News and Comment (Home) Page of the Alfred Hitchcock Scholars/'MacGuffin' website, conducted by Ken Mogg. There's also a separate official title-page, mainly for new visitors and search-engines.

The MacGUFFIN


This webpage was last modified 27 September, 2014.

An 'advanced' Hitchcock discussion group, for articulate film academics, professional scholars, filmmakers, etc., exists. Here's the URL: http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/hitchen2/   Note 'articulate' and 'professional'.  The most important thing is that members can and do contribute.  If you'd like to join, please contact me first, 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

Portions of this website will eventually be re-vamped.  (Yes, not before time!)

To contact KM (whose website this is), click here: muffin@labyrinth.net.au

To go straight to the latest "Editor's Week" item further down this page, click here.  (But first allow the page to fully load.  Note: our News section begins immediately after "Editor's Week".)

Click here to go straight to bottom of page, where you'll find links to our other pages

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'For those who care': Ken Mogg ('MacGuffin' Editor) writing elsewhere on the Web about Hitchcock:

1.
First, there's my monograph (35,000 words, including notes and appendices) on Hitchcock's The Birds.  David Sterritt calls it 'top drawer stuff'.  Australian film scholar Adrian Martin thinks it 'a fantastic, finely written, brilliantly researched piece'.  Australian filmmaker Peter Tammer thinks it 'extraordinary'.  I am happy to further quote Peter.  'Like you I have seen the film many times, probably not as many as you, certainly not ... but many.  All of the things you point to are there, clearly for us all to see and experience, and to draw interpretations from, no matter what sources [Hitchcock] was absorbing and transforming into his film.  So that gave me great pleasure to know that what I had taken from the film in the past was often in accordance with what you felt he was doing and why he was doing it.'  To read the monograph, click here: 'Senses of Cinema'

2.  Also, there's my long profile of Hitchcock's life and work (containing analysis of The Lodger, Murder!, Jamaica Inn, Rope, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Trouble With Harry, and referring to opposing literary influences on Hitchcock, viz., Oscar Wilde and G.K. Chesterton).  Thomas Elsaesser calls the profile 'definitive indeed'. 
'Senses of Cinema'

3.  On The 39 Steps (book review):
'Screening the Past'
 
4.  On I Confess:
'Senses of Cinema'/ Melbourne Cinematheque
5.  On The Birds (and the critics):
'Screening the Past'
6.  On Psycho (book review):
'Senses of Cinema'
7.  On "Banquo's Chair" (episode of 'AHP'):
'Senses of Cinema'/ Melbourne Cinematheque
8.  On "Back for Christmas" (episode of 'AHP'):
'Senses of Cinema'/ Melbourne Cinematheque
9.  On Hitchcock and Charles Dickens (book review):
'Senses of Cinema'
10. The 'ten greatest films', including two by Hitchcock: 'Sight and Sound'
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Important.  The old (1999) US edition of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', by Ken Mogg, et al., was a drastically cut, reduced, and even 'bowdlerised' version (which its author disowns) of the original UK edition (also 1999).  However, the full book has now (2008) been re-issued world-wide, including in the US.  American readers can obtain it from Amazon.com and other booksellers.

Testimonials about this site from readers

These haven't been updated with a new selection for a while, but here goes (May 2009 - remember that our blog "Editor's Week" has been inactive from August 2008 until now).  Btw, if this weren't the Web, where a certain amount of author-promotion seems needed (against a billion 'competitors'), I most certainly would not have broadcast these testimonials (and, yes, some are from fellow authors and/or friends!).  KM

'Excellent Hitchcock website.  I've been a regular visitor for years and look to your site first for news and information on anything related to Hitch.  Your commentary is consistently enlightening and rewarding.' - C.S., Florida, USA, 2009

'I think that you are not Jeffrey Archer's "First Among Equals" but first among unequals since your knowledge is so astounding.' - Prof. T.W., Illinois, USA, 2008

'I want to compliment you on your erudition in the sense that you move easily from the macro to the micro, and back again.'  - B.H., USA, 2008

'Over the years, I have found you to be very receptive to theories other than your own.  Your disagreement with such theories is always supported with [citation], and the presentation of both sides allows the reader to make up his own mind.' - N.A., USA, 2007

'I salute your splendid website and your continuing scholarship.' - D.S., Denmark, 2007

'Your website is a pleasure for true fans!' - G.R., Israel, 2007

'It is an amazing job you have done for anyone interested in Hitchcock.  It is also an act of love!' - A.S., Venezuela, 2007

'I must say that I have been pleased (yet again, and again) by recent "Editor's Day" [items] - I was especially happy about your pieces on Under Capricorn.' - D.F., Germany, 2007

'The world's greatest expert on Hitchcock's sources and influences is the Australian scholar K.M., and his ["MacGuffin"] site is well worth visiting on this point, as on all others.' - A.M., Australia, 2007

'Thanks for the website that is still the best Hitchcock-related place on the Internet, after all these years!' - N.B., Hungary, 2007

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That's quite enough.  It's fair to say that a good deal of this site's reputation for providing quality information about Hitchcock rests on the 'blogs' that have been appearing for over a decade in the "Editor's Day"/"Editor's Week" feature on this page.  (Sometimes, of course, it has been "Guest Editor's Day"!)  For reasons of space, it hasn't been possible to simply cache the entire feature, nor has there been time to regularly update a Selections page based on it.  However, the information isn't lost, and much of it will undoubtededly feature in forthcoming publications.  Also, we anticipate various new pages appearing on this site from time to  time.  KM
    
'[Y]our site [is] one of the best on the Internet ... for quality, accuracy of content, presentation and usability.' - Britannica.com
                                Britannica award to this website

What you'll find on the remainder of this Home Page includes:

1. 'Editor's Day'/'Editor's Week':  April 26, May 3, 10, 17, 24, June 7, 14, 21, 28, July 5, 12, 19, 26, August 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, September 6, 13, 20, 27.  2. News and Comment (last revised 14 June, 2014).  3. Links to our other pages.

And what you'll find on our other pages includes:

1. About 'The MacGuffin'/ How to Subscribe (revised 8 June, 2004).  2. About me (skippable).  3. ACADEMIC HITCHCOCK 1 - TMWKTMACADEMIC HITCHCOCK 2 - Vertigo. ACADEMIC HITCHOCK 3 - Marnie.  4. EXCERPTS 1 - "Confined Spaces" in Hitchcock.  EXCERPTS 2 - MarnieEXCERPTS 3 - Irony; Jamaica Inn. EXCERPTS 4 - Mr and Mrs SmithEXCERPTS 5 - critical writing on Hitchcock.  EXCERPTS 6 - Stage Fright.  EXCERPTS 7 - Franz Waxman and Suspicion.   5. About Arthur Schopenhauer (who? why?).  6. Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Dickens.  7. Article: Hitchcock on melodrama.  8. Screenwriter Charles Bennett on "Shakespeare, Melodrama, and Hitchcock".  9. Two-part 'Report' on Patrick McGilligan's biography of Hitchcock (including film-by-film, to 1950).  10. The original, previewed ending for Suspicion (script excerpt + Bill Krohn's research).  11. Notes on The 39 Steps.  12. Notes on Rear Window.  13. Notes on Vertigo (and Strangers on a Train).  14. Two discoveries: (1) Frank Baker's novel 'The Birds'; (2) Wanted for Murder (film by Lawrence Huntington).  15. Hitchcock's villains.  16. Kim Novak interview.  17. Interview with Psycho screenwriter, Joseph Stefano.  18. Long article: "The fragments of the mirror: Vertigo and its sources".  19. Article by Bill Krohn on Family Plot.  20. Article by Martin Grams Jr: "Alfred Hitchcock Presents".  21. Article by Martin Grams Jr: "Murder and Suspense".  22. Article by Philip Kemp: "Hitching Posts" (on Hitch's 'imitators').  23. New Publications (one of this site's main pages - last revised 15 December, 2013).  24. FAQs page (new material added 12 May, 2006).  25. Links (last revised 18 January, 2008).

Links to these other pages are grouped at the bottom of this page. (If you want to go straight to the bottom of this page now, click here.)


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 progress'. Thanks!]


April 26 For at least a couple of reasons, please indulge me this time!  Shadow of a Doubt, like Marnie, is a film that can move me to quiet tears, not least when Uncle Charlie first arrives in seemingly idyllic Santa Rosa and is immediately given pride of place at the head of the family table - it's a family, you see, whose mother and father remind me of my own, and I must also admit to identifying with Young Charlie to an extent!  Of course, to really explain the appeal of Shadow of a Doubt, one can't just cite its realistic detail, or its depiction of 'innocence'.  (For one thing, Sally Benson's dialogue includes the words for the children's game in which 'to step on a crack is to break your mother's back'!)  In 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', I claim that Shadow of a Doubt is 'a brilliant study of adolescent psychology.  Young Charlie's state of mind in the early part of the film resembles what the philosopher Kierkegaard called "dread", a state of innocence or dreaming that awakens a thirst for the prodigious and the mysterious.'  In turn, the overall outlook of the film may recall Kierkegaard's critique of 'the bourgeoisie'.  (Again I request your indulgence: long quotation coming up.)  'Morality is to them the highest,' he wrote, 'far more important than intelligence; but they have never felt enthusiasm for greatness ...  Their ethics are a short summary of police ordinances; for them the most important thing is to be a useful member of the state, and to air their opinions in the club of an evening; they have never felt homesickness for something unknown and far away, nor the depth which consists in being nothing at all ... they have no conception of the point of view (which a gnostic sect makes its own) of getting to know the world through sin - and yet they too say: one must sow one's wild oats; they have never even had a glimpse of the idea which is behind that saying, after one has forced one's way through the hidden and mysterious door into that "dark realm of sighs" ... [where] one sees the broken victims of seduction and inveiglement ...'  (W.H. Auden, ed., 'The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard', Midland Book edition, 1963, pp. 37-38.)  That, from the 'father of [Christian] existentialism'!  Now, I suggest that the above quotation might serve as a worthy epigraph for several Hitchcock films, Shadow of a Doubt and Vertigo among them - provided it is understood that Hitchcock's villains, like Uncle Charlie and Gavin Elster, are hapless parodies of someone who elects to 'get to know the world through sin'.  As an artist, Hitchcock's sympathies may well go out to these people in their quest for something treasured but now lost (cf the nostalgic image of waltzing couples in Shadow of a Doubt and the evocation of 'colour, excitement, power, freedom' in Vertigo), but only because they are representative of the darker side of life which an artist must know but be detached from.  When Kierkegaard refers to a 'homesickness for something unknown and far away' he is describing something that is innate in the human breast, at least where repression hasn't dulled all the senses (cf discussion of a 'going home' motif in films like The Trouble With Harry and Hatari!, March 29 above); and when he writes of 'the depth which consists in being nothing at all' he is surely like the poet Keats who coined the term 'negative capability' and proceeded to define the 'poetic character' as happily - and necessarily - amoral.  (Kierkegaard: 'All that people say about a poet having to unfold a moral view of life in his works is, of course, nonsense ...  Those who really have a moral attitude ... do not quarrel with the poet for depicting the enormous success of immorality, how it achieves greatness and power ...' - p. 39.)  I am really trying to make a connection with our topic of last week, which was James Kincaid's attempt in his book 'Erotic Innocence' (1998) to show how society seems unable to come to terms with a particular type of 'immorality', namely, child molesting.  The reason, I suggest, is that we are divided inwardly, in much the way Kierkegaard has indicated above, especially when he notes that the bourgeoisie (in particular) baulks at entering the 'dark realm of sighs' (although we may already be there psychologically, if only we would admit it).  Okay, so what am I really talking about, and what has it to do with Hitchcock?!  Well the definitive answer to that first question will have to wait until next week - but the answer to the second question is simply, 'a great deal'.  When Hitchcock filmed Marnie, in which there's a suggestion that young Marnie was molested and thereafter denied warmth and intimacy by her mother - who, though, claims that she always loved her daughter - the director was drawing on a broad theme of 'incest' (or, rather, the 'incest taboo') that runs in his work from The Lodger through Shadow of a Doubt to Marnie, and which speaks to us all, I believe.  To be continued.  Frame-capture: 'police ordinances' in  Shadow of a Doubt (with the Bank of America behind).

                                                                            Santa Rosa policeman in SHADOW OF
          A DOUBT       


May 3 Seems to me, from reading Freud and James Kincaid and others, that the course of human sexuality does indeed begin at childhood and in a sense, for each individual, is determined there.  According to Freud, there is 'infantile sexuality' (when the individual is still 'polymorphously-perverse') and then, until puberty, a 'latency period' - but Kincaid insists (e.g., p. 56) that the 'latency' isn't really so!  Kids are pursuing sexual 'interests' even then.  (Just this past week, a researcher at the University of South Australia reported on young children sexually abusing other children - and of teachers being in denial about it: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-30/rise-in-number-of-pre-schoolers-sexually-abusing-peers-expert/5419214.)  According to Kincaid, adults don't want to acknowledge childhood sexuality and their own stirred feelings, so - given a convenient 'out' by Freud - attribute to children 'purely affectionate emotional' feelings, effectively saying that's how we feel towards children too, with purely affectionate feelings! (p. 56)  Further, as Kincaid suggests, it took Graham Greene and his famous remarks about young Shirley Temple, and her 'coquetry', to see that many of our media images of childhood exploit our mixed feelings, though we may continue to deny it. (p. 114)  Hmm.  All I wanted to suggest about Hitchcock's Marnie (in the past two entries above) is that the director, for reasons of his own, was tapping deep emotional attitudes to childhood sexuality.  The real subject of the film, like the novel, is actually what the novel (Chapter 20) calls 'the loneliness of all the world'.   As for the wartime Shadow of a Doubt, I cited Kierkegaard to begin to show that the emphasis there - while again exploring dynamics of childhood and adolescent sexuality - is on how the world is indeed in some ways a sad place, a fallen world, even right under our noses, though we may again deny it.  (The scene where Uncle Charlie and Young Charlie in the 'Till Two' Bar encounter the sad waitress, Louise, powerfully suggests Kierkegaard's '"dark realm of sighs" ... [where] one sees the broken victims of seduction and inveiglement ...' - as quoted last time.)  It is amazing how many of Hitchcock's 'mere thrillers' have such a note of sadness about them - Psycho is another.  (Just listen to some of Bernard Herrmann's passages associated with Norman in particular.)  But Shadow of a Doubt is patently and explicitly about The Fall, as evoked in the public library scene where the camera's upward retreat signals Young Charlie's terrible discovery of the truth about her revered uncle.  Here her loss of innocence is suddenly total - the culmination of her 'dread' (again see last time) that has beset her since the start of the film when she telegraphed Uncle Charlie to come and 'save' her (ordinary bourgeois) family.  For several reasons, Shadow of a Doubt can move you profoundly, not least because it shows that same family as in fact precious; another reason is the magnitude of an intelligent girl's (Young Charlie's) sudden awakening to the real nature of the world - her loss of innocence.  Moreover, that awakening is depicted by the filmmakers with a psychological acuity that is rare.  Which may bring us back to Kierkegaard and the whole matter of sexuality that I have been noting here these past couple of weeks.  Regardless of whether pre-pubescent children are already 'sexual' or not, it is clear that for Kierkegaard an actual loss-of-innocence eventually occurs, and it is a sexual thing.  (The aforementioned public library scene in Shadow of a Doubt has definite sexual connotations, as when Charlie removes the ring that she had treasured since her uncle placed it on her finger soon after his arrival in the Newton household.  More on this matter later.)  Charlie's younger sister, Ann, remains relatively 'innocent', even if she is heard saying things like, 'I never can tell when I may want some privacy.'  (See frame-capture below.)  And young Roger is no less 'innocent', even if his games include the one about how, if you 'step on a crack [you] break your mother's back'!  But Young Charlie's 'fall' is perfectly in keeping with what Kierkegaard says about the need to reconcile body, soul and spirit - after the 'extreme point of the synthesis' has passed: 'Once the sexual is posited as the extreme point of the synthesis, it is no use ignoring it ...  But ... in the culmination of the erotic the spirit cannot take part.  I will speak here with Greek candour.  The spirit indeed is present, for it is this which constitutes the synthesis, but it cannot express itself in the erotic experience ...'  Etc.  ('The Living Thoughts of Kiekegaard', pp. 172-73)  The public library scene is of course symbolic, but it serves to distinguish Young Charlie from the more-literally-fallen Louise (the waitress in the 'Till Two' Bar) - and I believe it can explain why Kincaid finds such ambivalence in adults towards matters of sexuality, including childhood sexuality.  More next time.

                                                                            Ann Newton in SHADOW OF A DOUBT
          complains about a lack of privacy    


May 10 When young Ann Newton (not her brother Roger - my mistake last time!) in Shadow of a Doubt says almost proudly, 'I broke my mother's back three times!' (referring to a children's game), she is already displaying signs of what T.S. Eliot would call in another context, 'dissociation of sensibility'.  I contend that Hitchcock saw how such a 'dissociation' is shared by all of us - in some degree or other - and that he gave it its most startling expression in Psycho (1960) and then Marnie (1964).  He also saw how such a 'divided consciousness' goes back to childhood, very probably the Oedipal period, though it does not become 'fixed' until puberty or later.  It is that latter event which represents a 'fall' into adult consciousness, and adult sexuality, and which Kiekegaard defined as well as anyone - and whose definition I briefly quoted last time apropos the brilliant public library scene in Shadow of a Doubt.  It seems to me that James Kincaid in his book 'Erotic Innocence' (1998) could profitably have referred to Kierkegaard - and Hitchcock - when he repeatedly sought there to show how adults both feel, yet deny, erotic attraction to children (who themselves have erotic feelings), and are therefore susceptible to imagery (in art, literature, films, news stories, advertising) that exploits such an ambivalence.  Kincaid: 'It is important ... not to try to counter erotic attraction to children with nothing stronger than nostalgia and talk about how sweet children are.  For one thing, nostalgia and sweetness are not antidotes to eroticism but ingredients of it; for another, they are trifles.  I believe most adults in our culture feel some measure of erotic attraction to children and the childlike ...' (pp. 24-25)  In truth, Hitchcock in Shadow of a Doubt was clearly capable of seeing past 'nostalgia and sweetness' as a way of looking at the world as a whole (which even then was in danger of tearing itself apart on the European, African, Middle Eastern, and Pacific Fronts).  Shadow of a Doubt is one of Hitchcock's definitive films about 'growing up'.  (Another such film is, of course, the teasingly titled Young and Innocent.)  The aforementioned library scene shows Young Charlie removing from her finger the ring she has treasured since her uncle first gave it to her, and where the act of removing it is like an acknowledgement of what master-psychologist Kierkegaard says, that in the extreme point of the synthesis of body, soul, and spirit - when 'dread' yields to a sexualised understanding of good and evil - 'the spirit cannot take part'.  Now, as I note in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', there is a further complication: Uncle Charlie's face when he gave Young Charlie the ring had been eloquent - 'he invests the gift with great spiritual weight ... [and] her own initial reaction likewise has a spiritual intensity'.  (See frame-capture below.)  Like Norman Bates in Psycho, Uncle Charlie here is already 'fallen', and with precisely the split consciousness that we all share to a degree.  (He, too, has gone through at least two symbolic childhood 'events'.  First, falling off his bicycle as a boy and being severely concussed.  Second, 'chasing around the world since I was 16' - as he tells Young Charlie in the 'Till Two' Bar - with pre-echoes of Judy in Vertigo who tells Scottie that she has been 'understanding' since she was 16.)  In sum, the library scene defines a split in consciousness that Hitchcock believed we all share ... though only 'exceptional' individuals take it to the extreme of murderous psychopathology!  In turn, that split is very like what Kincaid seeks to define as governing our ambiguous attitude to sexuality, manifested at the time of his book (1998) most particularly in a fascination-repulsion apropos stories and images of child molestation.  But there's still a lot more.  Consider Kincaid again: 'We commonly live in and through our children and then hate ourselves for doing so ...  What is it we are loving, really, and what are we seeking to recover?  The child's love, Freud asserts, is "boundless," ... but Freud also reminds us that the child's desire is infinite, has no concrete aim, and is thus always doomed to frustration.  In seeking to recover the child, we seek the inexhaustible, the ecstatic, and we refuse to accept any limits; but ironically, the child we want to love us in return has no interest in "us" and wants the same oceanic love-without-end.  We return to impossible erotic fantasies ...' (pp. 71-72)  Effectively Kincaid shows us why 'bourgeois consciousness', as defined by Kierkegaard (see above, April 26), still prevails, to its own detriment and frustration: nowadays we seek escape through ever-more extreme fantasies - not just the crime stories that occupy Mr Newton and neighbour Herb in Shadow of a Doubt - but thereby remain prey to a perennial 'dissociation of sensibility'.  But at least Uncle Charlie has experienced this at first-hand, in the world, making him almost a Kierkegaardian hero!  To be concluded.

                                                                            Uncle Charlie gives ring to his
          niece in SHADOW OF A DOUBT


May 17 Is serial-killer Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt a 'hero' (as suggested last time)?  Yes - at one remove!  An epigraph for several films by Hitchcock could be what John Fowles wrote in 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' (1969): 'You know your choice.  You stay in prison, what your time calls duty, honour, self-respect, and you are comfortably safe.  Or you are free and crucified.  Your only companions, the stones, the thorns, the turning backs; the silence of cities and their hate.'  At some level, Uncle Charlie might be the latter person, someone who has fled moribund cities and bourgeois suburban comfort.  His later 'descendants' in Hitchcock arguably include (by force of circumstance) 'Manny' Balestrero in The Wrong Man and Roger Thornhill in North by Northwest.  Compare the Fowles quotation to the Kierkegaard one excerpted here on April 26, in which the bourgeoisie are critiqued thus: 'they have never felt homesickness for something unknown and far away, nor the depth which consists in being nothing at all, of walking out of Norreport [in Copenhagen, Denmark] with a penny in one's pocket and a cane in one's hand ...'  Hitchcock was a poet-artist as well as an entertainer (cf. the essay "Hitchcock's Literary Sources" in Leitch & Poague, 'A Companion to Alfred Hitchcock', paperback 2014).  Moreover, everywhere in Hitchcock are examples of paradox and 'contraries'.  Young Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt exemplifies what Kierkegaard calls 'dread' in the young, whom we think of as 'innocent'.  Yet the determinants of dread show 'the characteristic ambiguity of psychology.  Dread is a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic sympathy.  One easily sees ... that this is much more truly a psychological subject than it is a concupiscence.  Language confirms this completely.  One speaks of a sweet dread, a sweet feeling of apprehension ...' ('The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard', pp. 163-64)  Such dread still exists in adults - it is often the basis, I suggest, of Hitchcockian suspense, and a response to the nature of the life/death force itself.  (Hence Hitchcock could famously say, 'everything's perverted in a different way'.)  Compare, in turn, what I cited last time, James Kincaid's suggestion that we feel a fascination-repulsion apropos stories of child molestation.  Sexuality is the prime instance of the life/death force, and its manifestation in each individual is further determined by that individual's history (as discussed here lately).  In Marnie the climactic flashback and its immediate aftermath in Bernice Edgar's self-disclosure (frame-capture below) constitute no mere melodramatic device, but - in a film devoted like Psycho to showing false consciousness and (Freud's term) 'screen memories' - a virtual aetiology of sexuality, including social and psychological factors (even the 'primal scene'), to whose basic truth we may all relate.  Marnie claims, 'I am not like other people', but she is mistaken.  Walter Lowrie once said of Kiekegaard that he was the only thinker 'with such a strong sense of the solidarity of the race that Original Sin [made] any sense to him'.  But writers and poets have also felt and shown such solidarity, among them Charles Dickens ('we [are] all so connected ... without knowing it') and G.K. Chesterton (who reacted strongly against the literary 'pessimists' of his time).  Both those writers influenced Hitchcock.  In Hitchcock's case, he was both 'pessimistic' and (following Chesterton) 'anti-pessimistic' - another paradox, of course - thereby manifesting what Richard Allen calls Hitchcock's 'romantic irony'.  In Marnie, it can remind us that Hitchcock always sought to confront sexuality and its mysteries while knowing that 'reality is [finally] something that none of us can stand'.  (Even Kincaid is never so forthright!)  False consciousness is everywhere evident in the film: even Mark Rutland has his fetish for 'the criminal female'.  Incidentally, the very nature of the subject-matter of Marnie seems to have driven Hitchcock to foolish acts, as documented by the recent TV film The Girl.  But finally, I want to note this.  As Theodore Price reminds readers of his book on Hitchcock ('Superbitch!', 2011), Freud and his followers arrived at the conclusion that 'All sin is apprehended as incest in the unconscious' (Ernest Jones, quoted p. 189).  The 'incest' motif is very strong in Hitchcock's The Lodger (1926), as a careful analysis of its brilliantly assembled flashback can show (cf my review of Price on the Web, "Back to Freud!") - and already that film is one that seeks to implicate the viewer in a universal condition (albeit we may deny the specifics).  What I have been suggesting here is that such awareness on Hitchcock's part is further manifested in both Shadow of a Doubt and Marnie.  Nor is it exclusively a Freudian matter.  Writer Daphne du Maurier (three of whose stories Hitchcock filmed) was fascinated by the incest motif, not from the sexual aspect but as manifesting the urge we all feel to return to our families.  (Sheila Hodges, quoted in "Back to Freud!")  So the 'going home' motif (e.g. in Rebecca and Shadow of a Doubt), discussed earlier, is also part of the pattern I have been describing.  Q.E.D.  [Note.  Our 'News' section below will be updated shortly.]

                                                                            Bernice tells all in MARNIE


May 24 [No "Editor's Week" this time.  But check out News items added below.]

May 31 In Young and Innocent (1937) there's an amusing moment when the camera enters a provincial courtroom (see frame-capture below).  A case is just ending, in which a wife has sought an injunction against her unruly husband.  She tells the magistrate that she doesn't want a separation, just a restraining order.  The magistrate nods and addresses the husband: 'Very well ... I shall bind you over to keep the peace for six months.'  Here the wife interjects: 'Oh sir, couldn't you make it eight months to carry me over Christmas?'  Magistrate (annoyed): 'No.'  Cut to the corridor outside as the next case is called and the husband and wife come out - already arguing.  He says he shan't come straight home, he's 'off to see an old pal'.  The wife intimates that he means the local pub.  'Oh, stow it!' he says.  Hmm.  It's impossible to tell who is more in the wrong - or the right - here, which of course is the point.  Marital relations in a Hitchcock film are seldom open-and-shut, i.e., one-sided, like much else in those films.  What is always throbbing away behind the films is the life/death force.  Sensing that, Hitchcock depicted it as 'neutrally' as possible, the better for the audience to identify with the film as a whole and not be distracted by partisanship over non-suspense issues.  He wanted the audience 'inside' the film.  The result was what his wife, Alma, would say of him at the time of Psycho: he 'has the most completely balanced mind I have ever known and ... a talent for total objectivity'.  Of course, from a purely screenwriting or 'constructionist' aspect, the Young and Innocent scene just described must support the thematics of the film.  And that is also illuminating.  For the film pivots on the results of an initial husband-wife quarrel, in which successful screen actress Christine Clay is accused by her older husband of being a perennial liar, and having affairs with 'boys'.  I took you out of the chorus-line, he tells her, and helped make you a star.  But 'you lied to me then and you're lying to me now'.  For her part, she complains, 'Why won't you listen to me?'  But it does her no good - she ends up murdered.  Of course, murder is murder, and the husband is clearly guilty, whatever exonerating circumstances there may have been.  He goes on the run - as the film's screenwriter hero, Robert (Derrick de Marney), one of Christine's 'boys', who protests his own innocence, also finds himself on the run.  As in many Hitchcock films, the plight of one character is reflected by the plight of another.  Such a construction makes for a film that can draw on the widest spectrum of emotions, of life and death issues, which we experience to the full.  And there's another aspect.  Whether or not Christine Clay's husband is right about her alleged deceit and lying (and we may think, 'where there's smoke there's fire'!), what is clear is that he is is fearful for a fundamental reason: he has married a much younger woman and now dreads being abandoned.  We may think forward to Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) in Dial M for Murder (1954) who frankly admits that, on first finding out that his beautiful wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), was having an affair with a television writer, 'never felt so scared'.  But let's come back to the couple in the Young and Innocent courtroom.  They are not the only married couple, besides the Clays, we shall meet in the film: there is also the heroine Erica's (Nova Pilbeam's) Aunt Mary and Uncle Basil, who have a forbearing relationship, you could say, one where compromise has produced reasonably happy results (and late-in-the-day offspring).  (All of these relationships give perspective on the central 'young and innocent' relationship of Robert and Erica, even if that doesn't always seem so very different from any of the others: e.g., pleasant one moment, stormy the next!)  But not all people are capable of the forbearance that most marriages require, and which Hitchcock would valorise.  This time one may think of the Thorwalds in Rear Window (1954), where the wife's nagging eventually proves her undoing.  (Hitchcock was well aware of famous murder cases, such as the Crippen case and the Armstrong case, where the wife's nagging led to murder.)  In sum, when critics sometimes speak of the 'surreality' of a film like Young and Innocent, they imply the unspoken range of possibilities that the film intimates emotionally about marriage and other universal topics.  Universal?  Well, Hitchcock's own marriage to Alma was of the forebearing sort, but with the other possible variants seemingly sometimes not far away!  Recent films like The Girl and Hitchcock have both suggested as much.  There's a touching yet pathetically raw moment in The Girl when Hitchcock, in his cups, tells his assistant director James Brown that if he didn't have Alma he would be nothing.  Draw your own inferences.  [Reader, apologies if, for technical reasons, the frame-capture supposed to appear below is not visible.  We're working on the problem.  Also, please note that further News items and updates will be added soon, immediately below.  And updates to our New Publications page will also be added soon.]         


                                                                            Wife versus husband in court in
          YOUNG AND INNOCENT



June 7 [Technical problems continuing.  Big apologies.  Hope to be back next week.  KM]

June 14 [Back.  Sort of.  No actual "Editor's Week" yet, but you'll find one or two News items we've added below.  KM]

June 21 The recent Criterion release of Foreign Correspondent (1940) on dual-format Blu-ray and DVD is disappointing in some respects - notably for some of the 'extras', including James Naremore's "The Windmills of War" in an accompanying booklet - although the print itself has been cleaned up splendidly using the latest proprietary technology.  (For more on the latter, see the page headed "About the Transfer" in the booklet.)  And a valuable feature on the 'extras' disc is the one about the film's special effects, employing an animated diagram to show exactly how back-projection and 'dump tanks' were used to create the climactic moment when a clipper plane crashes into the sea.  More on that scene in a moment.  Now, there are of course many wonderful things about Foreign Correspondent, including its superb sense of visual texture and narrative rhythm.  And much wit.  But insufficiently commented on is just how ingenious the film is at many levels - as well as audacious, and even impudent!  I'll concentrate on those latter aspects this time.  In preparing the screenplay, Hitchcock was re-united with his valued collaborator Charles Bennett, and it shows.  For example, just as Bennett's script for The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) had been indebted to the Bulldog Drummond stories of 'Sapper' - Hitchcock and Bennett had originally thought of filming a script called 'Bulldog Drummond's Baby', which gave them the germ for their kidnap plot - so the same source or sources can be detected behind Foreign Correspondent, only more so!  The Dutch diplomat Van Meer (Albert Basserman) who appears to be assassinated in Amsterdam but later turns up alive, held prisoner by his kidnappers in first a Dutch mill and then in a seedy upstairs room off the Tottenham Court Road in London, is descended from the character named Professor Goodman in the Bulldog Drummond novel 'The Third Round' (1924).  (Goodman has invented a formula for making cheap industrial diamonds, and is kidnapped and tortured by a gang of crooks who want his formula at any price.)  What is especially striking is that even the idea of assassinating a double of the kidnapped man comes from the same novel.  (The crooks use this extreme measure to make it seem that Goodman has died in a laboratory accident, thus concealing the fact that he has been kidnapped.)  But whereas the 'Sapper' novel makes some sense in this respect, you would have to say that the assassination in Foreign Correspondent is outlandish in every way!  Think about it!  Van Meer is kidnapped in London, and a telegram is sent, ostensibly by him, saying that he has been called away.  Within 24 hours or so, he appears to turn up for a conference in Amsterdam, where he is shot dead by a photographer using a concealed pistol.  That's fast work by the gang led by Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall) who have not only had to set up a convincing double to be the fall-guy (obviously not telling him what his fate is to be!) but also arranged for the gunman to do his stuff.  That's improbable enough but the fact that the real Van Meer has meanwhile been transported from London to Holland (where he is held in the Dutch mill) and then returned to London and the room off Tottenham Court Road makes no sense at all!  (Does it?  I'm open to suggestions!)  Nonetheless, Hitchcock has had his fun and has provided his audience with successive scenes of excitement and frisson.  Incidentally, even the moment when the film's hero Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) thinks he recognises Van Meer coming up the Amsterdam Town Hall steps towards him is 'borrowed' from a roughly parallel scene in 'The Third Round' when a pal of Drummond, Algy, thinks he recognises a colleague of the 'late' Professor Goodman coming up some church steps towards him to attend Goodman's funeral.  More to the point, Hitchcock's ingenuity (which surely needs more recognition by film scholars) is also apparent in the details of the assassination itself.  Watch the moment closely.  The pistol is smuggled alongside the photographer's camera by 'camouflaging' it as a photographic plate which the photographer unwraps at the last possible moment, as he pretends to load the camera for his 'shot'.  The pistol fits beside the camera as if it were an extension, or indeed a part, of the camera.  (The following close-up of Van Meer's bloodied face seems to owe something to the Odessa Steps sequence in Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 classic Battleship Potemkin - and to illustrations of wounds in textbooks of forensic medicine.  Hitchcock always did thorough research.)  As for the celebrated moment immediately afterwards, when the assassin escapes through a sea of umbrellas, it works beautifully - but wasn't exactly original.  The moment seems indebted to the 'umbrellas' crowd scene in William Dieterle's The Life of Emile Zola (1937) with perhaps a nod, too, to the funeral in the rain in Sam Wood's Our Town (1940), from which William Cameron Menzies ('production designer' on Foreign Correspondent) had just come.  The technical brilliance and ingenuity with which the 'clipper' scene (mentioned earlier) was worked out by Hitchcock and Menzies has several other equivalents in the film, is what I'm saying!  To be continued.

[No frame-still this time while we try to solve our current difficulty with uploading such photos.  Sorry, folks.]


June 28 By drawing attention to Hitchcock's 'eclecticism' - how a film like Foreign Correspondent has literally dozens of 'sources' - I believe that I am illuminating the nature of Hitchcock's creativity in an appreciable, concrete way.  For example, you can often detect exactly how Hitchcock went about the adaptive process.   Note that my essay "Hitchcock's Literary Sources" for the 'Alfred Hitchcock Companion' (paperback 2014) merely begins to break the ground - there is a huge amount still to be said!  Moreover, I do think that Hitchcock was remarkably 'poetic' and 'evocative' in his effects, so let's look now at further instances in Foreign Correspondent.  First, a principal source, noted last time, was the novel by 'Sapper' called 'The Third Round'.  The kidnapped Professor Goodman (a forerunner of Foreign Correspondent's Van Meer) ends up being held prisoner by the villain Peterson in a remote house in the New Forest, Hampshire - Peterson, a master of disguise and alias, is now passing himself off as a respectable country squire (showing the influence on 'Sapper' of John Buchan).  The novel vividly describes the two men dozing in chairs before an industrial-type furnace as they tend the making of one of Goodman's artificial diamonds.  The glowing furnace casts a circle of light, and beyond that is darkness.  The description prefigures, to some extent, the superb chiaroscuro of the scene in Foreign Correspondent where Van Meer is imprisoned in the Dutch mill - more on that connection in a moment - but even more it anticipates the visual effect Hitchcock achieves during the film's torture-scene in London where the kidnappers train lights on Van Meer to encourage him to talk, and where the background in contrast is pitch-black.  (Note: 'Sapper' pioneered graphic torture scenes in 'respectable' English thriller fiction, starting with 'Bulldog Drummond' in 1920.  Hitchcock probably saw the stage version of that novel, starring Gerald du Maurier, when it opened in London in 1921.)  Further, there's a moment in 'The Third Round' when the dozing Goodman nearly gives Drummond away by waking with a start and then mumbling that he thought he'd seen someone at the door.  Peterson investigates, supposes he detects some movement or other, but finds the passage empty and resumes his seat.  Clearly this incident anticipates a couple of times in Foreign Correspondent's mill scene when Johnny is nearly caught: for instance, when Van Meer sees a movement behind his captors, who investigate, then conclude that it must have been a bird.  Reportedly, Hitchcock, for the mill scene, had 300 linnets flying around - more than two decades before The Birds!  Always he was prepared to go to great lengths to consolidate an effect.  In this respect, he could be like a master illusionist.  Recall the description last time of how the photographer/assassin smuggled a pistol alongside his camera trained on the fake Van Meer by disguising it as a photographic plate to be 'loaded'.  The 'load' is indeed a magician's term for when objects (e.g., doves) are surreptitiously introduced into a receptacle (e.g., the magician's top hat) previously shown to be empty.  On a much grander scale, the moment when the clipper plane crashes into the sea utilises an effect - described last time - as inventive and split-second as some of the effects (e.g., the lady 'vanished' from a cabinet) employed by stage illusionists.  And here's one more example.  Study the moment when Scott ffolliott (George Sanders) plunges from a window into a canvas canopy several floors below, then gently lowers himself through the torn canvas onto the pavement.  In fact, it is one more case of the-eye-deceived.  The plunging figure is a stuntman dressed up as ffolliott; at the moment he hits the canopy, which is photographed in such a way as to appear bulky and enveloping, George Sanders as ffolliott (who has been hiding there all along) lowers himself through the pre-torn hole further along the canvas onto the pavement.  The illusion of continuity is perfect.  But now I want to thank correspondent DF in Heidelberg, Germany, for his email this week about Foreign Correspondent.  He points out that the hotel manager in Amsterdam mysteriously speaks German, and wonders why.  (Even the schoolgirl outside the mill speaks the local lingo - Dutch - as she translates for two policemen Johnny's description of what has happened to him.)  I don't know the answer to DF's question, except to speculate that maybe they couldn't find a suitable Dutch-speaking actor in Hollywood, so settled for a German-speaking one instead.  And gave him as few lines as possible - just a couple of sentences with gesticulations!  And even his words are nearly drowned out - because this is the scene in which Johnny's bedroom suddenly becomes impossibly crowded by hotel employees deliberately sent there by Johnny who needs to create 'cover' for a valet to slip in unnoticed and bring Johnny his clothes.  (If you haven't seen the film, don't ask why - it's too complicated!)  The other point I would make is that this moment is, of course, indebted to a famous scene in the Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, 1935).  See what I mean about Hitchcock's 'eclecticism'?  But there are dozens more examples ...  To be continued.


July 5 This time, more about the superbly paced and choreographed Foreign Correspondent, which must be at least as dynamic as any film musical, so full of various movements (including camera movements) is it!  First, though, my thanks to correspondent JC in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the following correction.  That's not a stuntman dressed up as Scott ffolliott in the scene mentioned last time, in which ffolliott jumps from a window into a canopy above a London footpath.  It's actually a life-like dummy, its arms and legs bent to perfectly simulate someone jumping into a blanket or, in this case, verandah canopy.  The fact that it's nighttime (and a shadow has been deliberately painted across the dummy's face, it looks like) further helps make the illusion perfect.  As noted, Foreign Correspondent is full of illusion (and Hitchcock, trained as an electrical engineer, had the technical 'nous' and sangfroid of a top stage illusionist, something he even seems to suggest himself in 1938's The Lady Vanishes with its reference to 'The Great Doppo' whose speciality is 'vanishing' ladies - a step up from the party conjuror seen the previous year in Young and Innocent).  Now let's come to the film's climactic clipper scene.  In every way, this represents filmmaking of the highest craftsmanship.  And, yes, Hitchcock's and Charles Bennett's 'eclecticism' is again in evidence, with a certain tone that is the foundation for the technical bravura, which might otherwise strike the viewer as merely clever.  That tone, I suggest, has its literary sources, and one in particular: another 'Sapper' novel, 'The Final Count' (1926).  (Recall that Bennett had once been set 'homework' for the screenplay 'Bulldog Drummond's Baby', namely, to thoroughly familiarise himself with the several 'Sapper' novels featuring the pugilistic and masterful Drummond.  Years later, a parallel situation arose when Hitchcock was going to film barrister Henry Cecil's 'No Bail for the Judge' and asked screenwriter Samuel Taylor to read not just that particular novel but all of Henry Cecil's fiction, invariably set in the world of London's law courts and criminal underground.)  Specifically, I'm thinking of the 'Sapper' novel's memorable climax in which the villain Peterson sets out in his giant airship, the 'Megalithic', intending to first poison the invited dignitaries on board, including his arch-foe Drummond, and then commit suicide.  The evening is calm and the mood inside the dirigible is festive.  Someone remarks on how masses of flowers give the interior a heavy, oriental scent.  Drummond casually likens it to being in a coffin ... then suddenly realises what's afoot, though he's too late to save one individual, a red-faced man.  When Drummond yells out, 'Don't drink.  For God's sake - don't drink.  It's death', the man merely protests at what he calls 'this damned foolery'.  He drains his glass - and falls dead. (Chapter 12)  Although for reasons I'll give shortly we can't be sure about the exact degree of influence of this scene on the climax of Foreign Correspondent, certainly the mood is comparable (and will be felt again during the moonlight climax on the face of Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest).  Hitchcock's passengers aboard the clipper carry on their own desultory conversation at first, with one of them, Carol Fisher (Laraine Day), even remarking that it would be pleasant to just keep on flying 'for a long time'.  Then, suddenly, the clipper finds itself being shot at by a German ship.  Told to put on a life-jacket, a woman passenger protests, 'I never heard of anything so stupid.'  Next instant, she's shot dead.  Now, notice further that earlier remark of Carol's.  Unwittingly, she may be invoking a now almost forgotten play of the 1920s, 'Outward Bound' by Sutton Vane - a play whose characters meet on an ocean liner where they discover they're all dead and bound for purgatory.  That play and its mood is in fact referred to in Chapter 11 of 'The Final Count' where it's described as 'strange and wonderful ... no break - you just go on' - and it was filmed at least twice by Hollywood, the first version being in 1930 when it starred Leslie Howard.  Lesson: mood in Hitchcock is far more important than ideas for their own sake, because mood works upon an audience in subtle, even poetic ways, and this was something the director learned from his English literary sources, above all.  The mood of 'quietude' and 'nirvana' at the beginning of the clipper scene in Foreign Correspondent feels to the audience like the calm before a storm, with an almost subliminal reference to the War.  Obviously, that mood can offer a false security, and the astute Hitchcock was quick to show a need to literally fight for one's life, to be ever-vigilant.  And yet the same 'deathly' mood is also proleptic, here foreshadowing the noble self-sacrifice by Carol's father a few minutes later when the clipper lands in the sea.  Ideals remain afloat, so to speak.  The film's ambivalence here is very Hitchcockian, to be further analysed another time.  Suffice it to say that Hitchcock gives Fisher a chance to explain to Carol how he has been an Englishman only in appearance, his heart having remained with his fatherland.  Interestingly, a little-known book (more accurately, a published thesis) on the director, 'Hitchcock as Activist' (1982) by Sam Simone, suggests a real-life model for Fisher in the English writer Houston Stuart Chamberlain who in the late 1800s left England to marry a German woman, and whose writings became increasingly pro-Teutonic.  What Simone fails to spot is how Chamberlain was in fact the likely model for the character Herr Dollmann in the classic espionage novel 'The Riddle of the Sands' (1903) by Erskine Childers - a novel whose finalé certainly prefigures the death of Fisher in Foreign Correspondent.  To be continued.


July 12 I'll start by expanding what I said last time about Houston Stuart Chamberlain (1855-1927) being the likely 'model' for Herr Dollmann in Erskine Childers's novel 'The Riddle of the Sands' (1903), and Dollmann, in turn, being possible inspiration for the traitorous Stephen Fisher in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940).  As noted, scholar Sam Simone was the first to suggest a parallel between Chamberlain and Fisher.  Simone records that at the beginning of the 20th century Chamberlain, the son of an English admiral, married a German woman (Eva Wagner, daughter of the composer).  Chamberlain had already written a number of pro-Teutonic books, such as 'Foundations of the Nineteenth Century' (1899), that eventually helped gain him an audience with Hitler, whom he admired.  Yet Simone misses something - how, earlier, public controversy in England about this renegade English aristocrat may have prompted Childers (1870-1922) to make Dollmann a disgraced officer in Her Majesty's Navy who goes over to the Germans, taking his trusting English daughter, Clara, with him.  Certainly it's demonstrable that the makers of Foreign Correspondent saw a resemblance between Dollmann and Clara (in the Childers novel) and Fisher and his daughter Carol (in the Hitchcock film).  In particular, both works end in similar fashion, with the father going to a watery suicide.  The episode in Chapter 28 of the novel concludes: 'We cruised about for a time, but never found him.'  Now, there are other connections of Foreign Correspondent to literary works, but it's time to mention at least a few of its many film connections - which further help make this the most 'eclectic' of all Hitchcock movies.  I'll start by mentioning what may be no more than a coincidence, but an instructive one.  Actually, it has a literary connection as well.  In 'The Detective in Film' (1972), William K. Everson writes: 'The films of Alfred Hitchcock were enormously popular [in England in the 1930s], the detective novels of Edgar Wallace, E, Phillips Oppenheim, and A.E.W. Mason extremely useful as a reservoir of plots and characters ...' (p. 169)  Everson is referring to English film thrillers in general, I think.  And soon he singles out what he calls 'one of the best and most elaborate of all British Edgar Wallace mysteries, and a kindred spirit to Alfred Hitchcock's espionage movies', namely, The Four Just Men (Walter Forde, 1939).  It's the story of four private individuals who take it upon themselves to expose - and even kill - a respected public figure, a political pacifist, whom they believe is leading the country into danger (and who consorts, perhaps unwittingly, with enemy agents).  Pointedly, the original Wallace story (1905) has become in Forde's film a warning of the looming Nazi menace, although Adolf Hitler is never named (newsreel footage of goose-stepping Nazis that ends the print I watched was reportedly added for the film's re-release in 1944).  It is basically an entertaining thriller set in London's streets and homes and public buildings  - and its principal scriptwriter was none other than Hitchcock's good friend, Angus MacPhail.  The cinematographer was Ronald Neame, another Hitchcock protégé.  And several members of the cast (e.g., Edward Chapman, playing a newspaper editor) had previously worked for Hitchcock.  However, none of this proves that Hitchcock saw Forde's film before making Foreign Correspondent a year later, and indeed Forde's film appears to have had limited distribution in the US, where it was reportedly handled by the lowly Monogram Pictures.  Yet its case is instructive, as I say.  Both directors must have been confident that their respective entertainments could alert audiences of the approaching danger and, in particular, of enemy agents already installed close at hand.  (In this respect, compare Anatole Litvak's 1939 film for Warner Brothers, Confessions of a Nazi Spy.)  Indeed,  they probably saw the thriller as the ideal vehicle to convey such otherwise unpalatable 'home truths'.  Espionage was tailor-made for thriller purposes, and pacifist-figures a suitable target for exposure.  (There were plenty of other precedents for this, as I'll show next time.)  Worth mentioning is the climax of The Four Just Men.  The pacifist politician (Alan Napier, looking more than a little like the conservative Neville Chamberlain - no relation to Houston Stuart Chamberlain - who had notoriously sought appeasement with Hitler) is electrocuted in his bath.  Seizing their opportunity, before the news gets out, the 'Four' install one of their number, a professional actor, in the politician's place, just when he is due to make a speech to the House of Commons.  In a perfect impersonation, the actor warns the world of why pacificism will no longer work.  The Hitchcock of the bravura set-piece (e.g., the Amsterdam Town Hall scene in Foreign Correspondent) would have been proud of Angus MacPhail's screenwriting on this occasion.  To be continued.

July 19 I can't resist beginning this next note on Foreign Correspondent (cf. previous) by observing how impersonation of a double is one of the most popular plot-devices in fiction - and that writers of thrillers especially loved it.  Wilkie Collins's 'The Woman in White' (1859) used it ingeniously; 'The Prisoner of Zenda' (1894) gave it a political setting (an impending coronation); E. Phillips Oppenheim's 'The Great Impersonation' (1920) kept millions of readers guessing with a plot referring to near-contemporary events (the German menace).  Novels by Edgar Wallace and 'Sapper' used the device in startling fashion and influenced filmmakers in turn.  We examined the 1939 film of Wallace's 'The Four Just Men' (1905) last time, and previously noted how Sapper's 'The Third Round' (1924) is echoed in Foreign Correspondent (when the villains kidnap an elderly hostage and then publicly shoot his double to lull suspicion that he is still alive).  Meanwhile, events in Europe may themselves have influenced the filmmakers to include impersonation and assassination as plot-devices, not without irony.  In Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959), Leonard (Martin Landau) refers to the 'old Gestapo trick ... shoot one of your own people to show that you're not one of them'.  (Is that perhaps a reference to the infamous Night of the Long Knives in 1934, when the Army and the paramilitary SA were forced to reconcile their differences?  Or something else?  Anyone?)  Note, by the way, that Leonard's allusion may not be the only one in the film to the Gestapo: as James Naremore's 'Acting in the Cinema' (1988) points out, the way Vandamm (James Mason) holds a cigarette 'like a Hollywood Nazi' fits the same pattern.  Now, I promised to mention instances of another popular plot-device used by Foreign Correspondent, namely, the exposing of a phoney (or misguided) 'pacifist'.  Again we saw last time that this goes back at least as far as 'The Four Just Men'.  And John Buchan's 'Mr Standfast' (1919) has its German villain living in an English village and calling himself 'Moxon Ivery' while he poses as an academic pacifist.  He is effectively a descendant of respectable Professor Jordan in 'The Thirty-Nine Steps' (1915).  If the makers of Foreign Correspondent were indeed recalling Moxon Ivery's pacifism, it may not have been their only borrowing from the 1919 Buchan novel.  Ivery appoints a would-be assassin named Gresson to get rid of Richard Hannay by pushing him over the side of a ship; when the attempt fails, Gresson must feign concern for Hannay's welfare - shades of Rowley's attempt to push Johnny Jones under a London truck (and later off the tower of Westminster Cathedral).  Next, another 1939 film.  When you investigate the casting of Joel McCrae in Foreign Correspondent - after Hitchcock was turned down by his first-choice, Gary Cooper - you find that McCrae's most recent role had been as a prospective young diplomat in Lloyd Bacon's Espionage Agent, for Warners.  There, his character falls in love with a German spy (Brenda Marshall) who turns out to work for something called the World Peace Organisation in Switzerland.  Now I'll mention a British film.  Albert de Courville's Seven Sinners (1936) was scripted by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat just before they wrote the script of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes.  Fast-moving and fun, it includes a train crash filmed from the driver's cabin.  (Hmm.  In 1936 Hitchcock wrote an article "Why Thrillers Thrive" in which he referred to the use of subjective camera to involve an audience - and cited the case of Howard Hughes's Hell's Angels, made in 1930, which put the viewer right in the pilot's seat during a crash.  I'll come back to this.)  The film's villain uses a peace organisation as cover.  On this occasion, it's called The Pilgrims of Peace.  All right.  We were mentioning just now films that depict a crash - of planes, trains, ships - subjectively.  One such film is, of course, Foreign Correspondent itself.  But there are several others of interest.  Fritz Lang's Spione/Spies (1928) is another film where a train crash is shot from the driver's cabin (and thus a likely influence on Seven Sinners).  A related film is Frank Borzage's History is Made at Night (1937) which climaxes at sea, in a liner's head-on collision with an iceberg.  Borzage shot this event entirely from on board the ship.  And the film's producer was Walter Wanger - the producer of Foreign Correspondent.  Further, a notable film for our purposes is again British, namely, Robert Stevenson's Non Stop New York (1937) whose last half-hour takes place aboard a transatlantic airliner.  I'll discuss it next time, along with other Walter Wanger films and whatever else I can cram in as I conclude this series (of six posts) on the 'eclecticism' of Foreign Correspondent.


July 26
First, thanks to DF for suggesting this week that the reference in North by Northwest to the 'old Gestapo trick ... shoot one of your own people to show that you're not one of them' may be no more than 'the clever figment of some filmmaker's imagination' (although DF feels that there was an incident along those lines that happened in occupied France).  Just possibly, then, North by Northwest's screenwriter Ernest Lehman thought the idea up himself - or simply adapted it from Foreign Correspondent.  (We don't actually know, do we, that Stephen Fisher's Peace Party doesn't have Gestapo backing?)  Oh, and coming back to our theme of the 'eclecticism' of Foreign Correspondent, the film had several writers, such as comedian Robert Benchley, who plays Stebbins and who wrote many of his own lines.  Someone else who was an uncredited advisor to the film
was the famous Hungarian Jew Arthur Koestler (1905-83), whose first novel 'The Gladiators' (1939), about the revolt of Spartacus, had just come out - forming the first part of an anti-totalitarian trilogy that would also include the celebrated  'Darkness at Noon' (1940) and 'Arrival and Departure' (1943).  I find this tidbit of information fascinating, for it seems in keeping with Hitchcock's later readiness to research the 'deep background' of his films.  (Please, does anyone reading this know anything further about the Koestler connection with Foreign Correspondent?)  But it was Hitchcock's knowledge of other films that he particularly drew on at this time.  The two 1930s Gaumont films, Seven Sinners (see last week) and Non Stop New York, both exemplified the idea Hitchcock had touted in 1936, of putting the camera right in front of the action.  The last half-hour of Non Stop New York takes place aboard a transatlantic airliner.  Several members of the cast had come straight from making Hitchcock's Sabotage (e.g., John Loder, Desmond Tester, William Dewhurst, Peter Bull).  Set in 1940, the film has an element of science fiction about it: a notable suspense scene involves the villain's attempt to push an unwary victim from the plane's 'observation platform'.  Not only is he unsuccessful, but he soon falls to his own death when his parachute fails to open.  (This is one antecedent of the death of Rowley in Foreign Correspondent - another may be the death of Frollo, played by Cedric Hardwicke, thrown from the cathedral tower in 1939's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was directed by William Dieterle and starred Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara, both of whom had just co-starred in Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn!  Notice how, almost certainly, Hitchcock knew of all these films we're citing!)  But here's what I was particularly leading towards.  Another occasion when Non Stop New York anticipates Foreign Correspondent - the respective footage looks practically identical - is the crash-landing at sea.  In both cases, we're shown the water skimming under the pilot's cockpit window.  (Hitchcock just 'freshened it up a little' by using 'dump tanks' to show the water actually crashing through!)  Still, if Hitchcock's film did borrow from both of these Gaumont films, that was no more than its due.  Both of the Gaumont films reprise memories of the villain with the top joint of his little finger missing in Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935), itself made at Gaumont.  The villain in Seven Sinners has a distinctive way of holding his cigar (in turn anticipating how James Mason in North by Northwest holds his cigarette, as described last week); the villain in Non Stop New York betrays himself when someone recognises his peculiar, one-handed manner of striking a match.  (So often when Hitchcock, throughout his career, borrowed material from other directors, it can be shown to have been a sort of mutual-influence, even mutual-admiration, thing!  Hitchcock and Lang, and Hitchcock and Siodmak, provide notable instances, as I've previously pointed out.)  Finally, I've time to indicate just a few more of the ways in which the films of Walter Wanger, producer of Foreign Correspondent, are echoed in Hitchcock's film.  Hitchcock, or his screenwriters, do seem to have dutifully looked at some of Wanger's work.  In the case of The President Vanishes (1934), I can only speculate about a possible influence, for I've never seen it, but certainly its synopsis (not to mention its title!) has a familiar ring: something about the US president dropping out of sight for a few days, pretending to have been kidnapped by fascists, so that his country won't be drawn into a European war.  (For more, click here: http://www.allmovie.com/movie/the-president-vanishes-v106527.)  But I have seen Tay Garnett's Trade Winds (1939) and I would say that much of the opening scene of Hitchcock's film, set in a newspaper office, is indebted to Garnett's film.  One example: the latter's counterpart of Johnny Jones is its police detective (Frederic March) whom we first see slacking in his office because he's just been fired (in his case, for getting too intimate with the sheriff's daughter) ...  More another time.

News and New Publications items will be added to this site in the next few days.

Bonus item.  A bit off-topic, but fascinatingly eerie, apropos Vertigo.  Thanks to CA who was the first to alert me to it.  Click here, folks, to be astonished:

http://laughingsquid.com/photograph-of-san-francisco-street-in-1957-shot-at-virtually-the-same-moment-as-a-scene-from-hitchcocks-vertigo/


August 2 This week Australian scientists have confirmed how certain types of dinosaurs - the smaller, more agile, meat-eating ones - are the likely progenitors of birds (a paper in the August 2014 issue of 'Science').  Straight after reading that, I happened to finally watch Jurassic Park (just 21 years late!) and then read Peter Wollen's article "Theme Park and Variations" ('Sight and Sound', July 1993, pp. 6-9) in which he likens Steven Spielberg's film to Hitchcock's The Birds, not least because in both films, under threat from the natural world, 'a couple is formed and a bachelor learns to care for "wife" and "family", as a prelude, we suppose, to marriage'.  (In Jurassic Park, the paleontologist played by Sam Neill initially has no time for kids, not even the two bright grandchildren of the Park's billionaire owner played by Richard Attenborough; in The Birds, Melanie's initial interest in Mitch is offset by hostility both from Mitch himself and from his mother.)  Wollen goes so far as to claim: 'While The Birds, like the classic slasher film, represents displaced, stylised rapes, Jurassic Park seems to represent displaced, stylised child molesting.'  (Hmm.  I looked up James Kincaid's 'Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting' [1998], discussed here previously [April 19, May 3], and found that he takes a more relative view of Jurassic Park, seeing it as one of the rare films featuring kids' relationship to adults where 'even adorable children have a strange integrity that is so tough to fathom that it may be best just to record it and to honor its variety and tenacity' - p. 136.  Actually, I think that's the more accurate reading of this aspect of Spielberg's film.)  But I liked this further observation by Wollen: 'The dinosaurs themselves ... are sexually ambiguous.  Although they left the laboratory female, they are able to change sex and become male.  Thus like Norman Bates in Psycho, they are of uncertain sex and also seem to displace their sexual impotence into violence ...'  That may help to show why - in a surreal way - Norman is arguably the most 'sympathetic' character in Psycho (I don't just mean because 'They moved away the highway'!) and the avians 'in the right' in The Birds.  To be discussed another time.)  Best of all, I liked Wollen's tracing of the 'dinosaur cult' to the 19th century, consequent on the work of paleontologist Richard Owen.  'When the Crystal Palace was moved from Hyde Park to Sydenham, after the closing of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Owen [seized] the opportunity to design a series of dinosaurs to be erected on an artificial island in the Exhibition Park ... an enclosed palace for tourists which "depicted paradise ... the largest greenhouse ever built ... a climate-controlled reconciliation of Arcadia and industry, a garden for machines."'  (Wollen is here quoting Michael Sorkin's 1992 book, 'Variations on a Theme Park'.)  Seems to me that both Jurassic Park and The Birds (as well as Psycho, in view of such things as another line of Norman's, 'We were more than happy ...') are 'lost paradise' films, and knowingly contrast childish innocence and adult hubris in the face of nature (or similar, such as the blind cosmic 'Will') to make their point.  In this, they are following on from 19th-century models, possibly at the time unconscious ones (arguably the Crystal Palace itself?).  In Jurassic Park Laura Dern, playing a paleobotanist, earnestly criticises Richard Attenborough for mistakenly thinking that he was ever in control, which is what he thinks his money and his 'Jurassic Park' have given him.  Hmm.  My regular readers know that I detect a 'lost paradise' motif in a majority of Hitchcock films, from his 1925 feature The Pleasure Garden (significant title!) to the polished Rebecca (1940), to the comic 'pastorale' The Trouble With Harry (1955), to 1958's Vertigo (set in a quintessential 'lost paradise' city, San Francisco).  Typical 'lost paradise' iconography can include gardens or parks, islands, walled cities, deserts, snowfields - all somehow invoking the original 'Eden' or equivalent (e.g., in Persian myth), with or without irony.  The fact that such places may appear protected or anyway peaceful - until horror or disaster strikes - invites a certain 'sublime' treatment (one definition of 'the sublime' being awe at nature's power but with a feeling of being safe), and indeed Wollen detects in Jurassic Park what he calls the 'sadistic sublime' occasioned by how 'Paradise Regained quickly turns into Paradise Lost'.  In turn, there are many possible explanations concerning the aetiology of the 'lost paradise' motif, typically invoking childhood (or a time before that, the experience of being in the womb).  Kincaid cites several.  Here is one: 'In a touching passage that concludes "Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious" ... Freud says that we seek in ... humor ... a "euphoria" that once came to us easily, "the mood of our childhood, when we ... were incapable of jokes and when we had no need of humor to make us feel happy in our life."' (p. 282)


August 9 This week I had occasion to re-visit Rope (1948).  What an ambitious project it was on Hitchcock's part - and I don't mean just technically.  (But I'll talk about that aspect shortly.)  If all of us are bound in subjectivity - a basis of the 'lost paradise' discussed here last time - then one moral inference from that fact is the need for humility.  Rope and The Birds are probably the two most schematic demonstrations of such a lesson in Hitchcock's oeuvre, and to see the teacher Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) receive his epiphany at the climax of Rope is to be moved by the power of the film's irony: the teacher taught.  With him are his two former students, now revealed as murderers, Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger).  To them, Rupert confesses: 'Until this moment the world and the people in it have always been dark and incomprehensible to me.'  I like this comment on Stewart's performance in a new book, 'Hitchcock in Context' by Stephane Duckett: 'He does a credible job but an actor like James Mason would perhaps have conveyed the facile intellectual snobbery of the university professor more credibly.  Cedric Hardwicke's role as [the dead boy] David's father is a perfect foil to Rupert Cadell's shallow and cavalier banter on murder; largely due to the superb script but also Stewart's working of those lines, the transition he achieves from the somewhat supercilious flirtation with fascistic ideas to the complete rejection of the actions of Brandon and Phillip is credible.' (pp. 77-78)  And Duckett adds astutely: 'It would be too strong to suggest that Hitchcock was anti-intellectual but he clearly did not gravitate towards the rarefied world of ideas and intellectualism.'  Which is surely true.  In 1963, at the premiere of The Birds, Hitchcock told Oriana Fallaci: 'There's nothing more stupid than logic.  Logic is the result of reasoning, reasoning is the result of experience, and who's to say whether our experiences are the right ones? ...  My films are based only on suspense, not on logic.  Give me a bomb: and Descartes can go boil his head.' ('Limelighters', 1967, p. 93)  Watching Rope this time, I was indeed moved by how frequently someone at Brandon and Phillip's cocktail party asks where David is - the mounting concern of his father (and his mother, who rings up from her sick-bed) is especially touching.  Brandon may have remarked to Phillip that such people as David (interestingly, a Harvard undergraduate) 'merely occupy space', but clearly he was much loved and much respected (and like all of us, a connecting link between persons, even if the self-centred Brandon can't see that).  It's worth remembering that Hitchcock probably first saw Patrick Hamilton's play 'Rope's End' at one of its initial performances in London in 1929 (when it was directed by Reginald Denham who soon afterwards moved to the United States and became type-cast as a director of suspense plays; the part of Brandon was played by Brian Aherne who married Joan Fontaine and would later appear in Hitchcock's I Confess).  At precisely this time, as John Carey has shown in his brilliant book 'The Intellectuals and the Masses' (1992), the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche had empowered British intellectuals to adopt an attitude of almost insufferable snobbery towards those they considered 'inferior'.  So Hamilton's play was something of a social document that Hitchcock, to his great credit, sensed could be given new pertinence in a post-Hitler world.  There's a subtle ambiguity, even so.  The irresponsible teachings of Rupert about Nietzsche were not those of a first-class mind: Rupert had been merely a housemaster in a prep school, and clearly liked to 'show off' to his students, who, the film implies, took him and his explanation of 'the Superman' too much at face-value.  At any rate, the hero-worshipping Brandon did, and seduced the submissive Phillip, his gay partner, into joining him in committing a would-be 'perfect murder' to demonstrate their 'superiority'.  Brandon professes to despise 'weakness', but his habitual stutter suggests that he, too, is a fallible being - like the rest of us.  As I say, this is a film about subjectivity, through and through.  In a way, Hitchcock's filmic technique plays on our own fallibility.  The film is essentially photographed in 'ten-minute takes' and joined into one continuous 'shot', thereby subliminally locking us into the 'huis clos' ('closed door'/'no exit') world of Brandon and Phillip's (and even Rupert's) limited perception.  The ending, when Rupert throws open a window, is almost visceral in the sense of release it offers.  But along the way, Hitchcock's 'trompe l'oeil' has further tricked us, as when he disguises the necessary edits sometimes by tracking into and out of a dark area (hiding the cut) but also, on at least three occasions, by use of reaction-shots where the cut goes unnoticed because of a simple matter of audience psychology.  More next time.


August 16 Actually, the first cut (of at least four) in Rope comes right at the start, after the camera, which has been looking down into a New York street ('in the East Fifties', according to the script), pans to the window of Brandon's upper-story apartment where the shades are drawn - and we hear a literally strangled male cry.  Next minute, we are inside the darkened apartment, forced to watch the moment of death of a young man killed by two strands of rope drawn around his neck by the gloved hands of Phillip (Farley Granger).  Meanwhile, Phillip's partner, Brandon (John Dall) - whom the script calls 'the accessory' - has been restraining the victim and using gloved hands to do so.  The fact that both partners wear leather gloves is one instant sign that the murder is pre-meditated.  Next, the partners lift the body into an adjacent chest, and close the lid ...  Now to come back to that cut.  It isn't to a reaction-shot of a character exactly, because as yet we haven't met any characters (just observed a policeman down below ushering two schoolchildren across a pedestrian-crossing).  Nonetheless, you could say that the cut is 'demanded' by the audience's aroused curiosity, our urge to know.  After the strangled cry, Hitchcock holds on the window for a second or two to allow that urge to build.  Then he cuts.  But we scarcely notice the fact of the cut because our attention is diverted by, first, our impatience to know what has happened and, second, our instant shock on seeing the dead boy.  In effect, the cut is invisible.  The film will apply this 'invisibility' technique at least three more times - and in each case link it to an actual reaction-shot.  My point, from last time, is that Hitchcock uses audience psychology - specifically, our not noticing what is essentially 'invisible' - to make us feel that we have experienced in Rope one continuous 'shot', and have been 'locked in' with the characters whose story is somehow ours.  The film doesn't actually state that we are implicated in what has happened, yet implies it.  Thus the film is a 'cautionary tale', albeit more elaborate than the one of Brandon's about a maiden on her wedding-day who got trapped in a chest with a spring-lock, and whose skeleton was only found years afterwards.  Shortly, I'll expand this topic by comparing a notorious film of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salo (1975), which I had occasion to watch this week.  However, let's concentrate for now on Rope's 'invisible' reaction-shots.  The first comes with the arrival at Brandon and Phillip's cocktail party of Janet (Joan Chandler), the missing boy's current girlfriend: as Janet enters from the hallway, she is observed from the next room by Kenneth (Douglas Dick), her previous boyfriend - and a virtually invisible cut as she says 'Hello Kenneth' shows us his surprise and mild embarrassment at seeing her.  (The manipulative Brandon has effectively set the two people up, manoeuvering to bring them back together, or 'playing God' as the script will pointedly have it.)  The next such moment occurs at a dramatic climax when the nervous Phillip has reacted angrily to Brandon's story about his strangling chickens: 'That's a lie!'  The line virtually demands a reaction-shot and that's exactly what Hitchcock gives us - by cutting to the instantly-thoughtful face of Rupert (James Stewart) and holding on that view for some twenty seconds (see frame-capture below) while the other guests' conversation resumes off-screen.  (Again our psychology helps make the cut 'invisible' - and now, note, we begin to feel that it's only a matter of time before Rupert solves the mystery of what is going on.)  And the third reaction-shot utilises our growing sense of suspense.  The suspicious Rupert has just remarked to his two hosts, 'There's something upsetting you a great deal', when the voice of housekeeper Mrs Wilson (Edith Evanson) is heard from off-screen: 'Excuse me, sir' - and we suspect that disclosure may be only seconds away!  So Hitchcock takes the opportunity for another near-invisible cut (to disguise the next reel-change) by showing us the deferential Mrs Wilson as she completes her speech: 'There's a lady phoning for either Mr Kentley or Mrs Atwater.'  She is actually addressing Brandon but momentarily we think that she might be about to take her cue from Rupert's remark and reveal to him the evidence he is searching for!  The script is often hugely clever in just such nudging-along ways!  But now notice something else: how each of those reaction-shots isn't just linked to a particular character, it actually helps disclose a character, that is, something about the person speaking or the person/s addressed.  This fully supports the claim made by the film's screenwriter, gay playwright Arthur Laurents (on the Rope DVD), that Rope is one of the best films ever made about homosexuality - precisely because it is concentrated on character/s.  By contrast, next week I'll go into some detail about why Pasolini's Salo, while it arguably has a homosexual outlook, is bereft of character (and infinitely more pornographic).  As Gary Indiana's study of Salo (BFI, 2000) says, 'the subjective life of anybody in Salo is terra incognita' (p. 42).

                                                                            Rupert reacts in ROPE          
                                  
August 23 Hitchcock's films from, say, Rebecca (1940) onwards, typically come complete with back-stories, and Rope is no exception.  While we're not told the details of how Brandon and Phillip first met (perhaps in prep school where bachelor Rupert was house-master?), yet we do know that they have been firm friends for many years.  And that Brandon clearly has 'influence' over his partner, probably to the extent of being the instigator of the murder of young David Kentley, i.e., a homosexual 'thrill killing' designed to bond the partners and to show their intellectual superiority which they rationalise as being in keeping with Nietzsche's ideas propounded by Rupert, their mentor (and ersatz father-figure).  We also know such things as that Brandon's wealthy mother owns a farm in Connecticut where Phillip has long been welcome, and which even Rupert has visited.  Also, we know that Brandon had an unlikely affair with Janet before she turned to, first, Kenneth and then David.  (So is the killing of David partly Brandon's 'revenge' for being dropped by Janet?  Likewise, is Rupert's interest in Nietzsche a way of compensating for his 'impotence', symbolised by his limp from a war-wound but which can be further interpreted as a symbol of his own gayness?  Note his bizarre remark about the aging housekeeper Mrs Wilson: 'I may marry her.')  Equally, given that the film's three principal males are a dandified show-off (Brandon), a sensitive artist/musician (Phillip), and a conscientious 'super-ego' figure (Rupert) - who yet has affinities with the other two - we may be allowed to see Hitchcock's long interest in making the film as due to his feeling an affinity with the overall situation (including an 'obsession' with murder) - and which, via Rupert, he seeks to 'exorcise'.  (For further reason why Patrick Hamilton's play would have appealed to Hitchcock, see August 9, above.)  Now, I said last time that Rope is vastly different from Pasolini's Salo - a film that came up on our discussion group recently - precisely because Hitchcock's film 'about' homosexuals is full of characterisation whereas Pasolini's homosexual view 'of' sexuality per se is almost devoid of characterisation, a reading clearly supported by Gary Indiana's monograph on Salo (BFI, 2000): 'Although Salo is the ultimate chamber piece, not all of its figures emerge as "characters".  On the contrary, none of them do.' (p. 34)  I find it impossible when watching Salo (which I told our group I consider 'hard-to-take and eventually tedious') not to think that its parade of pornographic tropes isn't the result of its director's reported near-nightly 'cruising' of the gay scene.  And that its content is vastly different from the relatively 'rounded' characters and psychologically astute observation that inform Rope.  Hmm.  When Hitchcock spoke to Oriana Fallaci (cf. August 9, above) about his understanding of the sexual proclivities of Nordic women - and English women, too - she understandably asked him, 'Forgive my asking: but how do you know these things, Mr Hitchcock?'  To which he replied, frankly enough, 'What a question!  I listen to what people say, I find out about things.  Obviously the information is second hand.  Scientists ... know that if you mix one powder with another powder you'll be blown up.  But they don't have to be blown up in order to know it.' (p. 91)  So there you have two different aesthetics!  And yet both films refer to Nietzsche, and seek to say things about society in general.  (Pasolini's Marxism is another aspect of that poet-filmmaker.)  Interestingly, Indiana claims that 'Salo engages voyeurism rather than empathy' (p. 57), yet although Hitchcock is often spoken of as disposed to voyeurism, you would have to say that there is an admirable balance of those two elements in Rope - whereas Salo feels decidedly unbalanced.  More about these matters another time.  To conclude, here's something about Rope that I had not really noticed before, and which goes to show the care that went into the script.  Rupert is a smoker.  He is smoking a cigarette on his first entrance and quickly goes over to the piano where Phillip is playing in order to stub out the cigarette, while remarking, 'Your touch has improved, Phillip.'  (See frame-capture below.)  Yet within minutes he lights up again.  We see him take out his gold-plated cigarette case from an inside pocket of his impeccable grey suit.  He is, you must feel, an urbane individual, possibly with something preying on his mind, who yet carries himself well.  And of course that gold-plated cigarette case has a vital role to play at the film's climax ...  More next time.

                                                                            Entrance of Rupert in ROPE 



August 30
[Revised.] First, I'll finish my observation of last week, about how Rupert in Rope is a smoker (thus validating the moment when his gold cigarette case serves as his excuse to return to Brandon and Phillip's apartment after the cocktail party) ...  It would be too 'obvious' if Rupert alone, of all the film's characters, were a smoker, so the screenplay includes a pointed scene where we notice that both Janet and Kenneth also smoke.  (See frame-capture below.)  No matter that this 'intimate' moment is a virtual Hollywood cliché, for that serves Hitchcock's characterisation nicely.  Janet and Kenneth had once been close, and their manipulative host Brandon (the film's other smoker, I should note) seeks to bring them back together, thereby mocking their (as it were, clichéd) 'ordinariness'.  He has just suggested to Kenneth that he 'switch on the radio or play some records ... a little atmospheric music goes a long way' - and now, besides watching the business with lighting-up, we listen to the audio cliché of a pop tune performed on the radio by the then-popular group The Three Suns.  (By contrast, the only other diegetic music heard in the film is that played by Phillip at the piano: atonal music by Francis Poulenc who had just completed his first concert tour of the United States accompanied by baritone Pierre Bernac, his gay lover.)  Hmm.  During the week, on our Hitchcock discussion group, I noted that Rope's gay screenwriter Arthur Laurents had reportedly dated three male members of the film's cast! (See Charles Kaiser, 'The Gay Metropolis', 1999, p. 59.)  In other words: John Dall, Farley Granger, and one other.  Ruling out James Stewart and Cedric Hardwicke, that really only leaves either the actor playing Kenneth (Douglas Dick) or the one who plays the dead David (Dick Hogan).  Reader, you guess!  The point I was making was that the film's director, a good Catholic boy, and married to Alma, meanwhile observed all this from a distance, bemused by the passing parade and its rich 'characters'!  And that this was reflected in the film.  How different, I felt, from the director Pier Paolo Pasolini, whose Salo (1975) is devoid of characterisation, and coldly pornographic.  This was in the context of another claim of mine (to our group's avowedly gay member, BD) that if there is one single text, besides Patrick Hamilton's original play ('Rope's End', 1929), that can be likened to Rope, it is André Gide's immensely lucid 'L'Immoraliste' (1902) - influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche and Oscar Wilde.  There, the gay 'risk-taker' Ménalque is to the story's bisexual young narrator Michel as Rupert is to Brandon and Phillip, a sort of existential agent provocateur.  (Note.  Elsewhere I have argued that the character of Rupert derives from Wilde's 'Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young', published in 1894, although, as Laurents's memoirs confirm, once James Stewart joined the Rope project the script couldn't develop that line any further.)  Obligingly, BD recalled a remark of François Truffaut: 'Alfred Hitchcock makes films as Gide writes books - "to disturb"'!  And it's so true!  Here I pointed to Hitchcock's admirable (relative) objectivity, and how it had been presaged by Gide whose successive texts would critique the apparent position of others by him, earlier or later.  Also, each text would put ideas in a human context.  Here's a pertinent observation by Gide biographer Alan Sheridan: 'L'Immoraliste is not so much an apologia for Nietzschean ideas as an exploration of what can happen if such ideas fall into the hands of someone too weak to sustain them.'  (Introduction to Penguin edition of 'The Immoralist', p. viii.)  Not only does Rope suggest that none of us is without human weakness, but that none of us has the right to declare oneself above others, finally.  At the climax, just before Rupert's denunciatory, 'Did you think you were God, Brandon?', the script gives him this: 'Now I know the truth .. that humanity cannot be divided into categories to suit our own ends.  We are each of us a human being, Brandon, with the right to live and work and think as individuals.  Yes, but with an obligation to the society we live in.'  To come back to 'L'Immoraliste', it's worth noting that it is narrated by Michel in retrospect, now a sadder and wiser man, to a group of friends he has summoned to hear the cautionary story of his life so far.  And after hearing it, their spokesman notes: 'By not condemning [Michel's] actions at any point during his long explanation, we were as good as accomplices.  We were in some way implicated.'  (p. 123)  More next time, while concluding this brief look at Rope with an examination of its finalé in greater detail.    

                                                                            Kenneth and Janet smoke in ROPE 


September 6 [Held over until next time.  KM.]

September 13 The Rope screenplay notes that from the moment Rupert returns to Brandon and Phillip's apartment, ostensibly to find his mislaid cigarette case, 'Brandon, from here on, is a madman'.  (Brandon has just told Phillip, 'No one is going to get in my way now', and we see him load a revolver before opening the front door.)  Actually, Rupert suspects the worse - but can hardly admit it to himself - for he secretly carries the rope that had served Brandon and Phillip as a murder weapon.  He evidently plans to taunt the killers into a 'confession': shades of the cat-and-mouse game between Porphiry and Raskolnikov in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 'Crime and Punishment' (1866).  Indeed, when Rupert claims to find his cigarette case behind some books, both the audience and the killers know that he is lying, and that he has just put it there.  From now on, Brandon's hand hovers near his pocket containing the revolver, and the suspense builds.  It's alleviated by black comedy and double-entendre, of course, as when Rupert speaks of how 'pleasant' it is 'to sit here with a good drink and good company'.  And soon, as if playing a guessing-game, Brandon challenges Rupert to imagine what may have happened to the missing David.  Obligingly, Rupert - and the moving camera - re-create the moments leading to David's death (much as Maxim in the boat-house scene in the 1940 Rebecca describes the last moments of Rebecca before 'she stumbled and hit her head on some ship's tackle').  But suddenly Rupert notices Brandon's hand in his pocket, and must think quickly.  Here occurs the last of the film's 'invisible' cuts (not counting the ones on black objects).  From a shot of Brandon's pocket, representing Rupert's pov, the film cuts to Rupert's face, noticing.  (See frame-capture below.)  Turning away from the chest, he suggests that David's body could have been carried downstairs and put in the car.  For the moment, Rupert is off the hook - but the arrogant Brandon won't have it.  Driven by what the Freudian psychoanalyst Theodor Reik called 'The Compulsion to Confess' (the title of his 1925 book), Brandon immediately points out, 'You'd be seen ... You said yourself ... [whatever happened] must have happened in broad daylight.'  And so we rapidly move to a showdown in which it's impossible to feel that we, the audience, at some level, are not implicated.  I have already discussed this aspect, both above (e.g., entry for August 30) and elsewhere, notably in the essay "Melancholy Elephants" in Mark Osteen (ed.), 'Hitchcock & Adaptation' (2014).  The gist of my point there is that Hitchcock knowingly took the climax of Rope, in which a flashing red, green, and white electric sign shines on the several characters in a room, from the novel 'Enter Sir John' (1929) by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson (the novel on which Hitchcock's 1930 Murder! was based) - and that the novel's symbolism was used by Hitchcock to underline Rope's idea of complicity by all parties concerned, even the film's audience.  'Enter Sir John' is about the world of theatre, and the three colours are explicitly compared by the novel to the colours of the comic character Harlequin in the Italian Commedia dell'arte (which has been called 'pure theatre').  By extension, it's only fitting that the three main characters in Rope should be similarly bathed in Harlequin's colours, for they are all, ultimately, jesters in the game of life - fallible and subject to error.  Or, as Shakespeare would say, they are all 'merely players' (cf. 'As You Like It': 'All the world's a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players'), something that the 'theatrical' look and feel of Rope, confined to a single 'set', constantly underlines.  Essentially this is a compassionate view of life, not incompatible with Hitchcock's Catholicism.  However, it is also of a universal significance, which was touched on this week in our Hitchcock discussion group.  I posted: 'Hitchcock's position [in Rope is] that there is more to Life than the Id - just as [the philosopher] Schopenhauer [proceeded] from his basic insight about the nature of Will (or life/death force) to an "ethics of compassion" that saw how Will is everywhere responsible for suffering and that it can best be offset by compassion for its victims, i.e., all of us. ...  [That is, ethics can] take account of the bigger picture, the plight of humanity as a whole - which Brandon can't see, thinking only of himself.'

                                                                            Rupert in ROPE feels threatened
          ...


September 20 This week I finally caught up with the Ivor Novello film The Rat (1925), directed by Graham Cutts and produced by Michael Balcon for Gainsborough.  A huge popular success, it illuminates Hitchcock's The Lodger (1926) in ways that I'll suggest.  Note, though, that I'm indebted to Michael Williams's superb study 'Ivor Novello: Screen Idol' (BFI, 2003) for my main argument, which is that Novello's film performances were consistent-to-a-purpose, one which the actor knowingly adopted.  Also, that certain comments by Hitchcock to Truffaut about The Lodger, suggesting that Novello's casting meant that the character's guilt or innocence could not be left ambiguous, are misleading.  (In fact, this is something I have long maintained, most recently, in an enjoyable correspondence with SG.)  About the last shot of The Lodger Williams asks rhetorically, 'Is this really a closure that obliterates the Lodger's guilt, ... or is it just Hitchcock's way of having his cake and eating it?'  Definitely the latter, I think!  Now, here's what I thought of The Rat.  Novello plays Boucheron, an Apache - Paris gangster - who has a succession of mistresses until he meets Odile, a waif, played by Mae Marsh, and feels especially protective towards her.  But one night in his regular hangout, a nightclub called The White Coffin, he encounters a lady from the upper classes, Zelie (Isobel Jeans), who is 'slumming' for the evening - she is the kept woman of a rich banker, Stetz (Robert Scholtz), who has allowed her to spend a night on the town with friends.  (First they visit the Folies Bergère, then come on to The White Coffin.)  Stetz is the film's villain.  Although Boucheron flirts with Zelie, he intends no mischief; whereas when Stetz turns up at the nightclub and happens to see Odile, who is passing by, he immediately lusts for her.  Right from the start, my impression was that Novello - who wrote the original treatment - was showing off his 'virility'.  The first reel is little else but a demonstration of the character's insouciance and daring.  We see him eluding two pursuing gendarmes by opening a grating, then hiding in the space underneath, and even cheekily taking out his pocketknife and cutting the shoelaces of one of the gendarmes who has stopped, baffled, on the grating!  Eventually Boucheron arrives at Odile's tiny room in a poor-but-respectable quarter of the city; by now, he is smoking a cigarette which hangs jauntily from his mouth.  Sauntering into the room, still smoking, he nods to Odile, hangs his cap on the wall (a deft throw of the pocketknife makes a makeshift peg), then seats himself at the table and, with a flourish, takes out a folded-up newspaper.  (See frame-capture below.  Btw, just visible at the top-of-shot is the alcove where Odile keeps a statue of the Virgin Mary to which she regularly prays.)  Following Williams, I would say that this is all image-building by Novello, whose gayness was an open secret in the acting profession but carefully concealed from his huge public.  His boyish good looks were his principal asset but they could have worked against him if they weren't countermanded, in effect, by the content of the films.  One of Novello's biographers, James Harding, puts it like this: 'With The Rat Ivor established himself as the leading British film star of the time.  The swagger he adopted in the main role compensated for the slightly effeminate look critics had up to then remarked on, and his air of cynical raffishness carried off the part with bravura.'  But why, then, did Novello proceed almost immediately to make The Lodger - which, at a glance, might have seemed likely to offset most of the gains his 'image' had just achieved?  (After all, there Mrs Bunting is heard to say that her lodger 'is a bit queer'.)  Williams's answer to that question, which considers Novello's further work for Hitchcock on Downhill the following year, is elaborate - I'll leave it for next time.  Meanwhile, here's my contribution.  Novello knew that there was more to his 'image' than just undercutting any impression of effeminacy.  An actor should have 'range' and 'depth', and his/her 'image-building' needs a positive side to it.  In fact, as The Rat progresses, and melodrama begins to build - with Odile accused of killing Stetz - Novello is called on to show emotion, not just a set of gestures.  There is even one scene towards the end when Boucheron is exhausted and momentarily seems at the end of his tether.  The contrast with his initial raffishness is important dramatically.  But so, too, is the fact that Odile's landlady (a strong old bird - she also tends bar at The White Coffin), played my Marie Ault, cradles Boucheron's head in her arms in a motherly gesture.  It seems almost a proxy moment on behalf of Novello's legion of female fans - and in some ways anticipates Ault's role in The Lodger.  To be continued.     

                                                                            Ivor Novello in THE RAT 


September 27 Again this time, I can't possibly summarise every part of Michael Williams's elaborate argument about just what Ivor Novello was up to in his various film performances.  The essence, of course, is that they were knowingly designed to camouflage his (Novello's) gayness.  Another way of putting the idea is that audiences were encouraged to admire the star's handsome, virile 'essence' (hah!) while being also treated to his range and depth of feelings, something rare in leading men.  (The fact that Hitchcock in The Lodger wasn't prepared to be so deceiving - at least, not in the by-now clichéd way - but preferred to keep everything enigmatic from the moment of Novello's first appearance, the character's face half-concealed by a scarf, suggests a form of 'double-bluff' that Hitchcock would incorporate into the very narrative of many of his subsequent films: e.g., Young and Innocent, Suspicion, Frenzy.  In Hitchcock's films, both 'appearance' and 'reality' are themselves questionable, part of his Catholic or even 'Schopenhauerian' worldview.  Consequently, his films have a 'dignity of significance' that may seem missing from many other, more 'opportunistic' or merely 'clever' narratives - such as that of Novello's 1926 film The Triumph of the Rat, released at the same time as The Lodger, and which I watched this week.  For further thoughts, read on!)  Yes, I finally watched Graham Cutts's The Triumph of the Rat, a week after viewing its predecessor, The Rat, discussed here last time, and was again reasonably entertained: Cutts's films are like variety shows, typically well-paced and with diverse elements, so that you're seldom bored.  Nonetheless, I can agree with James Harding's estimation: 'Despite a lavish fancy dress ball intended to impress the audience, The Triumph of the Rat soon dwindles into bathos and incredibility.'  ('Ivor Novello: A Biography', 1987, p. 60)  It's only loosely a sequel to The Rat.  Reformed gangster Pierre Boucheron (Novello) has now joined the ranks of Paris society, with which in the previous film he had briefly flirted in the person of Zélie de Chaumet (Isabel Jeans - playing the same character here).  Once again, early scenes are designed to show how assured and dashing - virile - Novello is.  In the frame-capture below, he kisses Zelie's hand while watched enviously by the film's 'silly old ass' type, the monocled René Duval (Charles Dormer), who laments not being successful with the ladies - despite his writing poetry with titles like 'Purple Passion'.  On hearing this, Boucheron barely conceals laughter.  When René asks him his secret, Boucheron answers, 'Don't you know, old chap, that in love there are no rules?'  The rest of the film is about Boucheron's further sallies into love, including an enforced return to The White Coffin nightclub - suddenly he needs work - where the girls welcome him as before but new apache rivals prove hostile.  Not only are there no rules in love but there are no guarantees either.  By the end of the film, a defeated Boucheron is back on the Montmartre streets while at The White Coffin the dancers move in a slow, sad rhythm.  In other words, the second half of The Triumph of the Rat - ironic title - is about Boucheron's degradation, which seems to fit the pattern I noted last time, whereby a typical Novello film, having established his 'virility', allows him as wide as possible an emotional range, to further impress his legion of fans.  (For example, a show of suppressed anger by Boucheron at one point is impressive.)  Degradation will also be the main motif of Novello's second film for Hitchcock, Downhill (1927).  But still, why did Novello allow himself to be cast in Hitchcock's The Lodger, which appears an aberration from the usual pattern?  That's not an easy question to answer!  If the lodger character isn't exactly effeminate, he is certainly neurasthenic, and Hitchcock seems to have enjoyed bringing out the character's many mannerisms under duress.  Following a hint from Williams, I suppose the fact that the character is a toff, a gentleman, has a lot to do with Novello's accepting the role.  Once a gentleman, always a gentleman - and provided contemporary audiences felt that Novello stays gentleman-like to the end, when he appears both exonerated of murder and the heir to his family fortune - and the possessor of Daisy Bunting's hand in marriage - well, who could question his essential 'worth'?!  The very knowledgeable Williams invokes Oscar Wilde, specifically 'Wilde's study of the Delsarte voice training system while in America in 1882, to which "gesture and pose" had been recently introduced, that enabled him to become fluent in the art of posing, and to "get away" with an actively constructed, socially visible, but carefully masked homosexual identity'.  ('Ivor Novello: Screen Idol', 2003, p. 35)  More next time.

                                                                            From THE TRIUMPH OF THE RAT          
 



•  [The 2011 'Hitchcock Annual' is now out.  Further details are on our New Publications page - see link below.]


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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.)

Honouring 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 Kindle.)

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:
http://articles.latimes.com/2014/apr/12/entertainment/la-et-mn-classic-hollywood-norman-lloyd-20140413

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Documentary 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.]

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Sounds like a remake of The Birds is coming!

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, California.

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 credits) disowned.

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 characters).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              .

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:

http://www.sbs.com.au/movies/movie/grace-monaco

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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:

'Far from suggesting Hitch was a brutal misogynist, ... Rudkin implies he was a doomed romantic, forever trying to recapture the "Rosebud" moment when he felt a thrill of passion at age 15.  By having the same actor (Roberta Kerr) play both Hitch's wife and mother, there is a hint that the director ultimately settled for a life of cocooned comfort. ...

'It is directed with great flair by Jack McNamara and, following in the footsteps of Toby Jones and Anthony Hopkins, Martin Miller is an utterly persuasive Hitch: the Essex vowels and the portly frame are dead right and Miller adds to the mix a sense of public solitude.  We see Hitch surrounded by other people, but when he says "I can't live - I can only imagine," we get an indelible impression of a man trapped in his own cinematic genius.'

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
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Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940) released on dual-format Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion

After Rebecca, David 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.).

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Strangers 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 film-effects].'

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Death of the remarkable Joan Fontaine (1917-2013)

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 I!'

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.

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New, 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) was 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 or 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

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Bruce 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.]

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At last!  A new, authoritative edition of Frank Baker's 1936 novel 'The Birds', a must-read book for Hitchcockians!

Thanks to Valancourt Books, Kansas City, the above novel - eerily prescient of Hitchcock's 1963 film of the same title - is now published in paperback and Kindle formats.

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: http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/frank-bakers-the-birds-reviewed-by-michael-dirda/2013/11/27/40b0bb8e-56ac-11e3-8304-caf30787c0a9_story.html


                                                                                                                    Cover of Frank
            Baker novel The Birds

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Coming!  Another exciting new book: the autobiography of screenwriter Charles Bennett

Charles Bennett (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.  For more information, see "Editor's Week" (December 7) on this page, above.

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Still doing the rounds in various formats: a parody of Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder

We 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.

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Hear 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

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Year-long 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 item.]

• 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".

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English novelist, historian, and general man-of-letters, Peter Ackroyd, working on a Hitchcock biography

This is exciting news.  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).  Currently, the 63-year-old Ackroyd is looking 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.]

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Death 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 Pyscho 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.]     

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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 (1972).

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 (1966).

[Thanks to SR, DS, DF, and AK for information supplied and used here.]

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Going the 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 (1929).

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 collector.)

One 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

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Rare 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: <cloudshill@cloudshillbooks.com>.

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New Blu-ray (Region 'A') and DVD of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) from Criterion

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.'

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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

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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.)  Well, 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

                                                                                            PSYCHO painting

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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:
http://www.filmpreservation.org/preserved-films/screening-room/the-white-shadow-1924

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Composer for Hitchcock - and opening date

Keeping our readers updated on the forthcoming film Hitchcock, adapted from the book by Stephen Rebello 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho', has seen 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 Guardian':

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/nov/02/hitchcock-first-look-review?fb=optOut

                                                                                            Coming soon ... 

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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

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A treat for our readers: nice photos of Hitchcock in 1939, preparing Rebecca

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

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Death of 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   

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Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder to have 3D release on Blu-ray

On 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.

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Restored early Hitchcocks (x9) plus a major Hitchcock retrospective in London this year

The 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.

In addition, a major Alfred Hitchcock retrospective encompassing all of his surviving films will be held at the BFI Southbank in London between August and September.

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

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Christian 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

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Warner Bros launch scripts as e-books, including North by Northwest

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

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Hitchcock-inspired art

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 Harry.  Illustrated below is "'You'll Never Make Sense of Arnie'" by Joe Scarano.

Art work
          by Joe Scarano inspired by TTWH

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/

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Alma Reville retrospective

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, like Murder! (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/     

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Further news on Hitchcock: Scarlett Johansson to play Janet Leigh

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 shocker, Psycho (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 Tattoo, The 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!

Sir
                Anthony Hopkins in HITCHCOCK 

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Rebecca 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 great success.

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/

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The Lady Vanishes now on Blu-ray

Criterion have released Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938) on Blu-ray.  (Simultaneously they have released Ernst Lubitsch's 1935 classic Design for Living.)  The 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. 

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Death 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 beside Psycho, 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. 

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Hitch 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"

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Lost 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

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Production sketches for Stage Fright sold at auction - but are they in Hitchcock's own hand?

Approximately 300-400 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): www.bonhams.com/eur/auction/18847/lot/175/     

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Help the 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".)

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Deaths

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 here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-14174256

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

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Death of playwright/screenplay writer Arthur Laurents (1918-2011)

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: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13307873 

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Death 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 (1954).

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 part.'

To read the BBC obituary for Farley Granger, click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12894264            

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Rare 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 photograph.]

                                                           Hitch abroad

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Still coming: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho: The Movie

In 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'.

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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

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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).

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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 

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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/

                                                                                              Hitchcock sculpture at
        Walthamstow, London

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Claude Chabrol dead at 80

The 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.)   

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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 ...".)

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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.

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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 ...".

                                                                                Original poster
            for DER BERGADLER/ THE MOUNTAIN EAGLE

                                                                Lobby card for THE MOUNTAIN
            EAGLE

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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.

Disc 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.

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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 Tobin writes:

'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.]

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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, reflective/active, honest/dishonest, 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 age.’

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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

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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'.

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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

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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 <hippjoint@gmail.com>.  Or telephone him in the USA using this number: 386 214 3309. 

                                                                            Hitchcock statue by A.G., before casting in bronze


                                                                            Profile of Hitchcock statue by A.G., before casting

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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.     

                                                                              Bronze statue at
            Dinard, France, of Hitchcock

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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/

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Premiere of film Alfred Hitc hcock 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 biographies.'

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/

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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.

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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 [1959] and then after that The Birds [1963] and Marnie [1964].'

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.'

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Death of Hitchcock artist and designer, Dorothea Redmond, in Hollywood

The '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).
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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'.

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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

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Passing of Rear Window screenwriter John Michael Hayes (1919-2008)

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).
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Yet another Hitchcock borrowing? The likely influence of Yellow Canary (Herbert Wilcox, 1943) on Hitchcock's Notorious (1946)

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 Neagle.

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   

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Producers of Disturbia (2007) sued for allegedly ripping off the story on which Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) was based

The makers of a largely teenage-actor film version of Rear WindowDisturbia (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

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Online: forum on Psycho's influence

Co-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
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'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

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New editions of Hitchcock's Rear Window, Vertigo, and Psycho, and Orson Welles's A Touch Of Evil to be released on 7th October 2008 (Region 1)

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.  For more information, click here:
http://crimespreecinema.blogspot.com/2008/07/dvd-info-universal-announces-special.html
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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

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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 set
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.'


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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

                                                                            Young actor portraying Alfred Hitchcock in forthcoming
        production
                                                                  Scene from the forthcoming ARTE production, Nuit Brève

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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.'

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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:

Disc 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

[We thank Ryan Hewitt of Sony DADC UK Ltd, and Dave Pattern of the hitchcockwiki.com website, for information in the above item.]

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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.

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Martin Scorsese's new Spanish TV commercial a mock Hitchcock film

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 MuchRear WindowNorth 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

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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). 

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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.

                                                                           Coming: ALFRED
          HITCHCOCK AND THE MAKING OF PSYCHO

 

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.

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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.]

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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                  

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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.)

                                            British passport of Alfred Hitchcock   

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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 

As for 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 

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Five early Hitchcocks, fully remastered, coming on DVD

Canadian company Lionsgate Home Entertainment, part of the Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation, will release the 'Alfred Hitchcock: 3-Disc
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).

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New selection of Hitchcock-directed TV programs on DVD can be played without the French subtitles

Congratulations 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

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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.'

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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.

                                                       Rare production still from the unfinished
        Hitchcock film NUMBER THIRTEEN
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Deaths

• 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.'

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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) ...

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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.'

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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.

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On Alfred Hitchcock and his screenwriters

We'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 <writtenby@wga.org>.
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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.'

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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.) 

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Actress Alida Valli dies

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.

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The play 'Hitchcock Blonde' finally reaches the US!

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' ...


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They've made a film of Hitchcock's short story "Gas"!

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.  Fi
évet'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/

                                                                            Portrait, after A.Hitchcock and W. Turner

Laurent Fiévet: 'Portrait ...', after North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock) and 'Shipwreck' (William Turner)


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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'.
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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: <robertmeyersdesign@hotmail.com>.
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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).     
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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.'
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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)
    http://www.daveyp.com/hitchcock/dvds/boxsets/9002/

        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)
    http://www.daveyp.com/hitchcock/dvds/boxsets/9003/

        Blackmail/Chantage (1929)
        Murder!/Meurtre (1930)
        The Skin Game (1931)
        52 minute documentary about Hitch's early films

    Volume 3 (Les Premières Oeuvres 1932/1940)
    http://www.daveyp.com/hitchcock/dvds/boxsets/9004/

        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'
    http://www.daveyp.com/hitchcock/dvds/boxsets/9046/

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 <msbissette@yahoo.com>.

[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).

To read this website's long 'Report' on McGilligan's book, click on the following URLs:

http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~muffin/mcgilligan1_c.html  
http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~muffin/mcgilligan2_c.html  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        .
'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. .

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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.' ] 

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Maybe this time?

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  

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New Agatha Christie TV movies coming

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.  

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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!).'  

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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' [2002], p. 6).
 

Well-meaning repairman interferes with 'artwork' (if that's what it is)

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!)

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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:

                 Frederick 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.
                 Knott said.

                 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.

                 Major 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
                 Alexander Korda.

                 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
                 Plymouth Theater.

                 In the next five years, the play was produced in 30
                 countries. It is still a standard of summer stock and
                 school productions.

                 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: <alain.ker@wanadoo.fr>..


The late Ms Kael: how to be very, very subjective

Findings by Bill Krohn, Dan Auiler, and even 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
                           advance.

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

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Rare lobby card from Hitchcock's 'lost' The Mountain Eagle (1926) turns up in Massachusetts  

                
                                          mtneagledog2.jpg


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 [1948], 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."'

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Rear Window latest Hitchcock film restored

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 forThe 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.

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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.

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More about ... a longer version of Topaz (1969)

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.].


Restored titles

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.'.


Dubious statements?

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 [1958] 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 [1947] 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.] 

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Venice Film Festival shows Kaleidoscope excerpts

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].'

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The Hitchcock Annual

The 'Hitchcock Annual' is a quality publication containing articles contributed by academic writers and specialist authors.  The 2010 issue (Volume 16) 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/search?q=Hitchcock+annual&go.x=21&go.y=9  .


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ACADEMIC HITCHCOCK 1 - Murray Pomerance on TMWKTM (1956) 

ACADEMIC HITCHCOCK 2 - Richard Allen on Vertigo 

ACADEMIC HITCHCOCK 3 - Theodore Price on Marnie 

EXCERPTS 1 - Michael Walker on "Confined Spaces" in Hitchcock

EXCERPTS 2 - Tony Lee Moral on Marnie

EXCERPTS 3 - Thomas Leitch on Irony; Jamaica Inn

EXCERPTS 4 - Lesley Brill on Mr and Mrs Smith

EXCERPTS 5 - Jane Sloan surveys critical writing on Hitchcock

EXCERPTS 6 - Donald Spoto on Stage Fright
 

EXCERPTS 7 - Jack Sullivan on Franz Waxman and Suspicion


About Arthur Schopenhauer (who? why?)

Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Dickens

Article: "Why I Make Melodramas" by Alfred Hitchcock

Feature: Screenwriter Charles Bennett on "Shakespeare, Melodrama, and Hitchcock"

Report: Patrick McGilligan's biography of Alfred Hitchcock (including film by film, to 1929) 

Report (cont.): Patrick McGilligan's biography of Alfred Hitchcock (film by film, 1929-1950) 

The endings for Suspicion/ Bill Krohn's additional research

Notes on Rear Window

Notes on Vertigo (and Strangers on a Train)

Two discoveries: (1) Frank Baker's novel 'The Birds'; (2) Wanted for Murder (film by Lawrence Huntington)

Note on Hitchcock's villains

Interview with Kim Novak

Interview with Psycho screenwriter, Joseph Stefano 

Long article: "The Fragments of the Mirror: Vertigo and its sources"

Article by Bill Krohn: "A Hitchcock mystery" (an aspect of Family Plot)

Article by Martin Grams, Jr: "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Quality of Humor"

Article by Martin Grams, Jr: "Murder and Suspense"

Article by Philip Kemp: "Hitching Posts" (on Hitchcock's 'imitators')

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