending the stairs to the onlookers, was a striking lady wearing an elegant two-piece suit, smoking a cigarette and with slicked-backed dark hair.
Dolly Tree in June 1926 with slicked-back hair
Dolly Tree sketching in June 1926 wearing the two-piece suit seen in The Lodger (1926)
There is a photograph of Dolly Tree wearing the exact same suit and photographed at exactly the same time. Her hair is bobbed but another photograph from the same shoot shows her with slick-backed hair.
The resemblance to the known photo of Dolly Tree in the suit and the mannequin on screen wearing the same dress is quite uncanny and it is undoubtedly her. Clearly while she was supervising the models with Peron in the studio she was asked to be one of the models. She of course knew Alfred Hitchcock as they had worked together on Woman to Woman in 1923 and prior to her career as a dress designer she had been an actress on the stage and in British silence film, so she had the right connections and experience to go before the screen!
Thus, not only did Hitchcock himself have a cameo appearance in The Lodger but so did Dolly Tree.
However, herein also lies another interesting conundrum about the dates for the filming of The Lodger and the controversy that ensued as Balcon attempted to get the film released. Filming had been conducted over a six-week period and was completed by the end of April 1926. Thereafter, the film had been cut and assembled for a private viewing and, as we know, C.M. Woolf, the distributor, did not approve and wanted to shelve the film. But Balcon, with the help of Ivor Montague, made revisions to the footage. Since the mannequin parade was filmed in June, this must have been one of the ‘new’ and ‘major’ additions, that swayed Woolf’s opinion to finally schedule a release.
Take a look at the fully illustrated biography about Dolly Tree (Dolly Tree: A Dream of Beauty). A long lost artistic genius of the Jazz Age, Dolly Tree was famous on both sides of the Atlantic, for her extravagant creations for the stage, cabaret, couture and film in the 1920s and 1930s. This illustrated biography, with over 600 images, captures her unique talent and achievements as a dress designer, including her Hollywood career at MGM.
Dolly Tree: A Dream of Beauty
Will be published 26th September 2017 in hardback and paperback.
Both versions contain over 600 photographs and is A4 – it is a big coffee table book.
The Hardback has 400 pages all in full colour — it is the deluxe package with an RRP of £75.
The paperback has 340 pages and is in black and white with 11 colour sections containing 44 pages and an RRP of £30.
View the digital sampler