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'The MacGuffin' was a hardcopy newsletter/journal published by Mesa that ran for 29 issues from December 1990, edited by Ken Mogg. This website developed from it. This page is the site's 'News & Comment' page (as it used to be called). Alfred Hitchcock-related news items follow the "Editor's Week" feature below.
Coming in 2020: Michael Walker ('Hitchcock's Motifs') on Suspicion.
To go straight to the latest "Editor's Week" entry further down this page click here.
Note. Our News section begins immediately after "Editor's Week".
Now taking new members! An 'advanced' Hitchcock discussion group, for articulate film teachers and academics, and interested others, is available. Please note 'articulate'! The most important thing is that members can and do contribute. If you'd like to join, please contact me, identifying yourself. No anonymous members! Thanks - KM (email address below).
More broadly, I invite film teachers, film students, fellow-authors of books on Hitchcock, and anyone else, who has some keen interest in the work of the great English-born director, Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980), to email me. I welcome Hitchcock-related ideas, insights, 'news tips', etc., etc., and am happy to discuss them on-site or by return of email. Snippets from classroom or conference-hall are especially welcome - not to mention CFPs (Calls for Papers), and announcements of books, exhibits, screenings, and the like. KM
To contact KM (whose website this is), click here: email@example.com
Important. The old (1999) US edition of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', by Ken Mogg, et al., was a 'bowdlerised' version (which its author disowns) of the original UK edition (also 1999). However, the full book was re-issued world-wide in 2008, including in the US. American readers can obtain it from Amazon.com and other booksellers.
Bill Krohn (author of the award-winning 'Hitchcock at Work') described KM's 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' (1999; 2008) thus: 'it covers every film in Hitchcock's oeuvre in loving detail'.
More broadly, Dan Auiler (author/editor of multiple books on Hitchcock) wrote: 'KM may know more about Alfred Hitchcock and his milieu than any other film critic'. Thanks, Bill and Dan!
Besides 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', I have contributed to books and scholarly publications. Among the recent ones: a chapter on Topaz and The Short Night for W. Raubicheck (ed.), 'Hitchcock & the Cold War' (Pace University Press, 2018); a chapter on 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' for A. Schober & D. Olson (eds), 'Children, Youth, and American Television' (Routledge, 2018); a profile of Hitchcock for 'Screen Education' no. 87 (Australia, 2017); a chapter called "Melancholy Elephants: Hitchcock & Ingenious Adaptation" for M. Osteen (ed), 'Hitchcock & Adaptation' (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).
My principal online writings on Hitchcock have been published by the Australian site 'Senses of Cinema'. Those writings are listed here: http://sensesofcinema.com/author/ken-mogg/
One of those 'Senses' items is a long monograph on The Birds. Jeffrey Longacre calls it 'an excellent, exhaustive, discussion of the many literary sources and intertexts for The Birds' (See Jeffrey Longacre, "The difference between crows and blackbirds: Alfred Hitchcock and the treason of images", in Post Script, Winter/Spring & Summer, 2015, p. 69). See also this online testimonial: http://cranialblowout.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/essays-on-birds-by-ken-mogg.html
Lastly, readers such as NA are very kind. He wrote (30 September, 2013): 'In my opinion - and I don't mean to embarrass you - you are truly the foremost Hitchcock scholar. I have come to this conclusion after reading your regular column ["Editor's Week"] on the 'MacGuffin' website, as well as your book.'
And that's quite enough for now. Speaking of "Editor's Week" (formerly "Editor's Day"), I should note that there is not at present a public archive of its entries, which go back two decades. However, the material isn't lost, and much of it informs my ongoing writing. KM
1. "Editor's Day / Editor's Week':
December 7, 14, 21, 28, January 4, 11, 18, 25, February 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, March 7, 14, 21, 28.
2. News and Comment (last revised 29 February, 2020).
The editor's day/The editor's week
[This feature will cover
musings on Hitchcock-related topics and similar matters with
which the 'MacGuffin' editor has been occupied lately. Don't
expect total rigour - these are basically 'ideas in
[The following frame-capture from Suspicion is the first in our experiment to henceforth include larger pics, in the hope that they'll look more acceptable on mobile phones.]
December 14 More on 'Hitchcock and the Censors' by John Billheimer. One of the taboo phrases mentioned last time, 'Oh, you go and phone yourselves', turns out to have been in the script for Stage Fright (which we've been discussing here recently). The censors recognised this as 'a paraphrase of [an] offensive vulgarism and, accordingly, is unacceptable' (pp. 163-64). So much for the screenwriter's, i.e., Whitfield Cook's, ingenuity! However, the censors' main objection was to parts of Marlene Dietrich's 'The Laziest Gal in Town' number, including some of the lyrics - which were duly modified. [Frame-capture below.] In addition - and I find this an interesting insight into Hitchcock's typical thinking about detail - 'The Code censors also warned against showing the female stars in "short panties" or "underwear," effectively thwarting Hitchcock's plans to make Stage Fright sexier by "taking advantage of theater traditions of casual backstage undress."' (p. 164) Billheimer doesn't only mention censorship matters. He notes, for example, that there have been other films with 'lying flashbacks', notably Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (also 1950), as has been noted here in "Editor's Week" as well. What he doesn't mention is that there was a third 1950 film, Anthony Asquith's detective-mystery The Woman in Question, that includes such a flashback, thus providing further evidence, I think, of how Hitchcock often chose his latest project to coincide with something that was 'in the air' at the time - but a project that would be sufficiently 'different' to make it distinctive. (For example, in some respects Under Capricorn 'echoes' Laurence Olivier's Hamlet of the previous year, such as a situation that requires simply a single word or action to resolve it: Olivier described Hamlet as 'a tragedy about a man who can't make up his mind'. Certainly Hitchcock took several cast and crew members from Olivier's film.) (For noting The Woman in Question as pertinent to Stage Fright, I thank Martin P.) Billheimer adds this observation: 'The 1959 film The Usual Suspects is built on a series of flashback lies, and Hitchcock himself had inserted one in his silent film Champagne, using it to depict an imaginary assault.' (p. 165) No less informative is Billheimer's chapter on Vertigo. For one thing, he notes that Paramount lawyers raised objections to the script even before the Production Code censors saw it. The lawyers objected to parts of the coroner's oily summing-up at the inquest into Madeleine's death, remarking that it 'overstepped the bounds of judicial fairness and propriety'. (Who better to offer such a judgement?! But maybe, as lawyers, they over-reacted in this case?) They further felt that 'because there was only one coroner in San Benito County, any derogatory depiction of the character in the movie could be taken as a direct slur on a real-life individual and potential grounds for libel'. (pp. 221-22) (Again, this seems excessive to me! Audiences understand the difference between a fictional character and a real-life one.) The Studio's legal department suggested 'putting the offending speech in the mouth of a prosecutor or advocate, rather than a coroner acting in a judicial capacity. Hitchcock ignored this advice' - although screenwriter Sam Taylor did slightly modify the coroner's speech by moving some lines and '"changing rhythms"'. (p. 222) Similarly, Hitchcock made no major changes in response to the censors' suggestions about certain scenes, such as Scottie's momentary embarrassment when telling Madeleine that he had undressed her while she was unconscious after jumping into the Bay. 'At this stage of his career, [Hitchcock's] reputation was secure, and he was confident in his ability to bargain with the Code office, whose power was beginning to decline.' (pp. 222-23)
[Once again, we include a larger-than-formerly frame-capture in order to better suit mobile phones.]
December 21 Friends of this site/page! Because for many of us it's a particularly busy time of year, this blog is placed 'in suspense' for a week or two.
Meanwhile, I've been lucky enough to start reading a very fine book on film, albeit digital only, by Tag Gallagher. It's on the films of John Ford - this new work not to be confused with Dr Gallagher's authoritative earlier book on that topic. He writes with a lifetime's knowledge and love of Ford's full oeuvre. Here's a link to a jpg-type file of the book's contents. https://1fichier.com/?wvquoc8uooki3bsbwcha. End-of-year greetings to all our readers! KM
December 28 John Billheimer's book 'Hitchcock and the Censors' (see previous items here, above) contains its incidental insights into Hitchcock's caginess and versatility in matters of censorship. For example, I enjoyed reading about his tactic when sitting with the secretary of the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC), Joseph Wilkinson, who was half-blind, to watch a censorship preview of a new Hitchcock film. According to Hitchcock (cited by Billheimer), whenever a potentially censorable moment was coming up, Hitchcock would say, 'Mr Wilkinson' - who would invariably 'turn his head towards me [so that] the scene went by on the screen without his seeing it'! (p. 39) (For the first part of the 1930s, British studios weren't required to submit a copy in advance of the screenplay of each film - so the censorship screening might be all the censors had to go on!) Of course, there were other factors that could affect scripting and censorship of Hitchcock's British films - like the fact that prints of his Gaumont British films were also screened in America, and had to comply with that country's own censorship rules. Thus Billheimer notes of Jamaica Inn (1939) that although it 'was a British picture, Joe Breen's Hollywood office dictated the occupation of the villain [not a minister of religion, as in the novel, but a local magistrate], the level of violence in the pirate encounters, the incidence of profanity, and even the mind-set of the villain in his final scenes [where he has clearly gone mad]'. (p. 55) One interesting chapter in Billheimer's book is the one on Notorious (1946). Billheimer claims that the film is one of the few Hitchcocks 'that were actually improved by the involvement of the Production Code'. (p. 119) There are some amusing insights on show. David Selznick, who eventually sold the project to RKO as a package (Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman, the script), was initially sceptical about 'uranium' as the film's MacGuffin. But he was persuaded to accept it when Hitchcock and Ben Hecht told him that they would include some shots of atomic bomb tests. Exploding the bomb 'makes the whole thing real', Selznick told the director, 'and will give the picture size and spectacle'. (p. 120) On every side, though, the developing project ran into censorship problems, and not just the matter of referring to the atomic bomb before it was officially 'unveiled' at Hiroshima. Hitchcock and Hecht stumbled on something else that was too close to the truth for American officialdom - the secret working of FBI anti-Nazi agents in South America. J. Edgar Hoover learned of this aspect of the script and ordered that all references to the FBI be eliminated. Another concern came from the already-mentioned Joseph Breen, of the MPPDA (Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America), whose job was to ensure that films complied with the so-called Hays Code of censorship. The evident 'loose morals' of Alicia Huberman (Bergman), daughter of a traitor, worried him. He appreciated that her outlook had been soured by her father's actions, and he made several suggestions about her character, notably that she not be portrayed as a prostitute but simply as a woman determined 'to get what she can out of life, without paying any personal price for it'. (p. 121) Another script-change involved the dropping of the words 'cyanide' and 'arsenic' (although Hitchcock had got away with a scene in Suspicion where arsenic is mentioned - see December 7, above). Also dropped was a scene with a character named Ernest who would have been shown living with the (unmarried) Alicia at the start of the film. In return, it appears that Hitchcock was allowed to keep most of the drinking footage at Alicia's Miami party, including the shot of the drunken couple on the couch, a sight gag described by Billheimer as 'replicating the pose of Michelangelo's Pietà' (p. 124) - see frame-capture below. Another astute observation by Billheimer concerns the character of Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), whose portrayal was 'greatly improved by the suggestions and strictures of the Production Code: first, by Joe Breen's suggestion that the plot would be well served if Sebastian had at one time been in love with Alicia, and second, by the fact that Alicia's mission of "sleeping with the enemy" could most easily be carried out under the Code if she were to marry Sebastian. These two elements combined to make Alex Sebastian one of the most sympathetic villains in Hitchcock's works.' (p. 126) In sum, Notorious provides splendid evidence for how much creativity springs from hard necessity - such as the 'rules' of censorship!
January 4, 2020 Moving right along ... in my reading of John Billheimer's 'Hitchcock and the Censors'. A negative note, though, just at the start. It's always interesting (to me, at any rate!) how once an error creeps into Hitchcock studies, how difficult it is to expunge it from future publications! In other words, a copycat mindset may get the upper hand, especially in matters that appear to be small, not worth checking. On p. 47, Billheimer says that Hitchcock's Secret Agent (1936) is adaptated from two short stories by W. Somerset Maugham, "The Hairless Mexican" and "Triton". Not so! For "Triton" substitute "The Traitor" - the latter being another of the Ashenden stories (like "The Hairless Mexican") which provides the film with its poignant dog-howling-for-its-dead-master and the elderly widow's grief when she realises the significance of the dog's (telepathic!) show of sadness. (A quick check on the Internet suggests that the error is at least as old as James Monaco's 'The Movie Guide', published in 1992, and perpetuated in several publications since.) I contacted the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton whose President, Dale Ahlquist, kindly confirmed that there is no Chesterton story called "Triton", adding that the nearest thing in Chesterton is probably another story "The Doom of the Darnaways" from 'The Incredulity of Father Brown', where a statue of a triton figures. (In case you're wondering, a triton in Greek mythology is a sea-dwelling merman, a demigod - the original Triton being the son of Poseidon and his wife Amphitrite.) Now back to Billheimer's book. Although Shadow of a Doubt (1943) had few censorship troubles, the budgetry restrictions imposed by the war effort made Hitchcock decide to film on location at Santa Rosa, California, rather than construct elaborate studio sets. As Billheimer says, this actually 'added greatly to the small-town realism of the finished picture' (p. 99). Here's information that I found interesting. There was in fact one main set built. A replica of Young Charlie's Santa Rosa home was built on the Universal lot for $1,987. According to the 'New York Times', quoted by Billheimer, it was quite a phenomenon: 'As the camera moves into, out of, and through the house to record the action, windows come apart, the porch stands aside, the roof bends over, the kitchen walks away.' (Quoted on p. 100.) In other words, here was the forerunner of the films Rope (1948) and, even more, Under Capricorn (1949), in which similar methods were employed to allow the trundling camera to move through the set freely. (In Under Capricorn, I recall once reading, Flusky's long dinner table was a breakaway, and the actors, once the camera had rolled past them, silently fell backwards out of frame. In addition, the camera on a crane could also move upstairs and back downstairs, permitting minimal cutting of separate shots.) What Billheimer says about Lifeboat (1944) is again informative. It was one of Hitchcock's 'microcosm' films - world conflict encapsulated down to a single lifeboat and its passengers. After his success working with Thornton Wilder on Shadow of a Doubt, Hitchcock this time asked Twentieth Century Fox producer Darryl Zanuck for permission to hire another big-name author. They nearly got Ernest Hemingway, but the latter was too busy to accept. (p. 103) Instead, they got John Steinbeck who had seen Fox turn his novel 'The Grapes of Wrath' into a successful film three years earlier. However, on this occasion Hitchcock eventually replaced him with veteran screewriter Jo Swerling who wrote a script much closer to Hitchcock's original concept for the film. Then the newly-formed Office of War Information (OWI) raised objections to it! They saw the film as little short of Nazi propaganda, and pointed to the various representatives of democracy on board. 'The journalist Connie Porter was seen as a selfish, predatory, amoral, international adventuress"; the millionaire Rittenhouse was "an unfairly unsympathetic businessman"; the ship's engineer Kovac had Communist leanings and apparently cheated at poker; and Joe, the African American steward, was a former pickpocket who, because he didn't participate in discussing the fate of the German, was evidently "unaccustomed to the franchise of voting". Worst of all, [they objected to the characterisation of the strong Nazi,] and they found it disgusting that [he] would be beaten and drowned by an unruly mob of distasteful Americans.' (p. 104) [See frame-capture below. Joe looks on. Truffaut called the others 'like a pack of dogs'!] Which is to say, the realist and pessimist in Hitchcock, on show in many of his films (Donald Spoto once observed that they typically end on a note of 'open-ended pessimism' about people in general), didn't go down well with the OWI! In the end, Hitchcock simply told Zanuck that he would 'take the criticisms into account, and then ignored them all'. (p. 104) Note: unlike the Production Code office, the OWI's function was strictly advisory, and it could not actually block films it found objectionable.
• Correction (if needed) to post on December 14. Martin P. now feels that it's not quite accurate to say that Asquith's The Woman in Question was another 1950 film with a 'lying flashback'. The film was also called Five Angles on Murder, and arguably is just about five different versions of a murder - very much like Kurosawa's Rashomon, if not quite Hitchcock's Stage Fright (both 1950). Note: Martin P. further reminds me that Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) may also contain a lying flashback of sorts, depending on your reading of Maxim's account of what happened in the boathouse the night Rebecca died. (In the novel, Maxim unambiguously killed her!)
January 11 Alfred Hitchcock had been involved with the radio series 'Suspense' since its inception in 1940, shortly after he arrived in the USA. In fact, he adapted his own film The Lodger (1926) for a pioneering episode, no more than an audition show (including for himself), in the CBS summer series 'Forecast'. The 'Suspense' series proper began in 1942, and I don't believe that Hitch directed any episodes. However, he immediately became a regular listener! If you would like to know why, you might start by listening to the episode called "The Furnished Floor" which aired on 13 September, 1945, available on YouTube. It stars Mildred Natwick (who would feature in Hitch's 1955 film The Trouble With Harry), and it's clearly a forerunner of Psycho (1960)! (I thank Denise Noe for drawing my attention to it this week. Her new book is here: Teletubbies ) I imagine there's a likelihood that novelist Robert Bloch had heard Lucille Fletcher's radio 'study' (as it was described), i.e., "The Furnished Floor", before he adapted the true story of Ed Gein as 'Psycho'. Now, be warned: the rest of this blog may be a spoiler! I'm always fascinated by how often there are antecedents for something that seems wholly original! The very title "The Furnished Floor" (which refers to a central plot-point in Fletcher's story, namely, how a newly-returned tenant, Mr Jennings, at Mrs Hawkins's lodging house, wishes to restore every piece of furniture in the room that had belonged to him and his late wife) made me think of the O. Henry story "The Furnished Room" (1904). If "The Furnished Floor" very definitely proves to be a study in insanity, O. Henry's story about another lodging-house is more poignant, but nonetheless ends with a tenant's suicide. (In turn, Roald Dahl's 1959 short story "The Landlady" offers another study in insanity - and the death of at least one tenant. Like "The Furnished Floor" it is highly suspenseful, and was adapted by Dahl himself to television, including an episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'.) Right, let's now concentrate on "The Furnished Floor". I admire how it gradually builds suspense as an excited Mrs Hawkins starts to tell a neighbour Mrs McIntyre about her returned tenant, Mr Jennings, whose mind seems set on moving back every possession of his wife who had died in that very apartment. He intends to bring back even his wife's canary in its cage. This already sounds slightly strange, if touching. Mrs Hawkins remembers that Mr Jennings was always a devoted husband, constantly 'billing and cooing' (!) in his wife's presence. (Norman, of course, had always been a devoted son ...) Then comes another surprise. Mr Jennings announces that he has re-married and wants to bring the second Mrs Jennings to live with him. In fact, she has already moved in - apparently late one night after Mrs Hawkins had gone to bed! Mrs Hawkins wonders at this - she has never heard any sound to suggest a second person upstairs. Even curiouser (!), Mr Jennings says that his wife is happy for now to stay in her room and not meet anyone. But the reader can't help wondering! If he/she is really alert - or has seen Psycho - Mr Jennings's remark that his wife is 'not quite herself' should be the tip-off. In any case, the same reader will be gripped when Mrs Hawkins's curiosity (like Lila Crane's in Psycho) is finally sated. Mr Jennings eventually seems compelled to invite her up to meet 'Mrs Jennings', who of course will turn out to be the stolen corpse of his first wife, and he himself is clearly mad. Further prefiguring the Hitchcock film, we hear Mrs Hawkins's feet on the staircase, slowly ascending (whereas Lila went down a flight of stairs). With a measure of dread at what she will find, as well as curiosity, she enters the upstairs room, whose door creaks open! I will not reveal the final outcome. I'm sure you get the general idea, reader! As I say, there are several recordings of the episode on YouTube. (Illustration below.) There is also the complete script. To read it, go here: http://www.genericradio.com/show/M0P5V8HAW
January 18 Kino Classics have released their five-DVD set of early Hitchcocks called 'British International Pictures Collection' (four are silent, and one - The Skin Game - is sound). The first item is my possible favourite among silent Hitchcocks, The Ring (1927), and the DVD includes a spoken commentary by Nick Pinkerton. Why do I like The Ring so much? Well, for a start, the screenplay credit says that the film was written by Hitchcock and Alma Reville, his new bride (they were married straight after production finished, I gather). And the subject matter - boxing, with settings ranging from a fairground tent to a prizefight at the Albert Hall - was familiar to Hitch: he regularly attended wrestling and boxing matches, as well as classical music concerts, at the latter venue, which would figure in three of his features over the years. (Fairground scenes will also figure in Mr and Mrs Smith and Strangers on a Train.) In turn, the film is economically told while being full of observant detail and lovely performances, especially from Danish actor (and trained boxer) Carl Brisson as 'One Round' Jack, and Lilian Hall-Davis as Mabel, Jack's fianceé, who sells tickets outside the fairground tent in which he takes on all comers and has never lost a fight - until one day he finds himself matched against champion Bob Corbey (Ian Hunter) from Australia, and is stretched to a second round. (Corbey's character seems loosely based on real Australian boxer Les Darcy who had died in England in 1917 at the age of 22, from blood poisoning possibly caused by his recent tonsillectomy and/or dental work to replace teeth knocked out during a bout. After Darcy died, his body was returned to Australia where half a million people paid their respects.) The situation continues interesting after Mabel can't help admiring Corbey, and starts to fall for him - creating a classic 'triangle' plot to be resolved by the Albert Hall showdown between the champion and challenger Jack. Something else I like is how Hitchcock was already showing his ingenuity in imposing a 'unity' on what might have been a sprawling plot. For example, the boxing world seems to be all these characters really know, whether the fairground or the London 'scene' which Corby frequents (his visit to the fairground had been a brief side-trip), and where Jack, now his sparring-partner, joins him with Mabel. At a party in Jack's rented flat, after the champagne has flowed freely, two girls do a wild dance then retire to their respective 'corners' and are revived by their 'seconds'. At a London night-club, Jack and Bob come to blows and Bob appears to be 'counted out' by the slide of a trombone being played nearby. Finally, at the Albert Hall, champagne is poured over the boxers' heads to spur them on. Hitchcock's crowning touch! Pinkerton's commentary makes some good points. I liked how he spotted the clever scripting/direction in a scene in the fortuneteller's caravan at the fair. See the frame-capture below. Note the boiling kettle and also the caravan's two windows. Through the window on the right the fortuneteller (Clare Greet) first spies on an assignation between Mabel and Corby in which he slips a symbolic snake-bangle on her arm. You can almost hear him say, 'Got you now, my dear!' The fortuneteller's viewpoint enables Hitchcock to place his camera to record the whole scene through the caravan window. But there's more. Just around the corner of the caravan, Corby's manager is talking Jack into signing up to be Corby's sparring-partner. Nice irony there. And again Hitchcock is able to position his camera in the needed spot. The kettle boils and the fortuneteller has to move from the window on the right to attend to it. From there she moves to the other window and the camera takes up her point of view ... More on The Ring next time.
January 25 The Ring (see also last time) is of course a silent film. To present-day eyes, many shots - even entire sequences - can look like 'mugging'. I recall one long passage of excited faces, consisting of Jack's friends showing their pleasure after he has won another fight, thereby continuing his ascension towards a match-up with the champion. But note: this is quality mugging! Hitchcock constructs these passages from carefully differentiated faces, and shots, having the common theme of pleasure. There is no missing the underlying idea of the passage, a bit like a musical passage within a particular 'movement', itself part of a more broadly-conceived composition (e.g., a symphony). (Also, the passage prefaces the contrasting mood, one of let-down, when Jack invites his friends back to his apartment and Mabel isn't waiting for him. She has been out with the champion.) Equally, the film has some bravura montage passages, strikingly and imaginatively conceived and assembled, as in one such passage where the shots (e.g., of distorted, elongated piano keys) again convey a single idea, although it's not one that could be easily paraphrased in words. On this occasion, the 'single idea' might be labelled the mood of expectation mixed with 'bewilderment' when Jack and his entourage arrive in London and have to orient themselves to their new surroundings. (Very succesfully - because the passage is so clearly a virtuoso one - the viewer is never left with an impression that the passage is itself confused!) One scene that is 'Hitchcockian' in its utter economy while making every shot advance a general description of the occasion is the church wedding of Jack and Mabel about half-way through the film. In other words, every moment of the scene is cumulative: the 'single idea' design again! Delightfully, because it's not exactly conventional, the scene is often comic. Yet this fits with how the congregation is composed of a motley collection of fairground/circus folk. Just about every member of the fairground personnel attends: an earlier shot has shown the fairground closed down and deserted. So we're very aware of Jack and Mabel's popularity. Joining the congregation at the last minute is the champion, Jack Corby, and his manager, who unobtrusively take seats in the middle of the church. Their presence helps sustain what I call - following novelist Sol Stein - the 'crucible situation' of the main story, defined as 'an emotional or physical environment that bonds [despite themselves] two people who won't declare a truce'. Remember that the main story concerns the rivalry of Jack and Bob, especially for the attention of Mabel who is inclined to be fickle, even after she has wed Jack. (Only at the film's climax will she finally see where her deepest feelings lie.) Among the wedding scene's visual gags is the one showing the two Siamese twins - conjoined at the waist - disputing on which side of the aisle to sit. For a moment or two, they are inclined to go opposite ways, but somehow they finally work it out! (See frame-capture below.) Another visual gag consists of the reactions of the snooty verger (who looks a bit like Vladimir Putin in a smock) who is clearly dismayed, even shocked, at the ragtag, indecorous congregation he is charged with directing to their places before the wedding service begins. Eventually, he goes to tell the waiting minister, in his white clergical garb, that the service can begin, but (in mime, of course) the verger can't help voicing his misgivings. Whereupon, as only a clergyman can, the minister magnanimously waves the matter aside as beneath the higher importance of the occasion. Quite daring of Hitchcock to include this moment, I fancy. Finally, a word for the laconic, almost surly comic performance of Gordon Harker as Jack's trainer. At the wedding, he is charged with being the best man, responsible for handing over the nuptial ring at the right moment. Of course, he gets it wrong, first losing the ring which has (apparently) dropped on the floor, then inadvertently handing the minister a button instead, and then finally producing the ring - at which moment he almost glows in triumph and basks in his brief moment of importance! (I'm rather surprised that the commentary on the DVD doesn't mention Gordon Harker until the 41-minute mark. Harker, whose first film this was, is actually the next most important character after the three principals.)
February 1 Taking another look at The Ring (1927) this week confirmed for me the rightness of something I wrote in my book: 'In the final analysis, the greatness of The Ring is a cumulative matter. Individual details are striking enough - the fight referee who looks like the conductor Toscanini, for example - but in addition there's a broader sense of life.' (I've added the italics here.) When, finally, Mabel (Lilian Hall-Davis) comes to her senses about her allegiance to her husband 'One Round' Jack (Carl Brisson), and goes to him in his corner, she whispers to him, 'Jack ... I'm with you ... in your corner.' (Italics on title-card in film.) More than reminding us that life is like a boxing match with winners and losers (!), the line adds to a sense of, yes, life, that runs through the film - and, indeed, through many of Hitchcock's films (e.g., Lifeboat). In fact, the film has many clever lines. When Jack's manager (or promoter) urges him to concentrate on his training for an upcoming fight, and take time out from Mabel - presumably she can stay with the fairground folk for a while - Jack knows that doing so would leave Mabel vulnerable to further approaches from the champion (Ian Hunter). Jack says: 'I'd be training for a divorce if I left her here.' (In fact, she does go out with the champion on at least one occasion. Btw, the champion is heavyweight champion of Australia, as a poster informs us.) The promoter, whom we sense several times is very money-conscious, has a clever line of his own at this point: 'I thought you said you'd fight for her!' He means that Jack should put his training first! So the promoter, too, is a fighter! Now, not unrelated to what I'm saying here, are some clever visual touches. Returning home after a successful fight, and expecting to find Mabel waiting for him to share his triumph, he instead finds the apartment deserted. His friends sense that something is wrong and soon excuse themselves, leaving their champagne to go flat. (Jack has said: 'She won't be long. We won't drink until she returns!'). Alone in the apartment, Jack feels despondent. Out the window are the lights of London. But it has grown late. Earlier, the lights had been blinking on and off and carrying banner-messages for commercial products. Now they are unblinking, for most people have gone home. This fits Jack's despondent mood. I was reminded of a shot in Vertigo (1958), after Madeleine's apparent suicide, when Scottie returns to the old livery stables where he and Madeleine in happier times had patted a grey wooden horse in its stall. Now as he looks around forlornly, a view down a road outside, from Scottie's point of view, shows a lone car receding down it, like a sense of hope departing. Another clever touch in The Ring involves what is almost a leitmotif, apropos the framed photo of the champion, Bob Corby (Ian Hunter), which Mabel had insisted on placing on the apartment's mantelpiece. Before he had gone to his latest bout, and been victorious, Jack had spotted the photo and turned it face down! Now he returns to find the photo upright again and alongside it a small statue of a jester, which appears to be mocking him. (A foretaste here, of a more elaborate 'jester' motif in the 1929 Blackmail.) Nothing about The Ring is tame. It feels, as I say, to be about life and destiny - nothing less - as intimated in the credits sequence with its still-shot of the Albert Hall auditorium, where the distant lit-up boxing ring surrounded by unseen watchers indeed carries intimations of destiny. Nor is Hitchcock prudish about showing certain details - like Mabel's bare shoulder and a glimpse of her brassiere - after an angry Jack has ripped open her blouse and been again taunted by a snake-bangle - given Mabel by the champion - on her upper arm. Jack rips the bangle off too! (See frame-capture below.) Hitchcock didn't exactly tell Truffaut that he wasn't prudish, but he did say (during their famous interview, portions of which are included on the new Kino Classics DVDs - see above , January 18), apropos the film's adultery content, 'I'm not intolerant!' In other words, Hitchcock was typically broad-minded in showing so much of 'life'.
February 8 [Apologies. Nothing this week. New topic next time. KM]
February 15 A new book, 'Hitchcock's People, Places, and Things' (Northwestern University Press), by John Bruns, includes an analysis of the six-and-a-half-minute trailer for Psycho in which Hitch, with exemplary politeness, winningly guides us around the Bates Motel set - it's probably one of the most famous of all trailers. Bruns says astutely that it 'enacts a desire to inhabit a Hitchcock film, to chart its territory ...' (p. 10) I've always considered the Pycho trailer a little masterpiece in its own right (haven't you?!), albeit shot with the economy of means of Hitchcock's television shows - note: the trailer was scripted by James Allardice, author of Hitchcock's witty intros and outros for 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. Now, apropos Hitch's 'exemplary politeness' ... his initial greeting to the audience is an exaggerated 'How do you do?' This seems to be required because a printed passage has already told us, 'The fabulous Mr. Alfred Hitchcock is about to escort you ...' (one exaggeration - 'fabulous' - balances the other!). In turn, such a greeting allows Hitch to maintain a tone of under-statement even when he is, in a sense, describing to us exactly what took place ('dire and horrible events'). That description, and tone, allows him a certain impersonality, especially when he is conveying to us, in words and hand-gestures, the staircase murder of the private detective, Milton Arbogast. At no time is Arbogast or his occupation or his role in the film mentioned: he is simply 'the victim' whose 'back broke immediately' after being knifed and pushed downstairs by 'a weird and maniacal woman'. In the trailer's methodology and tone, Bruns finds a key to Hitchcock's films: the 'tracing in a slow deliberate way [of] the complex relations between people, places, and things in the Hitchcock landscape [which] means being open to the incoherent, being able to confront the strange without feeling estranged'. (p. 12) Round about here, Bruns quotes Murray Pomerance's complaint that too much film analysis is concerned with plot elements, not images. (In this, Pomerance sounds a bit like E.M. Forster who famously wrote, in 'Aspects of the Novel': 'Yes, oh dear yes, a novel must tell a story!') Bruns, though, sticks to his guns, and says he believes that plot is exactly what an audience is most concerned with, and that 'Hitchcock scholars loyal to the mass-experience of cinema [are] barking up the right trees'! That's well said! Likewise, when Bruns notes that an audience 'desire[s] to inhabit a Hitchcock film', he is surely right - and much of the rest of his book amplifies and evidences that claim. The Psycho trailer, taking us outside and inside the Bates Motel and the Bates house, plays up to such a desire by an audience. There are many Hitchcock films, including Psycho, where the director spends a long time making us 'at home' in a location; clearly, he wants us to feel comfortable there before springing his shocks! A related technique is his introducing an important ingredient of set or plot before it figures in a major scene. Of the Psycho trailer, Bruns notes that the phrase 'The bathroom!' figures twice, both times being uttered by Hitch with a note of apology in his voice, as if for introducing such an indelicate matter at all! (The first time, upstairs in the Bates house, there's an added humorous note, as Hitch pretends that he is himself a newcomer and that 'he has come upon this door only now' - p. 11.) In the frame-capture below, Hitch is seen at the moment he is uttering the phrase, 'The bathroom!', after having quickly closed the bathroom door. Note the interesting framing. Once again, our knowledge of the space is being facilitated by a wide-shot, with its no-less interesting emphasis on the two matching stair knobs. Another way of looking at this is that the two knobs are like 'markers' that give us our bearings while being the sort of unobtrusive detail that adds a visual component just sufficient for the time the shot lasts. Yes, there are more than 'plot elements' to a Hitchcock film - or trailer!
February 22 Have my readers seen the 1955 AHP episode, directed by Hitchcock, called "The Case of Mr Pelham"? It's analysed by John Bruns in Chapter 3 of his book 'Hitchcock's People, Places, and Things' (see last week's entry). I was happy to visit the episode again, not least for Tom Ewell's hand-wringing performance as a despairing Mr Pelham (and, in some climactic trick shots, his smug double) who comes to realise that he has an impersonator who looks exactly like him, such that even Pelham's live-in manservant, Peterson, finally accepts the impostor as genuine, and considers 'our' Mr Pelham a fake - driving our Mr Pelham mad! (In a way, there's a foretaste of Psycho here. I thought of 'Mrs Bates' saying in a scoffing voice, 'You think I'm crazy, huh?') The episode is another of Hitchcock's 'Pirandellian' ventures: Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) wrote such plays as 'Six Characters in Search of a Author' and 'Right You Are - If You Think So' that explore the borderline between reality and acting - and madness. Come to think of it, Vertigo has been called Pirandellian (although I forget by whom - possibly Andrew Sarris). That's interesting in itself. Remember Scottie crying out to Judy, when he discovers that he has been duped, 'Why did you pick on me? Why me?' A very similar line is uttered by Pelham near the end: 'Why did this have to happen to me?' The question, of course, is unanswerable, reminding us that our own 'reality' (what the philosopher Schopenhauer - a big influence on Pirandello - called the principle of individuation) is always subjective. Mere 'Representation', not the unknowable 'Will' (reality) itself. Each of us may feel at the centre of his/her world, therefore important, but it's an illusion. Each of us is merely a speck of humanity! (Nonetheless, our sanity may depend on our maintaining the illusion or, at least, coming to terms with it.) Such an 'existential' issue often seems to me to be explored in Hitchcock, including in both Vertigo and Psycho, and 'The Case of Mr Pelham'. Now to come to Bruns's analysis of the latter. His argument, summarised, is that the episode plays as a parable of someone worried by his possible homosexuality. Our Mr Pelham is visibly unsettled by the possibility of an impersonator - his double or 'other side' - but once one half of this double is disposed of (faced up to?), the 'other' half can live more comfortably and seem like a 'new man'. Which is pretty much how the episode plays out - only the new man is not our Mr Pelham but the upstart Pelham! Only, nobody knows, or notices! They only congratulate Pelham on his new business acumen. His clubmate, Mason, is heard asking him whether Pelham is in the millionaire bracket yet! Here's how Bruns sums up: 'Mason's assessment of this "new" Pelham, punctuated by the latter's bold body language [no more hand-wringing!], suggests an image of decidedly confident and successful non-homosexual masculinity. This is a man with a firm grip, a man who knows how to get ahead. It is as if the "old" Pelham finally has an alibi, someone who can vouch for him. No longer under the strain of homosexual panic, the "old" [and mad] Pelham can smile dreamily in his padded cell, knowing the "new" Pelham will proudly strut about, sure of his visible, public nonhomosexual identity, confident that others will notice and approve, and even admire. No wonder, then, that Hitchcock places a portrait of a male lion perched atop his rival on the wall behind the "new" Pelham [...] This aggressor, this athlete [we're shown Pelham playing billiards - see frame-capture below], this champion, is the king of the jungle, cock of the walk. He is the bold nonhomosexual; he is the grand alibi.' (p. 86) As Bruns has pointed out, when Hitchcock appears at the start of the episode we hear him say, 'Sometimes death is not the worst that can befall a man [but rather there are] the quiet little insidious devices that can drive a man out of his mind. Like putting bubblegum in someone's coat pocket.' And so Bruns proposes 'that the fate worse than death which Alfred Hitchcock presents [in "The Case of Mr Pelham"] is having no alibi'. (p. 70) Hmm. Could be. The 'existentional' Hitchcock did think a bit like that about the content of his films and TV shows!
February 29 [No entry this time. Instead, read the long News item, immediately below. Thanks. KM]
March 7 It was an inspired idea of emeritus professor Rafael Gomas Filipe to centre his Hitchcock essays (available on Kindle) around the theories of Julian Jaynes, whose celebrated 1976 book, 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind', might have been written with Psycho's Norman Bates in mind! Norman Bates, with his 'voices', is like a throwback to how Jaynes thinks humans in general may once have been - directed by voices in their heads. (Silent thought is relatively sophisticated.) Of course, Prof. Filipe notices that Marion Crane also imagines voices, while Caroline in the real estate office probably likewise hears her dominating mother's voice telling her what to do - if not in Caroline's head, then on the phone. (Her mother even rings her at work to see if Teddy - Caroline's boyfriend or husband? - called in!) Prof. Filipe's essays are on Psycho, Vertigo, and Shadow of a Doubt - I've only read the first of them so far, and I want to say a few more things about it here. Something I like about Filipe's approach is that, when - which is often - he quotes another commentator, he both appreciates the idea being expressed while showing himself aware of its possible shortcomings. Take his citation of Slavoj Zizek's memorable comparison of Norman Bates's house to the three levels of the mind suggested by Sigmund Freud: superego, ego, and id. Upstairs = the superego, determined by Mother; the ground floor = the ego, the everyday; downstairs (the basement) = the realm of the id, what Zizek calls 'the reservoir of ... illicit drives'. Zizek's slightly awkward phrasing puts the idea like this: Norman's carrying Mother from the first floor to the basement may seem 'as if he is transposing her in his own mind as the psychic agency from superego to id'. (In actuality, he is hiding her corpse down there away from prying eyes that would expect to find the live Mrs Bates in her bedroom.) And Filipe comments: 'we must object that Zizek himself is not too sure of [the idea's] cogency, knowing, as he surely does, that analogy ... is far from being the best ... way to build a sound, forceful argument'. (Zizek, a bit like Rupert in Rope, sometimes likes to express ideas for the sake of showing them off!) Filipe next broadens his criticism: 'Zizek's structure is [itself] somehow defective, leaving out of it the motel and the swamp, and their dialectical interplay [that] makes a functional whole [of what is] unfolding in the Bates estate.' To do this, 'Zizek would have eventually to abandon the psychoanalytical subjectivism, and enlarge the concept of mind from its "interior" ... to its "exterior", and finally admit the existence of mental phenomena beyond the individual and human ones'. (Filipe cites as a model Gregory Bateson's 'Mind and Nature', 1985.) As so often, common sense beats excessive (or excessively narrow) abstraction! Further, I liked how Filipe demonstrates his point, apropos the wider 'dialectical interplay' of motel and swamp. To do this, he cites a 2013 essay by Gregor Weber (very possibly influenced by Raymond Durgnat's Psycho monograph) on how '[t]he motifs of digestion and drain constitute the audivisual link of the entire [shower scene] sequence. The sexually desired heroine is metaphorically dismembered, devoured and digested by Norman.' From this observation, it's easy to see how the cloacal swamp fits into the picture. (Frame-capture below.) Moreover, Weber, cited by Filipe, invokes Hitchcock's expressed desire to show 24 hours in the life of a city, ending on shots of flowing sewers and garbage being dumped into the ocean. 'Thematically', explained Hitchcock, 'the cycle would show what people do to good things.' And Filipe suggests that if we think of 'good things' as referring to Janet Leigh/Marion Crane, we can readily take away from this description 'a perfect synopsis of Psycho's plot'. (For my part, I think of Schopenhauer's description of the inimical Will and its doings - Hitchcockian as always!)
March 14 In Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935), it's Annabella Smith who is murdered early in the film (frame-capture below), forcing Hannay as the only suspect to go on the run; in John Buchan's novel (1915), the murdered person is Scudder, a 'freelance spy from Kentucky' who is investigating a dark conspiracy 'to get Russia and Germany at loggerheads'. But the result is the same: when Scudder is killed in Hannay's apartment, Hannay must flee London and go looking for the culprits while staying alive himself - thereby setting in motion the 'double-chase' that several Hitchcock films would later appropriate. Hannay describes his situation like this: 'I reckoned that two sets of people would be looking for me - Scudder's enemies to put me out of existence, and the police, who would want me for Scudder's murder.' (Chapter II) A recent article in the 'London Review of Books' by Christopher Tayler - reviewing Ursula Buchan's 'Beyond The Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan' (2019) - brought the novel and film back to me. Buchan is always interesting to read about. Have you seen his advice on how to write a mystery novel? Tayler puts it like this: 'You take three images at random - "say, an old blind woman spinning in the [Scottish] Western Highlands, a barn in a Norwegian saeter [meadow], and a little curiosity shop in North London kept by a Jew with a dyed beard" - and make up a story to connect them. The reader won't know that you "fixed upon the solution first, and then invented a problem [or rationale] to suit it".' From many accounts, that's pretty much how Hitchcock worked as well - often to the consternation of his scriptwriters! Buchan was a fair-minded man: for every reference to some contemporary prejudice or other (e.g., against 'the Jew'), he would usually incorporate a more-moderate viewpoint - as when Sir Walter Bulivant of the Secret Service (in several Hannay novels) says of Scudder: 'he had a lot of odd biases, too. Jews, for example, made him see red. Jews and the high finance.' If Buchan was the middle-brow Hitchcock's favourite author, I suspect that he - Hitchcock - picked up a lot of his own noticeable fair-mindedness from that source. Ursula Buchan is a granddaughter of 'JB'. She is not the first Buchan biographer, though. Another biographer was Janet Adam Smith whose 'John Buchan' (1965) reports an interesting item: that (politician) Clement Atlee once pointed out to her a borrowing from the celebrated novel 'Kidnapped' (1886) by another Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, which Buchan had certainly read. Tayler doesn't say what that borrowing was, but it was most likely the same 'double-chase' already mentioned, and involving the 'wrong man' motif that Hitchcock would make his own. In 'Kidnapped', young David Balfour must indeed clear his name after he is kidnapped as a cabin boy for the ship on which he finds himself. With an older friend - Alan Breck - he becomes a major suspect in a murder. Escaping from the ship, they flee into a wood - and the chase continues. Of course, the biggest single literary influence on Buchan was probably John Bunyan's moral allegory 'Pilgrim's Progress' (1678). Tayler reports that 'Buchan became a life-long devotee of "its plain narrative, its picture of life as a pilgrimage over hill and dale, where surprising adventures lurked by the wayside, a hard road with now and then long views to cheer the traveller".' So, reader, remember that - i.e., whenever you ask yourself what is the underlying significance of Hitchcock's chase-plot in films like The 39 Steps and North by Northwest (1959). (Roger Thornhill's surname may just possibly invoke a crown-of-thorns and a crucified figure on a hill, i.e., a Christ-figure!) Another parallel with Hitchcock now. Many of Buchan's novels begin with the hero bored in London. Tayler notes that in such instances Buchan was drawing on his own life when, in 1903, he returned to London from South Africa, and 'experienced the world-weariness that afflicts his heroes when there isn't an adventure on the horizon'. In Hitchcock's films, it doesn't have to be London. Think, say, of Jeff in Rear Window (1954) who almost seems to conjure a murder-mystery out of his boredom when he finds himself laid up with a broken leg in his Greewich Village apartment! Hitchcock of course knew that there was an allegory right there: of the incipient boredom that drives filmgoers into cinemas, seeking escape. Tayler ends by reminding his readers of how, for all Buchan's modest strengths as a writer, his 'terseness ... means that his novels are still readable, and the thrillers' preposterous, throw-away plots are mostly a pretext for vivid set pieces based on [his] strenuous walks through the glens' of his native Scotland. Good stuff, worthy of a movie!
March 21 What you see below is a frame-capture from Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947), whose second half is set largely in the famous Old Bailey courtroom in London. There had been earlier attempts on film to re-create the Old Bailey in a film studio - going right back to the silent-films era - but Hitchcock's was the first feature film made in Hollywood, or directed by a Hollywood director, to do so. Strangely, it isn't mentioned in the new book 'Court Number One: The Old Bailey Trials That Defined Modern Britain' by Thomas Grant. The only feature film Grant mentions in that respect is Billy Wilder's Witness for the Prosecution (1957, i.e., made a decade after Hitchcock's film) - which it praises for its 'exact replica of Court Number One constructed, at huge cost, in Hollywood' (p. 9). Take that, Hitchcock! Nonetheless, Hitch, too, had spared no expense ($15,000) for his re-creation, even having ceilings added to his Old Bailey set without telling producer David Selznick what he was doing - and despite the fact that the ceilings are barely glimpsed in the film! And although Hitchcock's set was built to the exact size of the actual Old Bailey - which often surprises its first-time visitors by how small it is - somehow he was able to fit into the confines of the courtroom several cameras, each pointed at different parts of the unfolding drama, and which he would often allow to run simultaneously. The idea was to capture the actual feel of the thrust and parry of a real court. (Note: by using this multi-camera technique, Hitchcock was effectively anticipating the TV technique he would employ in AHP and AHH in the 1950s and 1960s - and a technique only just starting to be used by live television itself, from roughly the late 1940s onwards.) Btw, another later feature film to imclude scenes in the Old Bailey was Hollywood director Richard Fleischer's 10 Rillington Place (1971), shot in colour. (It, too, must have replicated its Old Bailey in the studio, as I don't suppose that the filmmakers would have been granted permission for extended filming in the actual court. That film is notable for telling the sad story of Timothy Evans and John Christie, the latter finally apprehended in 1953 for multiple murders but not before the innocent Evans had been hanged, including for the murder of Evan's wife and infant daughter. One can imagine the case had a sizeable effect on Hitchcock.) And then there was the long-running television series 'Rumpole of the Bailey', whose first episode was aired in 1978. But back now to the Old Bailey itself. Built along London's medieval western wall (or bailey), the building had been the central criminal court of London for centuries; however, the 'new' Old Bailey opened in 1907. It sustained some damage - shown in The Paradine Case - from bombing during the Second World War, damage not repaired until after 1950. Grant describes the courtroom, and I'd like to quote him. First, though, note in the frame-capture below André Latour (Louis Jourdan, top left) in the witness box leaning towards Judge Horfield (Charles Laughton, top centre); visible in the jury box (middle left) are some of the jurors, while a standing Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck, centre right) addresses the court; just visible in the dock, which occupies the actual middle of the court, is the prisoner Maddelena Paradine (Alida Valli, bottom right). Now here's Grant (and remember, as you read, just how powerful a hold the Old Bailey exercised on the imaginations of many Britishers, including Hitchcock!). '[B]etween the jury box and the [judges'] bench, is the witness box. To approach it a witness has to walk into the well of the court, the jury to the left, the large "Treasury Table" which divides jurors from counsel to the right (where in the past the exhibits were kept), and then up a short flight of steps. The witness stands - they may even be invited to sit - at conversational distance from the judge and facing counsel. It is one of the peculiarities of the configuration of Court Number One that the jury cannot see the witness distinctly. From the jury box the witness is visible only in profile.' (p. 6) To be continued.
March 28 As noted last time, to approach the witness box at the Old Bailey a person must walk through the well of the court and past the jury box. In the frame-capture from The Paradine Case below, Maddelena Paradine (Alida Valli) has just left the dock on her way to the witness box. Note: the jury box can be seen on the extreme right of the frame. One of several actual Old Bailey court-cases that influenced Robert Hichens's 1933 novel 'The Paradine Case' (and Hitchcock's 1947 film) was the 1922 trial of Edith Thompson and her lover Frederick Bywaters for killing Mrs Thompson's husband. (The same trial also influenced Hitchcock's 1950 Stage Fright.) Thomas Grant's superb book 'Court Number One' (see last time) notes that 'Edith ... was viewed in the dock and witness box in almost entirely erotic terms'. Grant quotes the 'Daily Express': 'A thrill passed through the court as Mrs Thompson walked slowly down the steps of the dock.' (Grant, p. 119) He also notes: 'Her walk to the witness box fascinated the public just as much as Marguerite [Fahmy's] would a few months later.' (p. 118) (Both of those beautiful woman were tried for the murder of their respective husbands, although only one - Fahmy - would be acquitted and escape the gallows; both cases influenced Hitchens and Hitchcock.) Filmmaker Hitchcock was especially alert to the visual possibilities of the layout of the Old Bailey and how, in particular, his characters negotiated its various sets of steps. The Old Bailey sequence begins with Mrs Paradine being fetched by two female warders from a cell beneath the courtroom and mounting a narrow staircase leading directly into the dock. She maintains her composure throughout all of this, as during most of the trial that follows. It's understandable that Hichens based his novel on the Thompson & Bywaters trial, as the famous defence barrister in that trial, Sir Edward Marshall Hall, was heard referring to its parallels with an earlier Hichens novel, 'Bella Donna' (1909), in which a wife poisons her husband. Indeed, the reputation of Marshall Hall to sway juries with his rhetoric was a trait that both Hichens and Hitchcock gave barrister Anthony Keane in 'The Paradine Case' and its film version - he is played onscreen by Gregory Peck, of course (although Hitchcock understandably would have preferred Englishman Laurence Olivier). Grant's book can further illuminate films like The Paradine Case. For example, he writes: 'A criminal trial now is a lot fairer and more humane than [it once was] ... The testy and acidic judges [like Judge Horfield (Charles Laughton)] ... are now largely things of the past.' (pp. 10-11) And advances like DNA profiling, ubiquitous CCTV, and taped police interviews have 'to some extent removed the potential for uncertainty and curtailed the rhetorical deployment of doubt, the defending barrister's stock-in-trade'. (p. 10) Moreover, divorce laws have been liberalised, thereby removing 'much of the motivation to middle-class murder'. (p. 10) Lastly, 'the abolition of the death penalty in 1965 removed, at a stroke, much of the tension in murder trials.' (pp. 10-11) Grant quotes an historian of the Old Bailey: 'Once the black cap became a museum piece and the prospect of a hanging had finally gone, ... newspaper readers [and some filmgoers] had a distinct sense of coitus interruptus, like a bull fight without the kill.' (p. 11) Shuddersome, but probably true. Now, on a more pleasant note, but apropos the English tradition of a judge donning the black cap to pronounce a death sentence, I invite readers to look at the film clip below from a remarkable silent film The Balance (c. 1922), showing its Old Bailey scene, which runs for about four minutes:
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News and Comment[Readers of this webpage are urged to send reports for possible inclusion in this feature. Both general-interest and Hitchcock-specific items are sought. N.B.: information about Hitchcock DVDs and Blu-rays is incorporated at several points below.]
Major 2020 retrospective, "The Women behind Hitchcock", starts at Film Forum, New York:
The retrospective, including several Hitchcock films, English and American, will run at Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, New York, NY 10014. (That's in Greewich Village.) Box office: (212) 727-8110. Altogether, 31 films will screen over two weeks, including multiple screenings of the film noir classic Phantom Lady (Robert Siodmak, 1944) which was co-written by Joan Harrison, Hitchcock's long-time secretary and screenplay assistant, who accompanied him and Mrs Hitchcock (Alma Reville) on the voyage from England in 1939, but who eventually became an independent writer/producer. The wife of crime novelist Eric Ambler, Harrison later re-joined Hitchcock in 1955 as Assistant Producer of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', then became the series' co-Producer (with actor Norman Lloyd) in 1957.
For the full program of the Film Forum retrospective, click here:
Another highlight of the retrospective will be personal appearances by author Christina Lane, whose book 'Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock' (Chicago Review Press, 2020), was an inspiration for the Film Forum screenings. Says Lane: 'This festival reminds us that these women weren't just Hitchcock's "right-hand" - they were front and centre. It shows just how unproductive it is to ask reductive questions around whether Hitchcock's work was "feminist" versus "anti-feminist". The gender politics in his movies are very complex, because they involve many female and feminist voices.' (A program note comments that Hitchcock always exhibited a keen appreciation for the creative powers of women - Daphne du Maurier, Sally Benson, Dorothy Parker, Jay Presson Allen, et al. - but that Reville and Harrison stand out. When Reville married Hitchcock in 1926, she had already been working in films for a decade as both an actress and 'cutter', i.e., film editor. She would become her husband's closest collaborator - though not always given official credit - as well as writing films for others.) [Thanks to Alain K for providing information used here.]
● Footnote. Harrison's co-writer on Phantom Lady was Marian Cockrell - who would later write several teleplays for the 'AHP' series, and even direct one of its episodes, "The Rose Garden" (airdate: 16th December 1956). Marian Cockrell was the wife of established Hollywood screenwriter Francis Cockrell, who also wrote teleplays for the series, sometimes collaborating with his wife. He, too, directed one of its episodes, "Whodunit" (airdate: 25th March 1956).
Sheer perfection: miniature of Rear Window set
We wish to share our joy at discovering this (thanks to Mike C, who tipped us off). It's a model of the Rear Window courtyard as seen from Jeff's (James Stewart's) window, lovingly executed on a scale of 1:87. The artist is 'David Miniatures', who describes himself as 'a miniature[s] artist for the past 20 years, professionally since 2014'.
To visit David's website, containing more information and several large reproductions of the Rear Window model, click here:
For comparison, you may want to check out the film's opening pan shot. Here's a clip:
Then, for added delight, you could compare the house where Monsieur Hulot lives in Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958), viewable in a video clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=6mtluyHcOnk
Here's a frame-capture of Hulot's house:
(Note in both films, i.e., Hitchcock's and Tati's, the add-on stairways and ladders, some of them of questionable function and/or design!)
65 years on, evidence that Dial M for Murder exteriors were shot in Kensington, not Maida Vale!
Thanks to some assiduous searching by an Alfred Hitchcock fan with an eagle-eye, using Google's Street View, here's fairly conclusive proof that the exteriors for Tony and Margot Wendice's flat in Dial M for Murder (1954) were shot in and around Collingham Road, South Kensington. That's two miles from where we hear Tony (Ray Milland) say he lives at '61A Charrington Gardens', two minutes' walk from the Maida Vale Underground! (Moral: never believe anything the smooth-tongued Tony says - as the film shows!)
First, here's a frame-capture showing Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings) spying on Tony's comings and goings. Note the facade of the building immediately behind him and also the tall dark building in the distance at the end of the curved row of apartments.
Now here's a wide-view of what is assuredly the same location seen today, at the corner of Courtfield Gardens and (on the right) Collingham Road, South Kensington. The facade of the street-corner building in the foreground is identical in all respects (except a change of colour) to the facade we see behind Mark in the film. Also, the tall building in the distance is still there (although the change of angle now shows a little more of it).
And there appears to be a clincher. If we simply pan our eyes right from the above view, to look down Collingham Road, this is what we see. Note in particular the white-and-brown stone building (backed by a taller brown building) on the left in the middle distance:
Now, below, here's another frame-capture from Dial M showing the area near the Wendices' flat. It was almost certainly shot just down the road and to the left of the above. The distinctive brown-and-white stone building is present and little-changed, despite some later re-modelling - likely done when the taller brown building went up.
Detective-work for all the above was done by Hitchcock fan Geoff Keane in Australia, working from the Dial M frame-captures originally put up by the 'Crescent Garden' website (and provided by 'The MacGuffin') to accompany some fascinating speculations of Maida Vale local, Tony Stern. Click here to visit the site: https://www.crescentgarden.co.uk/history. There's plenty of additional thoughts about Hitchcock up there.
Geoff reports that he spent 'many, many months' going through Street View locations (presumably working outwards from Maida Vale). See what we mean by 'assiduous searching'! He concludes that the building where the Wendices lived 'would have been either 11 or 13 Collingham Road'. He also notes that Alfred Hitchcock's home in Cromwell Road, where Hitchcock lived with Alma and their daughter Pat between 1929 and 1936, is situated just 230 metres away!
Death of Clive Swift (1936-2019)
British actor Clive Swift, 82, has died. He played Johnny Porter, friend to Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) and the submissive husband of Hetty (Billie Whitelaw), in Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972), filmed in England. In real life, Swift married the acclaimed writer Margaret Drabble in 1960, and they remained together for 15 years, having two sons, Adam and Joe, and a daughter, Rebecca. Other notable films featuring Swift included John Boorman's Excalibur (1981) and David Lean's A Passage to India (1984). Earlier, he had attended Cambridge University, where he studied English, took part in student dramatics, and met Drabble. Afterwards, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (1960-68). He became a household name when he starred in the TV series 'Keeping Up Appearances' (1990-95). He wrote two successful books on the acting profession (1976, revised 1984; and 1981) and in 1979 was instrumental in forming the Actors Centre in London, where actors can experiment with techniques and ideas.
Tippi Hedren attends US premiere of Nico Muhly's opera 'Marnie'
Composer Nico Muhly seems drawn to the kinky. His first opera was 'Two Boys' (2013), about the dark side of the Internet, and 'Marnie', although based on Winston Graham's 1961 novel, rather than Hitchcock's 1964 film, keeps the central idea of Mark Rutland's attraction to Marnie because she is a thief. (Mark's 'fetish' for a woman whom he knows to have committed various offences or criminal acts, such as lying or robbery, is called 'hybristophilia', I believe. Hitchcock loved hearing about strange kinks!)
The opera had its British premiere in 2017 at the London Coliseum. (See Marnie opera a success in London, further down this page.) Part-commissioned by the New York Met, it opened in New York a few days ago (Ocober 2018). Tippi Hedren, who had played Marnie in the film, attended the opening night, wearing red - an 'in' reference to Marnie's fear of that colour. Hedren appeared on stage with the opera's cast at the final curtain call, and was given an enthusiastic ovation. The 'New York Times' said that the actress, now 88, looked wonderful.
To read the NYT review, click here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/21/arts/music/marnie-opera-review-nico-muhly.html
Note. The Met production will be transmitted to selected movie theatres across the US on 10 November, part of the MetHD series. US viewers should check the Web for local screening times.
George Tabori (1914-2007), scriptwriter of I Confess, in the news again
Or rather, the Hungarian-born playwright's remarkable farce 'Mein Kampf' (1987), about Adolf Hitler as a young man, is again attracting attention ahead of its latest production - in Konstanz, Germany - scheduled to open on 20 April: Hitler's birthday. Not everyone backs that timing! Also contentious is the theatre's plan to offer free admission to anyone who wears a swastika, which will be handed out by the management; other attendees, who choose to purchase their tickets, will be invited to display a Star of David (again provided by the management) as a sign of solidarity with the victims of National Socialist tyranny.
For the record, 'Mein Kampf' is considered Tabori's biggest hit, following its premiere in Vienna in 1987. Described by 'The Guardian' as a 'deeply serious, utterly hilarious black farce', the play became 'a runaway international success'. Several of Tabori's plays dealt with the oppression of the Jews by the Nazis (nearly all of Tabori's family perished in Auschwitz), yet he 'knew no bitterness - wit, wisdom and tolerance were the hallmarks of his exploration of the relationship between Germany and the Jews in the 20th century'.
Hitchcock may have hired Tabori for any number of reasons, among them the idea that the playwright would sympathetically depict Otto and Alma Keller - a European refugee couple - in the I Confess script based on a 1902 melodrama by Frenchman Paul Anthelme. Tabori's own first play, 'Flight Into Egypt', was just opening on Broadway, produced by Elia Kazan. (Cast members included Paul Lukas and David Opatashu.) Hitchcock would also have known that Tabori had worked with Bertolt Brecht, had written a psychological crime novel called 'Original Sin', and had tried to persuade MGM to let him adapt Thomas Mann's epic novel 'The Magic Mountain' as a screenplay for Montgomery Clift and Greta Garbo. (Reportedly, MGM responded: 'Are you mad? A film about a bunch of people with lung disease?')
In the end, Tabori had few Hollywood credits, although in addition to I Confess (co-scripted with William Archibald), he worked for Joseph Losey on Secret Ceremony (1968); meanwhile, in England, he scriped The Young Lovers (1954) for Anthony Asquith. He found Hitchcock a 'control freak' and Hollywood a corrupt and superficial world. Eventually he moved back to Germany and a new life as a theatre director and acclaimed dramatist.
Newest film to imitate Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) is from South Africa
South Africa has a thriving feature film industry, and Number 37, set in a crime-ridden apartment complex in Cape Town, is a recent case in point. For her debut feature, writer-director Nosipho Dumisa has drawn on one of her favourite films, Rear Window, to fashion a story of loot stolen from a murderous gangster by a wheelchair-bound gambler, Randal Hendricks (Irshaad Ally), assisted by his girlfriend Pam (Monique Rockman). According to the 'Hollywood Reporter', the resulting film has a gritty realism, if also a 'sordid slickness' and a lack of character development - the central relationship - that set it below Hitchcock's masterpiece.
Rear Window has been imitated many times, of course. Apart from a disappointing TV remake (1998), starring Christopher Reeve, there have been such ingenious films as Australian director Richard Franklin's Roadgames (1981), set largely aboard a trans-continental lorry (!), the teenager-under-house-arrest Disturbia (2007), and Francois Ozon's story of a French schoolteacher and his students, Dans la maison/In the House (2012) - see particularly its last shot!
Deceased: John Gavin, Louise Latham, Lewis Gilbert
We are saddened by these three recent deaths. John Gavin, who played Sam Loomis, the boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), in Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) died in February, aged 86. His other film roles included two films for Douglas Sirk - A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) and Imitation of Life (1959) - and the role of Julius Caesar in Stanley Kubrick's epic Spartacus (1960). A graduate of Stanford University, Gavin later served in the Korean War as an air intelligence officer. He was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1971 to 1973, and served his country again as US ambassador to Mexico from 1981 to 1986.
Louise Latham also died in February, aged 95. After some stage work, she shot to attention as the mother of Marnie (Tippi Hedren), a former prostitute, in Hitchcock's Marnie (1964). She made a few more films and was much in demand for television (including a 1965 Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode, the terrifying "An Unlocked Window"). She nearly didn't get the Marnie role, having arrived late for her audition at Universal Studios. But spotting Hitchcock leaving the studio in his chauffeur-driven limousine, she ran over to him and he offered her a lift. During the journey they talked - and she got the part. (See Tony Lee Moral's 2002 book, 'Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie'.)
Fine British director Lewis Gilbert, whose films included Alfie (1966) and Educating Rita (1983), both starring Michael Caine, died on February 23, aged 97. The 1966 film was an influence on Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972) which starred Barry Foster as the killer Bob Rusk when Hitchcock couldn't get Caine for that role. But Gilbert's association with Hitchcock went back to Jamaica Inn (1939) on which he was an (uncredited) assistant. Gilbert remembered: '[Hitchcock] was the man I learned the most from.' His other films included the pow drama Albert RN (1953), the RAF-set Reach for the Sky (1955), starring Kenneth More as legless pilot Douglas Bader, and Gilbert's own favourite, The Greengage Summer/Loss of Innocence (1961), again starring More. (For another item mentioning Gilbert, see Death of Karin Dor from Topaz below.)
Coming to a film festival near you: The Green Fog
Fans of Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) will be vastly entertained by an ingenious and visually witty 're-make' of their adored film assembled using innumerable clips from other films and TV shows, many of them shot, appropriately enough, in San Francisco. The title of Harvard film lecturer Guy Maddin's feature-length pastiche, created with the help of the brothers Evan and Galen Johnson, and scored by Jacob Garchik, alludes to the celebrated moment in Vertigo when Judy (Kim Novak) is made over by Scottie (James Stewart) and is seen in the diffused light from a green neon sign outside her hotel room window, making her look 'as if she has just emerged from the San Francisco fog' (in Hitchcock's words). To read a review, go here: http://www.filmjournal.com/reviews/film-review-green-fog
• There are at least two new books out on Vertigo: (1) philosopher Robert B. Pippin's 'The Philosophical Hitchcock: Vertigo and the Anxieties of Unknowingness', published in cloth and e-book formats by the University of Chicago Press; and (2) Robert J. Belton's 'Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and the Hermeneutic Spiral' (hardback, Palgrave Macmillan), which relates Hitchcock's films to others by Kubrick, Lynch, et al.
More about Tippi (Hedren)
In real life, Tippi Hedren has proved at least as capable in many things as the characters she plays in Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964). Now 87, her 'Tippi: A Memoir' has just appeared in paperback. She was interviewed recently by the London 'Times' for its Travel feature. The sub-heading of the article reads: 'The star of The Birds has flown a DC-3 in Guatemala, befriended lions in Zimbabwe and fended off JFK in the south of France'.
On that last item, here's what she said: 'I didn't have any trouble travelling on my own. I knew how to look after myself. In the south of France, where I was staying with friends, Senator John Kennedy asked me out on a date. I was disgusted with his behaviour, as his wife was in Italy, laid up with a broken ankle, and I was married too. I just declined and got on with my day.'
Is BBC-TV going to screen a version of Daphne du Maurier's 'The Birds'?!
Back in August, the 'Independent' newspaper ran an item saying that the BBC planned to release next year (2018) a drama - one of a series of dramas - based on Daphne du Maurier's short story 'The Birds' and possibly starring Naomi Watts. It would be produced by David Heyman's Heyday Television and was being written by Irish playwright Conor McPherson.
Well, this site has noted many times how movie projects fall through, including (or especially including) ones based on Hitchcock films or the original source material! Not always, though: there was a sequel of sorts to Hitchcock's The Birds called The Birds II: Land's End (1994) made for US television and even featuring Tippi Hedren in a small role; it was pretty insipid (no wonder its director chose to take the notorious pseudonym 'Alan Smithee'). And there was a Mexican film, El Ataque de Los Pájaros/The Attack of the Birds (1987), directed by René Cardona Jr, that borrowed (stole?) a few things from Hitchcock. On the other hand, this latest project seems to be another attempt at filming the Du Maurier story that was originally announced in 2007 and later reported to have found a Hollywood producer in Michael Bay; it too was said to have lined up Naomi Watts. (See item lower on this page, headed Sounds like a remake of The Birds is coming!)
All things considered, we publish this latest announcement with some scepticism. We'll believe that the BBC version of 'the Birds' exists when we see it! (Note: there is no reference to the project in Naomi Watts's filmography on the IMDb.)
Marnie opera a success in London
Nico Muhly's opera 'Marnie', based on the 1961 novel by Winston Graham - which was also the basis of Alfred Hitchcock's 1964 film - recently had its world premiere at the Coliseum in London, and was a co-production of the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, New York. Critics' reception was enthusiastic. For example, the 'Guardian' review called it 'superly done. Sasha Cooke and Daniel Okulitch, fine artists both, admirably convey the central couple's difficult relationship.' The review, by Tim Ashley, fascinatingly notes that Muhly has linked the heroine's 'fear of sex and physical contact to Debussy's Mélisande [in the opera 'Pelleas and Mélisande', 1902], who, like Marnie, is also trapped in a marriage with a potentially abusive man'.
The 'Guardian' review is here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/nov/19/marnie-review-london-coliseum-nico-muhly-eno. And to read the 'New York Times' review of the London premiere, click here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/19/arts/music/review-nico-muhly-marnie-english-national-opera-metropolitan.html.
Note that the opera will open in New York in 2019.
Death of Karin Dor from Topaz
German-born Karin Dor, who played the beautiful Juanita de Cordoba in Hitchcock's Topaz (1969), died on 6 November, 2017, aged 79. Her entry into films, initially as an extra, came when she married the Austrian director Reinl at age 18 - he was 30 years her senior. Later, she played a James Bond girl in You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967). Her character in Topaz was part-based on Fidel Castro's sister, also named Juanita.
An informative obituary of Karin Dor is here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/nov/15/karin-dor-obituary
Rare photo of Hitchcock!
In what was almost an IQ test, Alfred Hitchcock posed here as an ornamental Etruscan pitcher or vase (with 'head' and 'arms'). He did, of course, get it just right: note that the line of his sleeve exactly matches the broken-off hand! In 1960, when this photo was taken, excavations at Spina, north Italy, had only recently commenced but were already revealing that a prosperous merchant port had once existed at the site, originally founded in the 6th century BC.
This photo was taken by Walter Breveglieri. Our thanks to MC who sent us a copy after he attended the Bologna Retro Film Festival this year.
New soundtrack audio CD
Now there's a soundtrack release of Lyn Murray's scores for Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955) and Mark Robson's The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954). Total run-time of the disc is 77 minutes. For more information, visit Amazon or another supplier.
Our readers may like to know of a couple of articles that have appeared this year, and which we haven't yet recommended. One is a recent interview with British leading lady Barbara Leigh-Hunt, who played the owner of a marriage bureau in Frenzy (1972), and who remembers that Hitchcock was 'remarkably kind and considerate' to her during filming - although he confided to her that he was unhappy with Jon Finch because 'he didn't find in Jon's performance the sympathetic qualities he had hoped for and which would make the audience care about the character's fate'. To read the interview, go here:
Another Frenzy cast member was accomplished stage, screen and TV actor Alec McCowen, who played Inspector Oxford. Sadly, McCowen died on 6 February this year (2017). Tribute to him was paid by an obituary in 'The Guardian', which notes that McCowen appeared in two remarkable one-man shows (including his one-man performance of St Mark's Gospel on Broadway and in London's West End) - although his most famous role was in Frenzy, 'as the assiduous sleuth whose features crumple into dismay at his wife's reckless experiments with haute cuisine'. To read the obituary, go here: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/feb/07/alec-mccowen-obituary
(We have already noted here the death of Frenzy leading man Jon Finch on 28 December 2012. The 'Guardian' obituary refers to him as 'the charismatic star of Polanski's Macbeth and Hitchcock's Frenzy'. To read it, go here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/jan/13/jon-finch
New Blu-ray/DVD releases of Jamaica Inn and Rebecca
Arrow Academy have released Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939) in a Dual Format Region B Blu-ray and DVD package, which includes the film, a commentary by Jeremy Arnold, a video essay featuring Donald Spoto, the trailer, and a written essay by Nathalie Morris. Interestingly, the running time is given as 100 minutes, slightly longer than the 98-99 minutes previously mentioned here. The visual quality is 4K.
And now Criterion in the USA are issuing a new 4K release of Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) on two discs, although the Blu-ray and DVD releases will apparently be separate (not Dual Format). Release date for both is 5 September 2017. Among the 'extras' are a new conversation about the film featuring author/critic Molly Haskell and scholar Patricia White; a new interview with special effects historian Craig Barron; a documentary from 2007 on the making of Rebecca; the trailer; and a written essay by author/critic David Thomson.
New DVD/Blu-ray disc features Ivor Novello in The Lodger and Downhill
A new Region 2 (and presumably Region 1) disc includes both a 2K digital restoration of Hitchcock's The Lodger (1927), including a new orchestral score by composer Neil Brand, and a 2K digital restoration of Hitchcock's/Novello's Downhill (also 1927), with a new piano score by Brand. Among the highlights on the disc are a new interview with Hitchcock scholar William Rothman.
Review here soon.
New TV series to pay tribute to Hitchcock
Universal Cable Productions has been authorised by the Alfred Hitchcock Estate to develop a series called "Welcome to Hitchcock". It will consist of a single season-long mystery or crime in the Hitchcock style (thus, we imagine, more like the A&E series "Bates Motel", based on characters from the movie Psycho, than the individual dramas of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" which ran from 1955 to 1965, a few of them directed by Hitchcock himself).
A pilot episode will be directed by Chris Columbus who will also serve as an executive producer for the planned series.
Patricia Highsmith retrospective in Brussels during August, 2016
The Brussels Cinematek is currently screening eleven feature films adapted from stories by Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995). The first screening, of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951), was on Friday 5 August, and will be followed by:
9 August: Plein Soleil/Full Sun/Purple Noon (Rene Clement, 1959)
11 August: Le Meurtrier/Enough Rope (Claude Autant-Lara, 1963)
13 August: Der amerikanische Freund/The American Friend (Wim Wenders, 1976)
15 August: Dites-lui que je l'aime/Sweet Sickness (Claude Miller, 1977)
17 August: Eaux profondes (Michel Deville, 1981)
19 August: Le Cri du hibou/The Cry of the Owl (Claude Chabrol, 1987)
20 August: The Talented Mr Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999)
24 August: Ripley's Game (Liliana Cavani, 2002)
27 August: The Two Faces of January (Hossein Amini, 2014)
30 August: Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
Loads of Alfred Hitchcock material at the AMPAS Library, Beverly Hills, California
Curators at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library have made available for Web publication highlights from their extensive Hitchcock collection well known to scholars. The online presentation concentrates on the 'remarkable six-year period from 1958 through 1963'.
Go here: http://www.oscars.org/collection-highlights/alfred-hitchcock
Below: the opening page from a very early draft, by Alec Coppell, of what became Vertigo:
Hitchcock made her a star: Maureen O'Hara dies, aged 95
Maureen O'Hara (born Maureen FitzSimons, on 17 August 1920, in Dublin, Ireland) died in her sleep last month (24 October 2015) at her home in Idaho, USA. Her family said in a statement: 'Her characters were feisty and fearless, just as she was in real life. She was also proudly Irish ...' Her films included several for John Ford (including the Irish-set The Quiet Man, 1952), the perennial Christmas hit Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and the Disney feature The Parent Trap (1961).
But it was Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Laughton who first made O'Hara a star when she performed opposite Laughton in Daphne du Maurier's tale of Cornish wreckers, Jamaica Inn (1939) She had been a radio performer from age 12 and had attended the Abbey Theatre School, Dublin. She came to the cinema from the theatre: her first British film roles were in Kicking the Moon Around (Walter Forde, 1938) - she had a tiny role as a secretary - and My Irish Molly (Alex Bryce, 1938), in which Laughton reportedly saw her and arranged a screen test. As co-producer of Jamaica Inn (as well as its central character, the corrupt Squire Pengallan), Laughton persuaded Hitchcock to cast O'Hara to play the orphan Mary Yellan, newly arrived in Cornwall who soon falls into the Squire's clutches.
After Jamaica Inn, Laughton and O'Hara both crossed the Atlantic to appear together in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (William Dieterle, 1939). In O'Hara's first two decades in the USA, she made some forty feature films, several of them in colour - showing off her rich red hair, bright green eyes, and flawless complexion (a perfect advertisement for the new Technicolor process). In several of the films she was foil to John Wayne, including The Quiet Man, in which he drags her across a field. The pair continued to battle and bicker onscreen in Andrew V. McLaglen's McLintock (1963), a kind of Western version of 'The Taming of the Shrew'. Audiences loved it.
O'Hara was married three times. Of her third husband, Brigadier General Charles Blair, whose airline she managed after his death in an air crash in 1978, she later said: 'Being married to Charlie Blair and traveling all over the world with him, believe me, was enough for any woman. It was the best time of my life.'
Still doing the rounds in various formats: a parody of Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder
Scott Fivelson's comic one-act play 'Dial L for Latch-Key' (first mentioned here four years ago) has run in various theatres in London and elsewhere, and on radio. An audiobook version is available, as well as paperback and e-book editions. According to the publicity, 'This time Grace Kelly doesn't dial M for murder - she accidentally dials L for latch-key.' Other characters include a conniving husband reminiscent of Ray Milland at his most cad-ish, an Inspector straight out of 'Monty Python', and a know-it-all film critic.
Update: Scott Fivelson's feature film Near Myth: The Oskar Knight Story has been completed and will be released in 2016. Actor Lenny Von Dohlen plays the 'legendary' director Oskar Knight in a mock-biopic featuring real talking-heads (such as actors David Suchet and Margaret O'Brien) who combine to 'retell the history of American (and world) cinema'. For more information, click here: www.filmindustrynetwork.biz/near-myth-the-oskar-knight-story-movie-finishes-production/29806
Opera of Notorious to feature
In September, 2015,
outstanding Swedish dramatic soprano Nina Stemme will play
Alicia in an opera specially written for her by composer
Hans Gefors and librettist Kerstin Perski, based on the 1946
Alfred Hitchcock film. The venue will be the famed
Göteborg Opera House in Gothenburg, Sweden. Other
featured performers will include John Lundgren as Devlin and
Michael Weinius as Alex Sebastian. The opera will be
directed by Englishman Keith Warner.
The plot of Notorious has definite
operatic qualities, lyrical, emotional and dramatic.
Kerstin Perski notes: 'Alicia loves Devlin, but how much
betrayal and scheming can love endure? Can it
persevere in a world such as ours, where [evil appears to
gain] a new foothold at every turn?'
Nina Stemme is world famous
for her operatic roles, many of them Wagnerian. She
has played Isolde in several productions, the first at
Glyndebourne in 2007, the most recent in London in
2014. 'In general,' she says, 'I do my best to focus
on the human sides of Wagner's characters so we can all
recognise ourselves in them.'
(Another Hitchcock film to
inspire a forthcoming opera is Marnie. Scroll down to "Hitchcock as
high art?" below.)
For more information, click here: http://en.opera.se/press/2015/urpremiar-for-notorious-med-nina-stemme-pa-goteborgsoperan/
Nova Pilbeam, at age 95
Nova Pilbeam and Desmond
Tester were both child actors of the 1930s who appeared in
films by Alfred Hitchcock. (Pilbeam played the
kidnapped child in The Man
Who Knew Too Much and starred as the teenage
daughter of a chief constable in Young and Innocent; Tester played the young
boy blown up by an anarchists' bomb in Sabotage.) Both were
born in 1919, but Pilbeam outlived Tester (who died in
Australia in 2002) by thirteen years. She died last
week at her London home.
Pilbeam's professional debut
was in 1932 in the play 'Gallows Glorious'; she then played
two seasons as Marigold in 'Toad of Toad Hall' at the Savoy
Theatre. Still only 14, she was given the lead role in
the film Little Friend (1934), written by
Christopher Isherwood, in which she played a child who
witnesses her parents' separation. Hitchcock then
chose her for his film The
Man Who Knew Too Much (also 1934). Besides Young and Innocent
(1937), Pilbeam's other film roles were few, but included Tudor
Rose (1935) and Counterblast (1947). She
married twice. Her first husband was Pen(rose)
Tennyson, the assistant director on several Hitchcock films
and the great-grandson of the poet Lord Tennyson. That
marriage took place in London in 1939, but Pen Tennyson's
promising career in the film industry was cut short in 1941
when he died in a plane crash. Later, in 1950, Nova
married radio journalist Alexander Whyte (died 1972).
Their daughter, Sara, survives them.
There's an excellent obituary
for Nova Pilbeam in 'The Independent' (online):
Hitchcock remembered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, 13-24 May
When the Cannes Film Festival begins this Wednesday, the opening ceremony will feature a Vertigo ballet performed by members of the Los Angeles Dance Project. The piece, choreographed by Benjamin Millepied (a founder of the L.A. Dance Project in 2012, who last year became director of the Paris Opera Ballet), reworks the film's famous love scene in which Scottie transforms Judy into his lost Madeleine. Bernard Herrmann's score for the scene borrowed heavily from the Liebestod from Wagner's opera 'Tristan and Isolde'.
Two documentaries during the
Festival refer to Hitchcock. Notably, Kent Jones's Hitchcock/Truffaut
considers the impact of François Truffaut's famous 1966
interview-book, 'Cinema According to Hitchcock'.
Appearing in the film will be directors Martin Scorsese,
Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson and David Fincher.
Another documentary to be
premiered this year is Daniel Raim's Harold and Lillian:
A Hollywood Love Story, which tells how the marriage
of art director Harold Michelson (1920-2007) and his
film-researcher wife, Lillian (b. 1928), survived 60 years
in Hollywood. Harold did the storyboards for
Hitchcock's The Birds and Marnie, and was
nominated for Academy Awards for his work on Star Trek -
the Motion Picture (1979) and Terms of Endearment
(1983). The couple's story, we are told, shows how
they kept their huge personal struggles to themselves while
establishing a reputation for professionalism. For
many years they were respected as the heart of the industry.
[Thanks to MA, AK, and BK for
information used here.]
English novelist, historian, and
general man-of-letters, Peter Ackroyd, has completed his
Arguably, few people now
living are better positioned than the author of 'London: The
Biography' (2003) and 'Albion: The Origins of the English
Imagination' (2002) to write about Alfred Hitchcock from the
ground up - in other words, from insight into Hitchcock's
Cockney upbringing, his roots in British life and culture,
and from a knowledge of his films. For several years
in the 1980s, Ackroyd was film critic for 'The Spectator'
(although he has scarcely visited a cinema since -
presumably because this most prolific of writers has simply
been too busy). Recently, the 64-year-old Ackroyd
looked at Hitchcock's films on DVD while dividing his
working time between the Hitchcock biography and the third
and fourth books of a six-volume 'History of England' - not
to mention Ackroyd's latest novel ('Three Brothers' - about
London in the 1960s) and a short biography of Charlie
Chaplin. [Thanks to PS for information used here.]
• Update. The
publication-date of Ackroyd's 'Alfred Hitchcock' (Chatto
& Windus, hardcover) is announced as 2 April 2015 (UK
Edition) and 26 May 2015 (International Edition).
as high art? Marnie commissioned as opera by
the New York Metropolitan Opera and the English National
The Metropolitan Opera in New
York has co-commissioned Nico Muhly to compose 'Marnie' for
its 2019-20 season, based on Winston Graham's 1961 novel
that was adapted as a film by Alfred Hitchcock.
Meanwhile, the opera will premiere during the English
National Opera season of 2017, the Met has announced.
Muhly's first opera was 'Two
Boys', which debuted at the National Opera in 2011 and
appeared at the Met in 2013. It told a complicated
story, loosely inspired by real events, of a detective,
Anne, finding out about the Internet's capacity to foster
fantasy as she investigates the killing of one teenage boy
Muhly, speaking from London,
said last week: 'One of the things that intrigues me in
general as a human being but also as a theatregoer is
deception and hoaxes and people sort of strategically
lying. The whole beat of [Marnie] is her changing
identities and tricking people and robbing them.
There's a kind of mystery element to it.'
digitised version of Hitchcock's concentration camps film
In 1945 Alfred Hitchcock
returned to England as 'treatment advisor' on a 'German
Special Film' supervised by Sidney Bernstein, showing the
horrors of the newly liberated concentration camps.
Not released at the time, Memory of the Camps (as it was eventually
called) was shown around the world in 1985 with a suitably
droll narration - considering the film's devastating
content - delivered by actor Trevor Howard. The
restorers had sought to approximate the original
filmmakers' design. But the released version lacked
an intended sixth reel, the footage being then
unavailable. Now a near-complete, newly digitised
version of the film has been assembled, called German
Concentration Camps Factual Survey, with commentary read by
Jasper Britton. Separately, a 75-minute documentary
about the original film, including
clips and containing interviews with survivors, the
soldiers who liberated them, and the original filmmakers
themselves seen in archival footage, has been made.
Will Fall, it is narrated by Helena Bonham Carter and
directed by André Singer. An earlier report appears
below: scroll down to "New, fuller version of Hitchcock's
concentration camp documentary ..."
• Update. German
Concentration Camps Factual Survey will be screened at
selected UK venues from April, 2015, to coincide with the
70th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen on 15
April. After April, the film will be more widely
available through British Film Institute distribution.
Currently in production is a short contextual film to
accompany the main film, to replace the live introduction
and Q&A given by a member of IWM (Imperial War Museums)
staff at all screenings which have taken place so
The IWM tell us that they have not yet confirmed dates for DVD release or broadcast. However, 'we are committed to ensuring that this important film is made available to as wide an audience as possible'.
Further information: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections-research/german-concentration-camps-factual-survey
Jourdan, star of Gigi, dies at 95 in Beverly
Producer David Selznick
brought Louis Jordan to America where he featured in
Alfred Hitchcock's The
Paradine Case (1947). The darkly handsome
Jourdan, who had been active in the French Resistance
before becoming prominent in post-War French cinema,
played the valet and reluctant lover of Mrs Paradine
(Alida Valli). (Selznick was also responsible for
enticing Italian star Valli to America, to play the
beautiful, enigmatic Maddalena Paradine. Valli
died in 2006.)
Jourdan was born in
Marseilles in 1919, one of three sons of Henri Gendre, a
hotelier who organised the Cannes film festival after
the Second World War. After Jourdan completed The Paradine Case,
he starred with Joan Fontaine in Max Ophuls's Letter
From an Unknown Woman (1948). Another master
director with whom he (twice) worked was Vincente
Minnelli: first in 1949 (Madame Bovary, opposite
Jennifer Jones), then in 1958 (Gigi, opposite
Jourdan's wife died last
year. Their son, Louis Henry, died in 1981 from
a drug overdose.
another 'remake' of Strangers on a Train
announced, this one to star Ben Affleck
There have been several
thinly disguised 'remakes' of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train
(1951), based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, starting
with Once You Kiss a Stranger (Robert Sparr, 1969)
which replaced the tennis background of the original with
a golfing one.
Now comes Strangers, to be made by the Gone
team of director David Fincher, screenwriter Gillian
Flynn, and actor Ben Affleck. This time the setting
will be Hollywood and the movie industry. Affleck
will play a movie star whose private plane breaks down
during an Oscar campaign, forcing him to hop on board
another jet owned by a wealthy stranger. (Train
travel is passé, obviously!)
Hedren pays tribute to Rod Taylor, dead at 84
Australian actor Rod
Taylor, who co-starred with Tippi Hedren in Alfred
Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), has died at his
home in Los Angeles, a few days short of his 85th
birthday. Hedren said in a statement: 'Rod was a
great pal to me and a real strength ... He was one of
the most fun people I have ever met, thoughtful and
Sydney-born Taylor was
inspired to be an actor after seeing Laurence Olivier on
tour. He joined Peter Finch's Mercury Theatre, and
his first film role was in the Australian movie King
of the Coral Sea (1954). His first leading
role was in The Time Machine (George Pal, 1960),
adapted from the novel by H.G. Wells. After making
The Birds for Hitchcock, Taylor appeared in such
films as Jack Cardiff and John Ford's Young Cassidy
(1965) - he played Cassidy, i.e., the young Irish
playwright Sean O'Casey - and The Train Robbers
(Burt Kennedy, 1973). His last Australian film
role was in the often-hilarious outback comedy Welcome
to Woop Woop (Stephan Elliott, 1998). In
2009 Quentin Tarantino coaxed him out of retirement for
a cameo as Winston Churchill in Inglourious Basterds.
thought he 'wasn't really big enough to be a really
tough guy' and at times felt miscast. 'I was a
little bit, I don't know, sometimes insecure playing all
that kind of thing.'
Inn (1939) restored
2014 is the 75th anniversary of the original theatrical release of Jamaica Inn, which Hitchcock made for Mayflower Pictures in England before he left for Hollywood. To mark the anniversary, the Cohen Film Collection/Rohauer Library is combining with the BFI to take a 4K-restored print on tour. Venues in October include the New York Film Festival and the Chicago Film Festival. A DVD and Blu-Ray release is scheduled for 12 May, 2015. Running time is 98-99 minutes (the same as the Kino Video version at 98 minutes).
Wondering about 4K? The high-definition digital prints of films we see in cinemas are rated at 2K, with an image made up of just over two million pixels. However, there is a standard beyond 2K that is used for scanning older films, called 4K, which gives about eight million pixels per image. The 4K standard allows for the manipulation of picture elements at a level far superior to even the 2K format.
Below: Leslie Banks and Charles Laughton in the restored Jamaica Inn.
Coming! A stage version of Hitchcock's North by Northwest!
The world premiere of North by Northwest
onstage is scheduled to run from 1 June to 4 July, 2015,
at the Playhouse, the Arts Centre, in Melbourne,
Australia. Planes, trains, automobiles, and a
mountain, are lined up, with some reliance on the
wizardry of 'ingenious technical solutions', according
to artistic director of the Melbourne Theatre Company,
Brett Sheehy. The production, now in development,
has been licensed by Warner Brothers, and is intended by
its producers to 'have a life outside Australia'.
Carolyn Burns, working with director Simon Phillips,
will employ 'a clear theatrical vocabulary separate from
a cinematic one', says Sheehy. 'I think the
production will join The
39 Steps and a handful of others as one of the
great film-to-stage adaptations of our times.'
For more information about the MTC 2015 line-up, click here: http://dailyreview.crikey.com.au/mid-century-and-beyond-mtc-2015-season-announced/11544
Norman Lloyd in his 100th year
Seven years ago, they made
a documentary about him, Who Is Norman Lloyd? (d. Matthew
Sussman). This year, the UCLA Film &
Television Archive held a retrospective tribute called
'Stages: Norman Lloyd and American Television'.
(The title is a nod to the actor's splendid memoirs,
'Stages: Of Life in Theatre, Film and Television',
originally published in 1990 and currently available on
Norman Lloyd was born on
8 November, 1914, in Jersey City, New Jersey. His
family was Jewish. At age 99, he is still going
strong - although he admits his tennis isn't all it used
to be. For 75 years he was married to Peggy, who
died in 2011. Best known to audiences as the
villain Fry who falls off the Statue of Liberty in
Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) and as the
kindly Dr Auschlander on the 1982-88 NBC medical series
'St Elsewhere', Lloyd began as a child actor in the
1920s and appeared on Broadway with a young Orson
Welles's Mercury Theatre in the late 1930s.
Lloyd worked with some of
the directors from the golden age of Hollywood, becoming
good friends with many, including Charlie Chaplin (Limelight),
Jean Renoir (The Southerner) and of course,
Hitchcock. Besides the title-role in Saboteur,
Lloyd appeared as the patient Mr Garmes in Hitchcock's Spellbound
(1945). In 1957, when the new series 'Alfred
Hitchcock Presents' needed an associate producer to
assist Joan Harrison, Hitchcock was warned against Lloyd
because he was friendly with several people on the
Hollywood blacklist. (Lloyd was a lifelong liberal
who mixed in Hollywood's left-wing community.)
Undeterred, Hitchcock simply said, 'I want him.'
For more information about
the recent UCLA retrospective, click here:
about famous Hitchcock/Truffaut interview to feature
major present-day directors
A French-US documentary,
focussed on the interview and resulting book
'Hitchcock/Truffaut' (originally 'Le cinema selon
Hitchcock', 1966), will be shot this year and released
in spring 2015. Director is New York-based
writer/filmmaker/critic Kent Jones (whose last
documentary was 2010's A Letter to Elia,
co-written and co-directed with Martin Scorsese), from a
script Jones is writing with Serge Toubiana (Truffaut
authority and director of the Cinematheque Française).
Filmmakers to be
interviewed for the feature documentary include Martin
Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, David Fincher,
Brian De Palma, James Gray, Richard Linklater, the
Dardenne brothers (Jean-Pierre and Luc), Olivier
Assayas, and Arnaud Despleschin.
'It is going to be a film
about film-making,' Jones says. 'It is about the
practice of film-making as a translation of emotion into
images.' There will be 'a heavy but pointed' use
of clips. The project has the blessing of the
families of both Hitchcock and François Truffaut.
Meanwhile, Jones is also
planning his fiction feature debut, to be called It
Never Entered My Mind, for filming next year in
Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It is described as 'a
story of a couple and the brother of the husband - and a
terrible act that happens between the three of them and
how they don't talk about it.'
[Thanks to MA for
information used here.]
Dutch director Diederik
Van Rooijen has been hired by Hollywood producer Michael
Bay to helm a new version of Daphne du Maurier's 1952
short story. This version, originally announced in
2007, will probably be set in the story's Cornwall,
England, location - Hitchcock's 1963 film, starring
Tippi Hedren, moved the location to Bodega Bay,
The new version is not to
be confused with a poorly-received 1994 sequel to
Hitchcock's film, The Birds 2: Land's End, which
director Rick Rosenthal ('Alan Smithee' in the film's
Naomi Watts is
'reportedly being lined up' to play the role taken by
Hedren in Hitchcock's film ('The Independent', 13
March). If that's true, it conflicts with other
reports about how this new version will stick to the
Daphne du Maurier tale (which has no major female
When shall we see Grace of Monaco?
'Coming soon' says a trailer on the IMDb for Olivier Dahan's film starring Nicole Kidman. (The trailer is narrated by Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Alfred Hitchcock, and begins: 'Long after the House of Grimaldi has fallen, the world is going to remember your name, Your Highness.') Unfortunately, the general release of the film keeps being put back - most recently because of an apparent feud between director Dahan and film mogul Harvey Weinstein over the Weinstein Company's edit of the film, described by Dahan as 'catastrophic'. However, according to 'The Hollywood Reporter', the production company boss doesn't actually have 'creative control' over the project and is unable to make cuts to the movie. And it seems that the planned première at the Cannes Film Festival - on the Festival's opening night, 14 May - is going ahead.
• Update. The film did indeed premiere at Cannes - with Kidman as Princess Grace, Tim Roth as Prince Rainier - but to a less-than-enthusiastic reception. The critics have been generally unsupportive. The film opens soon in general release - in Australia in early June. Here is Australian reviewer Fiona Williams's report:
Brilliant old/new play, 'The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock', highlights Hitchcock's confined life
Originally an award-winning 1993 radio play, David Rudkin's 'The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock' opened onstage in late 2013 at the Curve, Leicester, in central England. The play has attracted widespread interest. We like Michael Billington's review in 'The Guardian'. Here are excerpts:
To read the full review, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/oct/01/the-lovesong-of-alfred-j-hitchcock-review• Update.The above play has arrived in New York. For further information, including rehearsal footage, click here: http://www.59e59.org/moreinfo.php?showid=161
And here: http://www.theatermania.com/new-york-city-theater/reviews/05-2014/the-lovesong-of-alfred-j-hitchcock_68490.html
Also, there is a thoughtful brief interview with author David Rudkin on YouTube. About Hitchcock's public self-mockery, Rudkin comments, 'There is something desperately private going on and it is speaking to something very private in us.' For more, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlxORFNn4bI
Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940) released on dual-format Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion
Selznick chose to hire out Hitchcock's services to
another independent producer, Walter Wanger. The
latter had recently produced John Ford's Stagecoach
(1939) but he specialised in 'topical' films. For
many years he had held the screen rights to Vincent
Shean's best-selling memoir 'Personal History' (1935),
which recounted the journalist's adventures covering
rebellion in North Africa and civil war in China.
After three previous attempts to get a workable script,
Wanger now assigned the project to Hitchcock and his
screenwriter Charles Bennettt (The 39 Steps). The thriller that
resulted bears absolutely no relation to the book, apart
from a wry reference there to the 'Richard Harding Davis
tradition' of romantic adventure. In the opening
scene of Foreign
Correspondent, newspaper editor Mr Powers
(Harry Davenport) tells reporter Johnny Jones (Joel
McCrae) that Davis was 'one of our greatest war
correspondents forty years ago'.
Criterion's splendid new release (Region 'A') of Hitchcock's film - a film once admired by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, and a personal favourite these days of director Martin Scorsese - includes among its extras an essay by noted scholar James Naremore. For a review of the Criterion release by J. Hoberman, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/09/movies/homevideo/hitchcocks-foreign-correspondent-comes-to-blu-ray.html
(Thanks to ST for information supplied.).
on a Train as a stage play
As reported here previously, Patricia Highsmith's novel, filmed by Hitchcock in 1951, is currently receiving a stage production at the Gielgud Theatre in London's West End. It will run until 22 February. Starring are Laurence Fox and Jack Huston as the two strangers whose paths cross on a train, with far-reaching and murderous consequences. (These two actors previously starred together in the 2002 West End production of George Bernard Shaw's 'Mrs Warren's Profession'.) According to Michael Billington in 'The Guardian', 'The whole thing is staged with hyper-efficiency by Robert Allan Ackerman and there are some striking visual effects ...'
However, Billington does
have reservations about the production. 'The
problem is that what starts as fast-moving noirish
narrative shifts uneasily into Freudian casebook.
... [Also,] although the show looks good, the
acting is a more mixed bag. Laurence Fox is
rather stolidly cast as Guy, suggesting a
house-prefect drawn into some dirty business by one of
his raffish juniors. Jack Huston looks more at
ease as the serpentine, psychotic, white-suited Bruno
and Miranda Raison is all cool, high-society poise as
Guy's wife. ... I just worry that commercial
plays, like musicals, are becoming ever more
parasitically dependent on the box-office pull of
existing novels and films. Or even, as here,
turned into a strange hybrid [of stage- and
Actress Joan Fontaine,
co-star of Hitchcock's Rebecca
(1940) and Suspicion
(1941), passed away at her residence, 'Villa Fontana',
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, on 15 December. She
was 96. She and her sister, actress Olivia de
Havilland (1916- ), first visited Carmel with their
father in 1933. Later, footage for Rebecca was shot
there, standing in for the English coastline.
Although the two sisters famously often feuded, on
learning of Joan's death de Havilland issued a statement
saying that she was 'shocked and saddened'. Both
sisters won Academy Awards: Joan for Suspicion, Olivia
for To Each His Own (Mitchell Leisen, 1946) and The
Heiress (William Wyler, 1949).
The story of how Joan -
in 1938, still a relative unknown - fell into contention
for her role in Rebecca
is worth recounting. According to her biography,
'No Bed of Roses' (1978), she attended one evening a
dinner given at Charlie Chaplin's house, where Paulette
Godard presided, and where Joan found herself 'seated
next to a heavyset, bespectacled gentleman who seemed
particularly knowledgeable and pleasant. Soon we
were chattering about the current best sellers. I
mentioned that I had just read Rebecca by Daphne du
Maurier and thought it would make an excellent
movie. My dinner partner gazed at me through his
lenses. "I just bought the novel today. My
name is David Selznick." Who was I and would I
like to test for [the film's female lead]? Would
It may be true, as David
Thomson claims (in 'The New Biographical Dictionary of
Film', 2002), that most of Joan's films, after her early
successes for Selznick and Hitchcock, were
'disappointing'. (Nonetheless they included The
Constant Nymph [Edmund Goulding, 1943], Jane
Eyre [Robert Stevenson, 1944], Letter From An
Unknown Woman [Max Ophuls, 1948], and Beyond a
Reasonable Doubt [Fritz Lang, 1956].) Joan
herself owned up to lacking an 'obsessive career drive'
- yet she was always fiercely independent as a
woman. It says much that during her lifetime she
was a licenced pilot, champion balloonist, prize-winning
tuna fisherman, and an accomplished golfer - as well as
a licenced interior decorator and a Cordon Bleu cook.
fuller version of Hitchcock's concentration camp
documentary to be released
Jewish businessman and
film producer Sidney Bernstein had been a founder member
of the Film Society (1924). During World War II he
served as films advisor to the Ministry of Information
and SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary
Force) in Britain. In early 1945, when the idea
was mooted for 'a systematic record' of the
newly-liberated concentration camps - using captured
footage and film shot by the Allies themselves -
Bernstein summoned to London his longtime friend, Alfred
Hitchcock. The idea was that Hitchcock would act
in a supervisory capacity and contribute specific
suggestions for a documentary about the horrors of the
camps, whose possible audience might include the German
people. A treatment and script (which relied
heavily on narration) were prepared by two writers who
had witnessed the atrocities of Bergen-Belsen
firsthand: Richard Crossman (later a Labour Member
of Parliament) and Colin Wills (an Australian war
correspondent). Film editors Stewart McAllister
(famous for his work with Humphrey Jennings) and Peter
Tanner (who would later edit such feature films as Kind
Hearts and Coronets and The Cruel Sea) set
to work under Hitchcock's guidance. But the film
took longer to compile than originally envisaged.
By August 1945, when the perceived need for it had
already begun to wane, Hitchcock returned to the United
States. Shortly afterwards, funding was suspended
with only five of six reels finished. The cans of
film remained inaccessible on shelves in the Imperial
War Museum for nearly forty years.
But in 1984 the rusting cans surfaced again. The incomplete film was taken out and actor Trevor Howard was hired to record the original narration, which was fitted to the five remaining reels. Memory of the Camps (as it was now called) was shown on American PBS in 1985 and later elsewhere (e.g., on SBS-TV in Australia). It can be viewed on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdUq993AsQc
Now the London 'Independent' newspaper reports that the film has been further restored, using digital technology, and that the missing sixth reel has been 'pieced together'. The narration has been re-recorded with a new actor and the film given a new title (both still to be disclosed). In addition, a separate documentary, Night Will Fall, has been made to accompany the original film. It is directed by André Singer (executive producer of The Act of Killing) and has Stephen Frears (director of Philomena) as 'directorial advisor'. Further information here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/alfred-hitchcocks-unseen-holocaust-documentary-to-be-screened-9044945.html
Dern on working with Hitchcock
From a couple of sources
come these insights provided by veteran actor Bruce Dern
while talking to the press about his new film, Alexander
Payne's Nebraska. Asked about his films
for Hitchcock, so many decades ago, Dern was
unrestrained in his enthusiasm. 'I wish I could
have done ten more movies with Mr Hitchcock.'
While making Family
Plot (1976), in which he starred, Dern took
every opportunity to sit alongside the director and
question him. They conversed frankly. Dern:
'I asked him why he hired me for [the film] and he said,
"Because Mr PAK-ee-no [Al Pacino] wanted a million
dollars."' Dern persisted with his question, and
this time Hitch said: '"I hired you to be amusing.
With you and Miss Harris [Barbara Harris], I never know
how you're going to say a line or react to someone
else's line. You amuse me and you will amuse the
audience. It's meant to be an amusing picture."'
Family Plot proved to be Hitchcock's
final film. To the suggestion that Hitch was in
such poor health that Dern himself ended up calling most
of the shots, the actor swore that this was never the
case. 'Hitch was there every day at nine in the
morning and he stayed until seven.'
Affectionately, Dern remembered Hitch on the first day
of shooting - walking around and shaking hands and
thanking every crew member by their first name.
'By their first name! On the first day! Now
how about that?'
[Information supplied by
SR - whom we thank - and from an interview with Dern
published in 'The Guardian', recommended by DF. To
read the full interview,click here: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/nov/28/bruce-dern-alexander-payne-nebraska.]
At last! A new, authoritative edition of Frank Baker's 1936 novel 'The Birds', a must-read book for Hitchcockians!
Long out of print, the novel is something of a masterpiece in its own right. The inexpensive new edition has splendid cover art-work and design. An Introduction by Hitchcock scholar Ken Mogg begins: 'For me, Frank Baker's The Birds (1936) is both a finely crafted suspense thriller that could show even Alfred Hitchcock a few things, and an authentic account of pre-War London.'For a review by Michael Dirda, click here:
(1899-1995) is credited with writing the screenplays
for some of Alfred Hitchcock's most successful films
of the 1930s, including the original The Man
Who Knew Too Much
(1934), The 39 Steps (1935), and Sabotage (1936). An
excerpt from his hitherto-unpublished memoirs
appears on this website. Now comes the
excellent news that the University of Kentucky Press
will hard-publish the full memoirs, edited by John
Charles Bennett, in late 2013.
doing the rounds in various formats: a parody of
Hitchcock's Dial M
haven't seen Scott Fivelson's comic one-act play 'Dial
L for Latch-Key' (first mentioned here two years ago),
but since 2011 it has run in various theatres in
London and elsewhere, and on radio (recorded in
Tucson, Arizona, by the author directing a talented
cast). According to the publicity, 'This time
Grace Kelly doesn't dial M for murder - she
accidentally dials L for latch-key.' Other
characters include a conniving husband reminiscent of
Ray Milland at his most cad-ish, an Inspector straight
out of 'Monty Python', and a know-it-all film
critic. Fivelson's play is published in
paperback and eBook editions by Hen House Press, New
York. And the author tells us that a new London
production is in the offing.
Update. Fivelson's play has just been released (November, 2013) as an audiobook by Blackstone Audio. For more information, click here: http://www.downpour.com/catalog/product/view/id/145461/
Related news. A recent film of interest to
Hitchcockians is Stoker (2013), loosely based
on Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, starring Mia
Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. For more
information, consult the IMDb.
excerpt from Hitchcock's appearance on Desert Island Discs
(BBC) originally broadcast in 1959
At last we know the full list of eight items chosen by Hitchcock for his appearance on the popular BBC radio program 'Desert Island Discs' on Monday 19 October, 1959.
He chose: (1) Albert Roussel: Symphony No 3 in G Minor (excerpt); (2) the comedy sketch "A Sister to Assist 'Er" performed by Fred Emney & Miss Sydney Fairbrother (recorded by HMV in 1912 and currently available on YouTube - link below); (3) Sir Edward Elgar: Cockaigne Overture; (4) Richard Wagner: Siegfried's horn-call (from Siegfried); (5) the comedy sketch "The Fact Is" performed by George Robey (of English music-hall fame); (6) Erno Dohnanyi: Variations on a Nursery Theme; (7) Robert Schumann: Préambule (from Carnaval); and (8) Charles-François Gounod: Funeral March of a Marionette. (The last-named is, of course, Hitchcock's signature tune from his TV shows.)
Item 2 above is currently available on YouTube, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sLnH4-x5Xw
More good news. An excerpt (only) from the 'Desert Island Discs' program, featuring Hitchcock's voice, is available on the BBC website, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/desert-island-discs/castaway/94e588c8
season of Hitchcock films and events, in situ, continues
in the London Borough of Waltham Forest
'Hitchcock's East End'
consists of screenings and unique events designed to
explore Alfred Hitchcock's connection to the area in
London where he was born and grew up. (As we know,
he was born in Leytonstone above his dad's greengrocer's
shop - now the site of a chicken shop and petrol
station.) Two organisations - Create London and
Barbican Film - will together present the screenings and
events in selected locations, all of them deliberately
unorthodox but apt. For example, the recent
screening of Vertigo
took place in the atmospheric surroundings provided by
St Margaret's Church, Leytonstone. (For photo, and
further information, click here: http://www.createlondon.org/event/hitchcocks-east-end/.)
The screening of Rebecca
on 1 December, 2013, will be held in the 'spooky'
Leytonstone School, and will be introduced by film
critic Catherine Bray. After that, screenings of North by Northwest
(at a location on Hackney Marshes, no doubt invocative
of Prairie Stop in the film) and The Birds
(linked to an ornithological walk in the Waltham Forest
area) are scheduled - with more screenings and events to
follow throughout 2014. The entire project is part
of a program of events leading to the opening of a new
cinema, the Empire, at the end of 2014, returning a
cinema to the borough after a ten year absence.
[Thanks to ST for alerting us to information in this
• Related news. ST
tells us that the campaign to stop the old (c. 1930)
EMD Cinema in Walthamstow from being turned into a
church has been successful. For earlier item
about the campaign, scroll down to "Actors campaign to
save Hitchcock-connected East London cinema".
of Hitchcock associate Hilton Green (1929-2013)
Hilton Green, who died on
2nd October at his home in Pasadena, California, was a
respected Assistant Director, Production Manager, and
Producer, and generally a much liked man. (We
can vouch for that - the Australian director of Psycho II, Richard Franklin, spoke
highly to us of Hilton.) He was Assistant
Director on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and - uncredited - on Marnie (1964). In television, he was
Assistant Director on the popular shows 'Leave it to
Beaver', 'Wagon Train', 'Dragnet', and 'Alfred
Hitchcock Presents'. Eventually he became a
prolific film producer, of such films as Psycho II (1983), 16 Candles (1984), Psycho III (1986), Psycho
IV: The Beginning (1990), and Encino
Man (1992). [Thanks to AK for
alerting us to information used here.]
Recent deaths - Karen Black and Gil Taylor
August 2013 has regrettably
brought the deaths of actress Karen Black, who played the
kidnapper Fran in Hitchcock's last film Family Plot (1975),
and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who photographed
Hitchcock's London-set Frenzy
Karen Black (1939-2013) had
a small role in Easy Rider (1969) and a co-starring
role in Five Easy Pieces (1970) - both alongside
Jack Nicholson - and played Gatsby's mistress Myrtle
Wilson in Jack
Clayton's The Great Gatsby (1974). However, it was
when Hitchcock's first choice for Fran in Family
Plot, Faye Dunaway,
proved too expensive and troublesome, that his
screenwriter Ernest Lehman suggested Black.
(Lehman had directed her in his 1972 adaptation of
Philip Roth's novel, Portnoy's Complaint.) Black received
further acclaim in such films as Robert Altman's Nashville (1975), and John
Schlesinger's The Day of the Locust (1975).
Gil Taylor (1914-2013) died
at his home on the Isle of Wight. Back in 1932 he
was a mere clapper boy on Number Seventeen when he first worked for
Hitchcock. He went on to a distinguished career,
including six years with the RAF during World War 2
(shooting the results of night-time raids over Germany, at
the request of Winston Churchill), and photographing such
outstanding films as Dr
Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love
the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) and Star Wars (George
Lucas, 1977). He worked several times with Roman
Polanski, including on Repulsion
(1965) and Cul-de-Sac
[Thanks to SR, DS, DF, and
AK for information supplied and used here.]
rounds: the BFI 'Hitchcock 9' silents, lovingly restored
According to the British Film
Institute, this is the largest restoration project they have
ever undertaken. Nine Hitchcock films, made between
1925 and 1929, are currently being seen around the
world. They are: The
Pleasure Garden (1925), The Lodger (1927), Downhill (1927), Easy Virtue (1927), The Ring (1927), Champagne (1928), The Farmer's Wife
(1928), The Manxman
(1929), and Blackmail
Unfortunately, 1926's The
Mountain Eagle remains
lost, but a collection of stills went up for auction in
2012, confirming the existence of the film. (We
understand that the stills were bought by a private
place where the 'Hitchcock 9' recently screened in its
entirety, i.e., all nine films, and all in 35mm prints, was
the 2013 Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, Italy. For a
list of scheduled screenings around the world, click here: http://www.bfi.org.uk/sites/bfi.org.uk/files/downloads/bfi-press-release-bfis-hitchcock-9-go-international-2013-06-14.pdf
Unfortunately, not all of these screenings can include all
of the nine films.
To read a report by Dave Kehr published in the 'New York Times', click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/movies/silent-hitchcock-films-come-to-the-harvey-theater-in-brooklyn.html?ref=movies&_r=1&
Also, the BFI have been blogging about how the restoration process proceeded, and what it revealed. Here's a particularly interesting blog about how two quite different versions of The Ring - one English, one French - were found: http://www.bfi.org.uk/news/restoring-hitchcock-3-finding-best-materials
script of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934; 1943)
offered for sale
A bookshop in New York
City is offering what it describes as 'the screenplay
for the original 1934 [The Man Who Knew Too Much], issued
here for an intended 1943 remake by Hitchcock and
David O. Selznick which was never produced'.
Asking price: $1750.
The bookshop is: Clouds Hill Books, P.O. Box 1004, Village Station, New York, NY 10014, 212-414-4432. Email address for more information: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Our thanks to critic/author Philip Kemp in London who writes to tell us: 'Criterion have just released it with my v/o commentary - also an excellent booklet essay by Farran Smith Nehme and a delightful interview with Guillermo del Toro, who's a huge fan of the film and of Hitchcock generally.'
Death of Jon Finch, star of Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972)
We are saddened by the death of actor Jon Finch, who has died at the English seaside town of Hastings where he moved in 2003. To read an obituary, click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/jan/13/jon-finch
Psycho mystery finally solved
When Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) in Psycho (1960) removes a painting from his parlour wall to spy on Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in the adjoining cabin, appropriately the painting is a classic depiction of a rape, 'Susannah and the Elders'. But for many years Hitchcock scholars were puzzled as to whose version of the painting it is. (There have been many versions, by both famous and lesser-known artists.) Now we know. Thanks to the vigilant eye of Roland-François Lack, who conducts the Cine-Tourist website, the artist is disclosed to be Willem van Mieris (1662-1747), or possibly his father, Frans van Mieris the Elder (1635-81), and the original work was held until 1972 at the Hyacinthe Rigaud museum in Perpignan, southern France, when it was reported stolen. (However, as Hitchcock was both an inveterate traveller and a regular visitor to art galleries, it is entirely possible that he saw the work in situ before making Psycho.)
In fact, some film scholars in the non-English-speaking world have known the painting's identity for many years. First, apparently, was Barbara Stelzner-Large, who mentioned it in an article published as long ago as 1990. Another such scholar is art historian Henry Keazor, editor of the book 'Hitchcock und die Kunste', due to be published in German in March, 2013.
For further details, visit the Cine-Tourist website, here: http://www.thecinetourist.net/a-picture-of-great-significance.html
Now available to view online: The White Shadow (1924)
Last year, half of a six-reel silent film, The White Shadow (d. Graham Cutts), on which a young Alfred Hitchcock worked as assistant, was unearthed in New Zealand, and received its latter-day premiere on September 22nd in Los Angeles. (For more background, scroll down to the item below, "Lost Cutts/Hitchcock film discovered in New Zealand".) Now the film can be viewed online, where it runs for 43 minutes. To view it, click here: www.filmpreservation.org/preserved-films/screening-room/the-white-shadow-1924
for Hitchcock - and opening date
Keeping our readers
updated on the forthcoming film Hitchcock,
adapted from the book by Stephen Rebello called 'Alfred
Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho', has prompted several News items
appearing here over the past months (indeed years).
Now we can announce that
the film's composer is the gifted Danny Elfmann, and
that a recent preview of the completed film in Southern
California drew an extraordinarily high 'approval'
rating from the 600 audience members. The film is
set to open in U.S. cinemas on 23 November. It
stars Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren, and is
directed by Sacha Gervasi.
• An advance premiere of
Hitchcock was held in Hollywood on
1 November. Some reviews have now
appeared. Here's one from London's 'The
Caveat emptor. New blu-ray Hitchcocks are reportedly disasters
Let the potential buyer beware. First, last week, there was this about the re-done Frenzy credits, including typographical and spelling errors, first spotted by previewer Nick Wrigley at enthusiasm.org: http://enthusiasm.org/post/31104514441
Two days later, the same site added that the film proper now contains highly distracting DVNR (Digital Video Noise Reduction) spoilage, so that, for example, the celebrated prolonged shot of the doorway of Babs's apartment has become both intolerably grainy and looks as if someone had hit the 'Pause' button on their remote: http://enthusiasm.org/post/31285985246
Meanwhile, other Hitchcock titles in the same Universal blu-ray package are reported to be 'shagged' (as one professional previewer unofficially put it about the condition of Family Plot). Those titles include Family Plot and Marnie - and Vertigo. Writing about the latter, previewer Jeffrey Wells at hollywood-elsewhere.com asked: 'Why is [James] Stewart's brown suit brownish violet or brownish purple? Why are Stewart and those other guys wearing suits during the inquest hearing that are madly, wildly, psychedelically blue?' For more, go here: http://hollywood-elsewhere.com/2012/09/still_screwed_u_1.php
• Some good news is that Universal have now delayed the release date of the Hitchcock package until 30 October 2012 (Region 1) to make 'corrections'. To read more, click here: http://hollywood-elsewhere.com/2012/09/hitchcock_blura.php
We've known about these for some time. Apologies for not alerting you sooner! (And as Bill K noted when he told us about them: 'Boy, Joan Harrison was a babe!'). Click here: Alfred Hitchcock in Los Angeles in 1939
influential critic Andrew Sarris on 20 June 2012
Sadly, the critic who
initiated the 'Auteur Theory' in the USA, the admirable
Andrew Sarris - born in Brooklyn, New York, of Greek
parents in 1928 - has died.
Of Alfred Hitchcock he
wrote in 1968: 'His is the only contemporary style that
unites the divergent classical traditions of Murnau
(camera movement) and Eisenstein (montage). (Welles,
for example, owes more to Murnau, whereas Resnais is
closer to Eisenstein.)' Sarris's words might serve
as a program note to Hitchcock's Rebecca and Vertigo, for example.
A nice tribute to Sarris by Ronald Bergan is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/jun/22/andrew-sarris
Hitchcock's Dial M for
Murder to have 3D release on Blu-ray
October 9, Warner Home Video is releasing Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder
starring Grace Kelly and Ray Milland on Blu-ray 3D (SRP
$35.99), alongside Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train on Blu-ray (SRP
$19.98) the same date. Dial
M For Murder will come packaged with a special 3D
lenticular slipcover, while Strangers on a Train will come in a
traditional Blu-ray package.
Restored early Hitchcocks (x9) plus a
major Hitchcock retrospective in London this year
British Film Institute (BFI) has spent three years
restoring nine Hitchcock films made between 1925 and
1929. They will be shown at a series of gala
events as part of the London 2012 Festival taking place
alongside the Olympic Games.
addition, a major Alfred Hitchcock retrospective
encompassing all of his surviving films will be held at
the BFI Southbank in London between August and
For more information, including clips from the restored The Pleasure Garden, read the BBC's report here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18162846
Marclay's 'The Clock' strikes Sydney, Australia, and gets
a big tick
The 24-hour video work 'The
Clock' won for Christian Marclay the Golden Lion for best
artist at the 2011 Venice Biennale. Now it has
arrived in the Southern Hemisphere and is currently
installed in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney,
Australia, where it will run until 3 June, 2012.
Clearly owing something to
Douglas Gordon's installation '24 Hour Psycho'
(1993), 'The Clock' is far more imaginative (we don't mind
saying). Moreover, among its thousands of film clips
are many from Hitchcock films and TV shows, all matched to
a time of day which, in turn, always coincides with the
actual time of day when the exhibit is being viewed.
(If you want to try and catch the entire 24-hour sequence
of clips, you will need to visit the MCA on Thursday and
overnight into Friday when the Museum stays open and 'The
Clock' runs non-stop.)
Film-buff friends tell us that watching 'The Clock' is indeed exhilarating. Its many scenes somehow suggest interlocking narratives despite the constant changes in genres, eras, locations, and plotlines. Brief excerpts from 'The Clock' and other Christian Marclay works are on YouTube. For more information about the MCA exhibit, click here: http://www.eventfinder.com.au/2012/christian-marclay-the-clock/sydney/the-rocks
Bros launch scripts as e-books, including North by
Casablanca, An American in Paris, and Hitchcock's North by Northwest are among the titles featured in this new series. The script for the Hitchcock film includes costume sketches and Bernard Herrmann's music notes. For more information, click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17895665
Apologies that we learned
about this fascinating exhibit - testifying to the
wide and perennial appeal of Hitchcock and his films -
too late to inform our California readers before it
closed on May 5th, 2012. It ran at Gallery 1988
in Venice, California, and featured a hundred or so
items. The films depicted most often were, by
our count, The Birds, Psycho - and (hooray!) The Trouble With
Illustrated below is "'You'll Never Make Sense of
Arnie'" by Joe Scarano.
Here are two URLs that illustrate just what was shown (the second is a quick video introduction by the gallery's owner, Jensen Karp), and we trust that they will stay up indefinitely: (1) http://nineteeneightyeight.com/collections/suspense-gallows-humor?page=1 and (2) http://www.elecplay.com/all/spotlight/gallery-1988-suspense-gallows-humor-video/
The 2012 Cinema Ritrovato
in Bologna, to run from 23-30 June, will this year
include a strand devoted to Alma Reville's career - both
the films she worked on with her husband, Alfred
Hitchcock, and several others.
As the Ritrovato
newletter puts it: 'Alma had a particular talent
for continuity, editing and story structure, and this is
evident [both] in the films she made with her husband,
(1930), and those she made independently of [him], such
as The Constant Nymph
(1928), The First
Born (1928), [and] After the Verdict (1929).' The
Alma Reville strand of the Ritrovato is curated by
Bryony Dixon of the BFI National Archive.
For more information, click here (especially if you can read Italian): http://www.cinetecadibologna.it/
news on Hitchcock: Scarlett Johansson to play Janet
Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers, Lost in Translation)
will portray actress Janet Leigh in Fox Searchlight's
project, now called simply Hitchcock, a film based on Stephen
Rebello's non-fiction book 'Alfred Hitchcock and the
Making of Psycho'
(1990). And James D'Arcy will play Leigh's Psycho co-star,
Anthony Perkins. Darcy was last seen in W.E.,
directed by Madonna.
Rebello's book analyses
the background and production of the classic Hitchcock
(1960). The new project is said to be a biopic
that sheds light on the difficulties Hitchcock
encountered during the making of his film. (For
earlier announcements about the project, whose main
stars are Sir Anthony Hopkins - photo below - and Dame
Helen Mirren, readers can scroll down this page.)
• Update. Further
cast members have been announced. They include
Jessica Biel (playing Vera Miles), Toni Collette (as
Hitchcock's long-time assistant Peggy Robertson), and
Danny Huston (as Alma Hitchcock's friend, screenwriter
Whitfield Cook). A further coup: the film will be
photographed by Jeff Cronenweth (The Girl With the Dragon
Social Network, Fight Club - all directed by David
Fincher, no less).
• More. Shooting
began on Friday April 13th, 2012 - reportedly by
design, for Friday 13th was always Hitchcock's lucky
day! We are told that the first few days'
footage 'looks and sounds absolutely thrilling'.
Titles-designer Saul Bass will be played by Wallace
Langham. But still no news who will play
composer Bernard Herrmann - if indeed he features in
the film at all!
the Musical' to open on Broadway in April
After 'Rebecca's 2006
premiere and subsequent 3-year run in Vienna, the show
opened all across Europe and in Japan, with continued
In 2009, Christopher Hampton agreed to write an English libretto in collaboration with the musical's original author, Michael Kunze. The story of 'Rebecca' is of course based on the much-loved 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier, filmed by Hitchcock in 1940. Now the musical is scheduled to open on Broadway on 22 April, 2012.
For further information,
please copy this URL into your browser: http://wizzley.com/rebecca-musical-on-broadway-in-2012/
The Lady Vanishes now on
have released Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes
Blu-ray. (Simultaneously they have released
Ernst Lubitsch's 1935 classic Design for
disc features a 1080p transfer, and the extras are
as previously included with the Criterion DVD of the
film, including an audio commentary by film
historian Bruce Eder.
of Israel Baker, Psycho violinist
As concertmaster of the
orchestra that recorded Bernard Herrmann's all-strings
score for Hitchcock's Psycho
(1960), classical violinist Israel Baker helped create a
seminal piece of film culture. Sadly, he died at
his home in California on Christmas Day, 2011, following
a stroke. He was 92.
In a recent tribute,
classical music expert Jim Svejda called Baker 'one of
the great violinists of the 20th century'. Not
only was his work heard in several dozen movie scores
but his brilliant playing tecnique was recognised by
recording companies and audiences, particularly of
chamber music. Svejda cited the 'benchmark
recording' of Igor Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat,
conducted by the composer and featuring Baker.
and Alma to be portrayed by big stars
At last, after four years
in development, a film from Stephen Rebello's non-fiction
book 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' (1990) is
almost set to start shooting - possibly next April.
The stars couldn't be bigger. Sir Anthony Hopkins
will play the director, Dame Helen Mirren will play
his lifetime companion, wife Alma. The studio is Fox
Seachlight. Director Sasha Gervasi has made a
previous show-business film, Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2009), about
the misfortunes of a heavy metal band, and he'll work from
a script by Rebello and John McLaughlin - the latter wrote
the ballet suspenser Black
Swan (2010), about a dancer and her dark
side. (For earlier announcements about the film,
readers can scroll down this page.)
• Meanwhile, a TV film, The Girl, about actress Tippi Hedren and her relation with Hitchcock on The Birds and Marnie, will screen on BBC 2 in the New Year. Sienna Miller plays Tippi, Toby Jones plays Hitchcock (who was heard to refer on-set to Tippi as 'the girl', harking back to girl-meets-boy films of the silent era). Scriptwriter Gwyneth Hughes has based the script on Donald Spoto's book 'Spellbound by Beauty' (2008), which delves into the uneasy relationship between mentor Hitchcock and his muse, Tippi.
Further reading (from 'The Independent', 10 February 2012): "Tippi Hedren - Hitchcock's Caged Bird"
Cutts/Hitchcock film discovered in New Zealand
From the same New Zealand
Film Archive that last year yielded a missing John Ford
treasure - Upstream (1927)
- comes news that the first three reels of the Graham
Cutts six-reel feature The
White Shadow (1924), on which Hitchcock worked as
an assistant, have been found. A tinted print of the
film was among a trove of old prints lodged with the
Archive in 1989 but only recently evaluated by teams sent
from the United States by the National Film Preservation
Foundation. The reels will stay in New Zealand
although a new preservation master and exhibition print
have been sent to California where the film will
're-premiere' on September 22nd.
The White Shadow was made in England
starring Betty Compson and Clive Brook, the same team that
had recently made the more successful Graham Cutts film Woman to Woman (1923),
for which Hitchcock wrote the script. American
leading lady Compson was imported for her box-office
appeal - years later she would be cast by Hitchcock as
Gertie in his Hollywood screwball comedy Mr and Mrs Smith
(1941). Hitchcock adapted The White Shadow from a novel by Michael
Morton, 'Children of Chance', about twin sisters, one good
and one bad. The film's title is explained thus: 'as
the sun casts a dark shadow, so does the soul throw its
shadow of white, reflecting a purity that influences the
lives of those upon whom the shadow falls'.
It isn't true that Graham
Cutts was a 'hack' director (as someone recently
said). Hitchcock learned a lot from this man who
started out as an exhibitor - the 'master showman of the
North' as Herbert Wilcox called him - and whose main
skills as a director appear to have been visual. He
had 'only a sketchy interest in film structure', according
to film historian Rachel Low, but contributed in
particular 'an instinctive sense of the power of the look,
not only as a means of controlling others but as projector
of internalised visions' (Christine Gledhill, 'Reframing
British Cinema 1918-1928'). Cutts directed Ivor
Novello and Isabel Jeans in The Rat (1926) and two
other 'Rat' pictures (1926, 1929).
For more information, click here: http://www.filmpreservation.org/preserved-films/lost-hitchcock-film
production sketches for Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950)
were recently sold at Bonhams, London, where they
fetched £28,800. They exist as rough pencil
sketches on 130 loose sheets in a faded spring
binder. They had been stored in an attic in
Dorset, England, and belonged to Jack Martin (1899-1969)
who had worked on Stage
Fright as first assistant director.
There isn't any question
that the sketches were used during the film's
production. What is in question is who drew
them? Bonhams claim that it was Hitchcock himself,
but it seems more likely that they were the work of
professional artist Mentor Heubner (1917-2001) who did
similar work for Hitchcock on Strangers on a Train (1951), I Confess (1953),
and perhaps Rope (1948).
Notoriously, Heubner also did the faux Hitchcock
storyboards for North
by Northwest (1959) that Hitchcock commissioned
for publicity purposes after the fact, i.e., after the
film was made.
For more information and
to see some of the sketches, visit the Bonhams website
(though it's inactive as we post this notice):
BFI rescue The Hitchcock 9
As previously announced, the British Film Institute wants to restore the nine surviving Hitchcock silent films, and are asking Hitchcock lovers everywhere to make donations to the cause. There has been an excellent response so far. The BFI has recently announced that new scores will be written for The Lodger (by Nitin Sawhney), The Pleasure Garden (by Daniel Cohen), and others. Now here's an update from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17743123. And for still more information, watch this 11-minute clip on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iiZ3BO5dpk
(See also the News items below, "Hitchcock film festivals ..." and "Another Mountain Eagle find".)
Once again, and sadly, we
must report that some people connected with Hitchcock have
died. Googie Withers (1917-2011), who was born in
India but grew up in England, has passed away in Sydney,
Australia. Her sole appearance in a Hitchcock film
was as Blanche, one of the offsiders of Iris (Margaret
Lockwood) whom we see at the start of The Lady Vanishes
(1938). Other film roles were in Michael Powell's One of Our Aircraft is
Missing (1942) and Robert Hamer's It Always Rains on Sunday
(1947). Googie also had memorable roles on the stage
and on television, including in a BBC adaptation of Jane
Austen's 'Northanger Abbey'. The BBC obituary is
The fine film and stage actress Anna Massey (1937-2011), who was the daughter of actor Raymond Massey, and who was seen in such films as John Ford's Gideon's Day (1958), Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), Otto Preminger's Bunny Lake is Missing (1965), and (as 'Babs') in Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972), died on July 3rd. An excellent obituary, from the London 'Telegraph', is here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/tv-radio-obituaries/8615826/Anna-Massey.html
Film editor Hugh Stewart (1910-2011) died on May 31st, aged 100. In the 1930s he edited films by Victor Saville - such as Evergreen (1934), Dark Journey (1937), and South Riding (1938) - as well as Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and Michael Powell's The Spy in Black (1939). Later he edited nine Norman Wisdom films. But it was another Hitchcock connection, of sorts, that the 'Telegraph' understandably claims may be Stewart's 'most notable contribution on celluloid ... made at Bergen-Belsen in April 1945, when he insisted that the Allies record the horrors of the liberated concentration camp'. Some of the resulting footage was included in the film Memory of the Camps (1945/1985), on which Hitchcock worked as an advisor. To read the 'Telegraph' obituary, click here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/film-obituaries/8606935/Hugh-Stewart.html
of playwright/screenplay writer Arthur Laurents
The man who wrote the
book of the musical and film West Side Story, and who
scripted Hitchcock's Rope (1948), has died in
New York City where he was born. Arthur Laurents
wrote or co-wrote scripts for such films as Rope,
Max Ophuls's Caught (1949), Otto Preminger's Bonjour
Tristesse (1958), and the ballet drama The
Turning Point (Herbert Ross, 1977).
Laurents's play 'The Time of the Cuckoo', set in Venice,
starred Shirley Booth on stage and Katherine Hepburn on
film (David Lean's Summer Madness, 1955).
Laurents was gay. At the time of Rope, he
had an affair with actor Farley Granger (see below); his
partner for 52 years was aspiring actor Tom Hatcher, who
died in 2006. Of Hitchcock, Laurents wrote in his
memoirs 'Original Story By' (2000) that he 'was fun to
work for and fun to be with. He was a tough
businessman; otherwise, he lived in the land of kink.
... Homosexuality was at the center of Rope; its
three main characters were homosexuals. Thus
[Hitchcock's] seeming obsession.'
The BBC obituary is here:
of actor Farley Granger
Farley Granger, star of
the Hitchcock films Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train
(1951), has died at his Manhattan home, aged 85.
His other films included Nicholas Ray's They Live by
Night (1949) and Luchino Visconti's Senso
In 2007, Granger
published with his partner, Robert Calhoun, an
entertaining book of memoirs, 'Include Me Out: My Life
from Goldwyn to Broadway'. Hitchcockians will
learn there that Farley considered James Stewart not
quite right for Rope, because he was too nice to realise
the darker side of the character Rupert. 'It might
have been interesting to see what an actor like James
Mason ... would have brought to the part.' Farley
also agreed with Hitchcock that Ruth Roman (a Warners
contract-player whom the studio insisted on) was miscast
in Strangers on a
Train. 'Hitch had wanted the
then-little-known young actress Grace Kelly for the
To read the BBC obituary
for Farley Granger, click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12894264
photos and other Hitchcock items found
The photograph below is
one of 24 of Alfred Hitchcock in a set of 38 taken
probably in 1966 by press photographer Renate Dabrowski
of Frankfurt, Germany. The photographs are owned
by US art dealer SB and may soon go on sale. The
identity of the lady in the photograph is not
known. Can any of our readers help?
(Note. Hitchcock visited Frankfurt several times,
including in 1966 and 1972. Of course, he had
worked in Germany in the 1920s. Frankfurt seems
the likely location of the photographs, although one of
them shows in the background a jet of Austrian Airlines
and several others show Hitchcock standing next to
stewardesses from the same airline. So it's
possible that the photographs were taken in Austria.)
The story of how SB
acquired the photographs is fascinating. As she
tells it: 'Many years ago I bought a box of
miscellaneous items at Abell's Auctions in Los
Angeles. The box was one of a number of boxes that
were up for auction as abandoned storage, only this one
had "Classical tapes" written on the side and since I
love classical music I figured I had little to
lose. It was only after I opened the box and found
the photos as well as the reel-to-reel tapes, including
one that wasn't of music but of a more personal nature,
that I realized that they had actually belonged to
Hitchcock himself. To be honest, I never played
that particular tape through and I think it got tossed
in my move from LA to San Francisco. I remember
that the selection of music on the tapes was in fact
quite eclectic with quite a few modern composers as well
[as classical ones], in particular John Cage which I
found surprising at the time.'
[We thank SB for very
kindly providing the above information and the
Still coming: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho: The MovieIn a piece called "Alfred Hitchcock, by way of heavy metal?", the 'Los Angeles Times' announced on January 19, 2011, that the film adaptation of Stephen Rebello's book on the making of Psycho has found a new writer/director, Sacha Gervasi. (For details of a much earlier announcement about the project, scroll down this page to the item "Coming: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho: The Movie".)
Gervasi previously made the acclaimed documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2009), about a couple of heavy-metal pioneers seeking to make a come-back. The Making of Psycho film is scheduled to be produced by Ivan Reitman's Montecito Pictures in Hollywood. Two earlier drafts of the script were written by Rebello and by Black Swan writer John McLaughlin. But if Gervasi ends up writing and directing the picture, the 'Los Angeles Times' feels that viewers are in for a special treat: 'one can imagine plenty of wry understatement and clever pacing - the very qualities, come to think of it, that its subject might have appreciated'.
Some new 'custom' DVDs of likely interest to our readers
The Warner Archive now offers 'mod' ('manufactured on demand') DVDs of reasonable price, including such notable films as Richard Thorpe's Night Must Fall (1937) and Ted Tatzleff's The Window (1949). The former was based on the play by Emlyn Williams, the latter on the story by Cornell Woolrich. For more information, and to place orders, visit the Warner Archive Collection
Death of English director, Roy Ward Baker (1916-2010)On 5th October, the fine director Roy Ward Baker died, age 93. He served his apprenticeship at Gainsborough Studios (1934-39), starting in the sound department, and was assistant director on Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938). During the War, he served first in the Infantry, then in the Army Kinematograph Service, where he met author Eric Ambler. His first film, The October Man (1947), from an Ambler script, was auspicious. Baker's best film was also from an Ambler script, the re-creation of the sinking of the Titanic, A Night to Remember (1958). He made several imaginative horror films, including Quatermass and the Pit (1967).
Watch 'Finding Equilibrium in Hitchcock's Vertigo': roundtable discussion held in New York, November 6th, 2010
The above occasion was organised by The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination, New York. Four of the five panelists who participated are contributors to the forthcoming 'Companion to Alfred Hitchcock' (Wiley/Blackwell, 2011): Richard Allen, John Bolton, Joe McElhaney, and Brigitte Peucker. A fifth panelist was Edward Nersessian, a leading New York psychiatrist.
To watch a video-presentation (92') of the above, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpzbe_mnGJM
Another Hitch sculpture
We have previously
reported on at least a couple of sculptures of Alfred
Hitchcock that have been made (scroll down to items "For
sale: bronze statue of Hitchcock" and "Another bronze
statue of Hitchcock", below). The latest is a
life-size caricature of him, recently unveiled by our
friends at the McGuffin (sic) Film Society in
Walthamstow, London, to mark the 80th anniversary of the
EMD Cinema there, which Hitchcock is said to have
attended. (The building opened in 1887 as a dance
hall, and we gather that it was re-built in 1930 as
a cinema for the new sound films.) An earlier
item about the EMD Cinema is elsewhere on this page
(scroll down to "Actors campaign to save
Hitchcock-connected East London cinema"). And for
the latest information, click here: http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/your_local_areas/8401574.WALTHAMSTOW__Hitchcock_sculpture_unveiled/
Claude Chabrol dead at 80The veteran French filmmaker died this morning, 12th September, 2010. His fine book on Hitchcock, written in 1957 in conjunction with fellow filmmaker and critic, Eric Rohmer, was the first critical book on The Master. (Eric Rohmer died earlier this year, aged 89. See separate tribute below.)
Death of Robert Boyle, aged 100
The gifted production designer Robert Boyle, who worked on such Hitchcock masterpieces as Vertigo and North by Northwest, has died in California. (Scroll down to read our earlier item "Production designer Robert Boyle ...".)
Death of cinematographer/director/producer Ronald Neame (1911-2010)
Ronald Neame, who was born in London, and began his film career working with Alfred Hitchcock as a stills photographer at British International Pictures, has died in Los Angeles, aged 99. As a cinematographer, he photographed David Lean's In Which We Serve (1942) and Blithe Spirit (1945). As a producer, he produced Lean's Brief Encounter (1946), Great Expectations (1946), and Oliver Twist (1948). As a director, he made such fine, character-based entertainments as Tunes of Glory (1960), Gambit (1966), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1968), and The Poseidon Adventure (1972).
Another of his films was
the lyrically-told World War II thriller The Man
Who Never Was (1955). It was based on a true
incident (thought up by Ian Fleming when he was working
in Naval Intelligence) in which a man's dead body was
floated off the European coast with fake invasion plans
planted in his briefcase to deceive the Germans.
Hitchcock almost certainly saw Neame's film and
was influenced by it to make North by Northwest.
Another Mountain Eagle find - though still not the film itself
Alfred Hitchcock's 'lost' film The Mountain Eagle (1926) has never been recovered - although the British Film Institute recently announced that they will launch another search for it in 2012, as part of the 'Cultural Olympiad' in London (coinciding with the Olympic Games).
Meanwhile, on eBay earlier this month, a full-size original German poster for the film was auctioned. We understand that it fetched 66,000 Euros. Here is a reproduction of it, together with a lobby card for the film. For information about the latter, scroll down this page to the item "Rare lobby card ...".
Hitchcock on DVD and Blu-Ray
We understand that Psycho will be released on Blu-Ray in Region 1 on 2 August, and in Region 2 on 19 October. For more information, click here: http://www.thehdroom.com/news/Hitchcocks-Psycho-Celebrating-50th-Anniversary-on-Blu-ray/6685. Other Hitchcock titles already available on Blu-Ray are North by Northwest (reportedly a good transfer if a little dark) and The 39 Steps (the latter a Region 2 release and reportedly not a good transfer).
Meanwhile, as our regular readers know, Paramount Home Entertainment released a Centennial Collection DVD of To Catch a Thief in March 2009 (Region 1). Here is what our reviewer, Brian Wilson, wrote:
To begin with, this edition of To Catch a Thief contains a remarkably good transfer. Since Paramount does not indicate that this release of the film has been remastered in any way, I can only assume that the transfer here is identical to the one featured on the 2007 Special Collector’s Edition. Unlike that earlier version, however, the Centennial Collection edition of the film is a two-disc release. Disc One contains the film itself. It also contains an entirely new commentary by Hitchcock film historian Dr. Drew Casper, replacing the one by Peter Bogdanovich and Laurent Bouzereau featured on the 2007 release. While I have not listened to that earlier commentary, I have been told that it relies too much upon personal reminiscences and anecdotes without offering consistent insight into the film itself. Casper’s commentary, on the other hand, offers an extremely detailed analysis of the film.
Two contains several special features, three of these
new. “A Night with the Hitchcocks” is a Q&A
session between Drew Casper’s film students at the
University of Southern California and Hitchcock’s
granddaughter Mary Stone and daughter Pat
Hitchcock. Although this piece has moments of
interest, I felt that it was ultimately
unrewarding. “Unacceptable Under the Code: Film
Censorship in America” is a short documentary about
the history of the Motion Picture Production Code and
its specific impact on To Catch a Thief.
“Behind the Gates: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly” is a
short celebration of the lives and work of the two
actors, featuring several production stills and
excerpts from To Catch a Thief.
Lamented death of actor John Forsyth (1918-2010)
John Forsyth, whose real name was John Freund, has died of cancer at his home in California, aged 92. Though he had considerable Broadway and film experience, he was best known as the scheming oil tycoon in TV's 'Dynasty' and as the voice (only) of the leader of 'Charlie's Angels'. But Hitchcock aficionados remember him with affection as Sam, the artist who fell in love one magical autumn day with Jennifer (Shirley Maclaine) in The Trouble With Harry (1955) and as the US intelligence official Michael Nordstrom in Topaz (1969), adapted from the Leon Uris novel set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Hitchcock also directed him in a classic episode of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Hour' called "I Saw the Whole Thing" (1962). Earlier, Forsythe had appeared in an episode, "Premonition" (1955), of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'.
Korngold opera with a Hitchcock connection receives a different performance in Paris
We have taken this item
from the December 2009 issue of 'Positif'. Yann
'Saw "La Ville Morte" ("Die tote Stadt"/"The Dead City") at the Opera Bastille. The powerful score, modelled on the "degenerate art" that was soon to be persecuted by the Nazis, was composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold in 1920. The links between this opera and cinema are many. The opera has been staged in a knowing way by Willy Decker to bring out numerous filmic references, from Caligari to Fellini. It was adapted from the novel by Georges Rodenbach, "Bruges-la-Morte" (the source of inspiration for Vertigo, via Boileau and Narcejac), but with the ending changed: the hero finally "psychoanalytically" frees himself from the memory of his deceased beloved, whose double he has encountered. In the 1930s, Korngold will follow Max Reinhardt to the United States, where he will eventually become the epic composer of action films for Warner. Coming from this genial exile, the original scores for Captain Blood [Michael Curtiz, 1935] and The Adventures of Robin Hood [Curtiz, 1938] retain traces of his hymn to liberty.'
[The above item was freely translated by Adrian Martin, whom we thank.]
Death of Eric Rohmer (Maurice Schérer), filmmaker, philosopher, author, in Paris
Frenchman Eric Rohmer has died in his ninetieth year. This prolific director will perhaps be best remembered for the series of films he called his 'contes moraux' such as Ma Nuit Chez Maud/My Night With Maud (1970). A former editor of 'Cahiers du Cinéma', he co-authored with Claude Chabrol the book 'Hitchcock' (1955), the first full-length study of the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
The following tribute is supplied by Inge Pruks who in the 1970s briefly studied under Rohmer while at the Sorbonne:
‘What a dignified, serene
person was Eric Rohmer. He always concerned himself with
the important if minimalist things in life: such as
conversation (even disagreements) conducted in a
civilized manner, like the small white lies we tell and
hope that no one notices, like unifying the arts, like
what it means to be a social being, or maybe even a
human being. This often led him into an exploration of
such dualities as young/old, male/female,
contemporary/medieval, not to forget
familial/professional (his own lifelong duality of
Maurice Schérer/Eric Rohmer). I can still picture his
tall, lean figure, his head on one side, listening with
interest to students after lectures, quizzical yet
authoritative. A real gentleman, a true intellectual,
forever questing and never satisfied with the answer he
might have discovered. His death is the passing of an
Passing of Robin Wood, author of 'Hitchcock's Films' (1965)
English-born film critic and author Robin Wood has died of cancer, aged 78, in Toronto.
This is very sad news. Wood was the author of several seminal - and influential - books of film criticism, among them 'Hitchcock's Films' (1965), 'Personal Views: Explorations in Film' (1976), and 'Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan' (1986). Wood's essay on Hitchcock's Psycho appeared in 'Cahiers du Cinéma' soon after the film came out and led to his decision to write an entire book on Hitchcock in English. The book was ground-breaking and passionate in answering the question, 'Why should we take Hitchcock seriously?' His subsequent articles on film were prized by journals such as the English 'Movie' and the American 'Film Comment'. For many years he was a contributing editor of the journal 'CineAction' published in Toronto. His partner Richard Lippe remains on its editorial board.
For David Bordwell's fine obituary (with further links), click here: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=6483
Some films recommended by our friends!
Dr Adrian Martin, of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, tells us that he recently saw 'the most profoundly (not superficially) Hitchcockian film made in several decades: [South Korean director] Bong Joon-ho's Mother. What a brilliant movie this, on every level!'
Another new film is strongly recommended by Michael Walker (author of 'Hitchcock's Motifs') after seeing it at this year's London Film Festival. He wrote to us that newcomer Giuseppe Capotondi's Double Hour (La Doppia Ora) was a 'revelation'. Michael added: 'The following day I simply could not stop thinking about it; it's many years since a new film had such an impact on me and was so vivid in my mind afterwards.' He strongly suggested not familiarising oneself with details of the film's plot before seeing it.
Lastly, our friend Dr Steven Schneider is an executive producer on Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity (2009) which is less Hitchcockian than inviting comparison with The Blair Witch Project. Roger Ebert's review calls it 'an ingenious little horror film'.
Patrick Hamilton's 'Rope' (1929) at the Almeida in London
The play that Hitchcock filmed in 1948 works splendidly on stage in its own right. Loosely based on a US case, but set in London, the play presents a chilling anatomy of an apparently gratuitous murder, and a brilliant snapshot of a jazz-age generation wallowing in privilege, booze, parties, a shallow obsession with fashion and films, and a desperate inner emptiness. Not to speak of an arrogance that infected many British intellectuals after the First World War licenced, some of them boasted, by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. (Meanwhile, in Germany ...)
The season at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, North London, runs from Thursday 10 December 2009 to Saturday 6 February 2010. The play will be directed by well-known stage and film director Roger Michell. Ticket prices £6 - £32. For further information, click here: http://www.almeida.co.uk/production_details/production_details.aspx?code=82
For sale: bronze statue of Hitchcock (here seen in clay, before casting)Andrew Gamache is a respected sculptor who specialises in portrait studies, and who has lately turned his attention to Hitchcock. Seen here are two photographs of the clay model, 30 inches high, from which Andrew will cast his study of the great director. 'I originally created this piece as an exercise to enhance my portfolio with no intent to sell. I intend to sell only one or two copies.' Andrew is looking for expressions of interest from prospective purchasers. 'I suppose that I would ask a round figure of 5000 dollars on top of the 1500 dollars for the casting. This would include the cost of a stone mount.' Andrew may be contacted by email at <email@example.com>. Or telephone him in the USA using this number: 386 214 3309.
Another bronze statue of Hitchcock
Speaking of statues
of Hitchcock ... the seacoast town of Dinard,
northwest France, for several years had a resin
statue of Alfred Hitchcock gracing its foreshore.
On Hitch's shoulders perched a seagull and a crow.
The sculptor was Lionel Ducos. In 2004 the
original statue blew away in a gale but this year
it was replaced by a sturdier one in bronze, by the same
sculptor. The photo below was supplied by Dr Alain
Kerzoncuf, whom we thank. Note: Dinard is a
movie-conscious town and hosts an annual British Film
Festival with invited celebrities. Deliberately,
it sometimes shows films with a Hitchcock connection.
According to the recent British documentary Alfred
Hitchcock in East London, directed by Bill Hodgson, the
young Hitchcock and his family 'spent several happy
holidays' at Dinard.
Actors campaign to save Hitchcock-connected East London cinema
Actors Tony Robinson ('Blackadder') and Meera Syal ('The Kumars at No. 42') have joined a campaign to stop an historic cinema, the EMD Cinema in Walthamstow, London, from being turned into a church. Alfred Hitchcock, who grew up nearby, is said to have seen his first movies there. The cinema first opened as a dance hall in 1887 and finally closed its doors to the public in 2003. The building was then purchased by a Brazil-based religious organisation, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG). The organisation's initial plans to turn the building into a church were rejected by the local council, but it is now expected to submit new proposals. Opposing this, a local film society, the McGuffin (sic) Film Society, wants the council to offer the UCKG ownership of an empty building next to the cinema, allowing the EMD to be sold to operators who would re-open it to show movies. Tony Robinson calls the cinema 'an exotic masterpiece'. He says: 'At this exciting time when east London is about to be revitalised, it would be crazy to turn our backs on such a magnificent venue.'
The above item is taken from an article that appeared in the London 'Telegraph'. To read more, click here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/5184501/Tony-Robinson-campaigns-to-save-cinema-where-Alfred-Hitchcock-saw-first-films.html
And for an update, click here: http://www.mcguffin.info/
Premiere of film Alfred Hitchcock in East London
To commemorate the 80th anniversary of Britain's first talkie, Blackmail, the above-mentioned McGuffin (sic) Film Society recently held a screening of Hitchcock's 1929 film followed by the world premiere of the 65-minute documentary Alfred Hitchcock in East London.
'Most people are ignorant
of Hitchcock's associations with east London,' says the
documentary's writer and director Bill Hodgson.
'My film paints a picture of Hitchcock and his
roots which is radically different from previous
In Leytonstone the film identifies the old cinema buildings where the boy Alfred was first exposed to motion pictures. His churchgoing in nearby Stratford and his schooldays in Hackney are also explored as well as his teenage years in Limehouse during the First World War.
Alfred Hitchcock in East London is now available on DVD. For more information, click here: http://www.mcguffin.info/
Deaths of composer Maurice Jarre (1924-2009) and cinematographer Jack Cardiff (1914-2009)
Sadly, both of the above individuals have recently died. Maurice Jarre composed the scores for Hitchcock's Topaz (1969) and films by such directors as Georges Franju, Luchino Visconti, and David Lean. Jarre won Academy Awards for his scores for Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1966), and A Passage to India (1984).
The brilliant Jack Cardiff, a regular collaborator with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, et al.), photographed Hitchcock's Under Capricorn (1949). Cardiff published his autobiography, 'The Magic Hour' (with a preface by Martin Scorsese), in 1996. He reported that he enjoyed painting and that the French Impressionists had been a major influence on his cinematography. That may explain why, as Richard Allen ('Hitchcock's Romantic Irony', 2007) has observed, Under Capricorn is atypical of Hitchcock's films visually. Under Capricorn seeks to convey emotion in its images directly, with suitable use of diffuse colour, whereas Hitchcock's other colour films typically use symbolic or stylised colour, often in discrete blocks, to signify emotion.
Production designer Robert Boyle, aged 99, further honoured
Robert Boyle, who turns 100 in October, still lectures about his craft to students at the American Film Institute.
In March, he was toasted at a tribute arranged by the Art Directors Guild Film Society and the American Cinematheque. The same week, the 'Los Angeles Times' ran an article on him (March 27 2009). It noted that Boyle began his career in 1933 in the art department at Paramount, having just come from USC with a degree in architecture. At Paramount and later at Universal, where he graduated to art director, he worked on a wide range of movies including horror films such as The Wolf Man (1941), the Alfred Hitchcock movies Saboteur (1942) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943), and even the old 'Ma and Pa Kettle' comedies.
After working on the two Hitchcocks, Boyle went into the Army during World War II. 'After my discharge, I went back to work with Hitch, who had formed a company at RKO with Cary Grant and that didn't pan out. The next opportunity to be with Hitch was [when] he called me for North by Northwest  and then after that The Birds  and Marnie .'
According to Boyle, once you worked with Hitchcock you became part of his movie family. 'He was a great collaborator,' Boyle says. 'He would discuss a movie with anybody, including his driver.'
Death of Hitchcock artist and designer, Dorothea Redmond, in HollywoodThe 'Los Angeles Times' reports as follows:
Dorothea Holt Redmond, an illustrator and production designer who helped visualize several Alfred Hitchcock films and worked with Walt Disney to design a private apartment in Disneyland's New Orleans Square, has died. She was 98.
Redmond came to be regarded as one of the most talented illustrators in the industry, according to research by Tania Modleski, a USC English professor who is documenting the contributions women made to Hitchcock's films. [Modleski's previous book on Hitchcock was the excellent 'The Women Who Knew Too Much'.]
Working with Hitchcock and an art director, Redmond would create an illustration that became the basis for communicating to the cameraman and others - and essentially set the tone of key scenes, Modleski told The Times in an e-mail.
The artist 'was masterful at working with light and shadow,' Modleski said, 'and deserves credit for working with Hitchcock to convey the German Expressionist aesthetic he has been praised for adopting throughout much of his career.'
Redmond's suspense-filled graphite drawings interpreting a sequence in Hitchcock's 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt helped transform a sleepy town into a threatening locale, which was essential to the movie's evolution, according to the 2007 book 'Casting a Shadow'.
Hitchcock was 'one of her very favorite people to work with,' said Redmond's daughter. 'She just loved his personality and his taste.'
In a film career that started with 1937's Nothing Sacred and spanned 20 years, Redmond contributed to seven Hitchcock films, including Rebecca (1940), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955).
Hitchcock engages viewers on more levels, suggests a recent study
Researchers in a new field
called 'neurocinematics' use MRI scans to monitor brain
activity while subjects watch films. Recently,
subjects were shown 30 minute clips from Sergio Leone's The
Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), an episode of
'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' ("Bang! You're Dead"), and an
episode of the TV comedy series, 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'.
The researchers, from the Computational Neuroimaging Laboratory at New York University, found that the Hitchcock clip provoked the most consistent pattern of brain activity among all subjects studied, 'consistently turning on and switching off responses of different regions in more than 65 percent of the cortex'. By contrast, the Leone clip produced a score of 45%, while 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' scored 18%.
Quote: 'The fact that Hitchcock was able to orchestrate the responses of so many different brain regions, turning them on and off at the same time across all viewers, may provide neuroscientific evidence for his notoriously famous ability to master and manipulate viewers' minds. Hitchcock often liked to tell interviewers that for him "creation is based on an exact science of audience reactions".'
To read more, go here: http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2008/06/neurocinematics.php
Note. At the end of the above-listed report (just before 'Comments'), there's a link marked simply PDF. Click on that to read the original report as published in a new online journal called 'Projections: The Journal for Movies and Mind'.
Region 2 release of Hitchcock's Bon Voyage (1944) and Aventure Malgache (1944)Network DVD in the UK have released a double-bill of Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache, the two short films Hitchcock made in England in 1944 featuring the Molière Players, a group of exiled French Resistance actors. Also on the disc is a brief compilation of newsreels and interviews featuring Hitchcock. For more information, click here: http://www.networkdvd.net/product_info.php?cPath=26&products_id=732
We are saddened by the recent death of the man who between 1954 and 1956 wrote four classic Hitchcock screenplays (Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Trouble With Harry, and The Man Who Knew Too Much). Each was noted for its emotional warmth and sophisticated dialogue. Author Steven DeRosa has paid full tribute to the remarkable Hayes-Hitchcock collaboration in his book 'Writing With Hitchcock' (2001).
Dear to our heart is a piece of research by film scholar
Doug Bonner in Texas. His paper, now published on
the Web, shows that several key sequences in Notorious probably
took inspiration from a British spy drama Yellow Canary
made three years earlier by producer-director Herbert
Wilcox as a vehicle for his lovely actress wife Anna
Yet another Hitchcock borrowing? The likely influence of Yellow Canary (Herbert Wilcox, 1943) on Hitchcock's Notorious (1946)
How often Hitchcock resorted to such borrowing! Often, though, he was only returning a favour to another director who had borrowed from him first! Robert Siodmak, for example, engaged in a 'reciprocity of influence' with Hitchcock during the 1940s. (At one point, both men shared the same producer, Joan Harrison.) Wilcox's Yellow Canary may possibly show the influence of Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) as well as of earlier British productions like The Spy in Black (1939) and Contraband (1940), both directed by Michael Powell.
To read Doug Bonner's article, click here: http://www.postmodernjoan.com/pomoYCWEB01.htm
Producers of Disturbia (2007) sued for allegedly ripping off the story on which Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) was basedThe makers of a largely teenage-actor film version of Rear Window, Disturbia (d. D.J. Caruso), are being sued by the estate of Sheldon Abend (whom Hitchcock once called 'an ambulance-chaser'!). The estate claims ownership of the rights to the original Cornell Woolrich story. Strangely, a recent news item names this story "Murder from a Fixed Viewpoint" - whereas we had always understood that the story, originally published in the February 1942 issue of 'Dime Detective', was first called "It Had to Be Murder", then changed by Woolrich himself two years later to the more evocative "Rear Window" when he included the story in his early collection of short fiction, 'After-Dinner Story' (1944), published under his William Irish pseudonym.
We contacted Woolrich expert Francis M. Nevins who told us that the author himself originally chose the name "Murder from a Fixed Viewpoint" for his story but that it was never used - until now, for complicated (presumably legal) reasons.
For the recent news item, click here: http://www.reuters.com/articlePrint?articleId=USN0844655020080908
Online: forum on Psycho's influenceCo-Editor of online journal 'Midnight Marquee', Gary J. Svehla (with Susan Svehla), recently controversially omitted Hitchcock's Psycho from a list of 'the 13 most influential horror films'. Some of our readers may be interested in reading a transcript of a forum in which Gary defended his list against several challengers. The transcript is available online as a .pdf document (copy and paste the following URL into your browser): http://www.midmar.com/midmar76.pdf
'Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection'
(seven titles) to be released 14th October 2008 (Region 1)
MGM Home Entertainment has announced the 'Alfred Hitchcock Premiere Collection' which includes Sabotage, Young and Innocent, Rebecca, Lifeboat, The Paradine Case, Spellbound, and Notorious. (Also included in the package is the 1944 film The Lodger, directed by John Brahm.) Each film has been restored and remastered. Most of the films have new 'extras' (e.g., Bill Krohn and Stephen Rebello discussing The Paradine Case) plus the package contains a 32-page booklet of production notes, etc. Retail will be $119.98. For more information, please paste the following URL into your browser: http://www.dvdactive.com/news/releases/alfred-hitchcock-premiere-collection.html
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced two-disc special editions of the above four films. Each will have 'extras', both 'old' and 'new' (e.g., Stephen Rebello's commentary for Psycho), with a SRP of $26.98.
DVD release (Region 2) of ten episodes of the 'Alfred Hitchcock Hour'
Koch Media in Munich have announced that on 25 May, 2008, they will release a set of ten selected episodes on three DVDs of the 'Alfred Hitchcock Hour' (which had 93 episodes in all). The majority of the shows will have German audio soundtracks (no mention of English subtitles); however, four shows will have their original English soundtracks plus German subtitles. Koch say that further sets will follow. Here's the list of the initial set, which includes the Hitchcock-directed "I Saw the Whole Thing", starring John Forsythe:
1. A Piece of the Action
2. I Saw the Whole Thing
3. Captive Audience
4. Ride the Nightmare
5. Diagnosis: Danger
6. The Star Juror
7. Last Seen Wearing Blue Jeans
8. Nothing Ever Happens in Linvale
9. The Cadaver
10. The Dividing Wall
Death of Suzanne Pleshette (1937-2008)
Suzanne Pleshette, the
husky-voiced actress who redefined the television sitcom
wife in the 1970s, playing the smart, sardonic Emily Hartley
on 'The Bob Newhart Show', has died of respiratory
failure at her home in Los Angeles. She was 70.
She made her film debut in the 1958 Jerry Lewis comedy, The Geisha Boy. In Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) she played the schoolteacher Annie Hayworth. Our tribute comes from Stephen Rebello in Hollywood:
'What a witty, intelligent,
and stylish woman she was. For me, one of the most
intriguing things she ever did was to one day turn up on the
of The Birds with blonde, upswept hair, a new makeup style, wearing a mink coat, Edith Head clothing, and a haughty expression. She did it, she said, when she realized that Hitchcock only had eyes for the blonde.
'Apparently, Tippi Hedren thought it was hilarious. Hitchcock, not so much, although I have been told that he saw in Pleshette's directness, outspokeness, and legendarily bawdy language a throwback to the days of stars like Carole Lombard.'
French-German film coming about the young Alfred Hitchcock
French-German cultural channel ARTE have made a series of short films on the childhoods of "Six Great Filmmakers", including Hitchcock. Other directors to be featured are Welles, Renoir, Bergman, Lang, and Tati. The films will be shown in cinemas and on television.
The Hitchcock film is directed by Corinne Garfin and has the title Nuit Brève (The Short Night). It shows a young Alfred going with his parents to a play starring Ellen Terry (played by Camille Natta) and afterwards meeting the famous actress. Below is a still. For more information, click here: http://www.umedia.fr/UMedia/enfances.htm
Scene from the forthcoming ARTE production, Nuit Brève
The stage production of The 39 Steps in Boston (and now Broadway, et al.)
Back in 2005 Michael Walker reported here on the opening in Leeds, England, of a play based on Hitchcock's film The 39 Steps. (See "UK stage production of The 39 Steps" below.) Later, in "Editor's Day", we quoted correspondent DN - Danny Nissim - on how the play had transferred to London's West End and had provided an exhilarating night-out for Danny, his wife, and friends. In 2007 the production crossed the Atlantic and played in Boston. In January 2008 it will move to New York (see below). Here's what WB reported in our 'Hitchcock Enthusiasts' Group about seeing it in Boston:
'I went to Boston last Saturday to see a new play entitled "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps". The title makes clear that the play is based (loosely) on the Hitchcock film and not the John Buchan book, although perhaps a more apt title would add the tag "meets Monty Python". Citing a Pythonesque dimension, though, doesn't fully suggest the great warmth with which the whole thing celebrates Hitchcock. Four actors play 100+ roles and do it with great verve and ability. It's quite funny and wonderful. It has played for a couple of years in London's West End and one of the original actors from the UK is playing the lead here. It transfers to Broadway in January [namely, the American Airlines Theatre in Times Square, opening on Tuesday 15 January. In Australia, a Melbourne Theatre Company production will open in April.] They simulate effects from the film in funny, creative and low-tech ways. They even pull off Hitchcock's cameo. My ten-year-old daughter also loved the show. Given my love for the original, I went a skeptic and came out a great fan.'
New 10 DVD Hitchcock set coming to the UK (Region 2) in February, 2008
The set will include Hitchcock's first film as director, The Pleasure Garden (1925), from the Rohauer Collection. All of the discs will have 'extras' (including film analyses by Charles Barr). Here is the list of films:
One: The Pleasure Garden
Disc Two: The Lodger (A Story of the London Fog)
Disc Three: Downhill
Disc Four: The Man Who Knew Too Much
Disc Five: The 39 Steps
Disc Six: Secret Agent
Disc Seven: Sabotage
Disc Eight: Young and Innocent
Disc Nine: The Lady Vanishes
Disc Ten: Jamaica Inn
thank Ryan Hewitt of Sony DADC UK Ltd, and Dave Pattern of
the hitchcockwiki.com website, for information in the
Art director Robert Boyle to receive Oscar
Production designer Robert Boyle, 98, who first worked for Hitchcock on Saboteur (1942) and who was nominated four times for Oscars in the art direction category, including for Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959), will receive an honorary Oascar during the Academy Awards ceremony on February 24, it has been announced.
Born in Los Angeles in 1909, Boyle trained as an architect. When the Depression cost him his job, he found work in films as an extra. In 1933, he was hired as a draftsman in the Paramount Studios art department. He went on to work on various films as a sketch artist, draftsman, and assistant art director before becoming an art director at Universal in the early '40s.
Martin Scorsese's new Spanish TV commercial a mock
Okay, drop everything. Every year, the Freixenet company in Spain puts out an expensive commercial for the Christmas season. This year, it's for their Reserva wine. That's not important. What is important is that they got Martin Scorsese to make the commercial this year, a nine-minute film that is a tribute to Hitchcock's '50s masterworks. It begins with film preservationist Marty, in Last Waltz style, claiming that he has found three pages from a never-made Hitchcock script called 'The Key To Reserva'. Then it shows Scorsese making the film, and it's a joy. It's full of Hitchcockian color schemes and camera angles, all shot in a concert hall and scored to Bernard Herrmann. It makes visual references to The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, North by Northwest and several other Hitchcock masterpieces. Lensed by Harris Savides. Edited by Thelma Schoonmaker. Starring Simon Baker in a Cary Grant suit. Trust us: drop everything you're doing and watch Marty's film here: http://www.scorsesefilmfreixenet.com/video_eng.htm
Another remake: The Lodger
Hitchcock was the first to make a film version of Mrs Belloc Lowndes's 1913 novel (expanded from her own short story) about a Jack-the-Ripper killer terrorising London. The full title of Hitchcock's 1926 film was The Lodger, A Story of the London Fog. Now writer/director David Ondaatje will attempt his version of the novel - with the setting reportedly moved to Los Angeles. It will focus on the relationship between a paranoid landlady and her tenant. A second plot thread will involve some personal and professional problems of detective Chandler Manners, hot on the killer's trail.
• Other Hitchcock-related projects are slated or are awaiting release. The thriller Number 13 takes its name, and setting, from the 1920s film that Hitchcock worked on but which was never finished. It shows the youthful director (played by Dan Fogler) somehow caught in a love triangle involving two crew members. When the lead actor turns up dead, the film's editor suspects Hitchcock, and tries to uncover the truth. Chase Palmer will direct the film, starting in January.• A new version of The Birds is slated, to be directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale). Australian actress Naomi Watts has been announced to play the lead role of Melanie Daniels. However, according to 'The Guardian' (20 October 2007), the film has already run into opposition. Co-star of Hitchcock's original film, Tippi Hedren, is quoted as saying, 'Must you be so insecure that you have to take a film that's a classic, and I think a success, and try to do it over?'
• British actor Bill Nighy has reportedly signed to star in Australian director Stephan Elliott's Easy Virtue, an adaptation of Noel Coward's play to be produced by Ealing Studios for 2009 release. The play casts a critical eye at hypocrisy and upper-class English life in the 1920s. The previous film version of the play was Hitchcock's, made in 1927 and starring Isabel Jeans and Robin Irvine.
• Another Psycho-related project (see also below) is said to be called Psycho/Analysis from a script by the late Joseph Stefano (who, of course, wrote the original Hitchcock-directed film from Robert Bloch's novel).
Coming: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho: The Movie
'[I]t could never be said that director Ryan Murphy (Running With Scissors) is one to let grass grow under his feet.' Thus wrote 'Hollywood Elsewhere' columnist Jeffrey Wells by way of 'leaking' some exciting news for Hitchcock buffs: that Murphy is set to direct 'a drama about the making of Hitchcock's Psycho, and particularly the hurdles and roadblocks that the great British director [to be played by Anthony Hopkins] went through in order to bring it ... to fruition'. Wells also reveals that British actress Helen Mirren (The Queen) may play Hitchcock's wife and collaborator, Alma.
We can add some details. The film will be based on Stephen Rebello's book 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' (1990. (Rebello is an Exutive Producer on the project.) A recent draft of the film's screenplay is said to have a tone closer to The Queen or Gods and Monsters than to RKO 281: The Battle Over Citizen Kane (as named in the 'Hollywood Elsewhere' item). Apparently, too, the true focus of the film will be on Alfred and Alma and the impact of their intricate personal lives on the creation of the 1960 film.
Major Hitchcock exhibition in Illinois emphasises his filmmaking methods
The exhibition in Evanston, Illinois, has now opened. We hear that visitors so far have included Hitchcock actresses Tippi Hedren and Veronica Cartwright and Hitchcock biographer John Russell Taylor.
Our thanks to Burke Pattern
of Northwestern University, Evanston, for these details
about the exhibition ...
“Casting a Shadow: Creating the Alfred Hitchcock Film,” from Sept. 28 to Dec. 9, features approximately 150 sketches, designs, storyboards, script pages, and other film production documents from such movies as Shadow of a Doubt (1943), North by Northwest (1959), and The Birds (1963), drawn from the archives of the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the British Film Institute. The exhibition, which will also include film clips and recordings of audio conversations between Hitchcock and his collaborators, will be accompanied by a screening of more than 30 films directed by Hitchcock, an international symposium, gallery talks, and an illustrated catalogue published by Northwestern University Press and the Block Museum of Art.
The exhibition will travel to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Gallery in Beverly Hills, California, in 2008.
A companion catalogue ('Casting a Shadow: Creating the Alfred Hitchcock Film,' $32.95) features an introduction by Block Museum film curator Will Schmenner and essays by Scott Curtis, associate professor of radio/television/film at Northwestern University; Tom Gunning, Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, department of art history, University of Chicago; Jan Olsson, professor of cinema studies, Stockholm University, Sweden; and author Bill Krohn. The 160 page-book includes 63 plates and 33 illustrations.
To complement the exhibition, the Block is organizing the symposium “Hitchcock’s Myth and Method” at 9:30 am on Friday, November 2. Participants include Curtis; Gunning; Olsson; Krohn; Tania Modleski, Florence R. Scott Professor of English, University of Southern California; and Sarah Street, professor of film, University of Bristol, England. This day-long symposium is free and open to the public.
In addition, Block Cinema will screen many of Hitchcock’s films during the fall quarter; some of them will be introduced by noted film scholars. The Block Museum will also offer a series of gallery talks focusing on specific aspects of the “Casting a Shadow” exhibition. Details on the film screenings and gallery talks are forthcoming. Free guided tours of the “Casting a Shadow” exhibition will be held at 2 pm every Saturday and Sunday from September 29 to December 9.
The Block Museum is located at 40 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Admission to the Block’s exhibitions is free. General admission to Block Cinema screenings is $6 or $ 4 for Block Museum members and students with ID. For more information, call (847) 491-4000 or click here: http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/exhibitions/future/hitchcock.html.
Deaths: Oscar-winner Jane Wyman at age 93, and
actor Hansjörg Felmy at age 76
Jane Wyman, who starred as trainee actress Eve Gill in Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950), has died. The first wife of former US President Ronald Reagan was 93.
She won an Academy Award for her role as a deaf-mute in Johnny Belinda (Jean Negulesco,1948).
Meanwhile, the actor who
played the menacing Heinrich Gerhard, head of State
Security, in Hitchcock's Torn Curtain (1966), has died in
Lower Bavaria after a decade-long battle with osteoporosis.
Felmy was one of the best-known and most important actors in Germany from the 1950s onward, including television. One of his most significant stage successes was his role in Kurt Hoffmann's satire 'Wir Wunderkinder'/'We Children of the Economic Miracle' of 1958.
[Our thanks to DF for this item.]
Farewell Richard Franklin (Psycho II)
Our esteemed director-friend, Richard Franklin, has died of cancer in Melbourne, Australia, a few days short of his 59th birthday. Among his early films were Patrick (1978), starring Sir Robert Helpmann, and Roadgames (1980), starring Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis - the making of which led in turn to Richard's work in Hollywood for Universal Studios: Psycho II (1983), starring Tony Perkins and Vera Miles, and Cloak and Dagger (1984), starring Dabney Coleman and young Henry Thomas plus John McIntire (the sheriff in Psycho) and wife Jeanette Nolan (who had voiced Mrs Bates in Psycho) playing the villains. (The film was a re-working and opening-out of the 1949 movie The Window.) Back in Australia, Richard made such admirable films as Hotel Sorrento (1995), from Hannie Rayson's stage success, and Brilliant Lies (1996), from the play by David Williamson. No-one admired the work of Hollywood masters Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford more than Richard. Accordingly, we have lost the one person with whom we were best able to converse about Hitch's filmmaking, and whose many insights on the films were always keen and true. There is a superb profile of Richard written in 2005 by young Canadian critic Aaron Graham for the 'Senses of Cinema' Great Directors pages: http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/05/franklin.html
How tall was Alfred Hitchcock?We've had this controversy before. In one of the Second Season episodes of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' ("Number Twenty-Two"), in which Hitch appears in a police lineup (!), his height is given as 5 feet, 6 inches. But on his British passport recently auctioned by Juliens of Hollywood (see image below), which is stamped 9 February 1954, his height is entered as 5 feet, 8 inches. (Mind you, the same passport appears to indicate that Hitch was single, mentioning neither wife nor daughter! But perhaps that's simply because the distaff side of the Hitchcock family had long ago become American citizens.)
A couple of DVDs
Recent DVD releases of The 39 Steps (1935) and To Catch a Thief (1955) have been enthusiastically praised by our readers.
The particular DVD we mean of The 39 Steps is the one contained in the package known as 'The Rank Collection' (which has actually been out for a couple of years). Correspondent DF in Germany tells us: 'The whole thing appears to be Carlton Video, and I already have The 39 Steps on a DVD from Carlton. But the Rank Collection version is rather better. The transfer is beautifully done; the sound has been improved - very judiciously too. The result is certainly the best 39 Steps that I have had the pleasure of seeing.' For more information about 'The Rank Collection', click here: http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=57543
Paramount's new release of To Catch a Thief - not
to be confused with the one of about five years ago - some
reports suggest that it's a considerable improvement on
the earlier one. 'The New York Times' review (8 May
2007) quotes Paramount themselves on how this version 'has
been taken from a restored VistaVision negative, and [how
the result] shows in far crisper detail, much deeper
colors, and a new sense of depth'. The new release,
we gather, has a commentary track by Peter Bogdanovich and
Laurent Bouzereau that wasn't on the earlier disk.
And our director friend Richard Franklin (Psycho II) emailed us
to praise the look of the new version: 'it's FABULOUS!'
For a full review, click here: http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=27798
Five early Hitchcocks, fully remastered, coming on DVD
company Lionsgate Home Entertainment, part of the Lions
Gate Entertainment Corporation, will release the 'Alfred
Collector's Edition' on February 6th, 2007. The set will feature five films: The Manxman, Rich And Strange, The Skin Game, Murder!, and The Ring. All of the films are said to be fully remastered, and new soundtracks have been recorded for the silent films.
• Caveat. We have been told by P McF that the edition of Murder! has some drawbacks. Though in general the restored soundtrack and visuals are superb, 'sound effects' are now sometimes 'severely noticeable'. And dissolves look scruffy compared to the cleaned-up images on either side of them. Also, reportedly, 'of the last three scenes, the first two are missing! They are each short, [consisting of] just one shot: Diana leaving the prison gates, and then Diana and Sir John in the car together [as he tells her] "you must save those tears - for my new play".' However, this last matter is a known issue, and is simply a case of the original UK theatrical release print having been used for the Lionsgate DVD: the two 'missing' shots were ones included only in the original US release of the film. (For more about the US ending, here's a link to Dave Pattern's Hitchcock wiki-site: http://www.daveyp.com/hitchcock/wiki/Murder_ending.)
• Dave Pattern tells us that sections of the audio track for Rich and Strange appear to have had Foley effects added (notably footsteps).
New selection of
Hitchcock-directed TV programs on DVD can be played
without the French subtitles
to the people responsible for the Region 2 release
(PAL format) of a boxed collection of Alfred
Hitchcock's work for television. The box
contains all of the episodes directed by Hitchcock of
'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' plus three other items
that he directed for television: "Incident at a
Corner", the celebrated episode of 'Ford Startime'
which Hitchcock made in colour and which stars Vera
Miles; "Four o'Clock", starring E.G. Marshall,
which Hitchcock directed for the show called
'Suspicion', from a story by Cornell Woolrich; and "I
Saw the Whole Thing", starring John Forsythe, which
was the only Hitch-directed episode of 'Alfred
Hitchcock Hour'. Note: although the items have
French subtitles, these can be turned off if not
required. Price of the 5-disc set is reportedly
now 65.00 € (previously 49.95 €). For more
information, click the following: Hitchcock
selection (Region 2) and How
to order (in English)
• Further good news from Region 2, specifically France. For the first time, the full 80-minutes, English-language version of Hitchcock's Waltzes From Vienna (1933), starring Jessie Matthews, Esmond Knight, and Fay Compton, is to be released on DVD, by Universal. But note: the release-date has been put back (it was originally going to be 20 June, 2006 - it is now March, 2007). Also, apparently in this case the French subtitles can't be turned off. On the same disk: Downhill. For more information, click here: http://www.dvdfr.com/dvd/dvd.php?id=24556
A revelation: Maurice Elvey's The Water Gipsies (1932), part-scripted by Alma Reville, screened in London
Our London correspondent, Michael Walker ('Hitchcock's Motifs'), has sent us the following. 'The NFT has just done a short season of quota quickies. The Water Gipsies (Maurice Elvey, 1932) was a revelation. Taken from a novel by A.P.Herbert, it allowed its heroine (played by Ann Todd) and her sister quite astonishing sexual freedom without being punished. I mention it for two Hitch-related reasons. First, Alma Reville [Mrs Alfred Hitchcock] was one of the scriptwriters (along with Miles Malleson, Basil Dean and John Paddy Carstairs). I sensed Alma's hand in the liveliness of the two sisters. Second, Ann Todd projects a palpable sexual desire, which I don't think is a commonly recognised feature of her performances. But I do think it's also there in The Paradine Case (1947), where it contributes to a real sense of a sexual marriage - perhaps the strongest example in Hitchcock.'
Rare early Hitchcock photo
In the rare 1922 photo below, that's Alfred Hitchcock (with moustache?) squatting beside the camera and gesturing across the road at actress Clare Greet. The occasion was the filming of Number Thirteen (aka Mrs Peabody) on location outside the public house, "The Angel", in Rotherhithe, London. The film was never finished. According to a caption, the director, Hitchcock, had two assistant directors, A.W. Barnes and Norman Arnold. Cameraman was Joe Rosenthal.The photo is reproduced from 'The Cinema Studio', December 7, 1949. We thank Mr Ray Ridley for sending us the photo.
• We're saddened to learn of the death of Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano, on August 25, of a heart attack. He was 84. Besides Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), Stefano wrote the screenplay of Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake (1998) and a TV 'prequel' called Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990), as well as such films as Michael Anderson's The Naked Edge (1961), starring Gary Cooper. In 1963 Stefano co-produced TV's 'The Outer Limits', the successful s-f series for which he wrote several of its 49 episodes. Our first tribute is from Stephen Rebello, author of 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' (1990): 'Joseph Stefano spoke very much like a musician, with a rich voice and a delivery dotted with jazzy riffs and deep, sonorous chords, often punctuated by the pizzicato of explosive laughter. I can't imagine Hitchcock not being delighted, inspired, and perhaps a bit perplexed by such a free spirit. I wish they had stayed together for Marnie not only because Stefano was so good at story structure but because he showed great empathy for tragic, melancholic characters who tough things out with unexpected jabs of dark, anarchic humor.' Our second tribute is from Dr Phil Skerry, author of 'The Shower Scene in Hitchcock's Psycho' (2005): 'Two years ago, when Janet Leigh died, I wrote to Joe expresssing my sorrow, and he replied, "I still haven't got it into my head and (more so) my heart that I will not be seeing her dear smile again. I feel a terrible loss, and I will never forget her." Joe's words perfectly convey my feelings about this wonderful, generous, talented man.'
• Actress Kasey Rogers, aka Laura Elliot, died on July 6. She was 79. As Laura Elliot, she played the trampish wife Miriam in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951). On TV, Kasey Rogers was Louise Tate in the hit series 'Bewitched'. Our tribute is from Richard Valley, editor of 'Scarlet Street' magazine: 'Kasey was a smart, amusing, good-natured woman and we were very, very, very fond of her. Anyone who has ever met her or enjoyed her fine work in Strangers on a Train or on 'Peyton Place' or 'Bewitched' must feel the same.'
DVD news: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', Season Two, on the way
A year after they released the first season of the entertaining 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', Universal Studios Home Entertainment have announced that the second season will be released on October 17 (Region 1) ...
Henry Bumstead (1915-2006)
Henry Bumstead, the veteran Hollywood production designer who worked for Hitchcock on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), Topaz (1969), and Family Plot (1976), has died at the age of 91 in Pasadena, California.
In a nearly 70-year career that began when he was a draftsman in the art department at RKO in the late 1930s, Bumstead's first picture as an art director was the 1948 Paramount drama Saigon, starring Alan Ladd.
Bumstead twice won Academy Awards: for his work on To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962) and The Sting (George Roy Hill, 1973). He also received Oscar nominations for Vertigo and Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992).
In recent times, Bumstead's longtime association with actor-director Eastwood saw him still on the job into his 90s. It was while working on Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (2004) that Bumstead learned that he had prostate cancer.
'Bummy was one of a kind,' Eastwood remembers. 'We will all miss him terribly.'
Anna Massey reads from her memoirs
Actress Anna Massey (Peeping
Tom, Hitchcock's Frenzy, etc.) has just finished
reading extracts on BBC Radio4 from her
recently-published memoirs, 'Telling Some Tales'.
In one program she talked about Frenzy.
Danny Nissim in London (whom we thank) notes that the Frenzy segment had some interesting material covering Massey's audition: Hitch sat behind a huge desk and spent the first 45 minutes talking about making batter pudding! At one point, he asked how tall Massey was, explaining that she would have to fit into a potato sack. But Massey disputed the myth that Hitch treated actors as cattle. He was patient and helpful, often using a comic irony which put everyone at their ease.
On Alfred Hitchcock and his screenwritersWe're told that a lengthy article on Hitchcock and his relationships with his writers features in the May 2006 issue of 'Written By', the Magazine of the Writers Guild - West. The piece is said to be the first that comprehensively treats this topic. The May issue contains new interviews with Joseph Stefano, Patricia Hitchcock, Norman Lloyd, and Jay Presson Allen who passed away on May 1.
The issue is available on news stands or by contacting the magazine at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Passing of Jay Presson Allen
Screenwriter, novelist, playwright and producer, Jay Presson Allen, has died at the age of 84 from a stroke, at her home in Manhattan.
Her extensive film credits include Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964), Cabaret (1972), Just Tell Me What You Want (1980, from Allen's novel), Prince of the City (1981), and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). It was in fact Allen's fine stage adaptation of Muriel Spark's novel 'The Prime of Mis Jean Brodie' which drew her to Hitchcock's attention: he read an advance copy of it and hired her for Marnie. Afterwards, he commissioned her to adapt J.M. Barrie's play 'Mary Rose' but his cherished project never actually made it to the screen.
Ms Allen once told an interviewer, 'I never wanted to direct. I always thought that was a brutal job, one that I never had an interest in. A lot of it’s baby-sitting, and I could never stand for that. Hitchcock wanted to make me into a director. But I had a husband [film producer Lewis Allen], a child and a life and I didn’t want to give those things up.'
Murder! plus Mary on one DVD
Hitchcock's Murder! (1930) and its German version, Mary - which Hitchcock shot immediately afterwards - have now been released on one DVD by Arthaus. Our correspondent, DF, in Germany reports: 'The quality is quite good except for one or two places where the original film seems to have been irreparably damaged - only very short spots, and of little consequence - and among the extras is an excerpt from Hitchcock's interview with Truffaut in August 1962.' (Regrettably, for our English-speaking readers, we learn that the Arthaus release of Mary does not have English subtitles.)
• Nor, we now hear, will an imminent French DVD release of Mary have English subtitles. It will appear on a disc with Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939). Also forthcoming soon from France (probably in June) are these Hitchcock discs: Under Capricorn (1949) plus an interview with Claude Chabrol; Juno and the Paycock (1930) plus The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). Coming later from France are Waltzes from Vienna (1933), as previously announced here; The Pleasure Garden (1925); Downhill (1927).
(Thanks to AK for information about the French DVDs.)
Italian actress Alida Valli, star of Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947), Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949), and Luchino Visconti's Senso (1954), has died in Rome at the age of 84.
Born Alida Maria Laura von Altenburger in 1921 in Pola (now Pula in Croatia), she made her cinema debut at the age of 15 and appeared in over 100 films. One of those films was Mario Soldati's exquisite Piccolo mondo antico/Little old-fashioned world (1941), set in the Italian lakes in the 1850s, and described by critic David Shipman as 'a "literary" film but otherwise as near as dammit perfect'. After the War she was discovered by US producer David Selznick, who put her under contract, thinking he had found a new Ingrid Bergman. In fact, her English-speaking career did not last long (supposedly due to her thick accent), but she continued to act in Italian and French films, as well as theatre.
She was awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1997 for her contribution to Italian cinema.
A good two or three years ago we reported on the play by noted playwright Terry Johnson, 'Hitchcock Blonde', then running in London. (See "Another Hitchcock-related stage play" lower down this page.) Last year, the Editor of 'The MacGuffin' watched the Australian production of the play, and found it excellent! So we're happy to announce here that South Coast Repertory, located in Costa Mesa, California (about an hour's drive south of Los Angeles), will shortly premiere the play in America, with Terry Johnson directing. The supposed excerpts from a 'lost' Hitchcock film that figure in the play have apparently been re-done (using 'state-of-the-art videography') by William Dudley who also did the video for the original British production. Performances will begin on February 3, with official opening on February 10, and closing March 12. For more information, click here: http://www.scr.org/season/05-06season/blonde.html
• Update. A review of the new production of 'Hitchcock Blonde' appeared in the February 14th issue of the 'Los Angeles Times'. Headed "Hitch just a subplot in overstuffed 'Blonde'", the review, by Sean Mitchell, starts by calling the play 'A brainy bit of titillation, salted with some deep thoughts on Hollywood's dark powers and the unseemly genius of the famously morbid British director'. However, though Mitchell praises some of the performances, notably Dakin Matthews's as Hitchcock, he finds that '[playwright Terry] Johnson hasn't located a narrative structure that adequately serves his gifts' ...
Hitchcock was still a teenager when he wrote several short stories for the staff magazine of the Henley Telegraph and Cable Company where he was employed. The best-known of these stories, "Gas", showing the possible influence of Edgar Allan Poe or Wilkie Collins, appeared in the June 1919 issue. Now there's a 12-minute film of the story. It was shot in London on 35mm and was directed by Sylvie Bolioli for Polaris Productions.
• Update. The film had its world premiere in Edinburgh in January. More recently, it was marketed at the Cannes Film Festival. An unorthodox cast includes Johanna Mohs as the story's terrified woman, Tony Hadley as the dentist, and veteran actress Valerie Leon (several Carry On films, the original The Italian Job, etc.). Leon plays two roles in Gas - a prostitute in the anaesthesia-induced nightmare and, back in the real world, the dentist's classy receptionist.
For more information, click here: http://www.gasthemovie.com/index.html
Finely scented: Laurent Fiévet's latest Hitchcock video installation opening in Paris
The third of artist Laurent Fiévet's presentations inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's work, 'Essences de l'image: portraits olfactifs' ('Essences of the image: olfactive portraits'), is a follow-up to presentations held in Finland during 2003-04. The artist - who has a PhD in film studies - seeks to create a relation between selected shots from Hitchcock's films and some famous paintings which could have inspired them. Fiévet's latest presentation will run from February 14th to March 14th at the Galerie La Ferronnerie. For more information, click here: http://www.associationdesgaleries.org/laferronnerie/
Laurent Fiévet: 'Portrait ...', after North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock) and 'Shipwreck' (William Turner)
Cinematographer Leonard J. South dies at 92
The camera operator on nearly a dozen Alfred Hitchcock classics, including North by Northwest (1959) and The Birds (1963), and the director of photography on Hitchcock's last film Family Plot (1976), has died in California (6 January, 2006).
South began his three-decade association with Hitchcock as cinematographer Robert Burks's camera assistant on the 1951 film Strangers on a Train. He was soon elevated to camera operator, becoming part of what Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto called 'the ongoing Hitchcock crew who came to know exactly what the director wanted and how to give it to him.'
In a 1979 interview for the 'Daily Pilot' newspaper, South recalled that one morning on the Family Plot set, actor Bruce Dern, 'a very outgoing, nervy guy,' walked up to Hitchcock and said, 'I understand you call all actors cattle. Does that mean me, Hitch?'
'I'd say, Bruce, you are the golden calf,' Hitchcock deadpanned.
That, South recalled, 'came right out of nowhere. Bruce laughed for half an hour.'
South, a former member of the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, also was a longtime board member of the American Society of Cinematographers, for which he served as president in 1989-90.
(Adapted from an article in the 'Los Angeles Times'. Our thanks to RC for supplying it.)
Universal's 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', Season One, discs have flaws ...
Correspondence on our 'Hitchcock Enthusiasts' Group indicates several production flaws in the dual-sided 3-disc DVD set containing the 39 episodes of the First Season (1955-56) of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' which was released last month in the USA (Region 1). Problems include discs sticking or not playing some sections, and images breaking up. One correspondent, after talking to a DVD collector friend, reports similar problems occuring on other dual-sided disc sets of Universal's television shows.
Our advice? Heed what lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) says in The Birds: 'caveat emptor', 'let the buyer beware'.
Mike Leigh slights Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972)
At a recent London Film Festival event whose theme was the best and worst of films about London, panellist Mike Leigh (Naked, Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake) suddenly exploded when questioned about Hitchcock's 33-year-old Frenzy, set in and around Covent Garden. According to Leigh: 'Frenzy is a horrible film. It's sloppy. It's superficial. It says nothing about London life, and it shouldn't be in the Time Out list [of best London films]. I'd be very happy if none of my films ever stoops to the level of Frenzy.'
Hmm. Come back in another 33 years, Mike, and let's see how your own films have fared against Hitchcock's in the estimation of audiences. (Meanwhile, to read more about Mike Leigh's outburst - by the person who asked the question about Frenzy - click here: http://globalnix.blogspot.com. We thank Nick Poteri for contacting us and for permission to cite his excellent blog.)
More DVD news: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', Season One, coming (Region 1)
On October 4, 2005, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will release on DVD the entire first season of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' (39 episodes, 4 of them directed by Hitchcock himself) plus 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Look Back', a featurette on the show. For more information, click here: http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/newsitem.cfm?NewsID=3735
Finally, Hitchcock's Lifeboat on DVD
On October 18, 2005, Fox Home Entertainment will release a 'Special Edition' of Lifeboat (1944). The disc will include a 'making of' featurette, the theatrical trailer, and a commentary track by Professor Drew Casper of USC.
• Update, February 2006. The above release-date was for Region 1. We're told that the DVD is now available in Region 2 with extra material, including a two-part interview with Hitchcock by Fletcher Markle of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The Region 2 release is on two discs.
The shower scene from Psycho: new book
Is this a first? In October, 2005, Edward Mellen Press will publish a book-length study of a single scene from a movie - admittedly, both the movie and the scene are particularly famous. 'The Shower Scene in Hitchcock's Psycho: Creating Cinematic Suspense and Terror' is authored by Dr Phil Skerry. As well as detailed analysis, Dr Skerry includes lengthy interviews with star Janet Leigh, scriptwriter Joseph Stefano, assistant director Hilton Green, sound designer Danny Greene, assistant editor Terry Williams, and with the editor of the Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho, Amy Duddleston. The book culminates with first-person accounts of the initial viewing of Psycho and its shower scene - including reminiscences by several readers of this website. For more information, click here: http://www.mellenpress.com/
• Robert Meyers worked for famous designer and storyboard artist Saul Bass in the 1980s. He currently owns Bass's sketches - or virtual storyboard - for the Psycho shower scene. Professor Meyers, formerly of Rochester Institute of Technology, will soon be opening a communication design firm in Pittsburgh. He tells us he would be interested to receive offers for the Bass sketches. He may be contacted here: <email@example.com>.
Death of Barbara Bel Geddes
She was superb as the Scottie-fixated Midge in Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). Stage and film actress Barbara Bel Geddes has died, aged 82 (8 August, 2005). Besides her work for Hitchcock - which included four episodes of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' - film buffs particularly remember her for George Stevens's I Remember Mama (1946), Max Ophüls's Caught (1948), and Henry Hathaway's Fourteen Hours (1951).
UK stage production of The 39 Steps
Our London correspondent, Michael Walker, reports: 'In last Saturday's "Guardian" (25 June, 2005) there was a review of a theatrical production of The 39 Steps at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. The review by Michael Billington wasn't that enthusiastic, but what was apparent was that, once again, the adaptor (Patrick Barlow from a concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon) had followed the Hitchcock movie, not the novel: Forth Bridge, handcuffs, peeling off stockings and all. The play is directed by Fiona Buffini; Robert Whitelock and Lisa Jackson (a blonde) are the two stars. It runs until 16 July. I feel encouraged that Hitch has more purchase on the popular culture in general than Buchan.'
Universal/Paramount (etc.) Hitchcocks in DVD set (Region 1)
Essentially this is a re-issue, though the 14 films are said to be 'digitally remastered'. (And note the bonus disc.) Release-date is announced as 4 October, 2005. The set is available on pre-order at a discount. For example (and to see details), click here: http://homevideo.universalstudios.com/details.php?childId=35678
French and German DVDs of early Hitchcock
Courtesy of Dave Pattern's Hitchcock DVD website comes this information on exciting new and forthcoming releases ...
First, there's a French DVD collection of early Hitchcock films, including the previously-unreleased-on-DVD Champagne (A l'Américaine). Altogether there are 10 titles and a couple of documentaries. These are split across 3 volumes:
Volume 1 (Les Premières Oeuvres 1927/1929)
The Ring/Le Masque de Cuir (1927)
Champagne/A l'Américaine (1928)
The Farmer's Wife/Laquelle des Trois (1928)
The Manxman (1929)
Volume 2 (Les Premières Oeuvres 1929/1931)
The Skin Game (1931)
52 minute documentary about Hitch's early films
Volume 3 (Les Premières Oeuvres 1932/1940)
Rich and Strange/A l'Est de Shanghaï (1932)
Number Seventeen/Numéro 17 (1932)
Foreign Correspondent/Correspondant 17 (1940)
26 minute documentary about Foreign Correspondent
Dave Pattern writes: 'StudioCanal [the company releasing these discs] was involved in the excellent German Blackmail DVD. ... The new transfers are excellent - especially the 1920s films. Champagne looks fantastic and it's hard to believe from the transfer that the film is nearly 80 years old! My only negative comments are that the DVDs have forced French subtitles when you select the English language audio. Some DVD players
may be able to override this, but neither of my standalone players were able to do so. Also, the two documentaries have French only audio with no subtitles.'
Then there's a French DVD collection coming soon from TF1 Vidéo which looks like it will contain the same excellent transfers used in the German 'Early Years' boxset (released by Concorde):
'Hitchcock - Le Maître du Suspens'
Finally, German company Kinowelt/ArtHaus are planning a couple of DVD releases:
1) a DVD of Mary (the German version of Murder!) and possibly Murder! itself on the same disc
2) a DVD of both Rich and Strange and Champagne
There's no release-date as yet for the Mary DVD, but the other DVD is scheduled for 19 August 2005.
Other Hitchcock remakes?
We have no comment on any of this. In a recent on-set interview for the thriller The Skeleton Key, Kate Hudson (daughter of Goldie Hawn) confirmed that 'My production company is trying to develop a remake of Hitchcock's Vertigo'. Also, we hear that, yet again, Warners have said that they're re-making Strangers on a Train. And Universal have announced plans to re-make The Birds.
[Thanks to AN, and others, for this information.]
Magazine-issue and book on Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry (1955) both coming
Vermont writer, artist, and film critic Stephen R. Bissette has begun a new magazine, 'Green Mountain Cinema', dedicated to New England movies and video, whose Spring 2005 issue will feature Hitchcock's VistaVision comedy The Trouble With Harry. The first issue of the magazine has recently appeared. For more information about it, click here: http://www.blackcoatpress.com/greenmountaincinema1.htm
Stephen is also working on an entire 'making of' type of book about Hitchcock's wonderful film. He is visiting locations in Vermont, such as Craftsbury Common, where parts of the film were shot, and interviewing local residents. He would be very thankful to receive any production stills or photocopies of newspaper clippings (especially those of the period). Stephen may be contacted at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
[Our thanks to Tony
Williams and Nandor Bokor for information in this item.]
Hitchcock biography by McGilligan criticised
Reviews of Patrick McGilligan's 'Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light' (2003) have now appeared in 'Cineaste', the 'Hitchcock Annual', 'Film Quarterly' - and (at great length) on this website. All have been luke-warm.
For example, Prof. Marshall Deutelbaum concludes his review in 'Film Quarterly' (Vol. 58, Issue 1) like this: 'By choosing to write a biography without attempting to discern any trace of his subject's life in his films, McGilligan has limited Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light to the facts of a life's work without insight into the life itself.' (p. 58).. .
'Miss Torso' dead at 68
Georgine Darcy was just 17 when Alfred Hitchcock chose her to play the dancer 'Miss Torso' who is seen living opposite Jeff's apartment, and entertaining a string of suitors in the evenings, in Rear Window (1954). 'I had absolutely no idea who Alfred Hitchcock was,' she said. 'I considered myself a dancer and photographer's model and not an actress. I think he was impressed with my portfolio as I paid the extra, and had photos taken of me in colour.' On meeting her, Hitchcock suggested she find an agent, but she ignored the advice - to her cost. She was paid $350.
Georgine Darcy died in Malibu, California, recently.
What is of interest to Hitchcockians is that Hitchcock kept in touch with her after Rear Window. He told her: 'If you go to Europe and study with [actor and acting coach] Michael Chekhov, I could make a big star out of you.' But she again ignored his advice, and settled into an undistinguished career. Her most noticeable roles came as Gypsy, the secretary to Pat O'Brien on 'Harrigan and Son' on television in the early 1960s, and in such unmemorable films as Don't Knock the Twist (1962), Women and Bloody Terror (1969), and The Delta Factor (1970).
Georgine Darcy is survived by her second husband, the actor Byron Palmer, to whom she was married for 30 years. .
Another To Catch a Thief coming
There's no word yet on who will direct or star in Paramount's remake of the Hitchcock comedy-adventure To Catch a Thief (1955), now set in Miami. 'Entertainment Weekly' (25 June, 2004) quotes screenwriter Todd Komarnicki: To Catch a Thief is one of Hitchcock's fluffier offerings. 'It was a delicacy on the Hitchcock menu, not one of his full-meal movies.' A faster pace is promised this time: 'Thievery [must now compete] with alarm systems and bodyguards and everything protected. We're going to see some really badass thieving this time around.'
Latest DVD news: Hitchcock releases from Warners and from MGM
Warners has announced a Region 1 release date - September 7 - for nine Hitchcock titles on DVD, each with its own 'making of' documentary and other extras. As previously announced here, the titles include: Foreign Correspondent (1940), Suspicion (1941), Mr and Mrs Smith (1941), Stage Fright (1950), Strangers on a Train (1951), I Confess (1953), Dial M For Murder (1954), and The Wrong Man (1957). In the case of Strangers on a Train, it will be released on two discs comprising a new Special Edition. The ninth title will be the previously released North by Northwest (1959): Special Edition. The discs will sell as a set for $99.92 (SRP). The Strangers on a Train: Special Edition two-disc set will be available separately for $26.99. The other discs will each be available separately for $19.97.
We can reveal that among the people participating in the 'making of' documentaries are members of the Hitchcock family, filmmakers Peter Bogdanovich and Richard Franklin, critic Bill Krohn, and various others.
We also hear of titles coming in November as part of MGM's Alfred Hitchcock promotion. These will include: The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Young and Innocent (1937), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Rebecca (1940), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), and The Paradine Case (1947). They'll be available in a box set and separately.
[Thanks to Kristopher Valentine and Richard Carnahan for forwarding information contained in this item, and to the Digital Bits website.].
More on Rodenbach's novella "Bruges-la-Morte" (1892) and the line to Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)
We'll put a special page concerning the above topic on this website soon, but meanwhile readers are reminded to visit our 'Selections' page to read the article called "The original of Vertigo". The editor of 'The MacGuffin', Ken Mogg, says: 'It's clear to me that two Belgian (or Belgian/French) literary works, Georges Rodenbach's novella "Bruges-la-Morte" (1892) and Georges Simenon's novel "Lettre à mon juge" (1947) were both influences, probably directly, on the novel by French writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, "D'Entre les morts" (1954), that became Alfred Hitchcock's film masterpiece Vertigo (1958). However, Boileau and Narcejac's novel was also almost certainly influenced by two French films. Henri Verneuill's Le Fruit Défendu/ Forbidden Fruit (1952) was an adaptation of "Lettre à mon juge", and it starred Fernandel as the married doctor who takes a mistress Martine (Françoise Arnouil) who from the moment he sees her exerts a strange fascination over him, and whom he eventually strangles. Also, Robert Siodmak's Le Grand Jeu/ Card of Fate/ Flesh and the Woman (1953) is a classic Foreign Legion story (originally filmed in 1934 by Jacques Feyder) starring Gina Lollobrigida as both a Parisian redhead and her brunette "double" who turns up in Algiers and haunts the hero. I think it was Peter Cowie who first pointed to this latter film as a possible predecessor of Vertigo.
'Then there are all the literary and cinematic (and even operatic) descendants of Rodenbach's original novella that may have exerted a degree of influence on Vertigo. Here I'm thinking of the silent films The Unfinished Portrait (1910), attributed to Léonce Perret, and Daydreams (1915), directed by Yevgeni Bauer (both of these works were direct adaptations of "Bruges-la-Mortes"); the novellas "Gradiva" (1903), by Wilhelm Jensen, and "Der Tod in Venedig"/ "Death in Venice" (1913), by Thomas Mann; and the opera "Die tote Stadt"/ "The Dead City" (1920), by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (again this was taken directly from "Bruges-la-Morte" or perhaps from its stage version, "Le Mirage", first performed in 1901).
'Finally, I wouldn't be surprised if Rodenbach influenced Belgian artists, most notably, perhaps, the Surrealist Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), who produced a series of paintings depicting nude and semi-nude women in dreamlike settings, often cityscapes at night. (Other influences on Delvaux were his fellow Belgian Magritte and the Italian Chirico.) I'm sure that Hitchcock knew his work. For example, I detect his influence on the death scene of the Karen Dor character in Topaz (1969).'
For an earlier version of this News story, see below. And for more information about the novellas 'Gradiva' and 'Der Tod in Venedig', see the article "The Fragments of the Mirror: Vertigo and its Sources" [parts (b) and (c)] elsewhere on this website..
From Rodenbach's novella "Bruges-la-Morte" (1892) to Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) - firming the line
Dominique Païni's essay "Léonce Perret, le dernier symboliste", included in the anthology 'Léonce Perret' (2003), which was published in conjunction with the 2002 Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, Italy, refers to the short film Het Onvoltooide Portret/The Unfinished Portrait (1910), apparently directed by the Frenchman Léonce Perret (1880-1935). In a French setting, the film reworks the story originally told by the Belgian Symbolist author Georges Rodenbach (1855-98) about a man whose first wife dies but who 're-appears' in the form of a double, and whom the man then obsessively woos, leading (in the novella) to a bizarre murder. Rodenbach's story is set in the Belgian city of Bruges, 'a city of silence, ennui and ... desolation', and the story's original publication was accompanied by 35 half-tone reproductions of photographs of the city. A stage version of the story, 'Le Mirage', was first produced in 1901.
In 'The MacGuffin' #29 (January 2004), Michael Walker described The Unfinished Portrait at some length, and its obvious influence, direct or indirect, on the novel 'D'Entre les Morts' (1954), by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, that eventually became Hitchcock's masterpiece, Vertigo. Walker noted, though, that neither Rodenbach's novella nor Boileau and Narcejac's novel alludes to a portrait of the dead woman.
Now, after reading Walker's account, Prof. Tony Williams (whom we thank) has emailed us as follows:
'I recently viewed a film which is another "unlikely candidate" in anticipating Vertigo. This is Daydreams (1915), directed by the Russian filmmaker Yevgeni Bauer (1865-1917), and also based on "Bruges-la-Morte". However, unlike The Unfinished Portrait, Daydreams is complete. Bauer is one of those recently rediscovered pre-Revolutionary directors put into the shade post-1917. His work belongs to those excavated silent films often shown at the Podernone Festival and others. I'll give a brief synopsis.
'It opens with the main character distraught over the body of his recently deceased wife (significantly covered with flowers). As a last memory, he cuts off a plaid of her hair (fetish associations!) and continues to mourn his dearly departed to the concern of his maid (cf. Midge in Vertigo). One day, he passes a look-alike in the street and follows her to a theatre where he discovers her playing a revived corpse in a performance of Meyerbeer's "Robert le Diable". Already psychologically disturbed, he reacts like a male hysteric. Parallels with Hitchcock's Scottie are not hard to see, as well as with Bernard Herrmann's operatic score.
'He brings her back home and asks an artist friend to paint her portrait with her wearing the clothes of the dead wife. Since "Tina" is a vulgar Judy-type, the artist warns his friend against this "magnificent obsession", but to no avail. I believe the dead woman's jewelry also figures in the narrative. Tina attempts to seduce his friend. The maid gives her notice since she cannot put up with her master's obsession any longer.
'The film also involves a ghostly appearance of the deceased wife similar to that described in The Unfinished Portrait, and further contains a flashback to the courtship and eventual death. Finally, Tina goes too far in provoking the man by playing with the braid before him. The man strangles her with the braid, and the film ends with the maid returning to witness this tragic climax.
'Naturally, like The Unfinished Portrait, this is not an exact anticipation of Vertigo. But it contains elements which will later appear in "D'Entre des Morts" and Hitchcock's film.'
We'll print more about this matter here shortly..
Ronald Neame talks about Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929)
At the Hollywood Heritage Museum in Los Angeles recently, a screening of the sound version of Blackmail was attended by both Patricia Hitchcock and the British director Ronald Neame. Neame, who is now in his 90s (biography), worked as an assistant camera operator on Hitchcock's film. The following report is from Mark Norberg (whom we thank).
Neame said he was amazed at the memories of the shoot that came to him while watching the picture. He remembered standing behind a curtain (where Anny Ondra kills the artist) with a couple of other stage hands and hitting the curtain to represent the struggling pair. Something else he mentioned was the fact that Hitch assigned him to shoot 16mm footage of the filming. [Editor's note. About a minute of such footage was included on the Criterion laser disc of Blackmail, released in 1992. The footage is silent and has the title "The kiss". Shot on the set of the artist's studio, it shows Hitch having fun demonstrating to Cyril Ritchard how he wants him to kiss Ms Ondra! The latter is co-operative but laughing!]
He also was able to recall the occasion when the then Duke and Duchess of York (later the King and Queen Mother) visited the set of the 'first British sound picture'. He recounted how the Duchess stepped into the sound booth with Hitch where she took off her hat so that she could put on a headset and listen to the sound being recorded. Neame recalled immense problems with the recording of the dialogue, the cameras having to be contained in large soundproof booths - and these having to be moved in their entirety for a tracking shot or a pan of more than a few degrees.
He stated that he hadn't seen the sound version of Blackmail for some time but that he had seen the original silent version about four years ago and that he felt the silent version was much superior. And he noted that although Blackmail was [officially] the first British talkie, since most British theaters were not equipped for sound most people saw only the silent version anyway when it was first released.
When asked about working on the set with Hitch, Neame mentioned the usual things you hear: 'he was always calm and in control', 'always wore a jacket and tie', etc. Then Neame turned to Pat Hitchcock and said with a devilish grin, 'but most I remember Hitch's sense of humour which tended to be rather sadistic'. In the tobacco shop scene there is a gas flame on the counter from which the villain lights his cigar. One day Neame came on the set to see Hitchcock heating a half crown over the open flame with a pair of pliers. He couldn't imagine what Hitch was doing. After the coin was quite hot Hitch threw it to the ground and called over the prop man who seems to have been his favorite victim. Hitch pointed across the floor to the coin and said something like 'Hey there! What's that half crown doing just lying on the floor?' Of course, when the man went to pick it up, he discovered exactly what it was doing there! Later, Hitchcock induced the same man to put on a pair of handcuffs, which were in abundance during the shoot. Hitch then told the man that if he would keep them on until the next day, while locked in the studio, Hitch would reward his efforts with a gift. The prop man readily accepted the bet, not knowing that the director had put a generous amount of laxative in the poor fellow's tea! Neame was later told by the man that, with the industrious help of his wife, he had made it through the night and onto the set the next day with the handcuffs intact. (Neame was unable to recall exactly what Hitchcock gave the man for his troubles but said Hitch did pay off his bet.)
An especially touching story concerned Neame's recounting how kind Hitchcock always was to him and how, during the time they were working together, Hitch always referred to him as 'one of his boys'. Decades later, Neame met up again with Hitch, now in a wheelchair, and very nervously asked if Hitch remembered him. Hitch was quick to reply, 'Why of course! You're one of my boys!.... And my goodness - you've grown sideburns!'.
Report on recent Kim Novak forum
Author Stephen Rebello, who on January 17 chaired the above sell-out event in Los Angeles for the American Cinematheque, tells us: 'For the moderator, these things are tricky. The conversation needed to be about a six-film retrospective and [Ms Novak's] overall career. For Hitchcockians, of course, that means not enough telling detail about Vertigo, for "fans," not enough gossip about Harry Cohn, Rita Hayworth, feuds with leading men, etc. I think we struck a balance, though.'
The following report is by Bill Krohn ('Hitchcock at Work'), who adds some material and asks a question:
'After a screening of Vertigo, and with Stephen Rebello handling the mike, [Kim] recounted that Harry Cohn, her boss, told her it was a lousy script, but to do it because it was Hitchcock. She read it and thought it was a wonderful script. She said that she knew instinctively how to play the role because she had been in the hands of men telling her what to do, how to dress, how to walk, ever since she got to Hollywood - notably Harry Cohn. She said she hated Madeleine's grey dress and the black shoes that went with it. All she had to do was put them on to feel imprisoned - which again worked for the performance.
'The rest of the evening was about the rest of Kim's career. Nothing but nice things to say about Hitchcock. Stephen asked her afterward for me if she looped the Nun's line "I heard voices" [at the end of Vertigo], and she said she didn't, but it would have been a wonderful way to convey Madeleine's feelings of guilt. She did actually - it was almost 50 years ago, so she's forgotten. And her reading of that "Hitchcock touch" is exactly right. "I heard voices" is looped over Madeleine and Scottie embracing - a disembodied voice that could very well be Madeleine's conscience (the maternal superego, Slavoj Zizek would say), which then rises up in the darkness of the next shot. Go, Hitch!
'Noted in passing while watching the film for the umpteenth time: Midge's last name is Wood (= Midge would, if Scottie could), and for some reason she is polishing a spectator pump (medium-heeled woman's shoe) when Scottie comes to her apartment to ask for an expert on San Francisco history. (Explanations, MacGuffinists?) Another small detail: I'm pretty sure the Madeleine stand-in wearing the grey suit walks through the first dolly-in on Madeleine in the black dress at Ernie's. She would have been on the set anyway, ready to shoot her walk-on as Madeleine later in the film, and Hitchcock probably just sent her through the first shot for the hell of it.
'Finally, a question: If Scottie's real friends - like Midge - call him Johnny, why does Madeleine, in both incarnations, call him Scottie?'
[Our thanks to both Stephen Rebello and Bill Krohn for the above. Stephen further tells us: 'Also in attendance at the showing of the 70 mm restored print of Vertigo were Tippi Hedren and Diane Baker, sitting together. Patricia Hitchcock and two of her daughters also attended the benefit party which followed the screening, as did Hedren and Baker. The mayor of Hollywood officially declared it Kim Novak Day.' ]
We've announced a few coming remakes of Hitchcock films here, only to end up with egg on our face. It seems that the strike-average for such remakes actually getting made is about one project in two. But this one sounds promising ...
Noted screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown, Mission Impossible 3) has struck a deal to write, and direct, a remake of Hitchcock's classic comedy-thriller The 39 Steps (1935). The American president and CEO of Carlton International Media, Stephen Davis, whose company owns the rights to all of the film versions of The 39 Steps that have been made (three so far, including Hitchcock's original, from John Buchan's novel) said: 'There is only a handful of individuals in our business with the talent, experience, and insight to whom we would entrust [such a project], and Robert Towne is one of them.'.
How many actors appeared in both versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much?
The answer to that question, according to Charles Barr's 'English Hitchcock' (1999), p. 234, is 'one'. Frank Atkinson played the policeman shot dead on the mattress during the gun battle with Peter Lorre's anarchists in the 1934 version and was one of the employees in Ambrose Chappell's London taxidermist's visited by James Stewart in the 1956 version.
But a recent newspaper obituary for Betty Baskcomb (d. 15 April 2003) claimed that she, too, appeared in both versions of TMWKTM. Our man in London, Michael Walker, decided to check. He soon found that in the 1956 film Baskcomb plays Edna, the bespectacled woman at London Airport who telephones the villains. But where is she in the 1934 version? Our man had a flash of inspiration: 'I thought the most sensible character to check out would be the young woman who is displaced from her bed during the gun battle. We only see her face briefly as she turns, but I think it's enough. She does the same strange mouth movement as Edna in TMWKTM (2); she has the same long nose. To check further, I tracked Baskcomb down in Robert Hamer's It Always Rains on Sunday (1947): she's the incumbent barmaid (Edie, I think), in effect Googie Withers's successor. She has a little scene with a reporter around 71 minutes in; and there we can see what she looked like. Allowing for the age differences, I'm now pretty confident that I've found her in the 1934 movie.' (Good work, Michael!).
DVD news: German 6-disc release reportedly superb
We hear that 7 Hitchcock features have been released as a set entitled 'Hitchcock: The Early Years'. The 6 discs comprise The Lodger (1926), Downhill (1927), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Sabotage (1936), Secret Agent (1936), Young And Innocent (1937), and The Lady Vanishes (1938).
A Yahoo 'MacGuffin' Group correspondent, JG, writes: 'DVD aficionados [report that] this set is far better than all else out there ... including the Criterion. The soundtracks are in English. I have the set and it is superb and all the fanfare is accurate. I have the Laserlight sets of the early Hitchcocks ... and these transfers are far, far better. Enormously so.'
Here's a link to the German Amazon site: Amazon.de: Verwandte Artikel entdecken
• And for soundtrack enthusiasts, the City of Prague Philharmonic, conductor Paul Bateman, have recorded 'The Essential Alfred Hitchcock': new digital recordings including The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Rebecca, Spellbound, Lifeboat, Under Capricorn, Stage Fright, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, Marnie, Topaz, and Frenzy.
Here's a link to Silva Screen Records, UK: PSYCHO: The Essential Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock didn't care for Christie's novels as film fare, finding them too dry and cerebral, but of course they do have suspense after their own fashion. And TV adapatations, in particular, of the Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot stories have shown just how engagingly filmic those stories can be. Our favourite series remains the Miss Marple series with Joan Hickson. But both Peter Ustinov and David Suchet have been fine Poirots. So we print here an item from the latest 'Scarlet Street' (#49) headed "Boob Tube Tidings". Some brief comment then follows.
'Fans of David Suchet's letter-perfect performances as Agatha Christie's Poirot will be delighted to hear that he'll return as the natty Belgian sleuth in four new productions to be telecast on the Arts & Entertainment Channel starting this fall. Shooting has completed on Five Little Pigs- based on Christie's 1942 novel [known as 'Murder in Retrospect' in the US] - and three other adaptations will roll between now and early 2004: Death on the Nile, The Hollow, and Sad Cypress. Four additional Poirot productions are tentatively set for filming next year. It seems Mr Suchet is as anxious as any fan for the entire canon to be filmed, and is confident that he'll appear in them all.'
Comment. All four titles mentioned above are outstanding Christies. And Sad Cypress may have an additional interest for Hitchcock fans because, to quote Robert Barnard's 'A Talent to Deceive' (1980), the novel represents 'the only time Christie uses the lovely-woman-in-the-dock-accused-of-murder ploy' - à la Robert Hichens's 'The Paradine Case' (1933) and Hitchcock's 1947 film adaptation, starring Alida Valli as Mrs Paradine.Those Hitchcock mosaics at Leytonstone [update]
We once printed an item here from the 'London Morning Metro' for 15 September, 2000: '[Alfred] Hitchcock is to be acknowledged ... in the East End. Hitchcock's work, depicted in a series of metre-high mosaic panels, will be featured in the main corridor at Leytonstone Tube station, half a mile from the old Hitchcock family home.' As soon as the 17 (Number Seventeen, get it?!) mosaics were unveiled, Londoner Mark Eyers visited them with his camera, and sent us 4 of the resulting photos, which we offered our readers. But now (November 2003) all of the mosaics may be viewed on the Web. Here's a link: Alfred Hitchcock mosaics, Leytonstone Enjoy!.
Bad news about Criterion Hitchcocks ...
The quality Criterion DVDs of Rebecca, Spellbound, and Notorious are to be allowed to go out of print - at least for the time being - from the end of 2003 (Region 1). All three of these DVDs carry valuable extras, including commentary. Marian Keane (Harvard University) gives the commentary on Spellbound and Notorious, film historians Leonard Leff and Rudy Behlmer the commentaries for Rebecca. A case of shop early this year for Christmas?
Onstage, a gay take on Hitchcock ...
Performance-artist John Epperson has just finished a two-month engagement in New York in the show 'As I Lay Lip-Synching'. The character he plays, 'Lypsinka', dressed to the nines and wearing a flamboyant orange wig and heavy make-up, presents what is essentially a nightclub act with songs and patter derived from live and studio recordings of mainly obscure female singers of the fifties and sixties. But these musical sections of the act are repeatedly interrupted with extensive audio excerpts from films. At one point, the character begins to undergo some kind of crisis within a dream state. Here, extensive dialogue excerpts from Hitchcock's Marnie are used, including the scene in the kitchen between Marnie and her mother, the 'You Freud/Me Jane?' scene between Marnie and Mark Rutland, and the scene in which Mark drives Marnie back to 'Whykwyn'. However, all of the dialogue of Mrs Edgar and of Mark has been edited out so that it becomes a form of monologue. In addition, the Marnie dialogue is interspersed with dialogue from other films - including Elizabeth Taylor carrying on about lobotomies in Suddenly, Last Summer and Sandra Dee screaming 'I'm a good girl!' in A Summer Place! - all of this forming a brilliant audio and performance montage.
According to our informant, Assistant Professor Joe McElhaney (whose forthcoming book on Hitchcock contains a chapter on Marnie), previous stage acts of Epperson's also drew on Hitchcock's film, using such memorable lines of Mrs Edgar (Louise Latham) as 'We don't talk smart about the Bible in this house, missy' and 'We don't need no filthy man comin' 'round here no more, do you understand?' In that same act, Epperson repeatedly used Bernard Herrmann's 'neurosis' theme from the film to signify the moments when Lypsinka was lapsing into insanity. The latest act uses the Psycho shrieking violins as transitions.
Comments McElhaney: 'I found all of this at least as interesting and innovative a "queer" take on Hitchcock as any academic essay by someone like Lee Edelman!' (Note. There's a 'Lypsinka' website: lypsinka.com. An earlier version of the audio montage described above can be heard there.).
Staying on the line: Larry Cohen's latest again inspired by Hitchcock
Phone Booth, the project that writer-director Larry Cohen (It's Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff) had hoped to sell to Hitchcock, and which Fox 2000 eventually bought for Joel Schumacher, was clearly considered enough of a hit earlier this year to warrant a new Cohen project. David R. Ellis (Final Destination 2) will direct Cellular from a Cohen script, and it, too, has a 'minimalist', telephone theme. Starring Kim Basinger, it follows the fortunes of a woman kidnapped and thrown into a car trunk with only her cell phone as a lifeline to the outside world. She makes desperate calls, trying to find a rescuer and to prevent her husband and child from being kidnapped too - before her cell phone battery goes dead. According to Cohen, one film in particular inspired both Phone Booth and Cellular: Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954). 'It's one of my favourite thrillers', Cohen has said.
Newly-restored film version of Hall Caine novel
The just-ended Bologna Film Festival included Swedish director Victor Sjöstrom's hitherto 'missing' first Hollywood movie, Name the Man (1923), taken from a novel by Hall Caine, very similar both in story and theme to The Manxman (Hitchcock, 1928). 'But', writes Michael Walker (whom we thank), 'it lacked the original ending. Both prints that survived were Russian, and Russians preferred unhappy endings, so the film ends abruptly at the point when everything is going badly wrong! Even so, you can see that it was a fine movie, if not quite of the class of The Wind (1928) and The Scarlet Letter (1926).' Bologna 'also showed two other rare Sjöstroms: his first movie, The Head Gardener (1912) - by the way, right from the beginning of his career, he cast himself as the villain! - and another "missing" one, Dodskyssen/Kiss of Death (1917), a whodunnit which was most interesting as a technical exercise, since Sjöstrom plays men who are doubles (and in one shot, we see both the doubles and their mirror images, i.e. four Sjöstroms on screen at once!).'
Death of Winston Graham, author of 'Marnie', at 93
The author of the
'Poldark' novels, set in 18th-century Cornwall, has died
in a nursing home in Sussex, England. The novels
formed the basis of a popular BBC-TV miniseries in the
1970s. The best, and best-known, film adaptation,
though, of a Winston Graham novel was undoubtedly Alfred
Hitchcock's psychological suspense drama Marnie
(1964), starring Tippi Hedren and scripted by Jay
Presson Allen. But Graham himself wrote several
screenplays, of varying quality. His adaptation of
his mystery novel set in post-Occupation France, 'Night
Without Stars', as filmed by Anthony Pellisier in 1951,
was frankly insipid, though David Farrar and Nadia Gray
gave adequate performances. On the other hand,
when Ronald Neame made Take My Life in 1947,
from an original screen treatment co-written by Graham,
the result was splendid, an interesting companion-piece
to Hitchcock's more ambitious and complex The Paradine Case
filmed the same year in similar settings (the Old
Bailey, etc.). Neame's cinematic (read: visually
energetic) rendering showed the influence of his
Cineguild partner, David Lean. Presumably it was
the Cineguild input that made the screenplay work so
well. However, it should not be forgotten that
Graham's 'Marnie' received this enthusiastic accolade
from one New York critic: 'the best book about a woman
written by a man' (quoted in Tony Lee Moral, 'Hitchcock
and the Making of Marnie' , p. 6).
When an art exhibition including Douglas Gordon's '24 Hour Psycho' and supposedly paying tribute to The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, ran in London during Hitchcock's Centennial year, 1999, our favourite review was that published in 'Time Out' which panned the exhibition mercilessly. So we publish the following item without further comment.
In Glascow recently, a diligent repairman noticed a 'faulty' light bulb in a neon hotel sign and took it upon himself to replace it - but wasn't thanked for his trouble. The flickering light turned out to be the central part of a £200,000 artwork by Turner Prize-winning Douglas Gordon. His 'EMPIRE' sign, which was deliberately wired so the letter 'P' blinked to match that of the run-down Empire Hotel in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), has stood in Glascow for five years. Informed of what had happened, Glascow resident Jim Livingstone, 48, said: 'I thought everybody in the city knew the sign was an artwork and was supposed to flicker.'.
Another Hitchcock-related stage play
In recent years, London has seen stage versions of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, Vertigo, and Marnie (though the latter production returned to Winston Graham's novel for additional characters and dialogue). And in California, as reported in 'The MacGuffin' #28, they have had a stage version of 'Rope' (as distinct from Patrick Hamilton's original play).
Now London has 'Hitchcock Blonde' by Terry Johnson. It has just transferred from the Royal Court to the Lyric in the West End (and may open in New York in 2004). Here's a description: 'A media lecturer and his female protégé find some deteriorated Hitchcock footage. Have they discovered some early rushes? What film were they for, and who is the mysterious blonde? "Hitchcock Blonde" is not a play about Alfred Hitchcock. He may, however, make a cameo appearance.' (Impressive!)News briefs
• More Hitchcock DVD news. From late April, R2 DVD owners have another chance to buy the Universal Hitchcocks - but, according to our sources, with the addition of Foreign Correspondent, Mr and Mrs Smith, and Suspicion to the collection. N.B.: Suspicion is packaged with its 'colourised' version as an 'extra'. (See also separate item on Topaz, etc., lower down this page.) Next, according to 'Scarlet Street' forums, Image Entertainment has announced the release of Under Capricorn on DVD (we hear it is very good - there are no 'extras', however). And the <alt.movies.silent> newsgroup reports that Kinowelt in Europe is working on a DVD of Murder!/Mary similar to their double feature of the silent/sound Blackmail. Lastly, we hear that Warners will be bringing out Dial M for Murder, Stage Fright, The Wrong Man, and (presumably) I Confess in 2004. (Thanks to Scott Parker for this, who heard it announced on 'Home Theater Forum'.)
• For Hitchcock DVD collectors. Paramount have released the Region 1 DVD of To Catch a Thief. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and mono, the disc includes several featurettes - such as "The Writing and Casting of To Catch A Thief" and "The Making of To Catch A Thief" - plus a stills gallery and trailers. Retail is $US 24.95. (The quality of this DVD is outstanding - KM.)
• German DVD release of silent & sound versions of Blackmail. The following report by silent-film historian David Shepard comes from <alt.movies.silent>. 'A DVD containing both the talking and silent versions of Hitchcock's Blackmail has been released by Kinowelt Home Entertainment on their "Art Haus" label. It's Region 2 PAL, so of course one would need multi-standard equipment to view it in North America. I think it could easily be ordered through amazon.com (Germany). The German title is Erpressung. The silent version is IMHO one of the truly great "high silent" films. Hitch (who of course spoke German and had worked at UFA) really knew his Lang and Murnau and, if possible, went them one better. The image quality of both versions is breathtaking. It makes the Criterion laserdisc (for which I was once most grateful) look like garbage. The sound on the talking version is absolutely free of optical hiss, thumps etc. The silent version has a (digital) piano score which is obviously inspired by the music used on the silent sequences of the talkie, but is musically much better. [...] The viewer can call up the material in original English or add optional subtitles in German, Spanish, Italian or Portuguese.'
• Deja vu. Those who remember the ill-fated 'Multimedia Hitchcock' project on the Web - itself designed as a pilot for a still vaster project of making available online scholarly resources and essays in film study - will watch with interest the progress, or otherwise, of a recently-announced program, a collaboration between the American Film Institute and the Georgia Institute of Technology. These two illustrious bodies will create a scholarly website for the movie Casablanca (1942). Still in its early stages of development, the site is intended as a prototype for a virtual cineplex containing interactive academic studies of classic movies. Accessible through the AFI's website, the analysis of each film would then be digitally linked to pertinent scenes on a DVD in an online student's computer. It's hoped that this approach will solve copyright problems caused by film companies' reluctance to see their 'product' published directly on the Web. (As we recall, such reluctance proved a stumbling block in the case of the 'Multimedia Hitchcock' project. The latter was given a booth presentation in 1999 at the Hitchcock Centennial Celebration in New York, but has not been heard of publicly since then.) Meanwhile, legislation is helping to smoothe the way for this latest multimedia project. A subscriber to an academic film list recently posted the following: 'While overall the media corporations are winning increasing power in copyright, the 2002 copyright legislation now in effect in the US allows university educators to put entire commercial films on edu websites, provided they are only accessible for students and for instructional purposes.'
• A couple of articles on the Web may interest our readers. The first, occasioned by the new Robert Altman film, Gosford Park, sending up the so-called Golden Age of British murder-mystery stories, profiles matinee idol, song-writer, and actor, Ivor Novello (1893-1951), who is portrayed in Altman's film. The article includes information on why Novello saw fit in 1932 to reprise his starring role in The Lodger, originally filmed by Alfred Hitchcock just six years earlier. (The article says that the remake, directed by Maurice Elvey, was a flop, though not everyone seems to agree. Leslie Halliwell, for instance, while conceding it was a minor British film of the time, thought it 'not bad'.) To read the article, from the 'Los Angeles Times', click here: Resurrected by a Song. And we have only just learnt - more than two years late! - that director Andrew L. Stone (1902-99) has died. When Stone wasn't making more-than-competent musical films, such as Stormy Weather (1942) and Song of Norway (1970, a fantasia on the life of Grieg), he was turning his hand to made-on-location thrillers of high calibre, such as The Steel Trap (1952), Julie (1956), and Cry Terror (1958), usually with excellent casts. The Steel Trap actually starred Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright, and had a score by Dmitri Tiomkin (that combination sound familiar?), while Julie put Doris Day in a big dramatic role the same year that she starred in Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much: this time, instead of having to try and save a statesman's life at the Royal Albert Hall, she must single-handedly steer a runaway airliner to safety - naturally, our Doris proves up to it! To read Kevin Brownlow's "A Tribute to the Last Silent Film Director: Andrew L. Stone", go to: Andrew L. Stone.
• [This item may be transferred to 'Odd Spot' in due course, perhaps under the title "The film that wasn't there".] Reportedly, the new Coen brothers film, The Man Who Wasn't There, is part-set in Santa Rosa, California, where Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt was filmed in 1943. According to the film's cinematographer, Roger Deakins, the setting constitutes a Hitchcock homage, and on radio recently he spoke of shooting portions of the film in that very town. However, an October 12 article in the Santa Rosa 'Press Democrat', and published on the Web, seems to indicate that the Santa Rosa portions of the film were in fact shot some distance away, in the town of Orange. Read the 'Press Democrat' article: Santa Rosa will be played by Orange
• Universal seem to be unfairly milking Hitchcock buffs of every last cent. The DVD of Topaz reportedly contains another few minutes of footage over and above the 17 minutes of extra footage that were in the VHS restored version. And, curiously, still no explanation is provided about where the footage has come from (is coming from?) or who has pieced (is piecing?) it together.
• The above item refers to the DVD of Topaz released in the US (Region 1). Sad to report, a note in 'Sight and Sound', December 2001, says that the DVD of Topaz released in the UK (Region 2), though it contains the film's two alternative endings (see "More about ... a longer version of Topaz", below), prints at least one of them in the wrong aspect ratio: the duel-in-the-stadium 'reveals cropping of the image on this particular DVD, since neither duellist appears in the wide shot that's meant to encompass them (the aspect ratio is marked on the disc as 1.33:1 when the original film is 1.85:1)'. Indeed, when you examine the information printed on the same page (p. 64) of 'Sight and Sound', at least four of the R2 Universal Hitchcocks (The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, and Topaz itself) have been released with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, instead of the 1.85:1 aspect ratio in which they were shot and originally released.(Update. With the re-release of the R2 Universal Hitchcock DVDs in April, 2003, you might have expected the above-named 'gaffes' to be righted. But it hasn't happened. [We thank reader Alistair Kerr for confirming this.] Nor is there joy for our Australian/R4 readers. The same 'gaffes' occur here.)
Death of Frederick Knott, playwright of 'Dial M For Murder'
British playwright Frederick Knott (1916-2002) will long be remembered as the author of the ingenious play on which Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder (1954) was based. (Knott also worked on the film's screenplay - though, as the following obituary notes, he received only his 'expenses' in payment.) The play's cunning, would-be wife-murderer, Tony Wendice (played by Ray Milland in the film), owes something as a character to his counterpart in the stage play and 1947 film called 'Dear Murderer' by St John Legh Clowes; and his nemesis, Chief Inspector Hubbard (played superbly on stage and in the film by John Williams) seems part-based on the crafty Scotland Yard detective played by Naunton Wayne in the 1949 film Obsession adapted from the stage play by Alec Coppel. However, 'Dial M For Murder' is essentially the work of Knott, and is both gripping and elegant. The following obituary, by Douglas Martin, comes from the 'New York Times', 20 December, 2002:
Knott, a notoriously unprolific playwright who
scored big when he did write - with his 1952 Broadway hit
'Dial M for Murder' and later with the 1966 thriller 'Wait
Until Dark' - died on Tuesday in his Manhattan apartment.
He was 86.
'He hated writing,' his wife, Ann Hillary Knott, said.
That is perhaps understandable.
The clever, complicated
'Dial M for Murder' was turned down by seven London
producers before being accepted as a television drama by
the British Broadcasting Corporation. Mrs. Knott said that
he became so discouraged that he almost tore up the script.
Making matters worse, he
signed away the movie rights for a
paltry £1,000 after the television production. Though he
wrote the screen version for Alfred Hitchcock in 1954, he
thus made far less money than he might have. When the
picture was remade in 1998 as A Perfect Murder, he
received credit for writing the play, but no payment, Mrs.
But he made enough with
just three plays to live
comfortably and that was his sole objective. 'He wrote only
for money,' his wife said.
'Dial M for Murder' was
translated into two dozen languages
and is still performed by professional and amateurs around
the world. 'Wait Until Dark' was a Broadway hit and then a
successful movie with Audrey Hepburn in 1967. He also wrote
'Write Me a Murder' in 1961.
Frederick Paull Knott was born in in Hankow, China,
on Aug. 28, 1916. His parents were Quaker missionaries who
sent him back to England for his education. He graduated
from Cambridge University in 1938 and served in the Royal
Artillery from 1939 to 1946.
He then retreated to a
cottage next to his parents' home in
Sussex to struggle with a play he had already imagined. His
inspiration was the bang of a gun going off, he said in an
interview with 'The New York Times' in 1961. He imagined the
bang in an old, very oak-paneled English house that had
seen better days.
He worked for 18 months
straight; he stayed in his bathrobe
and his mother left meals by the door. He emerged with
'Dial M for Murder.'
Then the struggle really
began. A succession of producers
rejected the play, with one calling it trivial. His wife
read aloud a letter from the producer August MacLeod, who
complimented the 'ingenious little plot,' but said that
'the play as a whole would cause little interest.'
But then the BBC offered
to use it as a 90-minute
television play early in 1952. It got rave reviews. He sold
the film rights to a London movie company headed by Sir
Then James Sherwood, a
stage producer with a lease on a
London theater, had to cancel the production of a play and
asked to produce 'Dial M for Murder.' After less than three
weeks' rehearsal, it opened to critical acclaim.
The excitement in the
plot does not arise from trying to
solve a murder. The theatergoer knows who committed it and
how it was executed. Rather, the tension grows from the
attempts of Scotland Yard to break down the culprit's
seemingly perfect alibi so that an innocent party can be
saved from execution.
Maurice Evans, the actor,
saw the London production and
offered to star in the show on Broadway. That plan was
almost scuttled by the film deal, according to 'The
Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection.' Sir Alexander had a
clause barring any future live productions until after the
movie came out. That snag was worked out, and 'Dial M'
began its run of 552 performances in October 1952 at the
In the next five years,
the play was produced in 30
countries. It is still a standard of summer stock and
Mr. Knott then worked
closely with Hitchcock on writing the
screenplay, though Mrs. Knott said that he was paid just
his expenses. Sir Alexander had received $175,000 from
[Warners] for the rights to the 1954 movie..
'Got him at last'?
That line (minus the question-mark) from Hitchcock's Murder! (1930) comes to mind now that crime author Patricia Cornwell claims to have identified Jack the Ripper as the painter Walter Sickert (1860-1942) whose art was admired by Hitchcock to the extent that he owned two Sickert works. Indeed, one of the latter, "The Camden Town Murder" (though Hitchcock owned only an early sketch version of it), features in the 'evidence' that Cornwell adduces against the painter. But her most conclusive piece of evidence might seem to be this: one letter allegedly sent by the Ripper is written on paper with the same distinctive watermark and edgings as writing paper used by Sickert, provided to him by his stationer father.
A pity, perhaps, that Hitchcock isn't around to direct a follow-up version of The Lodger (1926), which he adapted from the novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes, an earlier woman crime writer, and loosely based on the Ripper case.
For more, click here: Guardian Unlimited Books | News | Does this painting by Walter Sickert reveal the identity of Jack the Ripper? And now here's a 'New York Times' review of Cornwell's book on the Ripper case, that suggests she has got it all wrong: 'Portrait of a Killer': Investigating a Historical Whodunnit.
Alfred Hitchcock - Mr Nice-guy
One of our favourite passages in Stephen Rebello's 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' (pb, 1991) is this reminiscence by Rita Riggs, the film's costume designer: '[Hitchcock] had a sense of fun about him that I don't think some people picked up on. For instance, one night, I came home to find a carton of wild, French strawberries on my doorstep because we had been talking about them recently. Is that perversity or is that doing something out of sheer enjoyment?' (p. 99) Now the 'Los Angeles Times' has revealed that the actor Bob Crane (1928-78) - the subject of a new film directed by Paul Schrader - once received a dozen red roses every day for a week from an anonymous admirer of his work on 'Hogan's Heroes'. The donor? None other than Mr Aitch! [Thanks to Bill Krohn in Hollywood for this item.].
Where is Hitchcock's 'lost' short called An Elastic Affair?
In 1929 Alfred Hitchcock directed An Elastic Affair, running ten minutes. He made it at the Elstree studios of British International Pictures to showcase the talents of two young actors named Aileen Despard and Cyril Butcher who had just won scholarships awarded by 'Film Weekly'. The scholarships - and the completed film - were announced in the Saturday January 18th, 1930, issue of 'Film Weekly', and the film was shown silent (though it was apparently shot with sound) on the following day, Sunday January 19th, 1930, at the London Palladium, where its 'stars' appeared in person to receive their contracts from John Maxwell, Chairman of British International Pictures, Ltd. Under those contracts, both actors would be trained in film acting at the Elstree Studios for six months.
Hitchcock researcher (and contributor to this website), Dr Alain Kerzoncuf, is trying to locate a copy of An Elastic Affair. He hopes that someone reading this News item may have information about the film's whereabouts or know something about its two young actors and the contents of the film in which they appeared together. (It is known that Aileen Despard - whose full name was Aileen Despard Kilpatrick - made about three other films after An Elastic Affair. Cyril Butcher took up a stage career, and may have appeared in some films; he also wrote or co-wrote plays, a musical comedy, film scripts, and at least one book related to acting.) Dr Kerzoncuf may be contacted by email at this address: <email@example.com>..
The late Ms Kael: how to be very, very subjective
Findings by Bill Krohn, Dan Auiler, and Ken Mogg, notwithstanding, showing that Hitchcock was a regular viewer of Hollywood, English, and other movies, the late Pauline Kael claimed the contrary in one of her last interviews now published on the Web. (Yes, we're talking about the author of the book 'Raising Kane' which, after its original publication in 'The New Yorker', proved to be full of egregious errors - pointed up later by Peter Bogdanovich in 'Esquire' - many of which were based on Kael's near-total ignorance of how movies are made.) Here's the most relevant passage:
Did you ever meet Alfred Hitchcock?
Yes, and I didn't have a very good
time, because he
wanted to talk about movies but hadn't really gone
to see anything. His wife had, and she was very
knowledgeable and very pleasant. I liked her a lot,
but he kept breaking off to talk about his wine cellar
and his champagne collection. I got very distressed
when we talked about actors, because he had often
cast people not after seeing them in pictures but
from seeing them on a reel of film that their agents
brought him, so that he saw only little highlights
from some of their roles. He didn't know the
possibilities of some of the actors, and this was
reinforced by his feeling that he shouldn't
improvise. Directors should not be allowed to
improvise, he said, even though he had done a lot of
improvisation earlier in his career, and it was some
of his best work. I think part of the rigidity of his
later pictures was from his feeling that everything
should be worked out in advance, which didn't
allow for any creative participation by the actors.
You feel the absence of that participation in movies
like Topaz and Marnie and, I would say, all of
his later movies. He was quite rigid, almost like a
religious fanatic - no one should improvise, the
director should have everything planned out in
Before the above was published, Bill Krohn was approached by a 'fact-checker' from 'The New Yorker' and asked if he supported what Ms Kael claimed about Hitchcock. No, he said, and debunked both the idea that Hitchcock never improvised and the 'truly ludicrous claim' (Krohn's phrase in an email to 'The MacGuffin') about test-reels that were used to hire actors, as opposed to seeing them in films. Krohn cited the case of Doris Day, to whom Hitchcock remarked at a party that her performance in Stuart Heisler's Storm Warning (1951) was excellent - and who, several years later, was hired by him to star in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) because he remembered her supporting role for Heisler. Long-standing readers of this page will recall something else that Krohn once told us: how Hitchcock and wife Alma were regular attenders at the repertory cinema in Los Angeles run by cinematographer Gary Graver. (Patricia Hitchcock and Graver were recently interviewed for the French-release DVD of Suspicion, and Pat recalled those occasions well.) To read the full interview with Pauline Kael (the above excerpt is only a fragment), click here: The New Yorker: On-line Only
Rare lobby card from Hitchcock's 'lost' The Mountain Eagle (1926) turns up in
The above lobby card was recently discovered at a flea market in Rowley, Massachusetts. Of heavy cardboard, it was found behind a second picture of a dog, apparently as backing. (Both pictures were in a cardboad box containing broken picture frames and glass.) It is probably the only extant lobby card for The Mountain Eagle, Hitchcock's film that had limited distribution (in Germany and the USA) and all prints of which have disappeared.
The Mountain Eagle was set in the backwoods of Kentucky but filmed on location in the Austrian Tyrol and in a Munich studio. The dog seen here may have belonged to the film's hero, a hermit known as Fearogod (Malcolm Keen), who at one point must trek through snow carrying a sick child.
Although no prints exist of Hitchcock's second film as a director, the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Beverly Hills, California, contains some 30 stills and production photographs. Several of the production photographs show what appears to be the dog seen here - perhaps it was the unit's mascot. The photographs are reproduced in Dan Auiler's book, 'Hitchcock's Notebooks' (1999).
Film historian J. Lary Kuhns points out that the American distributor of The Mountain Eagle, Artlee Pictures (named after its President, Arthur A. Lee), also distributed Hitchcock's first film, The Pleasure Garden (1925), which was shot almost entirely in the Emelka Studios, Munich. Kuhns believes that the lobby card for The Mountain Eagle 'is pretty much final confirmation of my claim that [contrary to some reports] the film did not have the US title Fear o' God'. The film starred Nita Naldi, Bernard Goetzke, and Malcolm Keen.
[Special thanks to Sandra McLachlin, Gloucester, Massachusetts, who found the lobby card and who told us about it.].
'They're attacking again!'
That line from Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), based on the short story by Daphne du Maurier, came true the other day for none other than the late writer's 60-year-old son, Christian 'Kits' Browning, and his wife, Olive, in Cornwell, England. Husband and wife have been viciously attacked several times by pairs of seagulls nesting outside the cottage where du Maurier herself once lived. Recently, scores of gulls massed to attack, and a pest-control expert, who had been called in, had to come to the rescue. '[A pair of particularly vicious gulls] built their nest on a stone pillar in the garden,' Browning explained. The exterminator, wearing a hard hat and protective gear, distracted the mother by waving a stick and quickly stuffed the nest and eggs into a bag. 'All the other gulls within half a mile, scores of them, came and circled and attacked to protect [or avenge? - Ed.] the female.' The Brownings took shelter inside the house. Now, they wonder if the super-protective gulls will retaliate. Daphne du Maurier was inspired to write her apocalyptic short story after witnessing similar behaviour. 'She was walking and saw a farmer, who had plowed up worms, surrounded by gulls flying around his head. She suddenly thought, "Supposing they attacked."'.
Disney organisation launchs restored Hitchcocks
In April, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their movie palace, the El Capitan, in Hollywood, the Disney organisation unveiled restorations of four Hitchcock films: Rebecca, Spellbound, Notorious, and The Paradine Case. There was a roundtable discussion at the launch of each print. Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell was on all the panels. Noted film historian and author Rudy Behlmer hosted the launch of Notorious. Among the other participants were authors Stephen Rebello and Bill Krohn and actors Norman Lloyd and Rhonda Fleming. Although the restoration of The Paradine Case could not incorporate footage slashed from the original print both before its première release and later when it was further cut for release to television (see item lower on this page), a couple of surviving sequences (unfortunately without sound) exist. Bill Krohn has promised to write for 'The MacGuffin' an account of these (screened at the launch)..
Scriptwriter Arthur Laurents comments frankly on the homosexuality in (and out of) Rope
Playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents has written 'Original Story By: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood', which was reviwed by David Ehrenstein in the 'Los Angeles Times' on 9 April, 2000. Here's an excerpt from the review:
'[As the 1940s] ended, Laurents met Farley Granger at an otherwise dull Hollywood party. "We touched once by accident and reacted as though it was foreplay." The next day Laurents gave Granger a phone call and found "[i]t was though he had been waiting for the signal, all he needed to jump into his car and come barreling across the canyon. I barely had enough time to shower and shave before there he was, running through the door, and then, there we were rolling on the floor. On the shag rug in the living room of a sublet on the wrong side of Doheny Drive in midafternoon, me and my movie star. Oh frabjous day!"
'But while Granger was gung-ho, Laurents was alarmed: "I was afraid that Farley moving in would be announcing I was gay. Whatever people might think, they didn't know. Now they would." For right on top of this, Laurents had been hired by Alfred Hitchcock to write the screenplay of Rope , an Americanized version of Patrick Hamilton's London-set play about a pair of gay Leopold and Loeb-style thrill killers - one of whom was to be played by Granger.
'In Hollywood back then,
"homosexuality was unmentionable, known only as
'it.' 'It' wasn't in the picture, no character was
'one.' " But of course they "were," and so "in my
effort to Americanize English homosexuality" -
and make Rope viable to U.S. audiences - Laurents created characters based on a gay group he "had met briefly in New York who played squash and were raunchy after dinner" - upper-crust precursors of 'The Boys in the Band'." The Hays office, however, with its industry's self-appointed guardians of the nation's morality, was so unhinged by a few British turns-of-phrase in the dialogue, it returned the script with these words "furiously blue-penciled and marked HOMOSEXUAL DIALOGUE exclamation point." Hitchcock, by contrast,was fearless - and supremely playful. "It tickled him that Farley was playing a homosexual in a movie written by me, another homosexual; that we were lovers; that we had a secret he knew; that I knew he knew - the permutations were endless, all titillating to him, not out of malice or a feeling of power but because they added a slightly kinky touch and kink was a quality devoutly to be desired."'
Bob Harris & Jim Katz, the team who gave us a revamped Vertigo on 70mm, have completed their restoration of Rear Window, and general release was scheduled for February 2000.
Rear Window, as restored by Harris & Katz, is among the first films printed in Technicolor's revived dye-transfer process. The film has never looked as good as it could have, according to Harris, even during its initial release in 1954. That's because the dye-transfer prints weren't made until the 1962 reissue (on a double-bill with Psycho, as we recall), when they were poorly done and came out beige. 'So this [is] the first time we see the film's full-colour spectrum', Harris said.
The restored print was previewed in London and New York, to great enthusiasm from both audiences. Here's a report from Scott Marshall, originally sent to the <rec.arts.movies.tech> Usenet group (Scott Marshall is editor of 'Wide Gauge Film and Video') ...
'The film looks and sounds brand new. It's wasn't like watching an old movie. It was like going back in time to 1954 and watching a new movie. Technicolor's re-engineered dye transfer "IB" printing looks absolutely perfected with completely true colors and the occasional appearance of a color so rich and deep that you didn't know it existed even in real life (watch for the waiter's red jacket). The sound was in its original mono but rich, undistorted, and noise-free. Projected aspect ratio was 1.66:1 (the entire 1.35:1 negative image was restored).
'Restoring full color from the faded and damaged negative and showing it on a large screen makes a great difference in telling this story. One can see more of the performances in the various tiny windows--more of the acting and facial expressions--giving this unique ensemble piece extra depth over what can be sensed on a small screen. And there's something about seeing the glowing red end of a smoked cigar in a pitch black apartment in IB Tech that is uniquely chilling.'
After Rear Window, Harris & Katz were going to turn their attentions to another Hitchcock film starring James Stewart: The Man Who Knew Too Much(1956). For undisclosed reasons, the restoration of that film has now been undertaken 'in house' by Universal, without the assist of Harris & Katz..
Death of Albert J. Whitlock, visual effects artist, at 84
We are saddened to note the passing of Albert Whitlock, the widely-respected visual-effects artist best known for his work with Hitchcock on a succession of films made at Universal from The Birds (1963) to Family Plot (1976). Whitlock died in Santa Barbara, California, on October 26, 1999. The two-times Academy Award winner was born in London in 1915, and his first work in a film studio was as a 'general factotum' (as he once told KM). He painted some of the signs used in The 39 Steps (1935). In America, he worked for a time with the Disney organisation before Hitchcock, recalling him from their British days, employed him to paint the matte backgrounds for The Birds, e.g., several vistas of Bodega Bay. Whitlock was a quietly spoken, gracious man. He appears briefly in Mel Brooks's Hitchcock spoof, High Anxiety (1977), as the man in the tower at the end.
The Hitchcock Centennial conference in New York
'Hitchcock: A Centennial Celebration' ran from October 13-17, 1999, at the Directors Guild of America Theatre and St. Moritz Hotel in midtown Manhatten. It was sponsored by the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and organized by Dr Richard Allen, chair of the Dept. of Cinema Studies. What follows are some items of note from the conference sent to us by Jim Davidson (whom we thank).
The 'other' Marnie: It is well known that Evan Hunter worked on the script for Marnie before Jay Presson Allen was hired, but the screenwriters' forum of the conference revealed that Joseph Stefano also worked on an early version of Marnie. [John Russell Taylor mentions this in 'Hitch' (1978), p. 265 - Ed.] Apparently, Hitchcock wanted to submit a treatment of Marnie to Grace Kelly when she was considering the role - believing she would never read the full Winston Graham novel - and so he had Stefano, fresh off Psycho, write a treatment. Later, Hitchcock told Stefano that Grace had declined the role because she and her husband (Prince Rainier) had 'found the money that they needed elsewhere'. But Evan Hunter, when he began working on the Marnie script, was never shown the Stefano treatment; for that matter, until the day they met at the conference, Hunter had never even known that Stefano was involved.
Casting choices: Some interesting items came to light about Hitchcock's casting choices. Robin Wood stated that Joseph Cotten was not the first choice for the role of Sam Flusky in Under Capricorn. Hitchcock actually wanted Burt Lancaster for the part. Arthur Laurents, the screenwriter of Rope, claims that Hitchcock had sought Cary Grant, Montgomery Clift and Farley Granger for the roles eventually played by Jimmy Stewart, John Dahl and Granger. Grant and Clift, apparently sensitive to the homosexual sub-text of the film, declined the roles. Finally, according to Peter Wollen, Hitchcock was fascinated by Claudette Colbert and originally wanted to use her for the female lead in Foreign Correspondent.
Tippi and 'Gorky' : According to all the actors that spoke at the conference - Eva Marie Saint, Teresa Wright, Janet Leigh, Patricia Hitchcock - the director allowed his actors much freedom and rarely gave explicit directions on the set. Tippi Hedren, as a first time actress on the set of The Birds, tended at times to deliver her lines too stridently. According to Evan Hunter, Hitchock had a simple code word that he used for correcting this flaw: he would say the word 'Gorky' and Hedren would tone down her delivery.
Censors as 'collaborators': Leonard Leff, author of the book 'Hitchcock and Selznick', made the interesting observation that the censors that Hitchcock dealt with sometimes worked as unwitting collaborators on his films. He cited several examples of this. Joseph Breen's objections to the scene where Maxim DeWinter confesses to his wife that he murdered Rebecca led Hitchcock to come up with the creative approach of having a moving camera 'describe' the events that led up to Rebecca's 'accidental' demise. The objections to the details of Alicia's marked past in Notorious caused Ben Hecht to rewrite the character, which made her seem more mysterious. In Rear Window, Hitchcock knew the censors wouldn't allow the topless shot introducing 'Miss Torso' that the script called for, so he devised the playful shot where her bra unsnaps and she must lean over to retrieve it. Finally, of course, there is the well known 'phallic shot' at the end of North by Northwest, but Eva Marie Saint commented that that effect was not very subtle; in fact, she recalled that at the film's premiere she noticed it and mentioned it to her husband.
New Hitchock 'bio' in the works: As noted elsewhere on this Web site, Patrick McGilligan is working on a new biography of Hitchcock to be next year. McGilligan is only finished researching through 1945, but he promised an illuminating view of Hitchcock's early years in the book. For one thing, McGilligan has uncovered 7 or 8 new short stories (in addition to the already published "Gas") that Hitchcock wrote before 1921, while working at the Henley Telegraph and Cable Co. McGilligan also stated that 'a very different' Hitchcock will emerge from what he referred to as 'the Henley's Period' (1914-21).
These are some brief highlights to emerge from 'Hitchcock: A Centennial Celebration' . The current issue of 'The MacGuffin' has a more extensive coverage of the conference.
As we noted here earlier, the new video re-release of Topaz from Universal carries a surprise. In small type on the back of the box is this announcement: 'includes 17 minutes of extra footage'. No explanation is given. But Bill Krohn, whose 'Hitchcock At Work' is now out, knows what happened. According to Krohn, the film died 'the Death of a Thousand Cuts' at the hands of the film's British distributor, Rank, who refused to show the film in England if the running-time wasn't reduced. Hitchcock was therefore virtually forced to cut all prints of the film. Already dismayed at being forbidden by Universal to make Kaleidoscope (see item elsewhere on this page), he was further saddened by this latest indignity. He really liked the film in its initial preview form, at its full length and with the ending he wanted - a pistol duel between the rival spies played by Frederick Stafford and Michel Piccoli. But some members of preview audiences reacted negatively to the ending ...
The new video release of the film by Universal carries a different ending, in which Piccoli boards a plane for Moscow at Orly Airport and waves a dignified farewell to Stafford. According to Krohn and others, Hitchcock was happy with this ending, too, because it was 'realistic'. But both screenwriter Samuel Taylor and associate producer Herb Coleman disliked it, feeling that it would offend the French censors. In addition, Taylor thought it violated the meaning of the film, which was a denunciation of the human consequences of Cold War realpolitik. Taylor therefore proposed ending on a close-up of Nicole Dévereaux (Dany Robin) asking, 'When will it end?', followed by a number of superimposed flashbacks (including what the script calls the Pietà shot) showing what she meant. In the event, the film was released with the flashbacks - but instead of these being preceded by the close-up of Nicole, a freeze-frame was substituted, implying the death of Piccoli's character. (Dan Auiler, editor of 'Hitchcock's Notebooks', who recently spoke to Herb Coleman, says that Coleman hated this ending, finding it very B-movieish.)
Here's Dan Auiler's report on the new video-release, which has much of the footage intended by Hitchcock restored:
'This is by far the best cut I've ever seen of the film. It importantly restores the ending I [actually] prefer, of the French double agent flying off to Russia. The rest of the moments add to the film in important ways - principally in character development. This cut does cause us to re-evaluate the film slightly. I always considered the film one of Hitchcock's only structural failures (a film that was just built too poorly). This cut reveals a film that at least has decent bones (to paraphrase Charles Bennett), but still has enormous problems in casting and even some direction (I refer in particular to the scene that always sets my teeth on edge - the showing off of the spy gadgets in Karin Dor's bedroom). Knowing what we [now] know about the production history of the film, Hitchcock gets an "A" for pulling off such a solid film with such limited time and resources. It's too bad the disastrous version of Topaz has circulated for so many years - this cut is proof that Hitch wasn't so much off his mark in the late Sixties, but struggling with studio politics.'
[Thanks to both Bill Krohn and Dan Auiler for the information printed here.]
• By way of clarification, the three known endings of Topaz that were filmed (the freeze-frame 'suicide' followed by a montage of flashbacks; the duel; the airport farewell) have all previously been released on a laserdisc of the film. What is new about the recent video of Topaz is that it includes 17 minutes of extra footage approximating what was cut by Hitchcock at Rank's insistence before the film's general release.
• Footnote (revised). Recent reports indicate that French director Claude Chabrol filmed the final shot (in the standard release print) showing a newspaper being discarded in the street near the Arc d'Triumph when Hitchcock was too ill to travel to Paris. [Thanks to Ric Menello for this information.].
The original main titles have been restored to both Notorious (1946) and The Paradine Case (1947). The 'Los Angles Times' (18 August, 1999) reports that in the case of Notorious, not only is the RKO logo back in place (many current prints have the Selznick logo) but the skyline at the bottom of the frame is once again a live image rather than a dull still. Unfortunately, a major find - additional footage and alternate takes from The Paradine Case, some of which bolster Ethel Barrymore's Oscar-nominated performance - are without a soundtrack, so the best that restorer Scott MacQueen has been able to do for now is preserve the rare materials. 'The pace is much slower in these alternate scenes', MacQueen notes. 'Obviously Hitchcock was experimenting more with longer takes, which would culminate a year later in Rope.'.
In its edition of 10-16 August, 1999, 'The Hollywood Reporter' has an article "Saving Hitch" by Stephen Galloway. But a few of the points in the article are questionable:
1. 'Vertigo  was restored three years ago by Robert Harris and Jim Katz at a cost of some $1.5 million. The film remains the prototype of the perfect restoration.' Perfect? That's far from the view of many Hitchcock aficionados, including Steven L. DeRosa who in 'The MacGuffin' #21 listed the many jarring discrepancies between the original film and its 'restored' version. He wrote, for example: 'from the very first gun shot of the opening sequence to the ringing of the tower bell in the finale, the [soundtrack] differences are jarringly apparent. These variations from the original work go beyond the scope of what a restoration should be.' Also, as DeRosa pointed out, excellent IB Technicolor prints of the original film exist, and might have been consulted to get the palette of the 'restored' film correct. Instead, Harris and Katz told the media how they had gone 'to great pains to locate original costumes and paint-chips from antique cars in order to match the look intended by the original filmmakers. The purpose of this [continues DeRosa] seems most a means of showing off. ... The green dress worn by Kim Novak does look a certain way in reality, but that is not necessarily the shade of green that it might appear in Technicolor.'
2. The Disney organisation has restored to Spellbound (1945) 'the black-and-white film's famous two-color-frame sequence' [of a gunshot]'. We have always believed the sequence in question was four frames long, not two. [Note: reports tell us that the new DVD of the film does not in fact include any coloured frames.]
3. 'A new print has also been made of The Paradine Case  at its full 114-minute length (the film has been cut down over the years in versions as short as 80 minutes.' The truth is that Hitchcock's original rough-cut of the film ran close to three hours, and was reduced by producer Selznick to 132 minutes for the film's Los Angeles opening on 31 December, 1947. It was later cut for television by twenty minutes. So in this case the 'restoration' is simply a return to the cut version. The missing twenty (or eighteen) minutes is still to be denied us, it seems. [But see previous item.]
The Venice Film Festival (1-11 September, 1999) showed a hitherto-unseen 20-minute segment from Kaleidoscope, Hitchcock's original Frenzy project, based on the true story of Neville Heath, a sadistic 28-year-old RAF officer hanged in 1946 for the sexual assault and murder of two young women. (The 1972 Hitchcock film called Frenzy bears little relation to the original Frenzy project.) In 1967 Hitchcock began preproduction for the film, having photographers shoot detailed storyboards, resulting in hundreds of slides featuring models and unknown actors. He also had 35mm film reels shot in New York. But Universal/MCA killed the project. (Our information about the project comes from Dan Auiler's essay on "[Hitchcock's] Unrealised Projects" in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'.)
• Film director and
Hitchcock scholar Richard Franklin (see previous item) has
seen the Kaleidoscope
footage, and writes as follows: 'Predictably the case is
argued that [the film] may have been a masterpiece.
However, having read what there was of the screenplay and
seen all the test footage, I suspect the studio
(particularly Hitchcock's mentor, Lew Wasserman) was right
[in forbidding Hitchcock to make the film].'
The 'Hitchcock Annual' is a quality publication containing articles contributed by academic writers and specialist authors. The 2016 issue (Volume 20) is co-edited as usual by Professors Sid Gottlieb and Richard Allen. For all orders, including back isues, contact Columbia University Press, 61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023: http://cup.columbia.edu/distributed-press/Hitchcock-Annual
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