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Marie Belloc Lowndes' novel originally appeared as a short story in McClure's in January 1911. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, in 1940, Lowndes assigned the screen rights to her work to Alfred Hitchcock, who had directed the first screen version of the novel in 1926. The rights were eventually transferred to Myron Selznick and Vanguard Films (David O. Selznick's production company), from which they were purchased by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1943. According to a July 21, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, the studio was "mulling the idea of an all-British cast" to support Laird Cregar because of the novel's popularity throughout the United Kingdom. On August 21, 1944, Hollywood Reporter noted that the picture had recouped all of its negative and production costs from its successful run in England alone. The picture's excellent reception prompted the studio to re-team Cregar, George Sanders, producer Robert Bassler, writer Barr Lyndon and director John Brahm on the 1945 psychological thriller Hangover Square, which was Cregar's last film.
Although many films have depicted the character "Jack the Ripper," Lowndes' novel, in which the character is not actually identified as the Ripper, is the basis for only a few of the productions. As noted above, the first picture based on her novel was the 1926 Gainsborough film The Lodger, which starred Ivor Novello. Novello again played the title role in the 1932 Twickenham picture The Lodger, which was directed by Maurice Elvey and released in the United States in 1934 as The Phantom Fiend. In 1953, Twentieth Century-Fox released a remake of their film, produced by Panoramic, entitled Man in the Attic, which was directed by Hugo Fregonese and starred Jack Palance and Constance Smith. Lowndes' novel was also the basis for a play entitled The Lodger (Who Is He), written by H. A. Vachell (London, 1916). For more information about the real Jack the Ripper and films based on his crimes, see the entry below for the 1960 Paramount release Jack the Ripper.