This page was last modified 18 March, 2017.

'The MacGuffin' was a hardcopy newsletter/journal that ran for 29 issues from December 1990, edited by Ken Mogg.  This website developed from it.  This page is the site's 'News & Comment' page (as it used to be called).  Alfred Hitchcock-related news items follow the "Editor's Week" feature below.

Coming soon to this site: Michael Walker ('Hitchcock's Motifs') on Suspicion.

To go straight to the latest "Editor's Week" entry further down this page click here.
Note.  Our News section begins immediately after "Editor's Week".


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

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

I'll always be grateful to Dan Auiler (himself the author/editor of multiple books on Hitchcock) who  wrote: 'Ken Mogg may know more about Alfred Hitchcock and his milieu than any other film critic'.  Thanks, Dan!

Besides my book on Hitchcock, mentioned above, I have contributed to many other books and scholarly publications, including a chapter on "Hitchcock's Literary Sources" in 'A Companion to Alfred Hitchcock' (Wiley Blackwell, 2011; paperback 2014) and an article on "The Cutting Room" in '39 Steps to the Genius of Alfred Hitchcock' (British Film Institute, 2012).  Other than this website, though, my principal online writings on Hitchcock have been published by the Australian site 'Senses of Cinema'.  Those writings are listed here: http://sensesofcinema.com/author/ken-mogg/

One of the 'Senses' items that has been particularly well received is my long monograph on The Birds.  See, for example, this online testimonial: http://cranialblowout.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/essays-on-birds-by-ken-mogg.html

More broadly, readers such as NA are very kind.  He wrote (30 September, 2013): 'In my opinion - and I don't mean to embarrass you - you are truly the foremost Hitchcock scholar.  I have come to this conclusion after reading your regular column ["Editor's Week"] on the 'MacGuffin' website, as well as your book.'

A separate testimonial, from Hitchcock author DS, appears on this site's Index Page.

And that's quite enough for now.  Speaking of "Editor's Week" (formerly "Editor's Day"), I should note that there is not at present a public archive of its entries, which go back nearly two decades.  However, the material isn't lost, and much of it informs my ongoing writing.  KM
  
  


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

1. "Editor's Day / Editor's Week': 
October 15, 22, 29, November 5, 12, 19, 26, December 3, 10, 17, January 14, 21, 28, February 4, 11, 18, 25, March 4, 11, 18.

2. News and Comment (last revised 5 November, 2016).



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!

October 15 Reader, if you haven't watched Hitchcock's The Farmer's Wife (1928), you have missed a treat.  Go and obtain a DVD or Blu-Ray copy soon, making sure that it runs closer to (just over) 90 minutes than to two hours.  (The latter is too slow.)  I recently re-read both the original Eden Phillpotts play (1916, revised 1924) and watched again Hitchcock's film, knowing that a new book, 'Classical Myth in Four Films of Alfred Hitchcock', by Mark Padilla, devotes a chapter to it.  (My thanks to Professor Padilla for recent correspondence.  His chapter, we noted, evokes both Hestia, the goddess of the hearth and family, and the famous 'Judgement of Paris', in which the Prince of Troy must judge between three beautiful goddesses as to which is 'the fairest' - allowing an ironic reading by Professor Padilla, given that the original three, or four, candidates to become Farmer Sweetland's new bride are all middle-aged, and showing it!  The farmer is himself middle-aged but, as played by Jameson Thomas, well-presented, not least because his dutiful young housekeeper, Araminta, played by Lilian Hall-Davis, keeps a watchful eye on his doings and appearance.)  Now, the play and film are set in Devon, and there is much rural imagery in the scenes and dialogue.  Some of it is quite voluptuous, as when Sweetland's elderly neighbour Coaker speaks of pulling turnips 'as round and white as a woman's bosom'.  In 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', I noted that the Phillpotts play for a time 'held the record for the longest run in London, a record now held by Agatha Christie's thriller The Mousetrap.  That seems apt, not just because Christie herself was a Devonian [and, I find, an admirer of Phillpotts's work, who regular visited his home], but because The Farmer's Wife has the loose-seeming shape of a typical Christie detective story, with its alarums and excursions and final disclosures.  Indeed, the two centrepieces of The Farmer's Wife are a wedding breakfast [when Sweetland's daughter, Sibley, marries early in the film] and a tea party whose main plot function is to let us get to know the women on Sweetland's list of candidates, or "suspects".'  Nonetheless, the film is a comedy as much as a drama full of local colour; indeed, at times I felt the comedy and incident seemed to overwhelm the original play rather than follow it.  On the other hand, I was impressed by how much detail from the play the filmmakers included.  Here's an example.  In Act I, a passing reference is made by Thirza Tapper to her forthcoming tea party: 'I have everything planned.  The famous glee-singers are coming from Plymouth.  They will perform under the araucaria after tea is over.'  (An araucaria is a kind of conifer, sometimes known as a monkey-puzzle tree.)  Sure enough, in the film, the glee-singers do perform at the party (which corresponds to Act II of the play), and very prominently a monkey-puzzle tree hangs over them.  (See frame-capture below.)  The filmmmakers have fun with the glee-singers, both when Churdles Ash (Gordon Harker), the rather surly bachelor manservant of Sweetland, whom Thirza has 'borrowed' for the occasion, doesn't recognise these non-locals when they arrive, and he treats them as gate-crashers; and when they are singing in the garden, and the hanging 'tentacles' of the monkey-puzzle tree threaten to obscure them, so that they must stand awkwardly in order to be seen.  But in a film full of sight-gags, perhaps the funniest is when Thirza's slow-witted maid, Susan, melts the ices intended for the party guests, and comes to tell her mistress what has happened: as she enters the room she bursts into tears and, at the same time, inadvertently tilts the tray of ices so that a stream of liquid runs on the floor, almost as if it were 'tears' shed in sympathy with the distressed maid.  (Half-a-dozen other things are happening at the same time, and the scene is one of near-pandemonium.)  More next time.

• To read a description of Mark Padilla's book, go here: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498529150/Classical-Myth-in-Four-Films-of-Alfred-Hitchcock    
 
• And, reader, if you haven't yet visited my essay (Part One) on Hitchcock & Catholicism, and on Psycho in particular, please take Professor Padilla's recommendation ('a profound essay ... I learned much from it') and click here: http://sensesofcinema.com/2016/feature-articles/hitchcocks-psycho-part-one/

The glee singers in THE FARMER'S
              WIFE



October 22 The Farmer's Wife is one of those Hitchcock films where the very life-force features palpably.  It anticipates that other splendid comedy The Trouble With Harry (1955) whose range of characters, from the youngest (the boy Arnie) to the oldest (Captain Wiles), its seasons-imagery, and, above all, the general 'zest' (the Captain's word) combine to invigorate any viewer who 'enters in' to the film's spirit.  There is a touch of the mystical about it.  Actually, I have taken the phrase 'enters in' from The Farmer's Wife where it is used by Minta (the housekeeper Araminta) when she refers to her willingness to marry Farmer Sweetland: marriage is itself an exalted state that is valorised by both these films, very appropriately, as it is the consummation of the working of the life-force.  Maurice Yacowar ('Hitchcock's British Films', 1977) puts the matter well when noting that The Farmer's Wife omits the play's political references (mainly spoken by Churdles Ash) so as to emphasise, instead, a potential disorder that 'is not of so simple a kind as could be solved by politics.  Rather it is rooted in man himself, in his willfulness, in his deluding perception, in the tricks of fate to which he is prey, in the shallow footing on which man bases his claim to be a rational, civilized creature.' (p. 77)  Note especially 'deluding perception'.  It reminded me of an astute observation by Charles Barr ('English Hitchcock', 1999) about Sweetland, as played by Jameson Thomas, whom Barr likens to later Hitchcock protagonists played by James Stewart and Cary Grant: '[Sweetland] can be seen, in fact, as a prototype for these [more] familiar Hitchcock protagonists in the way he combines the adult with the childish, a forceful male arrogance with a disarming vulnerability'. (p. 57)  (Jeff in Rear Window, anyone?  Or Devlin in Notorious?)  In turn, I was reminded of an (only slightly simplistic) observation by Raymond Durgnat that I quoted here recently: '[Hitchcock] catches us in that semi-serious, semi-infantile area where we accept innocent and wicked as real moral states, and then insists that we grow up, a little.'  ('The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock', 1974, p. 36)  Hitchcock was always very aware that many people waver between adult and childish, though they may be caught for a time in a condition or mindstate that they know is inadequate or harmful, but can't readily get out of - until, if they are lucky, something 'saves' them.  (Perhaps marriage?)  In other words, it may take just a sudden - but long delayed - shift of circumstances or new realisation to effect a major change.  As it happens, the very form of The Farmer's Wife provides one of the earliest instances in Hitchcock of a character making such a life-change, when, after four 'refusals' by the respective women he has asked to be his new bride, Sweetland realises - in an 'epiphany' - that the ideal woman for him has, all along, been his housekeeper, Minta.  And what a fine figure of a woman she is!  (See frame-capture below.)  Was it my imagination when, towards the end of the film, I suddenly detected in Minta (Lilian Hall-Davis) some of the look and mannerisms of Shirley MacLaine in The Trouble With Harry?  For, let's be honest, Hitchcock's 'interest' in blondes was more a generic thing - blondes have traditionally been heroines of myth and melodrama and movies - whereas the spirited redhead or brunette, who has more than just outward qualities, was what Hitchcock really appreciated (including his wife Alma).  Here's how Barr describes the film's happy ending: 'one of Hitchcock's sunniest ... Doubts about its sexual politics are allayed, even if not altogether dismissed, by the chastened humility with which [Sweetland] approaches [Minta], by the indication of her own recently discovered feelings for him, and by the sheer comic energy that has permeated the film, consistently placing and undercutting his complacency as local patriarch.' (p. 61)  Hmm.  To be concluded.


Minta in THE FARMER'S WIFE 



October 29 The chapter on The Farmer's Wife in Mark Padilla's 'Classical Myth in Four Films of Alfred Hitchcock' (2016) supports the idea (see above) that Minta was linked in Hitchcock's mind to his wife Alma.  Today's entry will focus on aspects of that beautifully-written, and -argued, chapter.  For a start, Professor Padilla suggests that as Hitchcock in 1928 was newly married, 'the shy and sexually naive director might [have identified] with the bumbling [Farmer Sweetland].  Alma, in turn, may be found in the figure of Minta.' (p. 55)  Further, having suggested that the ever-capable Minta is a Hestia-figure, meaning that she embodies qualities of the Greek Goddess of the Hearth, Padilla notes that 'the Hestian work ethic of Minta helps secure this character's move up in social position [she eventually marries the farmer], just as the industry of the Hitchcock-Reville marriage served as an economic catapult for their family'. (Ibid)  Padilla quotes Charles Barr on the character of Minta: she is 'efficient, considerate, and entirely unpriggish'.  And Padilla comments: 'Alma might have seemed similarly industrious to Alfred, as reflected in the production stills for this and other films of the director's silent era.' (Ibid)  The Hestia theme is like a 'tonic chord' to which the film keeps reverting, notes Padilla.  He points out that there are actually three fireplaces we see at Applegarth Farm, all of them (when we see them) in use.  Padilla: 'The source play's directions ... specify the inclusion of a "deep fireplace and range," but Hitchcock compounds this prop direction by featuring three burning hearths.  The first is located in the upstairs bedroom; the second is in the main room behind the two marital chairs, a setting where guests are entertained; and the third is the large cooking range in the kitchen.' (p. 56)  Crucially, 'Minta moves busily and freely in the three spaces.  By contrast, the women whom [Sweetland] targets for his second wife are never visually connected to a burning hearth, even in their own homes.  Only Minta of the older females in the film exhibit the goddess' sensibilities, which she embodies decorously, while the others are comically associated with other Olympian goddesses ...' (Ibid)  (Padilla sees Widow Windeatt as 'an independent Hera figure' with a bit of Artemis for extra measure; Thirza Tapper 'projects an unconfident and confused Aphrodite'; Mary Hearn is like a 'clumsy Athena'; while the middle-aged barmaid Mercy Bassett 'suggests a Dionysian bacchante' - ibid.)  Reader, if you have already seen The Farmer's Wife, you will recall that it begins with the death in the upstairs bedroom of Sweetland's first wife, Tibby, while Sweetland sits alongside, watching sadly, and Minta looks on, ready to do whatever is asked of her.  Tibby's expiring words are actually to Minta: 'Don't forget to air your master's pants.'  There is an intimacy here to which Padilla is responsive.  He is also perceptive when he notes: 'The fact that the two women share body types and dark hair reinforces their sisterhood; neither woman shares appearances with the other females [Sweetland] pursues.' (p. 59)  (I was reminded, to a degree, of how in Rear Window the ill-fated Mrs Thorwald, when we see her sitting up in bed, is like an older Lisa Fremont: in a way, the film is about Jeff's changing attitude to Lisa, from suspicion - he thinks she might become a nagging wife, like Mrs Thorwald - to admiration and unstinted love.)  Padilla can also be ingenious.  A good example is when he invokes the wedding of Sweetland's daughter, Sibley, followed by the couple's arrival home afterwards for the wedding breakfast, when Minta comes out to welcome them.  (See frame-capture below.)  Like 'a kind of Hestia priestess', she greets them, then ushers them into the main room where 'she places them directly in front of the burning fireplace'. (p. 61)  Then: 'The organization of this scene evokes the ancient social practice as depicted on an ancient Greek pyxis [a round clay jar], housed in the British Museum in London.' (Ibid)  And Padilla describes how such a jar - almost like cinema - 'presents, in a continuous scene, the groom's introduction of a bride into his new home ... It is itself a kind of reel showing a small film when one turns it - a kind of ancient Greek home movie celebrating a couple's wedding ...' (p. 61, p. 64)  Beautifully put!           

       
Newly weds greeted by Minta in
              THE FARMER'S WIFE



November 5 [A couple of deadlines are pressing here, so there's no "Editor's Week" this time.  But I have added a News item immediately below.  Back next week.  KM]

November 12 I have happy memories associated with Hitchcock's Under Capricorn (1949), including watching a truly exquisite print on a moviola upstairs one evening at the old ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) building at Gore Hill, Sydney, New South Wales.  It was my first trip to Sydney, and I had arrived that afternoon by bus from Melbourne.  Now, with the lights of Sydney twinkling up at me from all around (the ABC building was a tall tower), I watched this wonderful colour film which re-creates early Sydney at the time of the newly-arrived Governor Bourke in 1831 (he is played in the film by Cecil Parker - also in the cast are Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, and Michael Wilding).  It was almost a mystical experience, like being able to move backwards and forwards in time!  Later that year, back home, I had the great pleasure to 'teach' the film to my Film/Drama students at the Melbourne College of Advanced Education.  These trainee teachers were always great fun - bright and attentive - and I particularly remember taking them through several of Under Capricorn's 'long takes' and seeing how Hitchcock each time held back the 'cut' to have maximum impact (something he hadn't been able to do systematically in Rope, where many of the cuts were just reel-changes).  For example, when wealthy ex-convict Sam Flusky (Cotten) one evening invites guests to dinner at his mansion 'Minyago Yugilla' on the outskirts of Sydney, the camera first tracks and tracks, starting with the arrival of the special guest, the Governor's cousin, Charles Adare (Wilding), and taking in the arrival of the other guests, until they all sit down at table.  Something peculiar, the audience notices, is that there are only male guests - each of those, on arriving, had explained that his wife was detained at the last moment - signalling that something about the Flusky household has deterred the ladies from attending.  Understandably, there is a certain damper on proceedings as the guests enter the dining-room!  Nonetheless, conversation starts up as Flusky bids everyone be seated, and then - as the camera tracks down the table towards him (his back is to the room entrance) - it falters again.  Flusky senses this, and now, finally, there is a cut to what the guests have seen: see frame-capture below.  We see the bare feet of Lady Henrietta Flusky (Bergman) entering the room; she proceeds to stand behind her husband and we hear her say, 'Please be seated, gentlemen.  I trust I am not too late to take a glass of wine with you.'  Finally, the camera tilts to her face, and we see that she is beautiful, and that there is a rose in her ringletted hair.  But she is drunk.  Her reputation for being an alcoholic, we now realise, has preceded her and is the reason why the ladies have stayed away from the dinner.  So the 'shock cut' to her bare feet, after several minutes of continuous footage, was dramaturgically justified.  It represents inspired filmmmaking by Hitchcock, and the film is full of inspired passages, even if James Bridie's screenplay (from the novel by Helen Simpson) has structural faults, and there are lethargic moments.  (The moment when Sam, a former groom, shoots an injured horse offscreen and then returns to his house, and angrily clashes with Adare, who had been riding the horse, has long puzzled me.  It seems unrealistic.  We hear the pistol fired just offscreen, but not the whinnying of the horse: contrast Marnie.  Only lately have I realised that maybe the filmmakers couldn't obtain the sound they needed, or weren't prepared to use it.  Which makes you wonder just how the makers of Marnie obtained such a sound.)  I very much like the scene late one afternoon on the 'Minyago Yugilla' verandah between Lady Henrietta and Adare, when he - at Sam's invitation - has decided to stay as a house-guest with the Fluskys and try to rehabilitate Hattie and thereby bridge the 'great gulf fixed' that has come between husband and wife.  I describe the scene at length in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' (it's one of my favourite passages in the book).  But now, from that scene, here's another instance of how Hitchcock builds to a 'shock cut' after several minutes of continuous filming.  The scene shows Charles listening attentively as Hattie tells of how she had followed Sam from Ireland to Australia after he was (wrongfully) convicted of shooting her brother.  Gradually she opens up about the happy times that had preceded the terrible seven-years wait for Sam to serve his sentence.  The light on the verandah positively glows as she speaks.  But, after several minutes, there is a sudden cut.  The housekeeper Milly (Margaret Leighton) has just paused at the verandah window, and Sam shivers.  He is right to do so.  (To be continued.)


Lady Henrietta enters in UNDER
              CAPRICORN                       



November 19 Many prisoners sent to the penal colony in New South Wales were, as the opening commentary of Under Capricorn says, 'unjustly convicted', and that is important in the story that Hitchcock tells.   But not only the legal system is consistently 'faulty' in Hitchcock, so too is human nature.  (That's a reason why the philosopher Schopenhauer is so often relevant to Hitchcock's films: nearly a century before Freud, Schopenhauer wrote perceptively - and compassionately - of how sexuality is at the root of much human behaviour and thought.)  In Under Capricorn, both Milly and Adare are 'blackguards' in their own way: Milly, the housekeeper, when she sets designs on the married master of the house (a well-known phenomenon: Freud himself noted it in his famous essay on Ibsen's 'Rosmersholm'); Adare, when he falls in love with Henrietta, the wife of the master of the house.  Note that Milly and her master Flusky are both low-born, i.e., commoners; the Hon. Charles Adare and Lady Henrietta are both high-born, i.e., of the nobility.  So when Adare and Milly speak their different understandings of 'the waltz', they do so from a particular class perspective: Adare enthuses about it, how it is fully respectable; but the religious Milly describes it to Flusky as pandering to lascivious feelings (she is trying to make him jealous that Adare has taken Henrietta to the Government House Ball).  Arguably, when Milly resorts to encouraging Henrietta's drinking, and then to attempted poisoning - telling herself that she can see God's real intentions (presumably, that means Milly's marrying a widowed Sam Flusky) - she is being no more or less 'wilful' than when Charles loses his temper at Sam, calling him 'you blundering fool', and urging Henrietta to 'come away with me' to Ireland.  Only the class perspective is different.  (Milly was played by a rising star of English cinema, Margaret Leighton, and is both pretty and capable: see frame-capture below.  Remember, too, that we don't know why Milly was convicted and sent to New South Wales, and are encouraged to think that she was one of the unjustly-sentenced ones.  She may have simply stolen a loaf of bread, for example.)  Ironically, the most wronged character in the film may be Sam Flusky, whose 'crime' for which he served seven years, was actually committed by Henrietta, namely, the shooting of her brother, Dermot, with a horse-pistol when he attempted to stop her and Sam from eloping, after he followed them to Gretna Green.  So when a 'mirroring' of that shooting seems to occur - Sam's accidental shooting of Charles with another horse-pistol - and it looks like Charles may die, with Sam prosecuted on a capital charge (as a second offender), Henrietta's plea to the Governor, 'It was nobody's fault', carries reverberations for the whole film.  Two or three 'confession' scenes follow (there has already been a big one, of Henrietta to Charles), including one by Charles himself that is actually a 'white lie', which is another irony, as it resolves the situation up to a point.  For a while, though, it had seemed as if there were no way out: Sam describes the legal process as going 'on and on and on'.  Donald Spoto thinks that '[t]o enjoy Under Capricorn, one has to feel a basic psychological affinity for the heavy theme of onerous fidelity, and for the nineteenth-century conceit of remorse freed by confession.'  That's a bit prescriptive- a conceit - in itself (and the seeming suggestion that a spot of infidelity may sometimes relieve a life-situation is perhaps not relevant to appreciating this historical-genre film), especially when many a good movie has got around story drawbacks through the sheer force of its style and narration.  On the other hand, having raised the matter of style, I'll accept Spoto's thought that Under Capricorn may appear obsessed with its long-takes: 'Too often motionless, the camera seems indifferent, as if actors had to keep talking until the film ran out.'  While that particular aspect didn't bother me (they're good actors), sometimes when the camera did move, rather than make a cut, I had the feeling that an idea was being imposed on me.  Cutting in a film, especially a craftily-edited film by someone like Hitchcock, can give the viewer a feeling of participation, of taking logical steps and choices inside one's own head.  To be continued. 


Milly at window in UNDER
              CAPRICORN          


November 26 Reader, don't misunderstand my attempt last time to accommodate Donald Spoto's position apropos Under Capricorn's style: note that I wrote, '[it] may appear obsessed with its long-takes' (yes, may)!  In fact, that's a stand-offish understanding of them that I don't really hold: I love them, basically.  Not only do I think Under Capricorn is the most beautiful film made by Hitchcock (and, yes, I have seen such other Hitchcocks as Notorious and Vertigo!), but I admire and enter into the long-takes every time, and believe I understand their nuances.  Just as music-professionals sometimes appreciate certain works that the general public overlook, preferring other works by the same composer (i.e., finding them more accessible), so I have come to think of Under Capricorn as a film for 'insiders'.  (In this case, I'm an 'insider' inasmuch that I have often 'taught' Under Capricorn, and written about it, and also because I think it helps that I'm Australian - I'll explain that shortly).  Here goes, then.  The frame-capture below is from the verandah scene that I have already mentioned (see November 12, above) in which Adare seeks to cure fellow-aristocrat Lady Henrietta (who, like him, comes from Ireland) of the habitual drunkenness and depression that has alienated her from her husband, ex-convict (and commoner) Sam Flusky (who, though, still deeply loves her).  Charles is staying with the Fluskys at Sam's invitation.  The scene begins with a view of the Flusky mansion bathed in afternoon sunlight.  That view is actually a painting.  As I explain in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', it sets the mood and is apt: '(The matching passage in the novel [by Australian author Helen Simpson] is also picturesque, describing Hattie's head "seen against red feathers of cloud" as she sits at a French window.)  The scene has an audible stillness, and one almost hears sunset approaching.  Meanwhile the light is growing fiery.  Hitchcock has caught a sub-tropical feel perfectly, doubtless reflecting his researches into light and cloud effects for Rope.'  Of course, there's a very pragmatic reason for the sunset effect (in both novel and film): it is needed for the climactic moment when Charles takes off his jacket and holds it behind the glass of the French window to create what the novel calls 'a mirror impromptu' so that Henrietta, irradiated by the sunset, can see that she is still beautiful (she had long ago asked that all mirrors be removed from the house).  But the film not only registers the effect sensitively, and beautifully, but it builds on it creatively (which is itself apt, given Charles's remark that rehabilitating Henrietta will be his 'first work of art' - note that another motif of both novel and film is that each of the three principal characters is 'rehabilitated' by events).  In the very next scene, Charles will actually unwrap a real mirror that he has bought for Henrietta, and that moment is filmed in such a way as to make the comparison with a painting palpable (the reflection in it appears to be painted!).  Meanwhile, the verandah scene has many fine touches.  Look again at the frame-capture below.  It comes at the moment when Charles first gets Henrietta to smile, at the memory of her dramatic entrance to the dinner held by Sam (described above, November 12).  'Was I dressed?' she asks.  'Yes, more or less!' Charles answers, with a gentle laugh - and she smiles back at him.  Just at this moment, the ring on her hand, which she has raised to her face, catches the setting sun, and glints!  Again, absolutely apt!  Then the scene continues (beautifully underlined by Richard Addinsell's score) and the sunlight continues glowing, in keeping with the increasing light-heartedness of the pair's shared conversation, although Henrietta is still far from convinced that she is up to 'coming back' (as Charles puts it).  That is, the light glows throughout their conversation, all filmed in one take - until suddenly there is a pause, and a moment's silence (after Charles's remark about how Henrietta will 'beat back the shadows'), and Henrietta glances up.  Now, as the camera pans, there is a cut, and we see Milly passing inside the house: this is the shot that we talked about last time (see November 19 above, with its frame-capture - note the comparative darkness of the interior of the house).  As the camera returns to the pair, Charles shivers: 'Brrrr.  I felt as though somebody walked over my grave.'  To be continued. 


Ingrid Bergman and Michael
              Wilding in UNDER CAPRICORN



December 3 Mark Rappaport (writing on Under Capricorn in the 'Hitchcock Annual', 2003-04) says what I tried to say last time: 'When a movie is structured around its tracking shots, the description of the effect of what's up there on the screen is strictly personal.  Those who like it describe it as stately, majestic, dreamlike.  For those who hate it, it's funereal, glacial, self-conscious.' (p. 44)  But there's also a deeper 'divide' between many of the commentators (reviewers, critics, scholars) of Under Capricorn that I have observed with some anguish.  I think Marc Raymond Strauss (in his book 'Hitchcock Nonetheless', 2007) is right to praise Lesley Brill for his humane attitude.  Specifying Spellbound, Under Capricorn and Marnie, Brill wrote (in 'The Hitchcock Romance', 1988): 'As we watch these three films, we see our own tarnished and unfortunate histories and discover the possibility of our own forgiveness.  In the public privacy of a darkened movie theater, we find ourselves on the screen and shed tears of sympathy for the projected shadows who suffer on our behalf.'  Strauss comments: 'No wonder most reviewers panned the film.  It may be that the critics were not willing or able to address their own mortality in their critiques (certainly such admittance is rare indeed among any critic towards any subject).  Hitchcock was really projecting our shadows onto his screen, I think.' (p. 120 - italics in originals)  Strauss even says that Brill here gives us 'Hitchcock's real legacy' (p. 119), and again he is surely right!  Now, full marks to Professor Ed Gallefent for spotting that the name of Flusky's mansion, 'Minyago Yugilla', in Under Capricorn translates as 'Why weepest thou?', a phrase twice applied in the Christian Bible (John 20: 13, 15) to Mary Magdalen, 'the patron saint of penitent sinners' (as Gallefent calls her).  Gallefent even notes that Mary Magdalen was the subject of several paintings by Georges de La Tour, such as "The Penitent Magdalen" (c. 1640), which featured such symbols as a mirror (vanity?), a skull (mortality?), and a candle (spiritual enlightenment?), commenting that 'every one of [these images] occurs in Under Capricorn in various places and guises'. ("The Dandy and the Magdalen: interpreting the long take in Hitchcock's Under Capricorn (1949)", in John Gibbs and Douglas Pye (eds), 'Style and Meaning: Studies in the detailed analysis of film', 2005, p. 69).  (See illustration below.)  That's suggestive, obviously.  But even more so is the fact that both times, when Mary Magdalen is asked why she is weeping, she is shown to have no reason for her tears (for Christ has risen, and does not need them).  (Btw, my thanks to Sony C who pointed out to me that James Bridie, screenwriter of Under Capricorn, was a Scottish playwright who had written several plays on Biblical themes, and may have been chosen by Hitchcock with that fact in mind.)  Surely the big implication for Hitchcock's film, with its palpapable therepeutic motif (each of the main characters is rehabilitated by the end) is that all will be well, or may be so.  (As noted here before, the lines from Emerson that Lil misquotes in Marnie hint at the same thing.)  But nowhere does Gallefent directly respond to the therepeutic, or redemptive, motif in Under Capricorn (which Brill was so responsive to); instead his essay concentrates on Lady Henrietta (Ingrid Bergman) as a penitent figure and her 'failure properly to mourn, the sense of a horror that cannot be worked through to its conclusion' (p. 70)  Still, he does eventually ask the question, 'How can this situation be retrieved?' (p. 76), and notes that in Hitchcock there is sometimes a 'second chance' motif (as Chris Marker pointed out of Vertigo), which steers him to the structural matter (noted here last time) that events in Under Capricorn roughly repeat themselves when Sam fires his horse-pistol, wounding Adare (as Sam was alleged to have shot Henrietta's brother with a horse-pistol at Gretna Green), leading to a 'solution'.  And at the end of the essay, Gallefent graciously admits: 'I am conscious that these observations only touch the surface of the complexity of Hitchcock's art in this project' (p. 82)  (Meanwhile, one's trust in 'detailed analysis of film' may have been dented, a bit!)  I would add that the sort of things I noted last time about the film's 'Australian' content, and visual beauty, are almost never mentioned by critics and scholars.  Nor has any critic that I have read bothered to look at Helen Simpson's original novel (1937), which is unfair.  For example, many of the critics and scholars praise the film's scene where Adare takes off his jacket to make a 'mirror' to show Henrietta her beauty (as part of her rehabilitation), not realising that this comes from the novel.  (Hitchcock's craft is in the selection of such a detail, and in integrating it with other motifs, such as that of Adare's new-found creativity, his becoming an 'artist'.)  To be continued.


Painting by Georges de La Tour



December 10 Under Capricorn is one of those Hitchcock films in which - realistically enough - nobody in the film grasps the whole situation and for a time this allows matters to spiral out of control.  Even the perfidy of the housekeeper Milly is only partially to blame for what happens.  Nonetheless, she drives much of the plot, as when - fearing that she is losing her dominance in the household - she goes upstairs and orders Winter ('You're a gentleman, aren't you, so can be trusted to keep your mouth shut') to load the bottles in Henrietta's cupboard into a sheet and accompany her back downstairs to humiliate Henrietta in front of the kitchen ladies; following this, Henrietta rushes from the kitchen and up to her bedroom.  (This entire scene is filmed in one take, over several levels.)  Later, Milly (accompanied by Winter) has the effrontery to complain to Flusky about Henrietta's having visited 'my kitchen', implying that Henrietta got what she deserved (of course, Milly doesn't go into details).  Unfortunately for Milly's plans, Adare just then enters, and stands up to her, telling Sam that 'some act of calculated rudeness' had been performed against Henrietta.  This spurs Milly to change the subject, to accuse her accuser of a 'rudeness' of his own (he had been in Henrietta's bedroom the night before - out of concern for Henrietta's silence after he had called out to her from the garden, with Sam looking on).  This is too much for Winter, who sees what Milly is up to.  He begins to say what had really happened in the kitchen (see frame-capture below), but Sam is overwhelmed by all this unseemly scene-making, especially as it feels to him like the 'gentlemen' siding against his own and Milly's kind, the 'commoners'.  (And Milly has lied that Winter initiated what happened.)  'Blast all gentlemen', he says, and orders both Winter and Milly to leave.  So Sam's insecurity is partly to blame for the inconclusive outcome to this scene.  Similarly, matters are further 'sabotaged' by Charles whose feelings against Sam have become ambivalent (despite their having shaken hands).  A couple of times, even before the Government House Ball (where Sam makes a 'scene' of his own), Charles blocks efforts by Sam to get closer to his wife: evidently, Charles wants to be the one who rehabilitates her, and unconsciously slights Sam.  And again, although Milly leaves 'Minyago Yugilla' for a time, she comes back and uses the excuse of the 'trouble' over the shooting of Charles to stay on and look after Sam.  Winter sees this and naturally is concerned.  He tries to intervene: 'Is Miss Milly going to stay, after all?'  But gruff Sam brushes the servant aside.  So the situation is very complex - and human - and the prowling camera seeks to expose all this.  I like Robin Wood's enumeration of the technical aspects of the film (and how they involve the audience): 'The play of interest and sympathy is guided partly by technical factors: who is or is not in the frame at a given moment, who is given centrality within the composition, who is in close-up and who in mid- or long-shot, who is observer or listener, what takes place outside the observer/listener's consciousness, to which only we as audience have access.' ('Hitchcock's Films Revisted', Revised Edition, 2002, p. 330)  But I want to emphasise again that a great deal of what is in the film, and is felt by us, the audience, comes from the Helen Simpson novel: for example, the above-described scene with its diverse characters (and which eventually becomes too much for even Sam to handle), or the clever idea of Charles to whistle a tune to inspire Henrietta (the novel specifies 'Over the Hills and Far Away' which I think is the very tune we hear in the film, although it may also be known as 'Here We Go Gathering Nuts in May').  Leslie Brill's understanding of the 'projected shadows who suffer on our behalf' (see last time) is right-on.  Finally, I want to quote something else I wrote in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', and which recognises the film's imagery: 'The [verandah scene's] fiery colour is one of several reminders that Hell haunts this harsh land "down under", this "infernal place" as the Governor calls it ... But Australia's very harshness has its own beauty.  Some things, Flusky will tell his wife, are "all in your mind".  [So] the same fiery light that suggests the proximity of Hell is allowed, whenever it strikes Hattie's auburn hair ... to invoke a contrary condition ... (One may think of William Blake's lines about building "a Heaven in Hell's despair".)'
       

Winter tries to tell what has
              happened in UNDER CAPRICORN



December 17 It's a while since we invoked Henry James here, apropos the Hitchcockian mysterioso of 'The Aspern Papers' (1888, 1908) and its film version The Lost Moment (1947), starring Robert Cummings and directed by Martin Gabel (who played Strutt in Hitchcock's Marnie, 1964).  Of course, now there's a book, 'The Men Who Knew Too Much: Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock' (Oxford, 2012), edited by Susan Griffin and Alan Nadel; and it's to one of that book's essays, "Bump: Concussive Knowledge in James and Hitchcock", by Mary Ann O'Farrell, that I want to turn this time.  The main idea is that in both James and Hitchcock characters have sudden moments of realisation that are intensely visual - the word for that used to be 'epiphany', or even 'gestalt', though O'Farrell uses neither of them - and in Hitchcock, at least, such a moment may be associated with a bump on the head (as befalls Iris Henderson in The Lady Vanishes, 1938, after which she is infinitely more watchful of her fellow travellers on a cross-country train somewhere near the Balkans).  In turn, suggests O'Farrell, the character's realisation, at base, is like a little primal scene (a child's consciousness that its parents are having sex, which it mistakes for an act of violence by the father against the mother). (p. 80)  Actually, the instance from James that O'Farrell first cites is the one in 'Portrait of a Lady' (1881) in which Isabel Archer comes upon her husband Gilbert Osmond with Madame Merle (Chapter XL) and, some thirty pages later (end of Chapter XLII), twigs to the moment's full significance - which was succinctly described by Paula Marantz Cohen in her 1999 essay "James, Hitchcock and the Fate of Character": 'James represents the moment of Isabel's revelation in visual terms: she enters a room and sees her husband sitting while her best friend is standing, and the visual iconography tells her, in a scenic flash, that the two have had an affair'.  O'Farrell suggests that there's a comparable moment in Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954) when Tony Wendice describes having followed his unfaithful wife to an assignation with her lover: 'I could see them through the studio window as he cooked spaghetti over a gas range.  They didn't say much - they just stood very natural together.  You know, it's funny how you can tell when people are in love.' (pp. 77-78)  (See frame-capture below.)  Hmm.  Another head-bump moment in Hitchcock, cited by O'Farrell, is that of Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) who, at age ten, was knocked down by a streetcar and concussed (an incident, btw, based on one that befell real-life serial murderer Earle Nelson: see my 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story').  As O'Farrell notes, in this case the 'concussive knowledge' that results is particularly one of feeling excluded from man-woman relations (the recurring image of couples dancing the Merry Widow Waltz represents, for Uncle Charlie, an unattainable ideal).  Applying this to other Hitchcock films, O'Farrell suggests that Vertigo works similarly: Scottie learns that he had been set up by the father-figure Gavin Elster, and that when he 'drags Judy upstairs in the bell tower ..., he seems to want and to need to recreate the scene of his exclusion' (p. 80).  (As we once noted, another famous author is also pertinent here: Jorge Luis Borges, whose 1940 tale "The Circular Ruins" - translated 1949 - contains the telling observation: 'Not to be a man, to be the projection of another man's dream, what a feeling of humiliation, of vertigo!')  The invocation of the primal scene and a feeling of being an excluded onlooker, is cogent, certainly apropos Hitchcock's films, and could have been developed further.  Strangely, O'Farrell never mentions Rear Window (1954) - contra Cohen.  The latter notes: 'Isabel [Archer]'s drama revolves around a question associated with a domestic plot: who will she marry?  Jeff's drama, however, revolves around a question associated with an action plot: how can he prove that the salesman Thorwald murdered his wife?'  (I give specific primal scene imagery from Rear Window in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' - and, as noted here recently, again find parallels in another famous author: this time E.T.A. Hoffmann, whom we know Hitchcock had read, and specifically Hoffmann's 1815 tale "The Sandman", which prompted Sigmund Freud to write a famous essay on "The Uncanny".)  Nor does O'Farrell directly invoke Marnie apropos the primal scene, although the film's flashback specifically shows the little girl Marnie mistaking the sailor's actions for an attack on Marnie's mother.  However, O'Farrell's essay has many fine features.  And an interesting footnote cites Kaja Silverman on how James's 'The Golden Bowl' (1904) 'is in many ways an extended primal scene' (p. 223, n.5).


DIAL M FOR MURDER  


P.S.  Readers may like to visit Part Two of my article "Shock, Horror, Spirit" (on Psycho), now up on the 'Senses of Cinema' website: http://sensesofcinema.com/2016/feature-articles/hitchcocks-psycho-part-two/


January 14 Last time, we visited one of the essays in the book 'The Men Who Knew Too Much: Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock' (Oxford, 2012), edited by Susan Griffin and Alan Nadel; and noted that situations reminiscent of the 'primal scene' (see last time) re-occur in the works of both James (e.g., 'The Golden Bowl') and Hitchcock (e.g., the Marnie flashback).  The situation of Maggie Verver in 'The Golden Bowl' is 'is in many ways an extended primal scene' (again see last time) inasmuch that she comes to feel excluded from her own marriage to Prince Amerigo (who has resumed the affair he had been having with Maggie's friend, Charlotte).  Another essay in the Griffin & Nadel book, "Hands, Objects, and Love in James and Hitchcock", by Jonathan Freeman, is specifically about 'The Golden Bowl' and Notorious (1946), but it mainly focusses on how both artists were not only masters of 'ocularcentrism' (matters of the visual, the eye) but of the haptic (matters of touch, of hands), with plenty of opportunity for showing intimate and erotic moments.  True, but not new (information)!  More exciting, actually, is "Specters of Respectability: Victorian Horrors in The Turn of the Screw and Psycho", by Aviva Briefel.  James's classic ghost story (1898) is narrated by a man named Douglas, and somebody asks him at the very beginning, 'What did the first governess die of - respectability?'  That word does indeed keep recurring, and the replacement governess, Miss Giddens - around whom the story revolves - is the daughter of a clergyman; her job as governess to two children, Flora and Miles, is her first position.  Famously, her likely sexual repression, and hysteria, is the cause of her seeing the ghosts of Miss Jessel (the first governess) and Peter Quint (a former employee, who had had an affair with Miss Jessel); in a way, Miss Giddens is another person who feels sexually excluded, a victim of the 'primal scene'.  Aviva Briefel argues that James is here utilising several Victorian literary tropes (e.g., red-haired, bold-looking Quint resembles a traditional stage villain), whereas Hitchcock, in Psycho, is more concerned to expose such tropes, while using them for what emotions they can still stir in viewers.  Naturally, Briefel highlights the early scene between Marion (Janet Leigh) and Sam (John Gavin), in which Marion tells her lover, 'You make respectability sound disrespectful!'  The subtly mocking tone has been set!  Briefel then cites the term Victorianarum, meaning 'that horror which even nowadays is felt, at least to a slight degree, by almost anyone who visits a display of stuffed birds under glass, for example, or of Victorian dolls and doll's clothes' (p. 168).  Briefel puts particular emphasis on the scene in which Lila (Vera Miles) searches the Bates house and comes upon the mother's bedroom filled with Victorian bric-à-brac: so uneasy is Lila feeling (and the audience with her) that she is visibly frightened at glimpsing her own image in a mirror, thinking that someone is watching her.  (See frame-capture below.)  This scene, we have previously suggested, is borrowed from James Whale's horror classic The Old Dark House (1932) - indicating, once again, how diligently the eclectic Hitchcock did research for ideas and effects - but Briefel cites another prototype of such a moment, one mentioned by Sigmund Freud in a footnote to his essay "The Uncanny" (1919) - so perhaps the makers of The Old Dark House had read their Freud!  (See last time for how "The Uncanny" concerns itself with the 'primal scene'.)  Here now is Briefel's cautious conclusion: 'the final resurrection of the voice of Norman's mother over her [mad] son's smiling face proves that Hitchcock does not let go of Victorian repression as an effective gothic trope.  In the end, the film experiences a return of the repressed that brings back the idea of repression itself.  Rather than trace a progress narrative from The Turn of the Screw to Psycho, then, we might view them as works in progress.  They attest to the fact that it is not easy - nor perhaps is it completely desirable - to abandon the Victorian myth altogether.  We are too reliant on it, both as an artistic trope and as an iconic image against which we define ourselves.' (p. 173)


Lila frightened by own image in
              PSYCHO     



January 21 Possibly the best of the essays in the 2012 book 'The Men Who Knew Too Much: Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock' (see last two items above) is Eric Savoy's "The Touch of the Real: Circumscribing Vertigo".  I'll try and give its essence.  First, the essay's title refers to Jacques Lacan's term 'the Real' (roughly, the ineffable and unknowable, that which lies 'beyond'),  According to Savoy in a footnote: 'In Hitchcock's terminology, the Real is that which holds us "spellbound."  Staging the encounter with the Real is Hitchcock's essential cinematic project.' (p. 228 n1)  (I don't disagree with that, in fact I recently made a similar claim in analysing Hitchcock's TV shows and how they engage the viewer beyond their story content ...)  Savoy suggests that Scottie (James Stewart) in Vertigo is initially traumatised by his near-escape from death by falling (see frame-capture below): this marks 'the return of the traumatic primal scene'. (p. 153)  (Re the 'primal scene', see items for January 7 and 14.)  Henceforth suspense can grip the viewer as Scottie's subjection to the 'death drive' becomes apparent, and he engages in a series of repetitions that characterise that drive (as Freud said).  In Savoy's formulation: 'If James's and Hitchcock's protagonists are suspended between the desire to know all and the fear of that knowledge, it is also true that the deferral of the subject's traumatic undoing generates our pleasurable suspense in proportion ... again and again, we observe the protagonist [think: Scottie] circling the object [think: 'Madeleine'/Judy, as played by Kim Novak] that will be in time the locus of his traumatic undoing.' (pp. 143-44)  Another Lacanian term that Savoy uses is 'captation', referring to Scottie's 'excessive fascination with the object' that will be shattered by what Lacan called 'a touch of the Real' (p. 145).  Savoy sums up the argument to this point: 'If ... trauma is characterized by the unconscious repetition of an event that remains unfathomable, then Vertigo is an exemplary trauma narrative.  Essentially, it grafts onto the traumatic residue of Scottie's vertigo - the chronic fear of falling - the plot of falling in love with a ghostly illusion.'  And he adds: 'Madeleine is, from the get-go, an illusion, a pure allegory of cinematic desire itself; her function in the plot is to braid together the fearful fascination of Scottie's vertiginous drama of the primal scene with its unconscious repetition in the captation of that thing we call love.  That "unspecifiable thing" that inheres in Madeleine we might hazard to specify as the death drive: the fatal attraction of the Real ...' (p. 153)  Such a view of Vertigo can be elaborated by noting the role of Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) as a down-to-earth embodiment of the reality principle: 'as a foil not only to "Madeleine" as pure figment, but also to the entire assembly of Hitchcock's blondes [in film after film] ...' (p. 154)  Savoy notes both 'Scottie's repeated circulation around the void of the Real that is Madeleine' and several upwards or downwards spiralling trajectories (as when Scottie ascends and descends steps or stairs, invoking what Donald Spoto calls 'the fear of falling and the desire to fall'), allowing this formulation by Savoy: 'The vertical spiral may be said to literalize the circuits of the death drive that are allegorized in Scottie's horizontal circlings around the illusory object'. (p 154)  (Hmm.  Why do I think of Scottie's line, 'You see, there's an answer for everything'?!)  Two further observations now.  First, Savoy splendidly finds parallels for much of the above in James's 'The Ambassadors' (1903), not least the depiction of Lambert Strether's fascination with the duplicitous Madame de Vionnet, and in particular the scene (Chapter 7) in a Notre Dame chapel where Strether circles behind her seated figure, evoking what James calls 'the museum mood' - which Savoy understandably matches with a similar scene in Vertigo in the Palace of the Legion of Honour art gallery.  Second, Savoy is sensible enough to know that there is much more that could be said, along other lines, about Vertigo in particular.  So he modestly concludes: 'Is to circumscribe Vertigo by way of James merely to perform, through a repetition of circling about, my own captation by a cultural object?  The only certain conclusion is that relations really don't stop anywhere.' (p. 157)


Scottie and colleague in
              VERTIGO     



January 28 On North by Northwest this time, and I'll refer to an essay by Alan Nadel, "Expedient Exaggeration and the Scale of Cold War Farce in North by Northwest" that's included in 'The Cambridge Companion to Alfred Hitchcock' (2015).  (There's a continuity with the book on Henry James and Hitchcock that I have been citing here in recent weeks: Nadel is that book's co-editor.)  After pointing out that North by Northwest constitutes farce (I would have used Hitchcock's own word 'absurdity', but never mind) - and in support referencing a book I admire, Eric Bentley's 1964 'The Life of the Drama' (so all is forgiven!) - Nadel proceeds to suggest that Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) becomes a mature American citizen by agreeing to impersonate the non-existent 'George Kaplan' (p. 164).  Nadel's reasoning?  In part, it has to do with Thornhill's being adaptable enough to see how the world was constituted during the Cold War: it was a virtual 'courtship narrative', centred on the United Nations, in which 'every state was always already potential partner and potential rival for other couplings' (meaning, new allies and new alliances).  (Meanwhile the UN itself was an inequitable institution.  As Nadel puts it: 'if all sovereign states are equal, a la the UN Charter, some states, a la Animal Farm, are more equal than others' - p. 165).  And there was constant 'multilayered competitions with one another' by the UN member states, including armed conflicts, hence constant tension (pp. 166-67).  (Elsewhere, I have recently argued that Hitchcock's films often take their effect from their broad suggestiveness, and Nadel seems to be indicating the same thing here: the film's own 'courtship narrative', with its alliances and rivalries, echoes that of the wider world.)  Nadel points out that ad-man Thornhill's term 'expedient exaggeration' had contemporary parallels in 'quotations from Chairman Mao, Stalin's revisionist history, [and] the proliferation of adult Westerns on American television' (p. 168)  And he suggests that Vandamm (James Mason) is 'in many ways Thornhill's kindred spirit' since both sell ideas and are a-moral (p. 169).  (How does Vandamm 'sell ideas'?  By force, I guess Nadel means.)  'But the most obvious doubling is that Vandamm and Thornhill are' lovers of Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) - who both seduce her by means of their 'ersatz accent[s] that converted a signifier of British nationality into a geographically unspecifiable cosmopolitanism - exactly the work that the UN Charter performed of masking nationalism through vague, contradictory allusions to globalism' (p. 169)  (Hmm.  I do find Nadel's claims a little forced, sometimes.  Read on.)  We are told that '[t]he commonality of the principals consolidates at the auction scene, the only time when all four [including The Professor, played by Leo G. Carroll] share the same space.  Hitchcock shoots the scene as a relentless array of courtship triangles emulating the Cold War competition for partners among the member nations, ostensibly united by their common goals and interests.  Grant and Mason, both in grey suits, white shirts, and grey ties square off against each other in perfect profile, with Eve directly between them.' (p. 171) (See frame-capture below.)  Nadel also refers to contrasts in scale in the film: the difference, say, between the high-shot of Thornhill running like an ant away from the UN Building and the close-up through a telescope of the Presidential figures carved into Mount Rushmore.  Equally, '[o]ur attention is twice called to Eve's tiny razor, and Thornhill locked into the upper birth of Eve's train compartment compares himself to a sardine' (p. 171).  In sum, '[t]hese issues of scale, intimacy, romance, and nationalism are powerfully represented in the scene at the auction which pits the auras of the two stars against one another.  Importantly, in that scene, the figurine [for which Vandamm bids] is larger, in terms of national security, than anything except the even smaller microfilm it contains.  The brilliant and very peculiar framing in that scene makes vivid the interpersonal and international conflicts at stake in these issues of scale, while underscoring that both issues are characterized by courtship narratives.' (pp. 174-75)  I'll conclude on a separate note.  I'm grateful to Nadel for spotting where the Intelligence Agency person's line, 'Good bye, Mr Thornhill, wherever you are', may have come from: it seems that comedian Jimmy Durante's trademark signoff was 'Good Night, Mrs Calabash, wherever you are' - and the film's echo of it 'serves as a piece of meta-commentary signaling the film's farcical mode' (p. 179, n 20).


Thornhill, Eve Kendall, and
              Vandamm in NxNW       


February 4 Reading Alan Nadel's essay on North by Northwest in 'The Cambridge Companion to Alfred Hitchcock' (2015) - see last time - I sensed some similarities to contemporary politics.  (The Cary Grant character, Roger Thornhill, is initially a self-important buffoon who dwells mostly in a New York tower but - being nice-guy Grant, after all - learns in the course of the film to 'grow up' - a perennial Hitchcock theme.  Crucial is his close-up encounter with the Presidency represented by the Mount Rushmore Monument.  We hear him say, 'I don't like the way Teddy Roosevelt is looking at me', and I'll come back to that line.)  Another essay in the same book, Sara Blair's "Hitchcock on Location: America, Icons, and the Place of Illusion", confirmed my feeling, especially when it appeared to liken Thornhill to the megalomaniac architect Gutzon Borglum (1871-1941) who conceived and supervised the carving of the Mount Rushmore Monument.  (I'll come back to that, too.)  Blair's underlying thesis is that Hitchcock's use of national monuments in his US films - such as the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur (1942), or the Golden Gate Bridge in Vertigo (1958) - involved suturing 'the reality effect of cinema to bedrock fantasies of a virgin land, infinitely available for American ingenuity' (p. 60).  These films 'explore the synergies of site and cinematic setting in various registers' (p. 66).  Naturally Blair spends some time on both Saboteur and Shadow of a Doubt (1943), the latter Hitchcock's 'first' American film in the sense that it was the first to make extensive use of location photography, spanning both East (New Jersey) and West (the 'typical' US town of Santa Rosa, in California).  After all, 'westering' was a theme of American history, like 'Manifest Destiny' - the latter clearly inspiring Borglum.  Blair, though, doesn't explain why Saboteur had moved in precisely the opposite direction, from west to east!  Perhaps Hitchcock simply wanted a sense of comprehensiveness.  As I once pointed out, he had done the same thing in some of his English films.  (The 39 Steps not only circles from London to Scotland and back again, but begins in a tawdry East London music hall before climaxing in the much more up-market Palladium, the celebrated variety hall in West London.)  Nor does Blair push some of her analyses to the limit.  Still, I appreciated her use of a frame-still from the Statue of Liberty climax of Saboteur (see frame-capture below) and her comparing it to both an early photo of the 'Liberty' torch on separate display in Philadelphia in 1876 and to photographs (by Charles D'Emery) of the intrepid rock workers on the Mount Rushmore Monument that might almost have been scenes from North by Northwest itself!  (I thought of Alan Nadel's point, quoted last time, about Hitchcock's exploitation for dramatic effect of differences in scale.)  But look further at that climactic scene from Saboteur.  Clearly it was shot in the studio, which reinforces Blair's point about 'the synergies of site and cinematic setting'.  What she doesn't comment on is the teasing, subliminal contrast of that rust-proof metal hand and its steel rivets with the irony of the tearing threads in Fry's coat sleeve that will shortly send him plunging to his death.  (Commented Ben Hecht, as quoted by Blair: 'He should have had a better tailor.')  There's an anticipation here of the scene Hitchcock wanted for North by Northwest: Thornhill on Mount Rushmore hiding in Lincoln's nostril and having a sneezing fit.  (Think about it.  Also, note that Lincoln comes across as 'indifferent'.)  And speaking of that film, nor does Blair more than mention in passing Borglum ('a sculptor known for his belligerent nativism and his ties to the Ku Klux Klan' - p. 72), although she has earlier referred to 'the interpenetration of land, landscape, and fantasies of a manifestly destined modern nation' (p. 68).  It will be worth recalling a long article on North by Northwest this site ran for many years, including this observation: 'Frankly, I think it would have been Hitchcock's more snobbish side that most warmed to ... Borglum ... especially after he learned from his research that Borglum had been something of a "Nietzschean" and a fascist, quite contemptuous of the common man, i.e., what Roger Thornhill may be said to represent!' (Readers may like to compare my recent online analysis of Psycho for 'Senses of Cinema', which suggested a similar elitist vs populist split in Hitchcock!  Marion Crane, in Hitchcock's words, is only 'an ordinary bourgeois'.)  The article quoted Simon Schama's book 'Landscape and Memory' (1995), on how Borglum 'clung to a vision of redeeming heroes and roughriders: Nietzsches in Stetsons.  He campaigned for Teddy Roosevelt ... and extolled Benito Mussolini as the sort of man who could really shake up the presidency ...  When ... Borglum saw the cliff at Mount Rushmore, he experienced an immediate rush of exhilaration, as though he had identified a celestial platform from which America's Manifest Destiny could be surveyed.'  Hmm.  I have space to do no more this week than quote Mark Twain on Teddy Roosevelt (while I think of current politics): 'Mr Roosevelt is the Tom Sawyer of the political world of the twentieth century, always showing off; always hunting for a chance to show off; in his frenzied imagination the Great Republic is a vast Barnum circus with him for a clown and the whole world for audience.'  So what is North by Northwest telling us?  To be continued.
 

Life and death on the Statue of
              Liberty in SABOTEUR




February 11
In the frame-capture below from North by Northwest, the craggy face of Roger Thornhill at Chicago Airport will shortly merge with the literally craggy faces of four American Presidents carved into the rock-face at Mount Rushmore.  The slow dissolve from Roger's lit-up face (in the light of a taxi-ing plane) to the faces of the Presidents, seen in bright sunlight, allows him and us time to ponder the significance of what he has just been told by The Professor: that Roger's own actions helped endanger agent Eve Kendall, and now, even more than her (and doubtless Roger's) life, 'much more is at stake'.  Indeed, the slow dissolve represents Roger's thought process concerning those words: an example of Hitchcock's subjective technique.  But equally, at a more objective level, the dissolve can represent how Roger (and his face) are being asked, by the narrative (and The Professor), to merge with, and uphold, American values - or, rather, to submerge themselves to American values.  That sounds good, but it verges on nonsense!  At least, I believe that Hitchcock felt as much, and that's a reason why, a little later, in the pine forest, Roger tells The Professor that maybe it's time that America learned to start losing a few Cold Wars, rather than endanger people like Eve (and implicitly Roger).  Also, Hitchcock would have known of E.M. Forster's famous (if controversial) words, 'If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.'  On the other hand - given that all Hitchcock films are rhetorical - doubtless best of all would be if the act of saving Eve could also defeat Vandamm, which is what happens, of course.  Now, in my chapter on "Hitchcock's Literary Sources" for 'A Companion to Alfred Hitchcock' (2011), I show how the Mount Rushmore sequence in North by Northwest, with its 'basilisk faces' of the Presidents, derives from the climax of the novel 'King Solomon's Mines' (1885) - filmed by MGM in 1950 - where the faces of the three 'Silent Ones' (colossi carved into the steep mountainside) are described as representing 'false divinities'.  Let's come back, then, to Hitchcock's film.  At Mount Rushmore, we hear Thornhill say, as he peers through a telescope, 'I don't like the way Teddy Roosevelt is looking at me.'  This, too, invites a charge of nonsense - it's George Washington, not Roosevelt, who peers superciliously (it may seem) downwards: the other three Presidents are either not looking towards the telescope's position at all (Jefferson, Roosevelt) or seem relatively benign (Lincoln).  (To see a photo of the Monument, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Rushmore.)  So why this line in the film?  Well, obviously it sounds more colloquial and in keeping.  ('I don't like the way George Washington is looking at me', is relatively cold.)  I don't think we're supposed to think that Thornhill, out of ignorance, has simply blundered - not at this stage in the film!  And the line does allow The Professor to quote Roosevelt: 'Speak softly and carry a big stick [- you will go far].'  That suggests both good sense and is suitably upbeat, which are pertinent factors at this concluding stage of the film, and where such good sense could usefully be shared in common by the Government and by Roger (at least, once he returns with Eve to normal life in NYC, suitably humbled, and content, where once he was thoughtless and obviously discontent).  I don't know enough about Roosevelt to comment much further: I know that he was proud of his efforts at natural conservation (more than the current President, probably); on the other hand, someone like Mark Twain saw mainly Roosevelt's immaturity and showing off (see last time).  This suggests to me that Hitchcock and Ernie Lehman considered Roosevelt and Roger somewhat alike!  More broadly now, what does the Monument signify in the film?  Based on what I have noted above, I would say that the carved heads of the Presidents are iconic, like those of film stars - larger than life but hardly real.  For Roger, that means that they can be inspirational but not otherwise helpful.  (That could be the point of the scene I cited last time, where Roger would have hidden in Lincoln's nostril, to no avail.)  These are basilisk faces - potentially death-dealing.  Roger has to learn to act on his own behalf, be his own man.  (In the pine forest he does indeed say, 'I never felt more alive.')  In short, he must be more than simply other-directed, which I take to be one of the 'lessons' of the British adventure-fiction tradition to which 'King Solomon's Mines' belongs.  Of course, in the film Roger is played - performed - by Cary Grant, another film star.  We, the audience, have to draw a lesson for ourselves from that.  (Hitchcock films can sometimes seem almost infinitely regressive, if you see what I mean.)


Roger at Chicago Airport in
              NORTH BY NORTHWEST



February 18 In saying last time that Hitchcock films can seem 'almost infinitely regressive', I was thinking of Vertigo (1958), of course.  There, the audience initially (at any rate) identifies with James Stewart as Scottie, watching and falling in love with Judy - played by Kim Novak - who plays the false Madeleine playing the real Madeleine (never seen by us) who in turn appears possessed by 'Carlotta Valdes'.  All very cinematic, and teasing.  (And of course role-playing has a role (!) in real life, where in fact we all play roles, and often different roles for different people we know.)   Also, it seems to me that once you admit 'real life' into the picture, what Nick Pinkerton in a recent issue of 'Sight and Sound' (February 2017, p. 105) called 'film critical discourse' can begin to flounder, because so often, being preoccupied with theory, it slights 'the actual practical and physical considerations of making a film'.  From Vertigo, then, let's turn to a clear progenitor of it, Rebecca (1940).  (I may come back to North by Northwest later.)  Even Tania Modleski, in an excellent chapter appropriately called "Woman and the Labyrinth" (in the Second Edition of 'The Women Who Knew Too Much', 2005) simplifies how 'vertiginous' Rebecca is.  In noting that the Joan Fontaine character appears unable to 'offer the male [anything] more than a vacuous self', she claims: 'In the film's fantasy, a woman's fantasy par excellence, the hero highly prizes the woman's insignificance' (p. 47, italics in original).  Yes, the traumatised Maxim (prefiguring the traumatised Scottie) can no longer cope with reality in its fullness (which, I suggest, Rebecca - a kind of female Űbermensch - represents).  He sentimentally tells the Joan Fontaine character never to be like her predecessor, never to be thirty-six and wear pearls and satin!  (Scottie, too, is sentimental, which helps explain why he is attracted to 'Madeleine' - not because she is 'insignificant' but because she is effectively all-women-in-one, a kind of 'eternal feminine'.  It's a different fantasy to Maxim's, yet it, too, involves a 'simplified' reality!  I'll come back to this.)  But why is the 'vacuous' Joan Fontaine character in Rebecca living a woman's fantasy necessarily?  We can see what Modleski means: 'unreconstructed' women (non-feminists) may settle (or may once have settled) for being simply other-directed, out of false 'deference' to their husbands or boyfriends, say.  (I suggested last time that North by Northwest is critical of persons who settle for being other-directed.  It's a big issue, of course.)  By Modleski's own words, it would seem that the fantasy is both a woman's and a man's.  Not only does she say 'the hero highly prizes the woman's insignificance', but she has previously given a reason for that preference by Maxim (besides the fact that he had been tormented by Rebecca and was responsible for her death).  Just one page earlier, Modleski had invoked psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan: 'The Imaginary stage is the same for both boys and girls.  For males, however, it eventually becomes possible to deny the mother's physical superiority by asserting their anatomical difference from her, a denial which is enacted in many Hollywood films ... [including] films noir, the project of which ... is to bring the woman under the hero's visual and narrative control.' (pp. 45-46)  That sounds like a male's fantasy to me, Maxim's included!  True, Modleski has added: 'By contrast, the female, who is anatomically similar to the mother, has difficulty assuming such control: thus, rather than appropriating the power of the look, as the male does, the female allows herself to be determined by it' (in simplified terms, she learns submissiveness while believing 'she is herself' - p. 46).  So maybe the term 'fantasy' is being used in a special sense by Modleski.  Two things, though.  First, she immediately adds that in Rebecca the situation is complicated by the difficulty of knowing what Maxim really desires: 'From the woman's point of view, then, the man becomes an enigma, his desire difficult to know.' (p. 48)  Exactly.  The Joan Fontaine character tries to please Maxim, but that's only his sentimental side!  (My point is that until the boathouse scene - frame-capture below - both characters are lost in a vertiginous, fantastical situation.)  And second, note again the observation that the girl, in Lacan's (and Eugénie Lemoine-Luccioni's) formulation, 'believes she is herself' - which is certainly true of the Joan Fontaine character, who is repeatedly finding out that she isn't in control at all, and literally isn't who she thought she was.  My point would be: it's not only girls who can find that out!  As noted here previously, Scottie in Vertigo is humiliated - and enraged - when he finds out that he has been manipulated right down the line by another male, Gavin Elster.  He feels 'infantilised', or 'feminised', more than ever.  (The same theme permeates Borges's "The Circular Ruins".)  In turn, I would infer that Hitchcock in his films revelled in such vertiginous complications, and left 'theory' to catch up with him as best it might.

           
The boathouse scene in REBECCA



February 25 This week I had occasion to compare the Royal Albert Hall scenes in the two versions (1934, 1956) of The Man Who Knew Too Much, both featuring the 'Storm Cloud Cantata' composed for the original film by Australian composer Arthur Benjamin (at that time an instructor at the Royal College of Music) with lyrics by D.B. Wyndham Lewis, a London journalist and author of literary biographies.  In terms of suspense, the cantata functions in both films a little like the nonsense verse 'Risselty-Rosselty' sung by the students at the Bodega Bay school in The Birds (1963): both pieces are relatively shapeless and drawn-out so that you don't know when they may end or reach their climax - which is particularly crucial in the cantata scene of TMWKTM (both versions) where a political assassination is set to happen at the climactic clash of cymbals (signifying a storm with its thunder and lightning, i.e., the forces of nature).  Indeed, like The Birds itself, the 'Storm Cloud Cantata' scene in the two earlier films serves to remind us that humankind is part of nature and that the films are allegories of that fact.  (The philosopher Schopenhauer referred to the blind, cruel cosmic 'Will', and that's arguably what is invoked here.  Schopenhauer himself wrote that music 'parallels the world'.)  The cantata can also be said to invoke an individual life in its various aspects, with the ever-present threat of death.  This is especially appropriate to the 1956 TMWKTM, given that an early scene had shown Jo (Doris Day) singing a 'lullaby' to her son Hank (who will shortly be kidnapped) called "Whatever Will Be, Will Be".  Murray Pomerance, in the section of his BFI monograph (2016) on the 1956 TMWKTM devoted to the Albert Hall scene, a section called "In Arcady", observes that the film 'emerges from a profoundly philosophical, even religious sensibility concerned with man's experience and place in the universe' (p. 69).  He begins the section with the cautionary quotation, 'Et in Arcadia ego' ('And in Arcadia I am'), often understood to refer to the possibility of death even in Arcadia - which, by the way, could serve as the perfect epigraph for Hitchcock's previous film The Trouble With Harry (1955).  But let's look more closely at the two 'Storm Cloud Cantata' scenes, for what their local detail tells us and how the two scenes subtly differ.  The first thing to note is that the earlier scene, at about six minutes, is almost exactly half the length of the later one (about twelve minutes to the moment when Ben - James Stewart - rejoins Jo in the Albert Hall foyer after the assassination has been foiled).  Note that the earlier performance was conducted by noted conductor Wynn Reeves (you can also see him in action here: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/london-orchestra/query/conductors), a realistic detail that Hitchcock was doubtless happy to include, just as he had shown the real-life boxing referee, Eugene Corri, officiating at the title-fight climax of The Ring (1927) - also set in the Albert Hall.  (The conductor in the 1956 TMWKTM is of course film composer Bernard Herrmann, effectively standing in for Hitchcock as a person presiding over life and death.  Interestingly, Hitchcock's cameo appearance in Rear Window, two years earlier, had been as a clock-winder (!) visiting the studio apartment of The Composer, who is seen to compose that film's theme tune "Lisa" in the course of the film.)  Up to a point, the lyrics of the cantata are the same in both films, although the 1956 film appears to have added material - I can't be sure, though, as the English titles for the Criterion DVD of the 1934 film (beautifully restored, btw) aren't complete and it's difficult to make out the words by ear alone (I may set myself to check further this week).  The first five lines are essentially the same: 'There came a whispered terror on the breeze,/ And the dark forest shook,/ And on the trembling trees came nameless fear,/ And panic overtook each flying creature of the wild./ And when they all had fled ...'  But at this point the 1934 version continues: 'God save the child' (soon repeated), a line which is not in the 1956 version.  It's easy to see why that line was included in the 1934 film: firstly, because it's pertinent to the kidnapped Betty, a child in peril, and secondly, because it no doubt resonated with public sentiment of the times (after all, the English National Anthem, 'God Save the King', was regularly sung or played at public events or in cinemas in those days).  The 1956 film, though, was made for an international audience and, indeed, that's one of the factors that seems to have inspired the film's Symbolist qualities.  I'll talk more about that aspect next time (but note for now how the 1956 film includes an American couple and their son who are first seen visiting Marrakesh in Morocco - a Muslim country - and then chasing the boy's kidnappers to London, a chase that lands them at the Albert Hall, a building with multiple associations, secular if also elevated (I shan't call them religious).  Here now is a frame-capture from the 1934 film: it shows Jill (Edna Best) clutching Betty's brooch which the kidnapper, Ramon, has just handed her to maintain her silence and inaction ...


Jill at Albert Hall in 1934
              TMWKTM          



March 4 [Late, and with apologies - more on the 'Storm Cloud Cantata' scene/s next week.  This week attended a screening of The Birds followed by a short two-woman discussion of Hitchcock's friendship with Sister Corita (Kent), the nun and screenprint artist who headed the art department at the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles between 1964 and 1968.  Sister Corita appears to have invited Hitch to talk to her students, which he would have done gladly, as he basically enjoyed such occasions.  (I remember the late Richard Franklin telling me how he had invited Hitch to talk to film students at USC, to 'answer a few questions'.  Hitch had answered, 'Couldn't I do it over the telephone?' - but Richard had insisted he come on down.  So Hitch accepted, with the proviso that 'no flippant questions [be asked], like, "When calling her mate, does Julie Andrews rub her hind legs together?"')  KM]


March 11  Back to the 'Storm Cloud Cantata' scenes in both versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956), but mainly the latter.  Using a word he often favoured, Hitchcock called the 1956 film the work of a professional, whereas the earlier film was merely that of 'a talented amateur'!  Interestingly, screenwriter John Michael Hayes, on a DVD of the 1956 film, also used 'professional' when he described the character of Jo (Doris Day) as someone who 'missed the professional circuit' she had known (as a popular singer) but in the course of the film 'got it back, at least for a short time'.  What did Hayes mean?  Well, obviously, Jo gets to sing in public again, at the film's climax set in a foreign embassy (unnamed) in London.  But, more broadly, Hayes may be referring to how she must go through the film, after son Hank is kidnapped, with all senses straining as she and husband Ben, separately and together, seek clues to where Hank is being held and what they can do to rescue him: what began as a 'holiday' in Marrakesh becomes a 'test' of resources and ability.  And that climactic scene is very satisfying, not only because Hank is rescued but because husband and wife have acted in concert to find and fetch him.  The film has a musical structure and texture, which is fitting, because music is featured in the film - all types, from Jo's shared song with Hank ('Que sera, sera') and the 'Storm Cloud Cantata' at the Albert Hall, to the call to prayer of a muezzin in Marrakesh, to the nonconformist hymn ('Why hides the sun in shame?') sung haltingly by the congregation in a backstreet chapel in Bayswater.  In turn, note the natural imagery, both as referenced in the lyrics of the hymn and the cantata (the former speaks of earthquakes and a darkness that hides the sun, the latter refers to a storm that shakes the forest trees and causes the 'flying creatures' to flee - see February 25, above) and in the pointed contrast between sunny Marrakesh and a mostly grey and gritty London.  In turn again, the film features different social classes from the poorest to the most privileged and the machinations of political assassins to the (initial) attempt of a middle-class American family to spend a quiet time together on holiday in North Africa.  (Jean-Luc Godard, in his review of the film for 'Cahiers du Cinéma', noted that it had an almost 'documentary' aspect.)  Circular Albert Hall and the massed choir and orchestra and soloist (mezzo-soprano Barbara Howitt) assembled there for the cantata are further reminders that both the scene and the film are like a microcosm of 'how things are'.  It could have been overwhelming (in 1960 Hitchcock chose to observe, 'reality is something none of us can stand, at any time'), which may be the real meaning of the film's title (taken originally from G.K. Chesterton), as our director certainly had no special interest in gangster slang (where to 'know too much' is to invite being 'rubbed out'!).  But of course art is there to let us see what might otherwise elude us, and Hitchcock with his microcosms (in film after film, I would argue) knowingly obliged!  Enough of that, though!  I simply think the Albert Hall scene (1956 version, especially) is one of his very best.  And I like Mark Padilla's observation (in 'Classical Myth in Four Films of Alfred Hitchcock', 2016) about the earlier version, that Jill (Jo in the 1956 version) 'aids democracy and the safety of all its [children].  She is a model for audience identification.' (p. 119)  Technically, the 1956 film, in colour and Vistavision, is much more accomplished than the earlier one.  I noticed, for example, that Hitchcock used a matte process to give 1956 viewers an especially high-and-wide view of the Albert Hall interior:  see frame-capture below.  In this shot, timed to the moment when the concert audience settles into silence just before the cantata begins (so a wide general view is appropriate), only the lit-up area is live-action: the rest is a painting.  Notice that even a chandelier is included (a detail that obviously impressed one of the artists who designed the French publicity poster for the film, as s/he included it there).  The film's 'special photographic effects' are credited to John P. Fulton (who also worked on Vertigo), so I am guessing that the painting is his.  It anticipates the splended work at Universal that matte artist Albert Whitlock would do for Hitchcock (e.g., high shots of Bodega Bay in The Birds).  Lastly, this week, let me note what some people might consider a 'blooper'.  The orchestra's cymbalist was described by Hitchcock as 'the one-note man' (in the whole cantata, he only has a single clash of cymbals to perform).  By analogy, the assassin could be called 'the one-shot man' (he only has one chance to kill his target - the foreign prime minister - at the precise moment when the cymbals are clashed).  Conveniently for the film, though, while Jo's scream causes the assassin's aim to waver, it has no effect on the cymbalist, who strikes the cymbals together in perfect symmetry (and loudness).  (Yes, perhaps his proximity to the orchestra 'deafened' him to her scream!)  To be concluded.


Matte shot at Albert Hall in
              1956 TMWKTM    



March 18 [Late. With apologies.  A combination of pressing work and a power outage stopped a post this week.  Hope to return next week.  Meanwhile, thanks to Minas A for letting me know of the forthcoming book, 'The Philosophical Hitchcock: Vertigo and the Anxieties of Unknowingness' by Robert B. Pippin for University of Chicago Press in October.  KM] 


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[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.]

Albuquerque Conference to feature Alfred Hitchcock segment

The Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA) will hold its 38th Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on February 15-18, 2017.  Multiple subject areas will include one on Hitchcock, featuring papers and panels.  Some suggestions for possible presentations include:

    • Hitchcock and Music
    • Hitchcock and Television
    • Hitchcock and Pedagogy
    • Hitchcock and Film Theory
    • Hitchcock and Film Genres
    • Hitchcock and Voyeurism
    • Hitchcock and the Silent Era
    • Hitchcock and Gender
    • Hitchcock and Black Humor

Scholars, teachers, professionals, grad students, and others interested in Alfred Hitchcock are encouraged to participate.  Unfortunately, we received the CFPs (Call for Papers) announcement too late to allow our readers time to meet the deadline (November 1, 2016) for submissions concerning the main papers and panels - but note the following ...

SWPACA offers monetary awards for the best graduate student papers in a variety of categories. Submissions of accepted, full papers are due December 1.  For more information, visit:
http://southwestpca.org/conference/graduate-student-awards/

Registration and travel information for the conference is available at:
http://southwestpca.org/conference/registration/

If you have any questions about the Alfred Hitchcock area, please contact its Area Chair, Dr. Michael Howarth, Missouri Southern State University, <howarth-m@mssu.edu>.


New TV series to pay tribute to Hitchcock


Universal Cable Productions has been authorised by the Alfred Hitchcock Estate to develop a series called "Welcome to Hitchcock".  It will consist of a single season-long mystery or crime in the Hitchcock style (thus, we imagine, more like the A&E series "Bates Motel", based on characters from the movie Psycho, than the individual dramas of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" which ran from 1955 to 1965, a few of them directed by Hitchcock himself).

A pilot episode will be directed by Chris Columbus who will also serve as an executive producer for the planned series.



Patricia Highsmith retrospective in Brussels during August


The Brussels Cinematek is currently screening eleven feature films adapted from stories by Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995).  The first screening, of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951), was on Friday 5 August, and will be followed by:

9 August: Plein Soleil/Full Sun/Purple Noon (Rene Clement, 1959)
11 August: Le Meurtrier/Enough Rope (Claude Autant-Lara, 1963)
13 August: Der amerikanische Freund/The American Friend (Wim Wenders, 1976)
15 August: Dites-lui que je l'aime/Sweet Sickness (Claude Miller, 1977)
17 August: Eaux profondes (Michel Deville, 1981)
19 August: Le Cri du hibou/The Cry of the Owl (Claude Chabrol, 1987)
20 August: The Talented Mr Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999)
24 August: Ripley's Game (Liliana Cavani, 2002)
27 August: The Two Faces of January (Hossein Amini, 2014)
30 August: Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)



Loads of Alfred Hitchcock material at the AMPAS Library, Beverly Hills, California

Curators at the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library have made available for Web publication highlights from their extensive Hitchcock collection well known to scholars.  The online presentation concentrates on the 'remarkable six-year period from 1958 through 1963'.

Go here: http://www.oscars.org/collection-highlights/alfred-hitchcock
 

Below: the opening page from a very early draft, by Alec Coppell, of what became Vertigo:


Alec Coppell draft for VERTIGO

Conference on Alfred Hitchcock, Keene State College, New Hampshire, October 21-22, 2016


Submissions of papers are invited - and panelists required - for a forum on Alfred Hitchcock's cinematic legacy.  The forum will be part of a larger 2016 Conference being organised by the Northeast Popular/American Culture Association, with a separate forum on Film Noir (including Hitchcockian film noir).  Forum moderator Greg Chan from Kwantlen Polytechnic University seeks 3-4 researchers who have fresh approaches to Hitchcock studies within a theoretical framework.  Graduate students, scholars, professionals, academics, and other experts on the Master of Suspense are ideal candidates; authors with an interdisciplinary background are also encouraged to apply.

Suggested topic areas include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hitchcock and Film Noir/Neo-Noir
  • Hitchcock and Pedagogy
  • Hitchcock and Architecture
  • Hitchcock and Mise-en-scene
  • Hitchcock and Sound Design
  • Hitchcock and Voyeurism
  • Hitchcock and Adaptation
  • Hitchcock and Film Genres
  • Hitchcock and Editing
  • Hitchcock, Sexuality & Censorship
  • Hitchcock and the Hitchcockian Homage
  • Hitchcock and Transmedia
  • Hitchcock and Popular Culture
  • Hitchcock and Aestheticism

Please submit a 500 word abstract by 1 June, 2016, via the form here; do not submit your proposal through the NEPCA paper proposal form, as Hitchcock panelists must be pre-approved.  All inquiries about this panel can be directed to Greg Chan at greg.chan@kpu.ca.  Further information: Conference Website

.

Hitchcock made her a star: Maureen O'Hara dies, aged 95

Maureen O'Hara (born Maureen FitzSimons, on 17 August 1920, in Dublin, Ireland) died in her sleep last month (24 October 2015) at her home in Idaho, USA.  Her family said in a statement: 'Her characters were feisty and fearless, just as she was in real life.  She was also proudly Irish ...'  Her films included several for John Ford (including the Irish-set The Quiet Man, 1952), the perennial Christmas hit Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and the Disney feature The Parent Trap (1961).

But it was Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Laughton who first made O'Hara a star when she performed opposite Laughton in Daphne du Maurier's tale of Cornish wreckers, Jamaica Inn (1939)  She had been a radio performer from age 12 and had attended the Abbey Theatre School, Dublin.  She came to the cinema from the theatre: her first British film roles were in Kicking the Moon Around (Walter Forde, 1938) - she had a tiny role as a secretary - and My Irish Molly (Alex Bryce, 1938), in which Laughton reportedly saw her and arranged a screen test.  As co-producer of Jamaica Inn (as well as its central character, the corrupt Squire Pengallan), Laughton persuaded Hitchcock to cast O'Hara to play the orphan Mary Yellan, newly arrived in Cornwall who soon falls into the Squire's clutches. 

After Jamaica Inn, Laughton and O'Hara both crossed the Atlantic to appear together in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (William Dieterle, 1939).  In O'Hara's first two decades in the USA, she made some forty feature films, several of them in colour - showing off her rich red hair, bright green eyes, and flawless complexion (a perfect advertisement for the new Technicolor process).  In several of the films she was foil to John Wayne, including The Quiet Man, in which he drags her across a field.  The pair continued to battle and bicker onscreen in Andrew V. McLaglen's McLintock (1963), a kind of Western version of 'The Taming of the Shrew'.  Audiences loved it.

O'Hara was married three times.  Of her third husband, Brigadier General Charles Blair, whose airline she managed after his death in an air crash in 1978, she later said: 'Being married to Charlie Blair and traveling all over the world with him, believe me, was enough for any woman.  It was the best time of my life.'


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

Scott Fivelson's comic one-act play 'Dial L for Latch-Key' (first mentioned here four years ago) has run in various theatres in London and elsewhere, and on radio.  An audiobook version is available, as well as paperback and e-book editions.  According to the publicity, 'This time Grace Kelly doesn't dial M for murder - she accidentally dials L for latch-key.'  Other characters include a conniving husband reminiscent of Ray Milland at his most cad-ish, an Inspector straight out of 'Monty Python', and a know-it-all film critic.

Update: Scott Fivelson's feature film Near Myth: The Oskar Knight Story has been completed and will be released in 2016.  Actor Lenny Von Dohlen plays the 'legendary' director Oskar Knight in a mock-biopic featuring real talking-heads (such as actors David Suchet and Margaret O'Brien) who combine to 'retell the history of American (and world) cinema'.  For more information, click here: www.filmindustrynetwork.biz/near-myth-the-oskar-knight-story-movie-finishes-production/29806


Opera of Notorious to feature Nina Stemme

In September, 2015, outstanding Swedish dramatic soprano Nina Stemme will play Alicia in an opera specially written for her by composer Hans Gefors and librettist Kerstin Perski, based on the 1946 Alfred Hitchcock film.  The venue will be the famed Göteborg Opera House in Gothenburg, Sweden.  Other featured performers will include John Lundgren as Devlin and Michael Weinius as Alex Sebastian.  The opera will be directed by Englishman Keith Warner.

The plot of Notorious has definite operatic qualities, lyrical, emotional and dramatic.  Kerstin Perski notes: 'Alicia loves Devlin, but how much betrayal and scheming can love endure?  Can it persevere in a world such as ours, where [evil appears to gain] a new foothold at every turn?'

Nina Stemme is world famous for her operatic roles, many of them Wagnerian.  She has played Isolde in several productions, the first at Glyndebourne in 2007, the most recent in London in 2014.  'In general,' she says, 'I do my best to focus on the human sides of Wagner's characters so we can all recognise ourselves in them.'

(Another Hitchcock film to inspire a forthcoming opera is Marnie.  Scroll down to "Hitchcock as high art?" below.) 

For more information, click here: http://en.opera.se/press/2015/urpremiar-for-notorious-med-nina-stemme-pa-goteborgsoperan/


Death of Nova Pilbeam, at age 95

Nova Pilbeam and Desmond Tester were both child actors of the 1930s who appeared in films by Alfred Hitchcock.  (Pilbeam played the kidnapped child in The Man Who Knew Too Much and starred as the teenage daughter of a chief constable in Young and Innocent; Tester played the young boy blown up by an anarchists' bomb in Sabotage.) Both were born in 1919, but Pilbeam outlived Tester (who died in Australia in 2002) by thirteen years.  She died last week at her London home.

Pilbeam's professional debut was in 1932 in the play 'Gallows Glorious'; she then played two seasons as Marigold in 'Toad of Toad Hall' at the Savoy Theatre.  Still only 14, she was given the lead role in the film Little Friend (1934), written by Christopher Isherwood, in which she played a child who witnesses her parents' separation.  Hitchcock then chose her for his film The Man Who Knew Too Much (also 1934).  Besides Young and Innocent (1937), Pilbeam's other film roles were few, but included Tudor Rose (1935) and Counterblast (1947).  She married twice.  Her first husband was Pen(rose) Tennyson, the assistant director on several Hitchcock films and the great-grandson of the poet Lord Tennyson.  That marriage took place in London in 1939, but Pen Tennyson's promising career in the film industry was cut short in 1941 when he died in a plane crash.  Later, in 1950, Nova married radio journalist Alexander Whyte (died 1972).  Their daughter, Sara, survives them.

There's an excellent obituary for Nova Pilbeam in 'The Independent' (online):

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/nova-pilbeam-alfred-hitchcocks-star-who-vanished-from-view-10402905.html       


Hitchcock remembered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, 13-24 May

When the Cannes Film Festival begins this Wednesday, the opening ceremony will feature a Vertigo ballet performed by members of the Los Angeles Dance Project.  The piece, choreographed by Benjamin Millepied (a founder of the L.A. Dance Project in 2012, who last year became director of the Paris Opera Ballet), reworks the film's famous love scene in which Scottie transforms Judy into his lost Madeleine.  Bernard Herrmann's score for the scene borrowed heavily from the Liebestod from Wagner's opera 'Tristan and Isolde'.

Two documentaries during the Festival refer to Hitchcock.  Notably, Kent Jones's Hitchcock/Truffaut considers the impact of François Truffaut's famous 1966 interview-book, 'Cinema According to Hitchcock'.  Appearing in the film will be directors Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson and David Fincher.

Another documentary to be premiered this year is Daniel Raim's Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, which tells how the marriage of art director Harold Michelson (1920-2007) and his film-researcher wife, Lillian (b. 1928), survived 60 years in Hollywood.  Harold did the storyboards for Hitchcock's The Birds and Marnie, and was nominated for Academy Awards for his work on Star Trek - the Motion Picture (1979) and Terms of Endearment (1983).  The couple's story, we are told, shows how they kept their huge personal struggles to themselves while establishing a reputation for professionalism.  For many years they were respected as the heart of the industry.

[Thanks to MA, AK, and BK for information used here.]

Harold Michelson and
                Hitchcock on THE BIRDS

English novelist, historian, and general man-of-letters, Peter Ackroyd, has completed his Hitchcock biography

Arguably, few people now living are better positioned than the author of 'London: The Biography' (2003) and 'Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination' (2002) to write about Alfred Hitchcock from the ground up - in other words, from insight into Hitchcock's Cockney upbringing, his roots in British life and culture, and from a knowledge of his films.  For several years in the 1980s, Ackroyd was film critic for 'The Spectator' (although he has scarcely visited a cinema since - presumably because this most prolific of writers has simply been too busy).  Recently, the 64-year-old Ackroyd looked at Hitchcock's films on DVD while dividing his working time between the Hitchcock biography and the third and fourth books of a six-volume 'History of England' - not to mention Ackroyd's latest novel ('Three Brothers' - about London in the 1960s) and a short biography of Charlie Chaplin.  [Thanks to PS for information used here.]

• Update.  The publication-date of Ackroyd's 'Alfred Hitchcock' (Chatto & Windus, hardcover) is announced as 2 April 2015 (UK Edition) and 26 May 2015 (International Edition).


Hitchcock as high art?  Marnie commissioned as opera by the New York Metropolitan Opera and the English National Opera

The Metropolitan Opera in New York has co-commissioned Nico Muhly to compose 'Marnie' for its 2019-20 season, based on Winston Graham's 1961 novel that was adapted as a film by Alfred Hitchcock.  Meanwhile, the opera will premiere during the English National Opera season of 2017, the Met has announced.

Muhly's first opera was 'Two Boys', which debuted at the National Opera in 2011 and appeared at the Met in 2013.  It told a complicated story, loosely inspired by real events, of a detective, Anne, finding out about the Internet's capacity to foster fantasy as she investigates the killing of one teenage boy by another.

Muhly, speaking from London, said last week: 'One of the things that intrigues me in general as a human being but also as a theatregoer is deception and hoaxes and people sort of strategically lying.  The whole beat of [Marnie] is her changing identities and tricking people and robbing them.  There's a kind of mystery element to it.'  


Extended, digitised version of Hitchcock's concentration camps film now completed

In 1945 Alfred Hitchcock returned to England as 'treatment advisor' on a 'German Special Film' supervised by Sidney Bernstein, showing the horrors of the newly liberated concentration camps.  Not released at the time, Memory of the Camps (as it was eventually called) was shown around the world in 1985 with a suitably droll narration - considering the film's devastating content - delivered by actor Trevor Howard.  The restorers had sought to approximate the original filmmakers' design.  But the released version lacked an intended sixth reel, the footage being then unavailable.  Now a near-complete, newly digitised version of the film has been assembled, called German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, with commentary read by Jasper Britton.  Separately, a 75-minute documentary about the original film, including clips and containing interviews with survivors, the soldiers who liberated them, and the original filmmakers themselves seen in archival footage, has been made.  Called Night Will Fall, it is narrated by Helena Bonham Carter and directed by André Singer.  An earlier report appears below: scroll down to "New, fuller version of Hitchcock's concentration camp documentary ..."

• Update.  German Concentration Camps Factual Survey will be screened at selected UK venues from April, 2015, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen on 15 April.  After April, the film will be more widely available through British Film Institute distribution.  Currently in production is a short contextual film to accompany the main film, to replace the live introduction and Q&A given by a member of IWM (Imperial War Museums) staff at all screenings which have taken place so far.                                                                                                                                                      

The IWM tell us that they have not yet confirmed dates for DVD release or broadcast. However, 'we are committed to ensuring that this important film is made available to as wide an audience as possible'.

Further information: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections-research/german-concentration-camps-factual-survey


Louis Jourdan, star of Gigi, dies at 95 in Beverly Hills, California

Producer David Selznick brought Louis Jordan to America where he featured in Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case (1947).  The darkly handsome Jourdan, who had been active in the French Resistance before becoming prominent in post-War French cinema, played the valet and reluctant lover of Mrs Paradine (Alida Valli).  (Selznick was also responsible for enticing Italian star Valli to America, to play the beautiful, enigmatic Maddalena Paradine.  Valli died in 2006.)

Jourdan was born in Marseilles in 1919, one of three sons of Henri Gendre, a hotelier who organised the Cannes film festival after the Second World War.  After Jourdan completed The Paradine Case, he starred with Joan Fontaine in Max Ophuls's Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948).  Another master director with whom he (twice) worked was Vincente Minnelli: first in 1949 (Madame Bovary, opposite Jennifer Jones), then in 1958 (Gigi, opposite Leslie Caron).

Jourdan's wife died last year.  Their son, Louis Henry, died in 1981 from a drug overdose.

Yet another 'remake' of Strangers on a Train announced, this one to star Ben Affleck

There have been several thinly disguised 'remakes' of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951), based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, starting with Once You Kiss a Stranger (Robert Sparr, 1969) which replaced the tennis background of the original with a golfing one.

Now comes Strangers, to be made by the Gone Girl (2014) team of director David Fincher, screenwriter Gillian Flynn, and actor Ben Affleck.  This time the setting will be Hollywood and the movie industry.  Affleck will play a movie star whose private plane breaks down during an Oscar campaign, forcing him to hop on board another jet owned by a wealthy stranger.  (Train travel is passé, obviously!)

Tippi Hedren pays tribute to Rod Taylor, dead at 84

Australian actor Rod Taylor, who co-starred with Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), has died at his home in Los Angeles, a few days short of his 85th birthday.  Hedren said in a statement: 'Rod was a great pal to me and a real strength ... He was one of the most fun people I have ever met, thoughtful and classy.'

Sydney-born Taylor was inspired to be an actor after seeing Laurence Olivier on tour.  He joined Peter Finch's Mercury Theatre, and his first film role was in the Australian movie King of the Coral Sea (1954).  His first leading role was in The Time Machine (George Pal, 1960), adapted from the novel by H.G. Wells.  After making The Birds for Hitchcock, Taylor appeared in such films as Jack Cardiff and John Ford's Young Cassidy (1965) - he played Cassidy, i.e., the young Irish playwright Sean O'Casey - and The Train Robbers (Burt Kennedy, 1973).  His last Australian film role was in the often-hilarious outback comedy Welcome to Woop Woop (Stephan Elliott, 1998).  In 2009 Quentin Tarantino coaxed him out of retirement for a cameo as Winston Churchill in Inglourious Basterds.

Strong-jawed Taylor thought he 'wasn't really big enough to be a really tough guy' and at times felt miscast.  'I was a little bit, I don't know, sometimes insecure playing all that kind of thing.'

Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939) restored

2014 is the 75th anniversary of the original theatrical release of Jamaica Inn, which Hitchcock made for Mayflower Pictures in England before he left for Hollywood.  To mark the anniversary, the Cohen Film Collection/Rohauer Library is combining with the BFI to take a 4K-restored print on tour.  Venues in October include the New York Film Festival and the Chicago Film Festival.  A DVD and Blu-Ray release is scheduled for 12 May, 2015.  Running time is 98-99 minutes (the same as the Kino Video version at 98 minutes).

Wondering about 4K?  The high-definition digital prints of films we see in cinemas are rated at 2K, with an image made up of just over two million pixels.  However, there is a standard beyond 2K that is used for scanning older films, called 4K, which gives about eight million pixels per image.  The 4K standard allows for the manipulation of picture elements at a level far superior to even the 2K format.

Below: Leslie Banks and Charles Laughton in the restored Jamaica Inn.

Image from restored JAMAICA INN


Coming!  A stage version of Hitchcock's North by Northwest!

The world premiere of North by Northwest onstage is scheduled to run from 1 June to 4 July, 2015, at the Playhouse, the Arts Centre, in Melbourne, Australia.  Planes, trains, automobiles, and a mountain, are lined up, with some reliance on the wizardry of 'ingenious technical solutions', according to artistic director of the Melbourne Theatre Company, Brett Sheehy.  The production, now in development, has been licensed by Warner Brothers, and is intended by its producers to 'have a life outside Australia'.

Melbourne-based writer Carolyn Burns, working with director Simon Phillips, will employ 'a clear theatrical vocabulary separate from a cinematic one', says Sheehy.  'I think the production will join The 39 Steps and a handful of others as one of the great film-to-stage adaptations of our times.'

For more information about the MTC 2015 line-up, click here: http://dailyreview.crikey.com.au/mid-century-and-beyond-mtc-2015-season-announced/11544


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


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.]


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

.

Brilliant old/new play, 'The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock', highlights Hitchcock's confined life

Originally an award-winning 1993 radio play, David Rudkin's 'The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock' opened onstage in late 2013 at the Curve, Leicester, in central England.  The play has attracted widespread interest.  We like Michael Billington's review in 'The Guardian'.  Here are excerpts:

To read the full review, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/oct/01/the-lovesong-of-alfred-j-hitchcock-review

• Update.The above play has arrived in New York.  For further information, including rehearsal footage, click here: http://www.59e59.org/moreinfo.php?showid=161

And here: http://www.theatermania.com/new-york-city-theater/reviews/05-2014/the-lovesong-of-alfred-j-hitchcock_68490.html

Also, there is a thoughtful brief interview with author David Rudkin on YouTube.  About Hitchcock's public self-mockery, Rudkin comments, 'There is something desperately private going on and it is speaking to something very private in us.'  For more, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlxORFNn4bI


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

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.).


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].'


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.


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) were prepared by two writers who had witnessed the atrocities of Bergen-Belsen firsthand:  Richard Crossman (later a Labour Member of Parliament) and Colin Wills (an Australian war correspondent).  Film editors Stewart McAllister (famous for his work with Humphrey Jennings) and Peter Tanner (who would later edit such feature films as Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Cruel Sea) set to work under Hitchcock's guidance.  But the film took longer to compile than originally envisaged.  By August 1945, when the perceived need for it had already begun to wane, Hitchcock returned to the United States.  Shortly afterwards, funding was suspended with only five of six reels finished.  The cans of film remained inaccessible on shelves in the Imperial War Museum for nearly forty years.

But in 1984 the rusting cans surfaced again.  The incomplete film was taken out and actor Trevor Howard was hired to record the original narration, which was fitted to the five remaining reels.  Memory of the Camps (as it was now called) was shown on American PBS in 1985 and later elsewhere (e.g., on SBS-TV in Australia).  It can be viewed on YouTube here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdUq993AsQc 

Now the London 'Independent' newspaper reports that the film has been further restored, using digital technology, and that the missing sixth reel has been 'pieced together'.  The narration has been re-recorded with a new actor and the film given a new title (both still to be disclosed).  In addition, a separate documentary, Night Will Fall, has been made to accompany the original film.  It is directed by André Singer (executive producer of The Act of Killing) and has Stephen Frears (director of Philomena) as 'directorial advisor'.  Further information here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/alfred-hitchcocks-unseen-holocaust-documentary-to-be-screened-9044945.html


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.]


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:
Cover of Frank Baker
                    novel The Birds


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.


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.


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


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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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 Psycho II, Richard Franklin, spoke highly to us of Hilton.)  He was Assistant Director on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and - uncredited - on Marnie (1964).  In television, he was Assistant Director on the popular shows 'Leave it to Beaver', 'Wagon Train', 'Dragnet', and 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'.  Eventually he became a prolific film producer, of such films as Psycho II (1983), 16 Candles (1984), Psycho III (1986), Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990), and Encino Man (1992).  [Thanks to AK for alerting us to information used here.]     



Recent deaths - Karen Black and Gil Taylor

August 2013 has regrettably brought the deaths of actress Karen Black, who played the kidnapper Fran in Hitchcock's last film Family Plot (1975), and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who photographed Hitchcock's London-set Frenzy (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.]


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


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.'




Death of Jon Finch, star of Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972)

We are saddened by the death of actor Jon Finch, who has died at the English seaside town of Hastings where he moved in 2003.  To read an obituary, click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/jan/13/jon-finch



Psycho mystery finally solved

When Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) in Psycho (1960) removes a painting from his parlour wall to spy on Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in the adjoining cabin, appropriately the painting is a classic depiction of a rape, 'Susannah and the Elders'.  But for many years Hitchcock scholars were puzzled as to whose version of the painting it is.  (There have been many versions, by both famous and lesser-known artists.)  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


Now available to view online: The White Shadow (1924)


Last year, half of a six-reel silent film, The White Shadow (d. Graham Cutts), on which a young Alfred Hitchcock worked as assistant, was unearthed in New Zealand, and received its latter-day premiere on September 22nd in Los Angeles.  (For more background, scroll down to the item below, "Lost Cutts/Hitchcock film discovered in New Zealand".)  Now the film can be viewed online, where it runs for 43 minutes.  To view it, click here:
www.filmpreservation.org/preserved-films/screening-room/the-white-shadow-1924


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 ...


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


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


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   


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.


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


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


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


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/


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/     


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


'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/


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. 


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. 


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"


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


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/     


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-17743123And 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".)


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


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 


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          

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'.


Some new 'custom' DVDs of likely interest to our readers

The Warner Archive now offers 'mod' ('manufactured on demand') DVDs of reasonable price, including such notable films as Richard Thorpe's Night Must Fall (1937) and Ted Tatzleff's The Window (1949).  The former was based on the play by Emlyn Williams, the latter on the story by Cornell Woolrich.  For more information, and to place orders, visit the Warner Archive Collection


Death of English director, Roy Ward Baker (1916-2010)

On 5th October, the fine director Roy Ward Baker died, age 93.  He served his apprenticeship at Gainsborough Studios (1934-39), starting in the sound department, and was assistant director on Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes (1938).  During the War, he served first in the Infantry, then in the Army Kinematograph Service, where he met author Eric Ambler.  His first film, The October Man (1947), from an Ambler script, was auspicious.  Baker's best film was also from an Ambler script, the re-creation of the sinking of the Titanic, A Night to Remember (1958).  He made several imaginative horror films, including Quatermass and the Pit (1967).


Watch 'Finding Equilibrium in Hitchcock's Vertigo': roundtable discussion held in New York, November 6th, 2010

The above occasion was organised by The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination, New York.  Four of the five panelists who participated are contributors to the forthcoming 'Companion to Alfred Hitchcock' (Wiley/Blackwell, 2011): Richard Allen, John Bolton, Joe McElhaney, and Brigitte Peucker.  A fifth panelist was Edward Nersessian, a leading New York psychiatrist.

To watch a video-presentation (92') of the above, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpzbe_mnGJM 


Another Hitch sculpture

We have previously reported on at least a couple of sculptures of Alfred Hitchcock that have been made (scroll down to items "For sale: bronze statue of Hitchcock" and "Another bronze statue of Hitchcock", below).  The latest is a life-size caricature of him, recently unveiled by our friends at the McGuffin (sic) Film Society in Walthamstow, London, to mark the 80th anniversary of the EMD Cinema there, which Hitchcock is said to have attended.  (The building opened in 1887 as a dance hall, and we gather that it was re-built in 1930 as a cinema for the new sound films.)  An earlier item about the EMD Cinema is elsewhere on this page (scroll down to "Actors campaign to save Hitchcock-connected East London cinema").  And for the latest information, click here: http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/your_local_areas/8401574.WALTHAMSTOW__Hitchcock_sculpture_unveiled/

Hitchcock sculpture
                  at Walthamstow, London


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.)   


Death of Robert Boyle, aged 100

The gifted production designer Robert Boyle, who worked on such Hitchcock masterpieces as Vertigo and North by Northwest, has died in California.  (Scroll down to read our earlier item "Production designer Robert Boyle ...".)


Death of cinematographer/director/producer Ronald Neame (1911-2010)

Ronald Neame, who was born in London, and began his film career working with Alfred Hitchcock as a stills photographer at British International Pictures, has died in Los Angeles, aged 99.  As a cinematographer, he photographed David Lean's In Which We Serve (1942) and Blithe Spirit (1945).  As a producer, he produced Lean's Brief Encounter (1946), Great Expectations (1946), and Oliver Twist (1948).  As a director, he made such fine, character-based entertainments as Tunes of Glory (1960), Gambit (1966), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1968), and The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

Another of his films was the lyrically-told World War II thriller The Man Who Never Was (1955).  It was based on a true incident (thought up by Ian Fleming when he was working in Naval Intelligence) in which a man's dead body was floated off the European coast with fake invasion plans planted in his briefcase to deceive the Germans.  Hitchcock almost certainly saw Neame's film and was influenced by it to make North by Northwest.


Another Mountain Eagle find - though still not the film itself

Alfred Hitchcock's 'lost' film The Mountain Eagle (1926) has never been recovered - although the British Film Institute recently announced that they will launch another search for it in 2012, as part of the 'Cultural Olympiad' in London (coinciding with the Olympic Games).

Meanwhile, on eBay earlier this month, a full-size original German poster for the film was auctioned.  We understand that it fetched 66,000 Euros.  Here is a reproduction of it, together with a lobby card for the film.  For information about the latter, scroll down this page to the item "Rare lobby card ...".

Original poster for DER BERGADLER/ THE
                      MOUNTAIN EAGLE

                                                                Lobby card for
                      THE MOUNTAIN EAGLE


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.


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'.

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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.]


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.’


Passing of Robin Wood, author of 'Hitchcock's Films' (1965)

English-born film critic and author Robin Wood has died of cancer, aged 78, in Toronto.

This is very sad news.  Wood was the author of several seminal - and influential - books of film criticism, among them 'Hitchcock's Films' (1965), 'Personal Views: Explorations in Film' (1976), and 'Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan' (1986).  Wood's essay on Hitchcock's Psycho appeared in 'Cahiers du Cinéma' soon after the film came out and led to his decision to write an entire book on Hitchcock in English.  The book was ground-breaking and passionate in answering the question, 'Why should we take Hitchcock seriously?'  His subsequent articles on film were prized by journals such as the English 'Movie' and the American 'Film Comment'.  For many years he was a contributing editor of the journal 'CineAction' published in Toronto.  His partner Richard Lippe remains on its editorial board.

For David Bordwell's fine obituary (with further links), click here: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?p=6483


Some films recommended by our friends!

Dr Adrian Martin, of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, tells us that he recently saw 'the most profoundly (not superficially) Hitchcockian film made in several decades: [South Korean director] Bong Joon-ho's Mother.  What a brilliant movie this, on every level!' 

Another new film is strongly recommended by Michael Walker (author of 'Hitchcock's Motifs') after seeing it at this year's London Film Festival.  He wrote to us that newcomer Giuseppe Capotondi's Double Hour (La Doppia Ora) was a 'revelation'. Michael added: 'The following day I simply could not stop thinking about it; it's many years since a new film had such an impact on me and was so vivid in my mind afterwards.'  He strongly suggested not familiarising oneself with details of the film's plot before seeing it.

Lastly, our friend Dr Steven Schneider is an executive producer on Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity (2009) which is less Hitchcockian than inviting comparison with The Blair Witch Project.  Roger Ebert's review calls it 'an ingenious little horror film'.

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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


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


Actors campaign to save Hitchcock-connected East London cinema

Actors Tony Robinson ('Blackadder') and Meera Syal ('The Kumars at No. 42') have joined a campaign to stop an historic cinema, the EMD Cinema in Walthamstow, London, from being turned into a church.  Alfred Hitchcock, who grew up nearby, is said to have seen his first movies there.  The cinema first opened as a dance hall in 1887 and finally closed its doors to the public in 2003.  The building was then purchased by a Brazil-based religious organisation, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG).  The organisation's initial plans to turn the building into a church were rejected by the local council, but it is now expected to submit new proposals.  Opposing this, a local film society, the McGuffin (sic) Film Society, wants the council to offer the UCKG ownership of an empty building next to the cinema, allowing the EMD to be sold to operators who would re-open it to show movies.  Tony Robinson calls the cinema 'an exotic masterpiece'.  He says: 'At this exciting time when east London is about to be revitalised, it would be crazy to turn our backs on such a magnificent venue.'

The above item is taken from an article that appeared in the London 'Telegraph'.  To read more, click here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/5184501/Tony-Robinson-campaigns-to-save-cinema-where-Alfred-Hitchcock-saw-first-films.html 

And for an update, click here: http://www.mcguffin.info/


Premiere of film Alfred Hitchcock in East London

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of Britain's first talkie, Blackmail, the above-mentioned McGuffin (sic) Film Society recently held a screening of Hitchcock's 1929 film followed by the world premiere of the 65-minute documentary Alfred Hitchcock in East London.

'Most people are ignorant of Hitchcock's associations with east London,' says the documentary's writer and director Bill Hodgson.  'My film paints a picture of Hitchcock and his roots which is radically different from previous 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/


Deaths of composer Maurice Jarre (1924-2009) and cinematographer Jack Cardiff (1914-2009)

Sadly, both of the above individuals have recently died.  Maurice Jarre composed the scores for Hitchcock's Topaz (1969) and films by such directors as Georges Franju, Luchino Visconti, and David Lean.  Jarre won Academy Awards for his scores for Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1966), and A Passage to India (1984).

The brilliant Jack Cardiff, a regular collaborator with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, et al.), photographed Hitchcock's Under Capricorn (1949).  Cardiff published his autobiography, 'The Magic Hour' (with a preface by Martin Scorsese), in 1996.  He reported that he enjoyed painting and that the French Impressionists had been a major influence on his cinematography.  That may explain why, as Richard Allen ('Hitchcock's Romantic Irony', 2007) has observed, Under Capricorn is atypical of Hitchcock's films visually.  Under Capricorn seeks to convey emotion in its images directly, with suitable use of diffuse colour, whereas Hitchcock's other colour films typically use symbolic or stylised colour, often in discrete blocks, to signify emotion.


Production designer Robert Boyle, aged 99, further honoured

Robert Boyle, who turns 100 in October, still lectures about his craft to students at the American Film Institute.

In March, he was toasted at a tribute arranged by the Art Directors Guild Film Society and the American Cinematheque.  The same week, the 'Los Angeles Times' ran an article on him (March 27 2009).  It noted that Boyle began his career in 1933 in the art department at Paramount, having just come from USC with a degree in architecture.  At Paramount and later at Universal, where he graduated to art director, he worked on a wide range of movies including horror films such as The Wolf Man (1941), the Alfred Hitchcock movies Saboteur (1942) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943), and even the old 'Ma and Pa Kettle' comedies.

After working on the two Hitchcocks, Boyle went into the Army during World War II. 'After my discharge, I went back to work with Hitch, who had formed a company at RKO with Cary Grant and that didn't pan out.  The next opportunity to be with Hitch was [when] he called me for North by Northwest [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.'



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).

Hitchcock engages viewers on more levels, suggests a recent study 

Researchers in a new field called 'neurocinematics' use MRI scans to monitor brain activity while subjects watch films.  Recently, subjects were shown 30 minute clips from Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), an episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' ("Bang! You're Dead"), and an episode of the TV comedy series, 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'.

The researchers, from the Computational Neuroimaging Laboratory at New York University, found that the Hitchcock clip provoked the most consistent pattern of brain activity among all subjects studied, 'consistently turning on and switching off responses of different regions in more than 65 percent of the cortex'.  By contrast, the Leone clip produced a score of 45%, while 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' scored 18%.

Quote: 'The fact that Hitchcock was able to orchestrate the responses of so many different brain regions, turning them on and off at the same time across all viewers, may provide neuroscientific evidence for his notoriously famous ability to master and manipulate viewers' minds.  Hitchcock often liked to tell interviewers that for him "creation is based on an exact science of audience reactions".'

To read more, go here: http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2008/06/neurocinematics.php

Note.  At the end of the above-listed report (just before 'Comments'), there's a link marked simply PDF.  Click on that to read the original report as published in a new online journal called 'Projections: The Journal for Movies and Mind'.


Region 2 release of Hitchcock's Bon Voyage (1944) and Aventure Malgache (1944)

Network DVD in the UK have released a double-bill of Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache, the two short films Hitchcock made in England in 1944 featuring the Molière Players, a group of exiled French Resistance actors.  Also on the disc is a brief compilation of newsreels and interviews featuring Hitchcock.  For more information, click here: http://www.networkdvd.net/product_info.php?cPath=26&products_id=732


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).


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   


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


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

'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


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.

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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


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.'


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

The stage production of The 39 Steps in Boston (and now Broadway, et al.)

Back in 2005 Michael Walker reported here on the opening in Leeds, England, of a play based on Hitchcock's film The 39 Steps.  (See "UK stage production of The 39 Steps" below.)  Later, in "Editor's Day", we quoted correspondent DN - Danny Nissim - on how the play had transferred to London's West End and had provided an exhilarating night-out for Danny, his wife, and friends.  In 2007 the production crossed the Atlantic and played in Boston.  In January 2008 it will move to New York (see below).  Here's what WB reported in our 'Hitchcock Enthusiasts' Group about seeing it in Boston:

'I went to Boston last Saturday to see a new play entitled "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps". The title makes clear that the play is based (loosely) on the Hitchcock film and not the John Buchan book, although perhaps a more apt title would add the tag "meets Monty Python".   Citing a Pythonesque dimension, though, doesn't fully suggest the great warmth with which the whole thing celebrates Hitchcock.  Four actors play 100+ roles and do it with great verve and ability.   It's quite funny and wonderful.   It has played for a couple of years in London's West End and one of the original actors from the UK is playing the lead here.  It transfers to Broadway in January [namely, the American Airlines Theatre in Times Square, opening on Tuesday 15 January.  In Australia, a Melbourne Theatre Company production will open in April.] They simulate effects from the film in funny, creative and low-tech ways.  They even pull off Hitchcock's cameo.   My ten-year-old daughter also loved the show.  Given my love for the original, I went a skeptic and came out a great fan.'


New 10 DVD Hitchcock set coming to the UK (Region 2) in February, 2008

The set will include Hitchcock's first film as director, The Pleasure Garden (1925), from the Rohauer Collection.  All of the discs will have 'extras' (including film analyses by Charles Barr).  Here is the list of films:

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.]

 

Art director Robert Boyle to receive Oscar

Production designer Robert Boyle, 98, who first worked for Hitchcock on Saboteur (1942) and who was nominated four times for Oscars in the art direction category, including for Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959), will receive an honorary Oascar during the Academy Awards ceremony on February 24, it has been announced.

Born in Los Angeles in 1909, Boyle trained as an architect.  When the Depression cost him his job, he found work in films as an extra.  In 1933, he was hired as a draftsman in the Paramount Studios art department.  He went on to work on various films as a sketch artist, draftsman, and assistant art director before becoming an art director at Universal in the early '40s.


Martin Scorsese's new Spanish TV commercial a mock 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


Another remake: The Lodger

Hitchcock was the first to make a film version of Mrs Belloc Lowndes's 1913 novel (expanded from her own short story) about a Jack-the-Ripper killer terrorising London.  The full title of Hitchcock's 1926 film was The Lodger, A Story of the London Fog.  Now writer/director David Ondaatje will attempt his version of the novel - with the setting reportedly moved to Los Angeles.  It will focus on the relationship between a paranoid landlady and her tenant. A second plot thread will involve some personal and professional problems of detective Chandler Manners, hot on the killer's trail.

• Other Hitchcock-related projects are slated or are awaiting release.  The thriller Number 13 takes its name, and setting, from the 1920s film that Hitchcock worked on but which was never finished.  It shows the youthful director (played by Dan Fogler) somehow caught in a love triangle involving two crew members. When the lead actor turns up dead, the film's editor suspects Hitchcock, and tries to uncover the truth.  Chase Palmer will direct the film, starting in January.

• A new version of The Birds is slated, to be directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale).  Australian actress Naomi Watts has been announced to play the lead role of Melanie Daniels.  However, according to 'The Guardian' (20 October 2007), the film has already run into opposition.  Co-star of Hitchcock's original film, Tippi Hedren, is quoted as saying, 'Must you be so insecure that you have to take a film that's a classic, and I think a success, and try to do it over?'

• British actor Bill Nighy has reportedly signed to star in Australian director Stephan Elliott's Easy Virtue, an adaptation of Noel Coward's play to be produced by Ealing Studios for 2009 release.  The play casts a critical eye at hypocrisy and upper-class English life in the 1920s.  The previous film version of the play was Hitchcock's, made in 1927 and starring Isabel Jeans and Robin Irvine.

• Another Psycho-related project (see also below) is said to be called Psycho/Analysis from a script by the late Joseph Stefano (who, of course, wrote the original Hitchcock-directed film from Robert Bloch's novel). 


Coming: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho: The Movie

'[I]t could never be said that director Ryan Murphy (Running With Scissors) is one to let grass grow under his feet.'  Thus wrote 'Hollywood Elsewhere' columnist Jeffrey Wells by way of 'leaking' some exciting news for Hitchcock buffs: that Murphy is set to direct 'a drama about the making of Hitchcock's Psycho, and particularly the hurdles and roadblocks that the great British director [to be played by Anthony Hopkins] went through in order to bring it ... to fruition'.  Wells also reveals that British actress Helen Mirren (The Queen) may play Hitchcock's wife and collaborator, Alma.

We can add some details.  The film will be based on Stephen Rebello's book 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' (1990.  (Rebello is an Exutive Producer on the project.)  A recent draft of the film's screenplay is said to have a tone closer to The Queen or Gods and Monsters than to RKO 281: The Battle Over Citizen Kane (as named in the 'Hollywood Elsewhere' item).  Apparently, too, the true focus of the film will be on Alfred and Alma and the impact of their intricate personal lives on the creation of the 1960 film.

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.



Deaths: Oscar-winner Jane Wyman at age 93, and actor Hansjörg Felmy at age 76

Jane Wyman, who starred as trainee actress Eve Gill in Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950), has died.  The first wife of former US President Ronald Reagan was 93.

She won an Academy Award for her role as a deaf-mute in Johnny Belinda (Jean Negulesco,1948).

Meanwhile, the actor who played the menacing Heinrich Gerhard, head of State Security, in Hitchcock's Torn Curtain (1966), has died in Lower Bavaria after a decade-long battle with osteoporosis.
  
Felmy was one of the best-known and most important actors in Germany from the 1950s onward, including television. One of his most significant stage successes was his role in Kurt Hoffmann's satire 'Wir Wunderkinder'/'We Children of the Economic Miracle' of 1958.

[Our thanks to DF for this item.]


Farewell Richard Franklin (Psycho II)

Our esteemed director-friend, Richard Franklin, has died of cancer in Melbourne, Australia, a few days short of his 59th birthday.  Among his early films were Patrick (1978), starring Sir Robert Helpmann, and Roadgames (1980), starring Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis - the making of which led in turn to Richard's work in Hollywood for Universal Studios: Psycho II (1983), starring Tony Perkins and Vera Miles, and Cloak and Dagger (1984), starring Dabney Coleman and young Henry Thomas plus John McIntire (the sheriff in Psycho) and wife Jeanette Nolan (who had voiced Mrs Bates in Psycho) playing the villains.  (The film was a re-working and opening-out of the 1949 movie The Window.)  Back in Australia, Richard made such admirable films as Hotel Sorrento (1995), from Hannie Rayson's stage success, and Brilliant Lies (1996), from the play by David Williamson.  No-one admired the work of Hollywood masters Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford more than Richard.  Accordingly, we have lost the one person with whom we were best able to converse about Hitch's filmmaking, and whose many insights on the films were always keen and true.  There is a superb profile of Richard written in 2005 by young Canadian critic Aaron Graham for the 'Senses of Cinema' Great Directors pages: http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/05/franklin.html                  


How tall was Alfred Hitchcock?

We've had this controversy before.  In one of the Second Season episodes of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' ("Number Twenty-Two"), in which Hitch appears in a police lineup (!), his height is given as 5 feet, 6 inches.  But on his British passport recently auctioned by Juliens of Hollywood (see image below), which is stamped 9 February 1954, his height is entered as 5 feet, 8 inches.  (Mind you, the same passport appears to indicate that Hitch was single, mentioning neither wife nor daughter!  But perhaps that's simply because the distaff side of the Hitchcock family had long ago become American citizens.)

                                            British passport of
                  Alfred Hitchcock   

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

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).


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



A revelation: Maurice Elvey's The Water Gipsies (1932), part-scripted by Alma Reville, screened in London

Our London correspondent, Michael Walker ('Hitchcock's Motifs'), has sent us the following.  'The NFT has just done a short season of quota quickies. The Water Gipsies (Maurice Elvey, 1932) was a revelation. Taken from a novel by A.P.Herbert, it allowed its heroine (played by Ann Todd) and her sister quite astonishing sexual freedom without being punished.  I mention it for two Hitch-related reasons. First, Alma Reville [Mrs Alfred Hitchcock] was one of the scriptwriters (along with Miles Malleson, Basil Dean and John Paddy Carstairs).  I sensed Alma's hand in the liveliness of the two sisters.  Second, Ann Todd projects a palpable sexual desire, which I don't think is a commonly recognised feature of her performances. But I do think it's also there in The Paradine Case (1947), where it contributes to a real sense of a sexual marriage - perhaps the strongest example in Hitchcock.'


Rare early Hitchcock photo

In the rare 1922 photo below, that's Alfred Hitchcock (with moustache?) squatting beside the camera and gesturing across the road at actress Clare Greet.  The occasion was the filming of Number Thirteen (aka Mrs Peabody) on location outside the public house, "The Angel", in Rotherhithe, London.  The film was never finished.  According to a caption, the director, Hitchcock, had two assistant directors, A.W. Barnes and  Norman Arnold.  Cameraman was Joe Rosenthal.

The photo is reproduced from 'The Cinema Studio', December 7, 1949.  We thank Mr Ray Ridley for sending us the photo.


                                                       Rare production still from
                  the unfinished Hitchcock film NUMBER THIRTEEN

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.'


DVD news: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', Season Two, on the way

A year after they released the first season of the entertaining 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', Universal Studios Home Entertainment have announced that the second season will be released on October 17 (Region 1) ...


Henry Bumstead (1915-2006)

Henry Bumstead, the veteran Hollywood production designer who worked for Hitchcock on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), Topaz (1969), and Family Plot (1976), has died at the age of 91 in Pasadena, California.

In a nearly 70-year career that began when he was a draftsman in the art department at RKO in the late 1930s, Bumstead's first picture as an art director was the 1948 Paramount drama Saigon, starring Alan Ladd.

Bumstead twice won Academy Awards: for his work on To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962) and The Sting (George Roy Hill, 1973).  He also received Oscar nominations for Vertigo and Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992).  

In recent times, Bumstead's longtime association with actor-director Eastwood saw him still on the job into his 90s.  It was while working on Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (2004) that Bumstead learned that he had prostate cancer.

'Bummy was one of a kind,' Eastwood remembers.  'We will all miss him terribly.'


Anna Massey reads from her memoirs

Actress Anna Massey (Peeping Tom, Hitchcock's Frenzy, etc.) has just finished reading extracts on BBC Radio4 from her recently-published memoirs, 'Telling Some Tales'.  In one program she talked about Frenzy.

Danny Nissim in London (whom we thank) notes that the Frenzy segment had some interesting material covering Massey's audition: Hitch sat behind a huge desk and spent the first 45 minutes talking about making batter pudding!  At one point, he asked how tall Massey was, explaining that she would have to fit into a potato sack.  But Massey disputed the myth that Hitch treated actors as cattle.  He was patient and helpful, often using a comic irony which put everyone at their ease.


On Alfred Hitchcock and his 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>.



Passing of Jay Presson Allen

Screenwriter, novelist, playwright and producer, Jay Presson Allen, has died at the age of 84 from a stroke, at her home in Manhattan.

Her extensive film credits include Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964), Cabaret (1972), Just Tell Me What You Want (1980, from Allen's novel), Prince of the City (1981), and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969).  It was in fact Allen's fine stage adaptation of Muriel Spark's novel 'The Prime of Mis Jean Brodie' which drew her to Hitchcock's attention: he read an advance copy of it and hired her for Marnie.  Afterwards, he commissioned her to adapt J.M. Barrie's play 'Mary Rose' but his cherished project never actually made it to the screen.     

Ms Allen once told an interviewer, 'I never wanted to direct. I always thought that was a brutal job, one that I never had an interest in. A lot of it’s baby-sitting, and I could never stand for that. Hitchcock wanted to make me into a director. But I had a husband [film producer Lewis Allen], a child and a life and I didn’t want to give those things up.'


Murder! plus Mary on one DVD

Hitchcock's Murder! (1930) and its German version, Mary - which Hitchcock shot immediately afterwards - have now been released on one DVD by Arthaus. Our correspondent, DF, in Germany reports: 'The quality is quite good except for one or two places where the original film seems to have been irreparably damaged - only very short spots, and of little consequence - and among the extras is an excerpt from Hitchcock's interview with Truffaut in August 1962.'  (Regrettably, for our English-speaking readers, we learn that the Arthaus release of Mary does not have English subtitles.)  

• Nor, we now hear, will an imminent French DVD release of Mary have English subtitles.  It will appear on a disc with Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939).  Also forthcoming soon from France (probably in June) are these Hitchcock discs: Under Capricorn (1949) plus an interview with Claude Chabrol; Juno and the Paycock (1930) plus The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934).  Coming later from France are Waltzes from Vienna (1933), as previously announced here; The Pleasure Garden (1925); Downhill (1927).

(Thanks to AK for information about the French DVDs.) 


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.

 

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' ...


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.  Fiévet's latest presentation will run from February 14th to March 14th at the Galerie La Ferronnerie.  For more information, click here: http://www.associationdesgaleries.org/laferronnerie/

Portrait, after A.Hitchcock and W.
                        Turner


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


Cinematographer Leonard J. South dies at 92

The camera operator on nearly a dozen Alfred Hitchcock classics, including North by Northwest (1959) and The Birds (1963), and the director of photography on Hitchcock's last film Family Plot (1976), has died in California (6 January, 2006).

South began his three-decade association with Hitchcock as cinematographer Robert Burks's camera assistant on the 1951 film Strangers on a Train.  He was soon elevated to camera operator, becoming part of what Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto called 'the ongoing Hitchcock crew who came to know exactly what the director wanted and how to give it to him.'

In a 1979 interview for the 'Daily Pilot' newspaper, South recalled that one morning on the Family Plot set, actor Bruce Dern, 'a very outgoing, nervy guy,' walked up to Hitchcock and said, 'I understand you call all actors cattle. Does that mean me, Hitch?'

'I'd say, Bruce, you are the golden calf,' Hitchcock deadpanned.

That, South recalled, 'came right out of nowhere. Bruce laughed for half an hour.'

South, a former member of the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, also was a longtime board member of the American Society of Cinematographers, for which he served as president in 1989-90.

(Adapted from an article in the 'Los Angeles Times'.  Our thanks to RC for supplying it.)


Universal's 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', Season One, discs have flaws ...

Correspondence on our 'Hitchcock Enthusiasts' Group indicates several production flaws in the dual-sided 3-disc DVD set containing the 39 episodes of the First Season (1955-56) of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' which was released last month in the USA (Region 1).  Problems include discs sticking or not playing some sections, and images breaking up.  One correspondent, after talking to a DVD collector friend, reports similar problems occuring on other dual-sided disc sets of Universal's television shows.

Our advice?  Heed what lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) says in The Birds: 'caveat emptor', 'let the buyer beware'.



Mike Leigh slights Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972)

At a recent London Film Festival event whose theme was the best and worst of films about London, panellist Mike Leigh (Naked, Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake) suddenly exploded when questioned about Hitchcock's 33-year-old Frenzy, set in and around Covent Garden.  According to Leigh: 'Frenzy is a horrible film. It's sloppy. It's superficial. It says nothing about London life, and it shouldn't be in the Time Out list [of best London films]. I'd be very happy if none of my films ever stoops to the level of Frenzy.'

Hmm.  Come back in another 33 years, Mike, and let's see how your own films have fared against Hitchcock's in the estimation of audiences.  (Meanwhile, to read more about Mike Leigh's outburst - by the person who asked the question about Frenzy - click here: http://globalnix.blogspot.com.  We thank Nick Poteri for contacting us and for permission to cite his excellent blog.)


More DVD news: 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', Season One, coming (Region 1)

On October 4, 2005, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will release on DVD the entire first season of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' (39 episodes, 4 of them directed by Hitchcock himself) plus 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Look Back', a featurette on the show.  For more information, click here: http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/newsitem.cfm?NewsID=3735


Finally, Hitchcock's Lifeboat on DVD

On October 18, 2005, Fox Home Entertainment will release a 'Special Edition' of Lifeboat (1944).  The disc will include a 'making of' featurette, the theatrical trailer, and a commentary track by Professor Drew Casper of USC.

• Update, February 2006.  The above release-date was for Region 1.  We're told that the DVD is now available in Region 2 with extra material, including a two-part interview with Hitchcock by Fletcher Markle of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  The Region 2 release is on two discs. 
 


The shower scene from Psycho: new book

Is this a first?  In October, 2005, Edward Mellen Press will publish a book-length study of a single scene from a movie - admittedly, both the movie and the scene are particularly famous.  'The Shower Scene in Hitchcock's Psycho: Creating Cinematic Suspense and Terror' is authored by Dr Phil Skerry.  As well as detailed analysis, Dr Skerry includes lengthy interviews with star Janet Leigh, scriptwriter Joseph Stefano, assistant director Hilton Green, sound designer Danny Greene, assistant editor Terry Williams, and with the editor of the Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho, Amy Duddleston. The book culminates with first-person accounts of the initial viewing of Psycho and its shower scene - including reminiscences by several readers of this website. For more information, click here: http://www.mellenpress.com/

• Robert Meyers worked for famous designer and storyboard artist Saul Bass in the 1980s.  He currently owns Bass's sketches - or virtual storyboard - for the Psycho shower scene.  Professor Meyers, formerly of Rochester Institute of Technology, will soon be opening a communication design firm in Pittsburgh.  He tells us he would be interested to receive offers for the Bass sketches.  He may be contacted here: <robertmeyersdesign@hotmail.com>.


Death of Barbara Bel Geddes

She was superb as the Scottie-fixated Midge in Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958).  Stage and film actress Barbara Bel Geddes has died, aged 82 (8 August, 2005).  Besides her work for Hitchcock - which included four episodes of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' - film buffs particularly remember her for George Stevens's I Remember Mama (1946), Max Ophüls's Caught (1948), and Henry Hathaway's Fourteen Hours (1951).     


UK stage production of The 39 Steps

Our London correspondent, Michael Walker, reports: 'In last Saturday's "Guardian" (25 June, 2005) there was a review of a theatrical production of The 39 Steps at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. The review by Michael Billington wasn't that enthusiastic, but what was apparent was that, once again, the adaptor (Patrick Barlow from a concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon) had followed the Hitchcock movie, not the novel: Forth Bridge, handcuffs, peeling off stockings and all. The play is directed by Fiona Buffini; Robert Whitelock and Lisa Jackson (a blonde) are the two stars. It runs until 16 July. I feel encouraged that Hitch has more purchase on the popular culture in general than Buchan.'
 

Universal/Paramount (etc.) Hitchcocks in DVD set (Region 1)

Essentially this is a re-issue, though the 14 films are said to be 'digitally remastered'.  (And note the bonus disc.)  Release-date is announced as 4 October, 2005.  The set is available on pre-order at a discount.  For example (and to see details), click here: http://homevideo.universalstudios.com/details.php?childId=35678



French and German DVDs of early Hitchcock

Courtesy of Dave Pattern's Hitchcock DVD website comes this information on exciting new and forthcoming releases ...

First, there's a French DVD collection of early Hitchcock films, including the previously-unreleased-on-DVD Champagne (A l'Américaine).  Altogether there are 10 titles and a couple of documentaries.  These are split across 3 volumes:

    Volume 1 (Les Premières Oeuvres 1927/1929)
    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. .


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.  


Newly-restored film version of Hall Caine novel

The just-ended Bologna Film Festival included Swedish director Victor Sjöstrom's hitherto 'missing' first Hollywood movie, Name the Man (1923), taken from a novel by Hall Caine, very similar both in story and theme to The Manxman (Hitchcock, 1928).  'But', writes Michael Walker (whom we thank), 'it lacked the original ending. Both prints that survived were Russian, and Russians preferred unhappy endings, so the film ends abruptly at the point when everything is going badly wrong!  Even so, you can see that it was a fine movie, if not quite of the class of The Wind (1928) and The Scarlet Letter (1926).'  Bologna 'also showed two other rare Sjöstroms: his first movie, The Head Gardener (1912)  - by the way, right from the beginning of his career, he cast himself as the villain! - and another "missing" one, Dodskyssen/Kiss of Death (1917), a whodunnit which was most interesting as a technical exercise, since Sjöstrom plays men who are doubles (and in one shot, we see both the doubles and their mirror images, i.e. four Sjöstroms on screen at once!).'  


Death of Winston Graham, author of 'Marnie', at 93

The author of the 'Poldark' novels, set in 18th-century Cornwall, has died in a nursing home in Sussex, England.  The novels formed the basis of a popular BBC-TV miniseries in the 1970s.  The best, and best-known, film adaptation, though, of a Winston Graham novel was undoubtedly Alfred Hitchcock's psychological suspense drama Marnie (1964), starring Tippi Hedren and scripted by Jay Presson Allen.  But Graham himself wrote several screenplays, of varying quality.  His adaptation of his mystery novel set in post-Occupation France, 'Night Without Stars', as filmed by Anthony Pellisier in 1951, was frankly insipid, though David Farrar and Nadia Gray gave adequate performances.  On the other hand, when Ronald Neame made Take My Life in 1947, from an original screen treatment co-written by Graham, the result was splendid, an interesting companion-piece to Hitchcock's more ambitious and complex The Paradine Case filmed the same year in similar settings (the Old Bailey, etc.).  Neame's cinematic (read: visually energetic) rendering showed the influence of his Cineguild partner, David Lean.  Presumably it was the Cineguild input that made the screenplay work so well.  However, it should not be forgotten that Graham's 'Marnie' received this enthusiastic accolade from one New York critic: 'the best book about a woman written by a man' (quoted in Tony Lee Moral, 'Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie' [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!)

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 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

.

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."'


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 for The Birds, e.g., several vistas of Bodega Bay. Whitlock was a quietly spoken, gracious man.  He appears briefly in Mel Brooks's Hitchcock spoof, High Anxiety (1977), as the man in the tower at the end.


The Hitchcock Centennial conference in New York

'Hitchcock: A Centennial Celebration' ran from October 13-17, 1999, at the Directors Guild of America Theatre and St. Moritz Hotel in midtown Manhatten.  It was sponsored by the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and organized by Dr Richard Allen, chair of the Dept. of Cinema Studies.  What follows are some items of note from the conference sent to us by Jim Davidson (whom we thank).

The 'other' Marnie: It is well known that Evan Hunter worked on the script for Marnie before Jay Presson Allen was hired, but the screenwriters' forum of the conference revealed that Joseph Stefano also worked on an early version of Marnie.  [John Russell Taylor mentions this in 'Hitch' (1978), p. 265 - Ed.]  Apparently, Hitchcock wanted to submit a treatment of Marnie to Grace Kelly when she was considering the role - believing she would never read the full Winston Graham novel - and so he had Stefano, fresh off Psycho, write a treatment.  Later, Hitchcock told Stefano that Grace had declined the role because she and her husband (Prince Rainier) had 'found the money that they needed elsewhere'.  But Evan Hunter, when he began working on the Marnie script, was never shown the Stefano treatment; for that matter, until the day they met at the conference, Hunter had never even known that Stefano was involved.

Casting choices:  Some interesting items came to light about Hitchcock's casting choices.  Robin Wood stated that Joseph Cotten was not the first choice for the role of Sam Flusky in Under Capricorn. Hitchcock actually wanted Burt Lancaster for the part.  Arthur Laurents, the screenwriter of Rope, claims that Hitchcock had sought Cary Grant, Montgomery Clift and Farley Granger for the roles eventually played by Jimmy Stewart, John Dahl and Granger.  Grant and Clift, apparently sensitive to the homosexual sub-text of the film, declined the roles. Finally, according to Peter Wollen, Hitchcock was fascinated by Claudette Colbert and originally wanted to use her for the female lead in Foreign Correspondent.

Tippi and 'Gorky' :  According to all the actors that spoke at the conference - Eva Marie Saint, Teresa Wright, Janet Leigh, Patricia Hitchcock - the director allowed his actors much freedom and rarely gave explicit directions on the set.  Tippi Hedren, as a first time actress on the set of The Birds, tended at times to deliver her lines too stridently.  According to Evan Hunter, Hitchock had a simple code word that he used for correcting this flaw:  he would say the word 'Gorky' and Hedren would tone down her delivery.

Censors as 'collaborators':  Leonard Leff, author of the book 'Hitchcock and Selznick', made the interesting observation that the censors that Hitchcock dealt with sometimes worked as unwitting collaborators on his films. He cited several examples of this. Joseph Breen's objections to the scene where Maxim DeWinter confesses to his wife that he murdered Rebecca led Hitchcock to come up with the creative approach of having a moving camera 'describe' the events that led up to Rebecca's 'accidental' demise.  The objections to the details of Alicia's marked past in Notorious caused Ben Hecht to rewrite the character, which made her seem more mysterious. In Rear Window, Hitchcock knew the censors wouldn't allow the topless shot introducing 'Miss Torso' that the script called for, so he devised the playful shot where her bra unsnaps and she must lean over to retrieve it.  Finally, of course, there is the well known 'phallic shot' at the end of North by Northwest, but Eva Marie Saint commented that that effect was not very subtle; in fact, she recalled that at the film's premiere she noticed it and mentioned it to her husband.

New Hitchock 'bio' in the works: As noted elsewhere on this Web site, Patrick McGilligan is working on a new biography of Hitchcock to be next year.  McGilligan is only finished researching through 1945, but he promised an illuminating view of Hitchcock's early years in the book.  For one thing, McGilligan has uncovered 7 or 8 new short stories (in addition to the already published "Gas") that Hitchcock wrote before 1921, while working at the Henley Telegraph and Cable Co.  McGilligan also stated that 'a very different' Hitchcock will emerge from what he referred to as 'the Henley's Period' (1914-21).

These are some brief highlights to emerge from 'Hitchcock: A Centennial Celebration' .  The current issue of 'The MacGuffin' has a more extensive coverage of the conference.


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.] 


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].'


The Hitchcock Annual

The 'Hitchcock Annual' is a quality publication containing articles contributed by academic writers and specialist authors.  The 2016 issue (Volume 20) is co-edited as usual by Professors Sid Gottlieb and Richard Allen.  For all orders, including back isues, contact Columbia University Press, 61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023: http://cup.columbia.edu/distributed-press/Hitchcock-Annual


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