Editor's Week 1999

December 8 - 1999
Pressure of work (on 'The MacGuffin', and other matters), as the end of year approaches, is stopping me writing these entries for a few days anyway. Eventually, though, there is a tremendous amount of new stuff for this site that will go up. Of course, things like short News items will be posted as they come to hand.

December 2 - 1999
So what is the syndrome, if any, implicit in yesterday's entry drawing possible parallels between the sexual abstinence of Hitchcock and Gandhi respectively? Hard to say, in a small space, but maybe I'd start by observing that I believe both men felt that they were thereby opening up to a broad sense of life - though not without some local 'closure' of a psychological kind. This closure was particularly the case with Gandhi. According to Richard Grenier, Gandhi showed a spectacular, life-long 'inability to understand or even really take in people unlike himself - a trait that V. S. Naipaul considers specifically Hindu, and I am inclined to agree'. In Hitchcock's case, I think of how screenwriter Samuel Taylor noted what a pity it was that his friend Hitch was often quite unaware or incapable of mixing in company beyond his immediate circle; I also think of how other Hitchcock writers like Raymond Chandler and Brian Moore observed of him that although he had a genius's grasp of 'pure cinema', his notion of characterisation in his films was rudimentary. Further, I'm reminded of certain accusations of misogyny (not all of them justified) levelled at Hitchcock by feminists. With Gandhi, Richard Grenier observes that 'in all his seventy-nine years it never crossed his mind once that there could be anything enjoyable in sex for women, and he was constantly enjoining Indian women to deny themselves to men, to refuse to let their husbands "abuse" them'. Here I think of how Arthur Laurents (screenwriter of Rope) said of Hitchcock not that he wanted to intervene in other people's bedroom matters, exactly, but that nonetheless he considered himself 'superior' to such goings-on, that there was something sordid about them. Finally, in reference to how I said above that both men probably felt that they were opening up to a broad sense of life, there's this observation by Grenier: 'The better to experience the Great Oneness, many Hindu holy men feel that they should be women as well as men'. Many of Hitchcock's films, such as Rear Window, both emphasise a male character's need to heed a woman's 'intuition' and end up by giving the audience a heightened sense of 'life' that incorporates both male and female takes on the world. And as I say in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', Hitchcock's most abstract film, The Birds, really does seem to be implying how, beyond such things as gender differeneces, all is One - if we could only grasp it.

December 1 - 1999
A few weeks ago, on the alt.movies.hitchcock Usenet site, I got involved in a discussion of Hitchcock's avowed celibacy for much of his life, and suggested how it paradoxically helped explain the rich sexuality that informs his films (including his empathy with both genders). I drew a rough parallel with the brahmacharya, sexual abstinence, practised by the Indian religious leader Gandhi, someone who even made a practice of literally sleeping - but not having sexual relations - with beautiful teenage virgins! (This, he felt, only tested and enhanced the benefits of his brahmacharya.) I'm not suggesting that Hitch did quite that, but he did regularly come close to flirting with the succession of attractive actresses who starred in his films. According to Karen Black, the elderly Hitch one day virtually French-kissed her on the set of Family Plot (1976). Well, I've just read the long essay called "The Gandhi That Nobody Knows" by right-wing film critic and social commentator Richard Grenier (in the anthology of his reviews and articles, 'Capturing the Culture: Film, Art, and Politics', 1990). And I was struck by further rough (or even exact) parallels with Hitch. Near the end of the film Gandhi (1982), which, incidentally, Grenier finds thoroughly dishonest about its subject, there's a touching moment when someone asks Gandhi's wife if he has ever broken his vow of chastity, taken, at that time, about forty years before. Gandhi's wife, by now a sweet old lady, answers (as Grenier puts it) 'with a pathetic little note of hope, "Not yet." I'm reminded of the somewhat wizened, if often peppery, little lady that Alma Hitchcock reportedly became. Another, but probably not unrelated, matter discussed by Grenier is Gandhi's concern with scrupulous cleanliness (though he was also much preoccupied with enemas and excrement and latrine cleaning). 'The bathroom', said Gandhi, 'is a temple. It should be so clean and inviting that anyone would enjoy eating there.' Reading this, it was impossible not to think of Hitchcock's similar concerns: he boasted to Truffaut that after he'd used the bathroom, he would clean up so efficiently that no-one would ever know he'd been there! (Mind you, as I briefly discuss in my book's note on Psycho, American puritanism has similar preoccupations. Observing this, Marshall McLuhan once called the bathroom 'the gleam, the larger hope, which we are appointed to follow'!) More tomorrow.

November 30 - 1999
Yesterday I finally received my author's copy of the US edition of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' - and found that it doesn't measure up to the UK edition. In lots of little ways - and some big ones - the US edition is a disappointment compared with the UK one. Despite a contractual undertaking between the UK and US publishers, the latter have seen fit to edit portions of the text. For the record, the worst instances of such cutting include: three analytical paragraphs deleted in the discussion of The 39 Steps, two key paragraphs on The Lady Vanishes deleted, part of an analysis of the dream-sequence in Spellbound cut, an entire 'boxed' item on Psycho ("The lady buying the pesticide") omitted, four paragraphs cut from Martin Grams Jnr's piece on "Hitchcock on Radio", and innumerable cuts made to J. Lary Kuhns's piece on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". Something else that irked me: the book's synopsis of North by Northwest now ends, like a kiddies' story, 'and then they get married'! And the boxed item accompanying my essay on that film, in which I comment on the titles-sequence, has deleted my carefully-chosen phrase 'ochre-coloured taxis' - a phrase allowing for taxis of several different colours - with 'yellow taxis', thus destroying the point I was making, and being inaccurate besides (there are more than just yellow taxis in that scene). Also, the US edition has fewer illustrations in colour , vide the several rare posters from Hitchcock films that are now reproduced in mere black-and-white. Frankly, my advice to potential buyers of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' is to order the UK edition rather than the US one. You can order the UK edition for a 20% discount from the British Amazon.com website, whose URL is Amazon.co.uk: The Alfred Hitchcock Story. (The UK edition is reviewed by Dan Auiler on our New Publications page.)

November 29 - 1999
Tonight, for something different, here's a message from a reader, SF, of Brentwood, Essex. Like many of us, she enjoys playing the game called 'Cluedo' ... 'I am not sure', she writes, 'if this is something that you would like to include on your site but ... there is an Alfred Hitchcock centenary version of the "Cluedo" board game ("Clue" in the US) available. I happened to see it whilst just about to board my flight back to the UK at Orlando Airport (too late to buy it) but it is available from the Spencer Gifts website (www.spencergifts.com). All the murder rooms on the board are rooms from Hitchcock's films - Marion Crane's motel room, the farmhouse kitchen from Torn Curtain, the stables from Marnie for example, and the weapons are also Hitchcock themed - a bird, the poker from Marnie and Bob Rusk's tie from Frenzy ... I have found it great fun ... Perhaps the perfect gift for the Hitchcock fan who has everything ...' Yes, and Christmas is coming! (Hint!) Tomorrow, it's likely that our topic here will be rather less light-hearted, concerning what publishers do to authors of books on Hitchcock ...

November 25 - 1999
Incidentally, as we were talking of how Hitchcock sometimes based scenes on ones in other films (though naturally he adapted them to his own purposes), the above-mentioned Marnie flashback seems clearly modelled on the shocking flashback climax of Joseph Mankiewicz's Suddenly Last Summer (1960), as I pointed out in a recent article in the 'Hitchcock Annual'. Now, commenting on Geraldine Pedersen-Krag's theory of how 'the primal scene' lies behind the form of the detective story - which, I suggested yesterday, may also be the case with some Hitchock films - writer Charles Rycroft notes that it is possible to extend the theory as follows. 'If the victim is the parent for whom the reader (the child) has negative oedipal feelings, then the criminal must be a personification of the reader's own unavowed hostility towards that parent. The reader is not only the detective; he is also the criminal. [Usually, though] ... this identification of the reader with the criminal remains denied. The detective story writer connives with the reader's need to deny his guilt by providing him with ready-made fantasies in which the compulsive question "whodunnit?" is always answered by a self-exonerating "not I". In the ideal detective story the detective or hero would discover that he himself is the criminal for whom he has been seeking.' I find Rycroft's comments very suggestive apropos Hitchcock's films (and some others). For example, I think of Marnie's denial to husband Mark in which she says, 'I am not like other people' - a denial which is surely only superficially true. Marnie is more like 'us' than she knows, because for one thing we have all experienced forgotten Oedipal conflicts: Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), with its positive and negative father-figures (Dr Brulov, Dr Murchison) and positive and negative mother-figures (both mainly embodied in Dr Petersen, played by Ingrid Bergman), as well as childhood sibling-rivalries, is significantly based on forgotten Oedipally-related experiences. And in the case of Rear Window (1954), where the murderer and evil-father-figure Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) is patently some sort of projection of hero Jeff's inner conflicts, and with whom Jeff grapples in hand-to-hand combat at the climax (as if he were finally grappling with, and acknowledging, those conflicts), the denial 'not I' almost becomes transparent. As for films in which the hero really does find 'that he himself is the criminal for whom he has been seeking' (the classic Oedipus situation, as embodied in Sophocles's play), the nearest I can I think of is another Joseph Mankiewicz film, Somewhere in the Night (1946), about an amnesiac - a film significantly similar to Spellbound of the previous year (though in both films the hero finally is declared 'innocent') ...

November 24 - 1999
That shot in Mr and Mrs Smith that I described yesterday as 'delectable', of Carole Lombard's haunches, was certainly based by Hitchcock on an earlier - and famous - one that figures in Howard Hawks's own screwball comedy starring Lombard, Twentieth Century (1934). In Hitchcock's film, Ann (Lombard) is wearing a pert ski-suit that only enhances her attractive figure. In the Hawks film, set on a train, the actress called 'Lily Garland' (Lombard) is wearing satin pyjamas in the scene where, enraged, she bends her legs to fend off the egregious actor-manager Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore). Such 'borrowings', with variations, by Hitchcock of effective scenes from earlier films were part and parcel of his method, as 'The MacGuffin' has often pointed out. (Another such borrowing in Mr and Mrs Smith is the Mamma Lucy's restaurant scene, clearly based on a scene in King Vidor's The Citadel [1938] starring Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell.) But I was talking of how Hitchcock's films sometimes verge on soft-core pornography. Let's now broaden this out a little. Several Hitchcock films (e.g., Rear Window, Marnie) also seem to evoke 'the primal scene' (a child's-eye view of its parents' lovemaking). It's probable that Hitchcock read Geraldine Pedersen-Krag's 'Detective Stories and the Primal Scene' (1949) in which she attempts to account for such stories' popularity by saying how they reawaken the reader's interest and curiosity originally aroused by observation of the primal scene. According to her, the murder is a symbolic representation of this, and 'the victim is the parent for whom the reader (the child) has negative oedipal feelings. The clues in the story, disconnected, inexplicable and trifling, represent the child's growing awareness of details it had never understood, such as the family sleeping arrangements, nocturnal sounds, stains, incomprehensible adult jokes and remarks ... The reader addicted to mystery stories tries actively to relive and master traumatic infantile experiences he once had to endure passively.' I think this explains much of what Hitchcock was trying to do in the Marnie flashback (where the mother's actions may be seen as her attempt to reclaim her daughter's love from thefather-figure, the sailor, whom the daughter then up and 'punishes' - with disastrous consequences for all concerned), as well as earlier scenes set in the mother's house, such as the evocative one on the stairs. More tomorrow.

November 23 - 1999
There's often something just slightly prurient about Hitch's films! At times, they're only a little removed from soft-core pornography! (I think of how, in The Farmer's Wife [1928], whose rural imagery and a certain wisdom prefigure those of The Trouble With Harry [1956], an elderly farmer speaks of pulling turnips 'as round and white as a woman's bosom'!) This is all part of what I call the presence of the world's Will in Hitchcock's films. (Sexuality is a prime manifestation of that Will.) Now here's another motif like the one described in yesterday's entry. In Hitchcock's screwball comedy Mr and Mrs Smith (1941), there's a scene at the end in which estranged husband David (Robert Montgomery) and wife Ann (Carole Lombard) finally get back together. Late one night, in a remote ski lodge, he traps her in her skis, and up-ends her, whereupon she wraps her feet, still in their skis, around him as he leans over her from behind. The result, which takes place just below the camera's line of vision, resembles what sex manuals call the '69' position - though, I hasten to add, both characters are clothed! (A moment before, Hitch had allowed us a delectable view of Ann's/Lombard's bent legs as she pretended to try to kick David away - see next entry.) But just before this, Ann's feet had started to disengage from the skis; here, a close-up had shown Ann surreptitiously thrusting her feet back into the slots! Such a close-up of feet, signifying a woman's sexual surrender, is the likely prototype, I think, of several shots in later films. At the climax of Vertigo (1958), when Scottie drags Judy up the mission tower, a close-up shows her feet trailing helplessly on the stairs: but as someone has pointed out, she could have dug her her feet into the steps, trying to clutch hold of them with her toes. And there are similar close-ups of a heroine's feet, signifying her powerlessness to resist, at respective climaxes of The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964). In all of these cases, the idea of a woman's surrender to her 'fate' is subtly present. Possibly the shots also relate, at some level, to Hitchcock's awareness of 'the shoe fetish' that he once described to a puzzled producer when they were making Rear Window (1954) ...

November 22 - 1999
You, too, can be a genius! No, this isn't an advertisement for a course in self-improvement, or the like. But by way of a follow-up to recent entries, the following ones may concern (I anticipate) how a great many of Hitchcock's effects derive from simple sexual innuendo or suggestion. If Hitchcock's genius lay in a 'capacity for taking infinite pains', of attending to 'all the little details' (cf. Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt!), it may seem that many of those details flowed from a certain pre-occupation by Hitch with sex! (Perhaps he was following a writer he had known and admired, H.G. Wells, who was quite a satyr, or even perhaps his favourite painter, Paul Klee, whose often child-like paintings and drawings were sometimes rather less innocent than they seem on the surface, as Klee's biographers have pointed out.) Here's one example. Beginning with Spellbound (1945), several Hitchcock films draw attention to a character or characters travelling with a modicum of luggage. In the case of John Ballyntine in that film, a psychologist with whom I discussed the matter felt that this was a Freudian symbol for Ballyntine's amnesia. Which may well be true. But the person who spots that Ballyntine (Gregory Peck) and Constance (Ingrid Bergman) have only one suitcase between them, and therefore are unlikely to be the newly-weds they claim to be, is Constance's mentor, the astute Dr Brulov (Michael Chekhov), who is a very sharp character indeed. And he has his equivalent, in a sense, in Marnie (1964) in the character Lil (Diane Baker), who instantly spots that when Marnie ('Tippi' Hedren) and husband Mark (Sean Connery) return unexpectedly from their honeymoon cruise, with only one suitcase, that something is up. (In fact, Marnie and Mark have quarrelled, and 'jumped ship'.) In a way, both Dr Brulov's and Lil's sharp eyes are like those of the public, who are always on the look-out for things being different from the expected norm, with some kind of sexual implication. (If a couple like Sam and Marion at the start of Psycho [1960] check into a hotel without luggage, we can make only one inference! It's the same sort of thing!) Hitchcock loved these little details, these betraying signs. In both Rear Window (1954) and The Birds (1963), he portrays women characters who travel lightly, and whose 'utilitarian' overnight cases manage to hint (in slightly different ways) at their respective owners' sexual intentions. More tomorrow.

November 18 - 1999
I think a key to what I've outlined above, the use of various sexual shadings in Hitchcock's films, is the idea that civilisation does consist of multiple role-playings, including gender ones. And that Hitchcock thought of England (rather than America) as the epitome of a civilised country. Hence the aptness in Mr and Mrs Smith (1941) of lawyer David Smith's having those pictures of English literary figures on his office walls: at the office he must be especially controlled and courteous, even at some expense to his 'virility'. His law partner, Jeff, who comes from the South, where it may seem they're traditionally even more 'civilised' than the English (!), is shown to be especially 'gentlemanly' - Lesley Brill's book 'The Hitchcock Romance' calls Jeff a 'capon'. By contrast, the rather crudely macho character, 'Chuck' Benson, whom David encounters at his club, is your typical Yankee, which for Hitchcock means relatively uncivilised! (Presumably, Chuck's presence at the Beefeaters Club shows that he is also something of a social-climber, seeking some English 'respectability'!) You could say that the gentlemanly Jeff prefigures aspects of Alex Sebastian (played by English actor Claude Rains) in Notorious (1946), someone whom Robert Samuels's book, 'Hitchcock's Bi-Textuality', calls a 'eunuch'. However, Alex, a Nazi, who is certainly one of the 'charming villains' described by Robert Schoen (see yesterday's entry), is even more complicated, since he also assimilates characteristics of the Übermensch-type villain epitomised by Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger) in Saboteur (1942), whose own prototype is probably Julius Pavia in the John Buchan novel 'The Power House' (1912). In that novel, Pavia is called 'a foe to society', i.e., to civilisation. And all of these Übermensch-figures prefigure Vandamm (played by English actor James Mason) in North by Northwest (1959), who is again someone who is both ultra-civilised and yet a ruthless killer. These super-villains have things all ways. Which may bring us back to Vertigo (1958). Clearly, Gavin Elster (played by English actor Tom Helmore) is another of Hitchcock's Übermensch villains, though more covertly for the audience, since the plot demands that Gavin's fiendish schemings be concealed until late in the film. And his victim Scottie (James Stewart) plays a rather less macho American than Chuck Benson in Mr and Mrs Smith, indeed someone who seems to have virility problems like Chuck's opposite number, Jeff, in that film: when, like Chuck, Scottie attends an English club (Gavin's), he doesn't seem particularly at home there (cf Thornhill's attendance at the Oak Bar, with its English paintings on the wall, in the sardonic scene at the start of North by Northwest). In sum, there are indeed all kinds of sexual shadings in Hitchcock's films, whose resolution may only be in some sort of Nietzschean (or Utopian) ideal ...

November 17 - 1999
(slightly revised) In the scene from Mr and Mrs Smith described yesterday, it's the concentration on a 'normal', subjectively-experienced emotion, like embarrassment, that typifies Hitchcock's approach . The scene itself is outlandish and one of near-pandemonium, but Hitchcock treats it from the inside, as a succession of small 'problems' experienced by David. Likewise, when Hitchcock treats, say, voyeurism, in Rear Window, he breaks it down into a succession of 'problems' to be solved by its protagonist, Jeff (James Stewart). This results, in the case of Rear Window, in what Atom Egoyan calls Hitchcock's 'normalisation of perversity'. Now, Robert Schoen has a further 'take' on perversity in Hitchcock's films. He wrote to me: 'Whenever Hitch presents a homosexual premise in his films, there also seems to be a subliminal equation of the potential or desire to commit murder to the potential of being homosexual. ... Many of his central [male] protagonists (unmarried men in the prime of life, still attached to their mother) can often be interpreted as being still "sexually on the fence" up until the point of meeting the leading lady. His charming villains are seducers and threats to them both.' I'm not quite sure which films Robert has in mind here (but see next entry), but certainly Hitch did conceive of situations in terms of various sexual shadings, to be inflected every which way. It's instructive in this respect to compare Mr and Mrs Smith to, say, Vertigo. Both, for example, have scenes of 'male bonding'. When Ann throws David out of their home, he goes to stay at the 'Beefeaters Club' where he encounters a rather crudely macho character named 'Chuck' Benson (Jack Carson) in a steam-room. Chuck represents a certain 'temptation' to David, to become if not a 'gay' batchelor again at least a happy one, dating a succession of available women. (But, interestingly, this leads to David's humiliation at the Florida Club, already mentioned!) Meanwhile, Ann starts going out with David's partner from the office, Jeff (Gene Raymond), who seems almost homosexual in his excessive 'gentlemanliness' and his lack of passion towards Ann - though she gives him every encouragement. Jeff is effectively a reminder to Ann of what she lacks without a 'real' man, David, in her life. (By the way, it's curious that David's office walls are decorated with pictures of English literary figures - Shakespeare and one of the Romantic poets, Byron, I think. Both of those persons had 'bisexual' reputations!) Vertigo has some matching scenes. After Scottie starts to shadow 'Madeleine', Gavin Elster's wife, he reports his findings back to Gavin in a scene set in Gavin's rather English-traditionalist club in San Francisco (cf the Beefeaters Club in Mr and Mrs Smith). At this point, Scottie is poised between the mother-figure Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes), Madeleine (Kim Novak) - and Gavin. The latter is played by English actor Tom Helmore (who had earlier appeared in Hitchcock's Secret Agent, curiously enough in a scene set in a steam-room!). More tomorrow.

November 16 - 1999
Canadian director Atom Egoyan (born in Cairo, Egypt), whose latest film Felicia's Journey contains some Hitchcock references, recently commented on how he'd been influenced by The Master: 'Well, for me, Hitchcock's great gift to cinema was his normalisation of perversity. Think of the characters in Rear Window and Vertigo - so obsessive and weird, but at the same time played by Jimmy Stewart! That's where Hitchcock liberated me: he made the lexicon of psychopathology immediate, accessible and presentable.' On this matter of Hitch's 'normalisation of perversity', screenwriter/sculptor Robert Schoen ('Hitch and Alma') made a similar point to me last month, though he put a different slant on it. 'I think one of the most subversive aspects of Hitchcock's films', Robert wrote, 'is the way he matter of factly portrayed homosexuality in his films as something completely normal.' Robert gave the example of the woman dinner guest in Suspicion (1942), dressed as a man, an image that Robert found 'shocking'. But of course, as Atom Egoyan's comments indicate, this was typical of Hitchcock's method in many of his films - an outlandish or perverse situation treated in an almost deadpan way, emphasising its everyday or banal aspects (which is exactly how people at the centre of such a situation would experience it). Another example might be Mark Rutland's fetishistic love for his wife in Marnie (1964), which is effectively mocked in the scene at their front door, after they return from their troubled honeymoon, when he gives her a dutiful kiss and tells her that he has to go to the office. (How normal! How banal!) In turn, this is all part of, and reflects, Hitchcock's emphasis on subjectivity, his preferred method of storytelling from the inside, showing us how the protagonists themselves experience matters. It works beautifully in the sorts of situations already described here. But Hitch even used it successfully (I think) in his screwball comedy Mr and Mrs Smith (1941), starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery, in a scene like the one at the Florida Club where David Smith (Montgomery) makes a spectacle of himself in front of his scornful wife Ann (Lombard), from whom he has become estranged. David's mounting embarrassment and attempts to extricate himself in this scene are basically told from his point of view (lots of close-ups isolating him), whereas another director might have included much more interactive business and by-play between the various people present (though Hitch doesn't neglect to include some of that, too!). The 'normalisation' here is Hitchcock's concentration on David's initially concealed embarrassment (which, though, the film's audience are let into from the outset), which only becomes 'public' near the scene's end. From reports (e.g., by Dana Polan), audiences enjoy this scene immensely. More about 'normalisation of perversity' tomorrow

November 15 - 1999
Continuing with my reading ... An article in yesterday's 'Boston Globe', by staff writer Ed Siegel, is headed "A century in the Arts". Siegel writes: 'What unites the modernists of the late 19th and the 20th centuries - from Fyodor Dostoevsky, Karl Marx, and Charles Baudelaire to city-builder Robert Moses - is, says author Marshall Berman, that "They are moved at once by a will to change - to transform both themselves and their world - and by a terror of disorientation and disintegration, of life falling apart. They all know the thrill and the dread of a world in which 'All that is solid melts into air'" (the title of Berman's 1982 book).' The implied pull between integration (wholeness) and disintegration is something that Hitchcock felt keenly and sometimes made a theme of his films. (With his rotund figure, and his several periods of enforced dieting, is this altogether surprising?!) In The Wrong Man (1957), from the almost-invisible dissolves of its credits sequence, set in the Stork Club, to near the end, the world of 'Manny' Balestrero (Henry Fonda) threatens to disintegrate or to be overwhelmed by entropy. Even the scene of the mis-trial works like this. Only when, finally, an emphatic dissolve-in shows us the face of Manny's double, the criminal for whom Manny has been mistaken, do things start to come together for him again, and gradually he starts to piece his life back together. Nonetheless, as I note in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', 'The Wrong Man posits an understanding of time and space that the bourgeois Manny simply can't grasp, though he has an inkling of it when he says that his arrest the day before seems "like a million years ago".' The contrast is with the sense of 'heightened life' that I note in several other Hitchcock films, from Rich and Strange (1932) to Vertigo (1958) and beyond. (Cf entry for November 8th, above.) And of course North by Northwest (1959) again offers the viewer that sense of heightened life in a story that is like a comic version of The Wrong Man (having the same motif of mistaken identity, with Thornhill's 'double' being the non-existent 'George Kaplan') as well as putting matters in a wider context like that described by Ed Siegel (opposing 'a will to change' to 'a terror of disorientation and disintegration, of life falling apart'). It's not coincidental that the film opposes a staid 19th century (the picture on the wall in the Oak Bar at the start) to a hectic 20th century, and that art and architecture figure prominently throughout (as emblems and icons of change, though not without ambiguity - that 19th century painting appears to be of an abduction, prefiguring Thornhill's, while even the Mount Rushmore monument at the film's climax has something deathly and frozen about it). Significantly, it's in a more-or-less natural setting, a pine forest, that we hear Thornhill finally say, 'I never felt more alive'.

November 10 - 1999
The passage from Bryan Magee's 'The Story of Philosophy' that I quoted yesterday concludes: 'Compassion is the true foundation both of ethics and of love.' I think that Hitchcock intuited the same truth. In my book, in the entry on To Catch a Thief (1955), I note Schopenhauer's distinction between 'temporal justice' (that which actually prevails in the world) and 'eternal justice' (that which ideally, given how we're all really one and undifferentiated, should prevail in the end). When eternal justice finally reigns, so will a universal compassion that allows us to see what is normally obscured, that everything is just One. This, I suggest, is implied at the end of The Birds (1963) - though a similar ironic vision of how things actually are informs such other films as The Paradine Case (1947), The Wrong Man (1957) and Topaz (1969). (Note that the original novel of The Paradine Case refers to 'the great Schopenhauer', and contains several Schopenhauerian ideas.) It's also implied in a film like Shadow of a Doubt (1943), with its emphasis on the 'telepathy' between uncle and niece. Though young Charlie must (and does) finally repudiate her uncle, she 'will always know that [he] remains a part of herself' (as I say in my book, drawing a parallel with how, in 'Wuthering Heights', Catherine Earnshaw cries fervently, 'Nelly, I am Heathcliff'). In this world of ours, the One continues to be seen as the Many (Will plus Representation), which is certainly a theme of Hitchcock's masterpiece, Vertigo (1958), as well as of the underrated Torn Curtain (1966). And now I see that a new book, 'Fiction and the Law: Legal Discourse in Victorian and Modernist Literature' (Cambridge University Press), by Kieran Dolin, makes similar points about literature. Reviewing that book, Professor Margaret Thornton writes: 'A narrow and formalistic approach to law cannot capture the ambiguities of truth, the elusiveness of facts or the vast expanse of the legal imaginary. Indeed, as Dolin says, "the best evidence seems to come through telepathy". The point is encapsulated by E.M. Forster's treatment of the cave incident involving Adela Quested and Aziz in "A Passage to India", where the shifts and turns of memory are shown to be resistant to compression within the rules of legal testimony.'

November 9 - 1999
To my knowledge, only one thinker has systematically, and profoundly, given us the sort of world picture implied by the above description of humankind's susceptability to evil, and what can be done about it (to a limited extent), and that is the great Romantic pessimist, Arthur Schopenhauer, who was Nietzsche's predecessor. Whether or nor one accepts the idea that Nietzsche's notion of the death of God opened the way for the 20th century to engage in slaughter on an unprecedented scale (e.g., by Hitler), Schopenhauer's notion of an amoral 'Will' (life-force that is also a death-force) operating in the world certainly described the potential for such atrocity to occur. Everything is Will, said Schopenhauer, i.e., all is One. He also noted that Will (the noumenal, the One) and mere Representation (appearance, the Many) are but the two sides of the same coin, i.e., they are really identical. So when Hitchcock said, famously, that 'everything's perverted in a different way' (see yesterday's entry), he was effectively echoing a Schopenhaurian idea. Everything is but a variation on the one basic 'force' that runs the universe, which is Will. To overcome the deleterious effects of Will, Schopenhauer developed an aesthetics in which Art might give insight and free us, however briefly, from our normal enslavement to Will (cf Colin Wilson's emphasis on 'peak experiences', as previously mentioned); and he advocated an 'ethics of compassion' as a means to achieving a liberation from Will on a longer-term basis. (In my book, I note how such Hitchcock films as Lifeboat, The Birds, and Marnie all put emphasis on compassion and a true sympathy as a means of coming to terms with our common human frailty, an insight that the films themselves offer the viewer - note the aesthetic and the ethical overlap, as in Schopenhauer.) Now, there's a superb entry on Schopenhauer in the book 'The Story of Philosophy' (1998) by Bryan Magee, who is himself a leading Schopenhauer (and Wagner) authority. I'd like to quote here the passage in which he comments on how, in the noumenal realm, we're all one and undifferentiated. Magee: 'This explains compassion, the ability of human beings to identify with one another, and feel for one another, sharing one another's sufferings and joys. If I hurt you I am damaging my own ultimate being. It is this, said Schopenhauer, this compassion - and not, as Kant mistakenly believed, rationality - that is the foundation of ethics. It is also the foundation of interpersonal relationships and communication, to which the decoding by eye and ear of messages transmitted between our material bodies makes a lesser contribution.' Tomorrow I'll discuss the application of this to Hitchcock.

November 8 - 1999
Today I'd like to sum up the past three entries, whose point of departure was the new book 'Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century' by Jonathan Glover. As noted, Glover sees modern evil as stemming from the loss of an external moral law consequent on Nietzsche's proclamation of the death of God. But one doesn't have to accept that interpretation of how things have happened. For example, Colin Wilson in such books as 'A Criminal History of Mankind' (see previous entry) stresses, rather, how the rise of the novel in the 18th and 19th centuries 'taught Europe to use its imagination' and led, in particular, to sexual obsession, sexual perversion, and sex crimes - all of which, Wilson claims, were rare or unheard of previously. (So maybe in Hitchcock's Rope the real culprit for the senseless murder of a youth is all the books that Mr Kentley, the dead boy's father, has been 'innocently' collecting, at least as much as Nietzsche's ideas that the film also adduces.) I mentioned Hitchcock's low regard for politics, which he said evinces 'some of man's meanest attitudes to his fellow man', and I suggested how this implied that for things like compassion and generosity (openness) one needs to look elsewhere. Hitchcock typically associated these finer qualities with what I call in my book (in the entry on Easy Virtue) 'free-flowing Eros', which isn't a paradox when you consider that in Rope emphasis is put on the enclosedness of the two young (gay) killers' lives. Hitchcock himself was fascinated by reports of all kinds of sexual perversion and activity, and he summed up what he saw by saying, sagely, that 'everything's perverted in a different way' (a remark to which I'll come back). And something else I mentioned above was Colin Wilson's emphasis on how most of us are free, he claims, to actively grasp reality in 'peak experiences' (Abraham Maslow's term), a freedom that Wilson contrasts with the alleged lack of freedom shown by the mind-state of many murderers. (Interestingly, the young killer Brandon in Rope speaks of his envy of artists, but thinks that murder can be an 'art', too.) I would say that such 'peak experiences' approximate what I call in my book the sense of 'heightened life' that several Hitchcock films (e.g., Rich and Strange, The 39 Steps, Rear Window, Vertigo) seem to explicitly offer the viewer. But, as noted last time, the experience will still be subjective - and therefore subject to 'error'. Okay, so what is the picture of Hitchcock's films that this gives us? I'll start to answer that tomorrow.

November 4 - 1999
The sort of lame-seeming conclusions that Jonathan Glover reaches in his book (see above) have been reached before in such studies as Brian Masters's 'The Evil That Men Do' (1996), Lyall Watson's 'Dark Nature' (1995), and Colin Wilson's 'A Criminal History of Mankind' (1984). Well, that's not quite true, since these various authors, while all cataloguing mankind's appalling capacity for evil, finally allow themselves varying degrees of optimism, or its reverse. Watson, for example, while speaking of the 'evolution of a moral sense', concludes fairly pessimistically that '[t]he best we can hope for is to exercise our freedom to choose [solutions] with the advantage of as much knowledge as possible. But we mustn't expect any help from our institutions [which all have vested self-interests].' Wilson, though, by finally seeming to forget the wider picture, brings matters back to the level of the individual. Noting that 'no poet, artist or composer in history has ever committed a calculated, first-degree murder', he ends by stressing the mind's capacity to actively grasp reality and have 'peak experiences' (in Abraham Maslow's sense). In other words, none of us may need to descend to the murderer's mind-state that is a denial of reality (and here I think of the depiction of the two murderers in Hitchcock's Rope [1948] ) because we may substitute a more 'enlightened' way of dealing with reality, perhaps by means of art. (Nonetheless, reality retains its deathly side.) This is the Hitchcockian trajectory, I think. As an entertainer, Hitchcock knows the importance of leaving his audience in a positive frame of mind, though not before first allowing them to glimpse the sheer banality or bathos of evil. I think both Rear Window (1954) and Psycho (1960) work like this. The positive frame of mind is arrived at by showing the audience both what they have in common with the murderer/s - a certain discontent with reality, for example - and what they have at the end, which is a superior and heightened sense of that reality. Perhaps it was this last factor that led Hitchcock to say of Rear Window that it wouldn't have worked if the windows of the various apartments hadn't contained a cross-section of humanity, a virtual microcosm. Of course, the typical Hitchcockian ending is still a subjective image, and the wider picture will eventually have to be re-encountered, in all its deathliness ...

November 3 - 1999
Jonathan Glover's 'Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century' (see yesterday's entry) proceeds to note how, after Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God, no trust in moral 'norms' has been proof against ideology. As Bryan Appleyard puts it: 'Ideology of one kind or another provided new amoral identities that made it good to be [for example] the sort of person who slaughtered children. Humane responses were destroyed by forms of tribalism that defined outsiders - Jews, kulaks, revisionists - as vermin who threatened the civilised order. And that threat also changed self-interest [previously a guarantor that others would behave decently] into the paranoid need to conform with the dominant tribe.' Is any of this relevant to Hitchcock's films? Certainly it is to a film like Topaz (1969), I think. There, Hitchcock makes clear his distrust of various nationalisms and ideologies (each represented by one of the national flags seen early in the film) that threatens the well-being of ordinary, decent citizens. (The Cuban scenes are particularly telling in this respect, though the film intelligently locates the actual 'Cuban crisis' in a wider context of international 'politics' and national self-interest and paranoia that is brought out, for example, in the edgy Paris restaurant scene.) At about this time, Hitchcock defined 'politics' to Richard Schickel as 'some of man's meanest attitudes to his fellow man', implying that for compassion and decency and generosity you would need to look elsewhere. (As so often in Hitchcock, there's a sexual association to these qualities, which helps to explain the presence in the Cuban scenes of the Juanita character, who keeps open bed for both the Cuban Rico Parra and the Frenchman Andre Dévereaux.) But as material for a Hitchcock film, this is comparatively trite stuff. Before saying why, let me note Jonathan Glover's conclusions in his book. These may themselves seem disappointing, as Bryan Appleyard notes. 'We need, say Glover, "political restraints on a world scale", and we need to be more deeply aware of the psychology that leads to evil. And we must keep scepticism alive, the form of reasoned questioning and, where necessary, derision that would make it impossible for tyrants to succeed. These points are true but thin ...' Indeed they are, and tomorrow I'll turn to Hitchcock's emphasis in his films on individual and subjective matters.

November 2 - 1999
A new book published in the UK is 'Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century' by Jonathan Glover. Reviewing it in the 'Sunday Times', Bryan Appleyard notes that our century has been more systematically cruel and murderous than any other, and adduces such figures as Mao Tse-tung, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot who all perpetrated slaughter on a mass scale. Yet we still, notes Appleyard, use colloquially 'the word "medieval" to signify unusual barbarity, when, strictly speaking, we should use the word "modern". And we still talk simple-mindedly of progress as if the Edwardian summer had never ended in the trenches.' These are thoughts that have occurred to me often in considering the sort of shaping ideas that underlie many of Hitchcock's films. One example: in my book I suggest how the sort of 'idyll' that is The Trouble With Harry (1955) belongs to an English tradition that includes the writings of Lewis Carroll and which after the First World War could be used only nostalgically, as in passages in John Buchan's 'John Macnab' (1925), and in children's books. And in describing the 'medieval' look of I Confess (1953), which draws on the old-style architecture of Quebec City, I imply how that film's references to war and to perennially-recurring signs of mortality are aptly situated in such a context. Jonathan Glover's book goes on to locate modern evil in the history of ideas, referring to the loss of an external moral law following Nietzsche's proclamation in the 19th century of the death of God. Again I'm reminded of Hitchcock, whose two most overtly 'Nietzschean' critiques, Lifeboat (1944) and Rope (1948), both link those critiques to the War. (The morally flippant Rupert in Rope has a limp as a result of a debilitating war-wound, with some suggestion that he is both victim and yet participant in guilt for the attitude of cynicism shown by the film's two young killers.) Glover then shows how, time and again, in our century, ordinary decent views of what is right have been overthrown in the interests of idealogy of one kind or another. On the relevance of this to Hitchcock, I'll say more tomorrow.

November 1 - 1999
There has been much wild speculation (in which I've never indulged!) about the 'ANL' and 'NFB' licence plates on Marion's cars in Psycho (1960). For example, Donald Spoto speculated about the 'NFB' plate that the initials referred to 'Norman Bates', adding - with no hard evidence - that the 'F' stood for 'Francis' because Norman in the film stuffs birds and Saint Francis is the patron saint of birds (and animals). I always thought that this was risible and/or irresponsible of Spoto - and have a couple of times told readers of the Usenet newsgroup not to be gulled by his extravagant interpretation. (Incidentally, an Australian colleague of mine heard Spoto speak at the recent NYU Hitchcock Conference - to which I'm coming - and described him to me as 'an obnoxious bully who I don't trust for a minute'.) When Spoto once made the same claim in a public lecture, in the audience were film director Richard Franklin (Psycho II) and his producer Hilton Green. At this point, I'm told by Richard, Hilton turned to him with a bemused expression and whispered something in his ear. Hilton had been assistant director on Psycho. The licence plate in question was Hilton's, used purely for convenience when shooting the scenes with Marion's car! And now, from the lips of Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano, speaking at the NYU conference, we have an even more categorical statement: neither the 'ANL' nor the 'NFB' initials mean anything, they were simply the numbers on the cars that were used. Of course the shots of the respective licence plates do come to underline the fact that Marion has crossed from Arizona to California. And the reason that the camera holds on the licence plate when Norman pushes Marion's car into the swamp probably has most to do with Hitchcock's adage that the more you go into detail the more an audience is drawn into the scene - and with how the camera has a holding-power of its own provided that such power isn't vitiated by pointless cutaways, etc.

October 28 - 1999
The question, 'What was Hitchcock's favourite film?', is a bit like, 'How much did Hitchcock weigh?' You have to specify when. A recent quiz in the US said Hitchcock's favourite film was Smokey and the Bandit, the 1977 Hal Needham action-comedy starring Burt Reynolds. Two years ago, on this website, I mentioned that Hitchcock loved that film, but was careful to indicate that it wasn't anything more than one of many films he had enjoyed over the years. Now I've been doing a little research on the list of Hitchcock's ten favourite films that he gave the US press in 1939. (It's published in Donald Spoto's 'The Life of Alfred Hitchcock', UK edition, 1983, p. 208.) So here it is. 1. Saturday Night (Cecil B. DeMille, 1922). 2. The Isle of Lost Ships (Maurice Tourneur, 1923; remade in 1929 by Irvin Willat, when the cast included Virginia Valli - who four years earlier had starred in Hitchcock's first feature, The Pleasure Garden). 3. Scaramouche (Rex Ingram, 1923, the French Revolution adventure tale starring Ramon Novarro). 4. Forbidden Fruit (Ivan Abramson, 1915; remade in 1921 by Cecil B. DeMille). 5. Sentimental Tommy (Toby Cooper, 1915, from the novel by J.M. Barrie, one of Hitchcock's favourite writers; remade in 1921 by John S. Robertson). 6. The Enchanted Cottage (John S. Robertson, 1924, from the play by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, another of Hitchcock's favourite writers). 7. Variety (E.A. Dupont, 1925, made in Germany and starring Emil Jannings). 8. The Last Command (Josef Von Sternberg, 1928, starring Emil Jannings). 9. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Mervyn LeRoy, 1932, starring Paul Muni - in 1950, Hitchcock named this as one of his favourite chase-films) 10. The Gold Rush (Charles Chaplin, 1925). Note the several patterns or connections there: e.g., two films directed by DeMille, two directed by John S. Robertson, and two starring Emil Jannings. Also, it's interesting that one of the films was directed by the great pictorialist Rex Ingram, who was David Lean's favourite director. Hitchcock once visited Ingram's studio, and learnt that Ingram's surname was actually 'Hitchcock'. Ingram advised him to change his name, as he had done, saying, 'You'll never get anywhere with a name like "Hitchcock"', but to no avail. And somehow Alfred Hitchcock did manage to become famous!

October 27 - 1999
After all (to follow up yesterday's entry), I find most Lacanian readings of Hitchcock to be unconvincing and tedious in explaining the films! They leave out so much! Yesterday I sent an email letter on this matter to an academic film-teacher friend, DC, a Jungian, who was sympathetic. (What I actually did was to refer to how a Glascow reviewer, mentioned here yesterday, had criticised my introducing Schopenhauer into a discussion of Hitchcock. 'So much', I wrote, 'for what, after years of "testing", I believe to stand up as an illuminating insight - more so than some of the Lacanian interpretations of Hitchcock I've seen imposed on his work. People don't seem to understand that "Schopenhauerianism" is something that exists as a reality independent of whether you've read him or not, and that it is a huge thing, far more than just a matter of a simplified description of Will as life-force.') I think that the matter of 'tone' in a film is important here. I find Lacanianism so toneless. By contrast, the note of sadness in Hitchcock's Vertigo, where it's brought to bear on a grim reality, as in the film's ambiguous ending with the mother-figure of the nun, is perfectly Schopenhauerian - as I had recently mentioned to DC, noting Schopenhauer's thesis of the world-as-suffering integrated by him with an 'ethics of pity'. Schopenhauer may be the Romantic philosopher par excellence, and Vertigo is nothing if not a Romantic film - as well as a critique of Romanticism, just as Schopenhauer's philosophy is (because it's also a critique of 'life'). Some of this is hinted at in my book. Speaking of which ... DC replied to my letter as follows. 'I am pleased and proud to be among [those] (as are you) who hear a different beat to the pulse of the world. Try not to be too discouraged [I'm not! - KM], for, like Hitchcock himself, the message will one day be heard. How many years did it take for the so-called reviewers/critics to recognize Hitch's genius? Remember the reviews he got on Marnie and The Birds, among others? Yours is a fantastic book ... - it is a deeply profound work and I can readily dismiss those who are too shallow to see its insights.' A different topic tomorrow, folks!

October 26 - 1999
In the Author's Note to my book, I say in passing, as a teaser, that the philosopher Schopenhauer anticipated Freud's notion of the Unconscious and that the title of Schopenhauer's book, 'The World as Will and Representation', seems to me to sum up Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), 'with its twin aspects of upwards striving and illusion'. ('Will', of course, refers to the life-force that is also a death-force, which is in everything - human willing is always subordinate to it, as Schopenhauer insisted.) So I was interested to see recently an interview (in 'Cineaste' magazine) with Canadian director David Cronenberg, in which he remarked that he reads 'a lot of philosophy. Schopenhauer, for example - "The World as Will and Representation". You could almost give [Cronenberg's movie Existenz] that title. It's about will and re-presentation.' I hope that a Scottish book reviewer named Gary Atkinson reads that interview with Cronenberg! In the only negative review of my book in the UK (so far!), Atkinson found 'tiresome' my allusions to Schopenhauer . He couldn't see what 'new insights into Hitchcock' they offered. (By contrast, Dan Auiler's review of my book that's on our New Publications page finds these allusions 'easily understandable (and quite convincing) throughout the text'.) I suggest to Atkinson that he look again at what I say about such films as The Skin Game, Lifeboat, To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and The Birds, and I defy him to say that the Schopenhauer references apropos each of those films don't give a perspective that is new and in keeping with the spirit of the films. Atkinson ends his book review (in the 'Glascow Sunday Herald', 1 July, 1999) by quoting Italian directoir Maurizio Nichetti on how 'making films is above all a marvellous game'. Well now, of course making films is a game, and one at which Hitchcock excelled. But I doubt very much that if you asked such directors as Chabrol, Bresson, or David Cronenberg - for three, all of whom I see as having traits in common with Hitchcock - whether they simply 'play games' in their films, that you would get 'yes' for an answer. Can Vertigo really be reduced to games-playing? And if it's not okay to cite Schopenhauer as someone who can illuminate Hitchcock, why is it okay to cite, say, the psychoanalyst Lacan? (The 'Lacanian' Slavoj Zizek was one of several Hitchcock exponents who were feted at the recent Hitchcock Conference in New York, organised by the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.)

October 25 - 1999
Today I think I'd just like to share with readers of this page what screenwriter Stirling Silliphant has said about working on a Hitchcock TV show, namely, the epidode "Voice in the Night" of the 'Suspicion' series, that Hitchcock himself was going to direct. (This comes from 'Backstory 3: Interviews with screenwriters of the 60s' [1997], edited by Patrick McGilligan, a review of which I'll put on our New Publications page soon.) Silliphant met with Hitchcock at the director's home, and was given a scotch and soda. Silliphant: 'I wouldn't trade the hour that followed for anything I can think of at the moment - except possibly - no, not even that. The man was BRILLIANT. He fucking dictated the script to me - shot by shot, including camera movements and opticals. He actually had already SEEN the finished film. He'd say, for example, "The camera's in the boat with the boy and the girl. The move in is very, very slow - while we see the [mysteriously] mossy side of the wrecked schooner. Bump. Now the boy climbs the ladder. I tilt up. I see him look at his hand. Something strange seems to have attached itself to it. He disappears on deck. Now the girl starts up, and I cut to the boy exploring the deck. I'm shooting through this foreground of - of stuff - and I'm panning him to the cabin door. Something there makes him freeze. He waits. Now the camera's over here, and I see the girl come to him. Give me about this much dialogue, Stirling." He holds up his hand, thumb and forefinger two inches apart. I jot down - "Dialogue, two inches." As I say, the whole goddamned film - shot by shot, no dialogue - just the measurements of how much dialogue and where he wanted it. He left its content to me, since there is no dialogue in the entire short story. It's all introspection and the memory of horror, and the writer didn't want to spoil it with dialogue. Lotsa luck, screenwriter. "Give me two inches of dialogue right here." ' (In the event, the episode was directed not by Hitchcock but by Arthur Hiller.)

October 21 - 1999
In view of recent entries here in which I've emphasised Oedipal situations operating in various Hitchcock films, it may be pertinent to note what screenwriter Evan Hunter (later replaced by Jay Presson Allen) told actress 'Tippi' Hedren about Marnie (1964). In 'Hitchcock's Notebooks' (edited by Dan Auiler, 1999), Hunter refers to how Marnie's childhood trauma stems from an Oedipal conflict. 'This means, in its simplest terms', says Hunter, 'that Marnie wants to go to bed with her father and considers her mother a rival for her love. Marnie's father, as we know, is a sailor aboard a ship somewhere in a battle zone.' And in the film's climactic flashback, a sailor is killed by the child Marnie. Hunter comments: 'Unhappily, this coincides with the death of her father at sea - an event which is never adequately explained to Marnie. In the child's mind, the death of the sailor in her bedroom and the death of her real father at sea become one.' (Later on, her behaviour is directed towards trying to find a more satisfactory, i.e. lasting, solution to the unresolved conflict she carries within her. Hunter notes, for example, that the horse Forio is a father-symbol.) Now, something about the climax of Marnie that interests me is the reference by Marnie's mother, Mrs Edgar, to her 'accident'. This provides another classic instance of Hitchcockian ambiguity (and over-determined meanings). The term 'accident' must surely refer to how Marnie was conceived, when Marnie's mother was still in her teens and was impregnated by a boy named Billy (who apparently later ran away to sea). But it can equally be taken to refer to Mrs Edgar's wounded leg which she got during the struggle with the sailor killed by Marnie. (Mrs Edgar elsewhere in the scene does in fact speak of her injury as her 'accident'.) Thus, subtly, Hitchcock links the word 'accident' to Mrs Edgar's feelings of guilt at Marnie's illegitimacy: her reference to going to hospital could apply to either 'accident', of course. Another point is this: Marnie kills the sailor when he appears to her to be assaulting her mother, thus effectively evoking for the audience the child's idea of 'the primal scene' (the parents' having sex, which a young child interprets as an assault by the father on the mother). As various commentators have noted, Hitchcock also invokes the primal scene to considerable effect in Rear Window (1954). I'm simply suggesting how incredibly rich Marnie is - and how comprehensive the catharctic effect that Hitchcock strives for, and (I think) attains, there.

October 20 - 1999
What I said yesterday about Hitchcock heroes who are indolent or passive at the start of the movie in which they appear was suggesting how Hitchcock implies that they unconsciously want something to happen (e.g., John Robie, a bachelor, with just a dumpy housekeeper and a cat for company, may tell himself that he is happy living in a 'travel folder heaven', yet a part of him knows that he's unjustly privileged and far from content, deep down). That said, i.e., with that qualification, the contention of the two writers of the article "Hitchcock's Mystery" (sse yesterday's entry) about Hitchcock heroes who wish nothing exciting would happen certainly has some truth to it. And as the writers say, this distinguishes such heroes from those who appear in the films of Hitchcock's imitators (the James Bond films, perhaps). Hitchcock's adventurers are typically amateurs rather than professionals. When I first read that, I was reminded of something quoted here a couple of weeks ago, a working principle of Hitchcock's concerning his appearances in his TV shows. Concerned to avoid the cliché, or doing the easy thing, he said that it would be a mistake 'to place me at the North Pole wearing an Eskimo suit. Rather, I should be at the Pole wearing a plain black suit, or a dinner jacket'. That makes for a certain surreal tension between person and setting. Likewise, by having characters(ambiguously) indolent or passive at the start of the films, there's a surreal contrast between what we see and what we guess is coming. A similar, and related, principle of contrast determines the look of shots in Lifeboat (1944), North by Northwest (1959), and The Birds (1963), where there's an incongruity between the appearance of the character (e.g., Tallulah Bankhead immaculately coiffed in mid-ocean, or Cary Grant wearing a business suit being strafed by a bi-plane in a cornfield, or a mannequin-like 'Tippi' Hedren rowing a rowboat) and his/her surroundings. All of this is distinctively Hitchcockian; you won't find it given as a 'rule' in any 'How to be a director' manual! How strange!

October 19 - 1999
An article called "Hitchcock's Mystery" by J. Bottum and Jonathan V. Last recently featured on the 'Weekly Standard' Web site. Among their points was this: 'The director's imitators often made films in which trouble is born from a character's wish that something exciting would happen. But, from Leslie Banks in The Man Who Knew Too Much [1934] to Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief [1955], the archetypal Hitchcock character is a man who wishes nothing exciting would happen.' I would make several comments about this statement, which I only partly agree with. First, Hitchcock would have been well aware of the tradition of a bored hero who then stumbles into adventures beyond his wildest imaginings. It was the tradition of the mystery and spy stories of Erskine Childers and John Buchan, which typically began with the hero bored in London. Nonetheless, the boredom (a very human feeling, which indeed often drives many of us to the movies to avoid or overcome it) implies its opposite: a wish that something exciting would happen. Hitchcock was merely being subtle when he made his heroes apparently indolent. Thus there's a hint that the marriage of Bob Lawrence (Leslie Banks) is undergoing some strain, and that his wife Jill (Edna Best) is starting to flirt with other men. Unstated, but implicit, is that Bob can either look around for a woman to flirt with in his turn (cf. the separate affairs of husband and wife in Rich and Strange) or he can vaguely hope for something to happen that will bring him and Jill back together. Likewise, John Robie appears indolent because he is actually 'resting' from his former daring exploits as circus acrobat, cat burglar, and wartime Resistance fighter. But we're told that he is only on parole, effectively a metaphor for his invisible inner restlessness (another perennial human feeling) that would spur him to clear his name and attain a pardon if he could. (As I say in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', these are virtual Kafkaesque metaphors.) Other examples of Hitchcock heroes who find themselves at the start of their respective films in a quandry about whether to act or not act include the world-weary Ivor Novello character in The Lodger (1926), the saddened and somewhat cynical Max De Winter in Rebecca (1940), and the injured photographer Jeff in Rear Window (1954). More tomorrow.

October 18 - 1999
Someone on one of the Internet's academic film forums recently raised the matter of the word 'cliff-hanger'. How old is it? Surprisingly, the first recorded use of the word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in 1937, when that year's volume of 'American Speech' (Vol. XII) defined cliff-hangers as a 'type of serial melodrama'. The following year, 'Time' printed an obituary of actor Warner Oland and referred to how he had played the villain 'who often threatened cinema death to daring, cliff-hanging Heroine [Pearl] White'. But of course suspenseful, cliff-hanging climaxes went back beyond the silent movies to both stage melodrama and fiction generally. See, for example, the essay on North by Northwest (1959) that's on this Web site, where a footnote notes in particular the case of the play 'Hearts Are Trumps' that was performed towards the end of the 19th century at London's Drury Lane Theatre. Hitchcock took over such a tradition almost as a matter of course, which is perhaps why there are variants on it in his films from The Lodger (1926) onwards - I'm thinking of the climactic scene where Ivor Novello hangs by a pair of handcuffs from some railings. In Blackmail (1929), the blackmailing villain falls to his death from the dome of the British Museum. Going even better (i.e., higher), the villain in Saboteur (1942) falls off the Statue of Liberty. That film is notable for a couple of related innovations. First, the object from which the villain falls has symbolic value in the film's plot (discussed briefly in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'). Secondly, the film's design sets up the climax in another way by featuring preceding scenes that contrast with it - the scenes in open, flat countryside at Tobin's ranch and in the ghost town called Soda City ('in the heart of the bicarbonate belt'). Such deliberate design occurs again in the ultimate Hitchcock cliff-hanger, North by Northwest, whose central scene is a dry, flat prairie, and whose climax on Mount Rushmore has hero, heroine, and villain all in danger of falling off. (For the climax's 'Oedipal' symbolism, see entry above for October 11.)

October 14 - 1999
This series of entries, since October 6, has tried to focus on Freudian imagery in Spellbound and Marnie, the (partial) subject of a thesis 'on dreaming and subconscious codes' being prepared by film student ND in England. Spellbound contains an overt dream-sequence, and the heroine of Marnie is haunted by nightmares whose cause is an incident in her childhood. As my book points out, Freud first reached the London stage in 1926, in a play called 'The Lash', which likewise revealed that a present-day mystery had its origin in a childhood trauma. That same year, the German film Secrets of a Soul also dealt with Freudian material; and avant-garde cinema (which Hitchcock kept in touch with: e.g., Cocteau's), painting, novels, etc., all soon began dealing with dreams and 'the Unconscious'. In the 1940s Hitchcock became fascinated with Freudian theory, though he was certainly aware of it from an earlier date. And one of the things that he would have noted is how Freud 'explained' a good deal of material that had been recurrent in the type of stories that Hitchcock filmed. Among such material, and perhaps basic, is the idea of a lost paradise and the corrupted garden. Such themes now gave the Catholic-raised Hitchcock a chance to combine Biblical and Freudian motifs - as in Spellbound. In 'The Interpretation of Dreams', Freud explains the notion of a lost paradise like this. Infancy, he says, is indeed a 'Paradise' (a theme also of English poets such as Wordsworth), corresponding to the 'unashamed period of childhood' which he defines as lasting until the third year of life. This period might equally be called the pre-Oedipal period, i.e., the period before the onset of the Oedipal crisis, in which the child vies with the parent of the same sex for the love of the other parent. Such themes are the staple of Spellbound and many later Hitchcock films. The snowfield in Spellbound at Gabriel Valley (see yesterday's entry) is that film's main image of the lost paradise and the corrupted garden, and it turns out that a murder took place there. In that film, as in so many others by Hitchcock, the ending is one of 'open-ended pessimism' (Father Neil Hurley's term). Significantly, another fine Hitchcock 'corrupted garden' film, Frenzy (1972), begins by mocking a glib politician who is quoting Wordsworth ('Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive') ...

October 13 - 1999
Water, then, is associated by Freud with the amniotic fluid, and thus with the mother; and the murderer in Kaleidoscope seems first to be aroused (or empowered) by the presence of water and then, reacting against such arousal, becomes a killer of successive women whom he presumably sees as endangering his still fundamental attachment to his mother ... Remarkably, this is the same behaviour syndrome that runs through various Hitchcock films from The Lodger to Psycho and Frenzy (1972). It is related to the broader and more usual Hitchcockian theme of a character's Oedipal difficulties (involving fear of 'castration' by the father). But water isn't only a Freudian symbol - at least, not in the narrow sense just indicated. Freud's 'oceanic feeling', though it incorporates the association with the womb, doesn't stop there. In the essay in my book on Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944), where I suggest that the ocean in the film effectively symbolises the world's Will (Schopenhauer's term for the life force that is also a death force), I quote from another film of the same year, Lewis Allen's The Uninvited. That film calls the sea 'a place of life and death and eternity, too'. It seems that some such association is meant in Hitchcock's Marnie, where the father of Marnie had run away to sea (according to a note written by the film's original screenwriter, Evan Hunter, and printed in Dan Auiler's 'Hitchcock's Notebooks'). There, the sea effectively represents the father, not the mother. And yet all of these Hitchcock films have a common theme of 'the lost paradise', a theme going back to Hitchcock's first film, The Pleasure Garden (1925) . If the sea in these films, already richly symbolic, often also carries a suggestion of such a lost (as opposed to found) paradise, in Spellbound the symbol of the lost paradise may be the snowfield known as Gabriel Valley (after the archangel Gabriel, whom Milton made 'Chief of the angelic guards' placed over Paradise). Again Freud is helpful, as I'll discuss tomorrow. Meanwhile, notice how very rich and flexible is the imagery Hitchcock is using in these various cases (cf. entry for October 6) ...

October 12 - 1999
Robin Wood's essay in which he describes Scottie's quest in Vertigo as a search for 'the lost breast', "Male Desire, Male Anxiety: The Essential Hitchcock", is in Deutelbaum and Poague's book, 'A Hitchcock Reader' (1986). There, Wood goes on to explain why the film's avowed 'motherly' character, Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes), can't represent Scottie's mother-ideal. But Freud's essay discussed yesterday shows that there's an extra reason or two, i.e., Midge's lack of attachment to another man, of any suggestion of ill repute, of any immediate need for being rescued ... Now, Freud has more to say on that last matter. The man's fantasy of rescuing a woman from water conflates 'rescue' with his own birth. Just as he was, at birth, 'fished from the waters' and given life, so would he now return that gift to his 'mother'. Sadly, though, the adult man's succession of attachments to mother-figures in this syndrome is bound to be endless because such surrogate 'mothers' can never match the unique original. Here one may think of The Lodger (1926), where the Ivor Novello character, who may be a murderer (the ending of the film keeps this ambiguous), is attracted to a succession of look-alikes of his dead sister - whose murder at her coming-out ball had coincided with the incipient death of the mother. (See 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'.) Probably, too, serial-murderer Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) is similarly motivated. (Again I discuss this in my book.) But the film that I most want to mention here, in the light of Freud's comment on the significance of water, is Kaleidoscope, which Hitchcock planned to make in the 1960s. As pointed out on our New Publications page on this Web site, the film's serial-murderer based on the real-life Neville Heath can only become sexually aroused when he's near water. One murder occurs near a waterfall; another occurs on a derelict ship. That's to say, the character represents one more in a line of Hitchcock's mother-preoccupied killers whose culmination is Norman Bates in Psycho (1960). Tomorrow I'll discuss Freud again in relation to Spellbound and Marnie.

October 11 - 1999
Art lecturer Victor Burgin pointed out in 1986 the relevance of Freud's essay "A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men" (1910) to Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). First, the particular love-object desired by men in the syndrome described by Freud is a woman already attached to some other man - her husband, fiancé, or close friend. In the case of Scottie in Vertigo, he falls in love with 'Madeleine', the wife of his old college chum, Gavin Elster. (Note that Scottie's fetishistic kind of love parallels a different type of fetishism shown by Mark Rutland in Marnie [1964] towards the thief Marnie precisely because she is a thief.) Next, the woman in Freud's syndrome is understood by the man to be of bad repute sexually: significantly, Madeleine seems fixated on her ancestor, Carlotta, whose illicit love affair and illegitimate child brought her to a sad end. Thirdly, the type of man described by Freud is invariably moved to 'rescue' the woman, and (this is something I'll come back to) among such rescue fantasies is rescue from water: Scottie, of course, rescues Madeleine from San Francisco Bay. Finally, Freud notes how the life of such a man may show a repetition of these attachments, each woman being 'an exact replica of the other': so, just as Madeleine models herself on Carlotta's portrait, Judy (again played by Kim Novak), with whom Scottie next falls in love, appears to be a 'ghost' of Madeleine, whom Scottie sets about remaking into a replica of her predecessors. Now, behind this pattern of repetition, Freud discerns (in Burgin's words) 'a primary scenario of male Oedipal desire for the mother ... already attached to the father, her sexual relations with whom bring her into ill repute in the eyes of her little rival for her love'. Applied to Vertigo, this interpretation gives support to, and amplifies, Robin Wood's description of the film as a search for 'the lost breast'. (One may also think of North by Northwest [1959] and how Thornhill finally attains the top of Mount Rushmore, even as he clambers across and thereby 'defaces' the Presidential father-figures that are carved there!) More tomorrow.

October 7 - 1999
Yesterday I showed how Freud effectively allowed that eyes might symbolise both female and male persons/genitalia. One beauty of Spellbound is that it clearly understands this, and takes advantage of it. (It also gives eyes further and/or related meanings, as I'll mention.) In the film's dream sequence, based on designs by Surrealist painter Salvador Dali, a man goes around around a gambling hall with a huge pair of scissors, cutting a succession of eyes painted on drapes. First of all, of course, this echoes the 'copulation symbolism' of the Dali/Buñuel film Un chien andalou (1928), where a man's straight-razor slashes a woman's eyeball. The man with the scissors in Spellbound is played by actor Norman Lloyd who, earlier in the film, has been seen as the patient Mr Garmes at the Green Manors mental home, where he is diagnosed as suffering from a guilt complex (he thinks that he killed his father). This is symbolic of a male person's Oedipus complex that has been unsuccessfully negotiated, and which is basic to both this film (the Gregory Peck character, too, has an Oedipal problem) and to many Hitchcock films to come (where the hero must defeat a father-figure in order to win the woman, as in Rear Window and North by Northwest, for example). Firstly, then, the man with the scissors is asserting his 'virility' and symbolically performing a succession of sex acts on women. But, equally, he is taking revenge for his previous abject condition at Green Manors and is symbolically attacking that institution's predominantly male staff - Dr Murchison (Leo G. Carroll) interprets the eyes as representing the guards at Green Manors. (But notice that even when the man with the scissors has slashed away all of the eyes on the drapes, he is still not 'free' - an even larger eye than before, like the eye of God, perhaps, remains to stare at him/watch over him.) All of this is relevant to the Gregory Peck character's Oedipal and other problems, and it is his dream that we are experiencing. Next time: the water-symbolism that Hitch got from Freud ...

October 6 - 1999
A film student has asked me for information on Spellbound (1945) and Marnie (1964) and their 'references to Freud's theories on dreaming and subconscious codes'. I wrote a long analysis of Spellbound in 'MacGuffin' 15, where I began by saying that essential reading on that film includes articles by Andrew Britton (in 'CineAction' 3/4) and James Bigwood (in 'American Cinematographer', June 1991). (Some of their findings, as well as some of my own, are incorporated in my piece on Spellbound in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'.) I think that the film is vastly underrated, and you still see complacent dismissals of it by 'sophisticated' people who have read some Freud and say that Hitchcock was being 'obvious'. But that is to make the same error that critics have long made, at least until recently, apropos Pabst's Secrets of a Soul (1926): they saw the film's psychoanalytic content as being confined to its clinical scenes where a knife phobia is discussed, and failed to spot how the very structure and telling of the story also shows Freud's influence, and is often subtle and nuanced. Anyway, something I'll be advising my inquirer to heed is the flexibility of Freud's 'dream interpretations'. For example, there's the symbolism of 'eyes'. In 'The Interpretation of Dreams' (1899), having drawn his classic distinction between symbolic objects that are long and stiff - invariably male - and symbolic objects that are hollow - invariably female - Freud adds: 'The genitals can also be represented in dreams by other parts of the body: the male organ by a hand or a foot and the female genital orifice by the mouth or an ear or even an eye.' Yet in the same work (and also in his famous essay on "The Uncanny"), Freud allows that eyes may also be male symbols, as when he tells us, 'The blinding in the legend of Oedipus, as well as elsewhere, stands for castration.' And, I would say, both meanings of eyes exist simultaneously (by a process of over-determination) in Spellbound. I'll give details tomorrow, and also mention another essay of Freud's that is relevant to water-symbolism in Vertigo (1958), Marnie, and the unmade Kaleidoscope ...

October 5 - 1999
His knowledge of details of all the famous crimes and trials in England - knowledge that he knew by heart, very often - was surely one of Hitchcock's 'secret' resources as a filmmaker, for many of those details went into his films. (One quick example: the jewellery that betrays Judy's guilt to Scottie in Vertigo recalls how the murderer Crippen was betrayed when jewellery that had belonged to his vanished wife was seen being worn by another lady, Crippen's mistress: a variant of the same detail occurs in Rear Window, of course.) Furthermore, what crime novelist, short story writer, and columnist Anthony Boucher said about detective stories - invoking Hamlet's reference to 'the abstracts and brief chronicles of the time' - applies just as well to the sort of crime reports that were carried regularly by English newspapers, and which the young Hitchcock used to read. Those reports, especially of murder trials, often gave fascinating or revealing details of the intimate daily lives of the typically average people who were called to the stand, and of the sort of milieu they lived in. Hitchcock once named the Adelaide Bartlett case as his 'favourite' murder case, and one can see why. Not only did it have the 'sensational' outcome that has helped make the case a classic - Mrs Bartlett was acquitted of killing her husband by administering chloroform to him, though it seems clear that she and her lover, a Reverend Dyson, were responsible - but the case also provided plenty of insights into the bizarre modus vivendi the three people had shared until Mr Bartlett's death. For example, it seems that Mr Bartlett, who had stopped having sexual relations with his wife, was perfectly agreeable to have the Rev. Dyson visit his home, though he well knew what was going on between his visitor and his wife. Hitchcock's detailed knowledge of crime, forensics, and related matters also stood him in good stead in other ways as a filmmaker. For example, I'm sure that the closeup in Foreign Correspondent (1940) of the fake Van Meer's face at the moment of his assassination was based on a suitable photograph from some textbook of forensic medicine, or similar, like one I once came across in a university Law Faculty library ...

October 4 - 1999
One thing I'm not quite sure is correct in a recent "Editor's Day" entry (on September 28) is where I say that 'respectable' people didn't (or don't) think about something like murder except in a 'safe', distanced way via sensational reports of trials, etc. That needs qualifying. Hitchcock grew up in a class-stratified English society where the popular newspapers, especially the Sunday ones, regularly carried long reports of crimes and trials, and the more 'juicy' and sensational, the better! These reports by the tabloid press were widely read by the working- and middle-classes. (Among those readers was Hitchcock.) And English fiction, much of it itself quite 'respectable', such as that of Dickens, Collins, Doyle, Hichens, et al., had traditionally resorted to sensation and melodrama, and some of it even drew readers from the upper classes. Hitchcock, though, probably came to realise that the very fact that in England crime was often 'sensationalised' (not least in reports of dramatic court cases, where the prosecution may have been led by someone like the histrionically-inclined Marshall-Hall) was a factor in removing its more mundane side, the very banality of evil, from sympathetic public appreciation. Also, when Hitchcock first arrived in America, he encountered a problem of which he sometimes complained afterwards: that his type of thriller/suspense genre was looked down on by a lot of 'respectable' people, including producers and actors, whereas in England such material had become perfectly acceptable and, yes, 'respectable'. So he had to tread carefully. Even in the 1950s, the topic of murder on American cinema and television screens had to be leavened by stylisation (as film noir, etc.), humour, moralising commentary (or mock-moralising commentary), and so forth. And here's an instance of how 'respectability' even gets in the way of scholarship, including Hitchcock scholarship. When I read Leonard Leff's 'Hitchcock and Selznick' (1988) a few years ago, I was bemused by how he didn't even bother to identify the famous murder case/s on which The Paradine Case (1947) was based. It took some assiduous work before I finally found out for myself the full, fascinating details. With suitable irony, when I put them into 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' recently (and referred to them on an academic Internet site), I got an appreciative email from a lady in the Law Library of the University of Texas saying how grateful she was! More tomorrow.

September 30 - 1999
Finally, then, let's come back to where this little discussion began (on September 23). Robert Schoen had quoted to me Hitchcock's parting lines at the end of the episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' called "The Vanishing Trick". 'Because these programs are recorded on film', we hear Hitchcock say, 'and will probably be seen by viewers many years from now, I would like to make a request to those of you in the audience who are watching this in the year 2000. Please write and tell us what life is like then. I'm very curious.' The lines provide a suitable finalé for an episode called "The Vanishing Trick", as they hint (like Vertigo, made the same year) at the eerie way in which people come and go, at the whole sad business of mortality. (Cf. the nun's 'valediction' at the end of Vertigo, 'I heard voices ... God have mercy', a suitable last line for what is effectively another of Hitchcock's 'ghost-stories', like Rebecca and The Wrong Man and Marnie.) I suggested to Robert that the lines at the end of the TV episode provide a good instance of Hitchcock's capacity to toy with an audience, to leave them feeling vaguely pleased that he has opened up something where nothing was before, based on the fact that most everyday discourse and 'meaning' is shallow, mere 'representation' of the invisible, fuller reality that is 'Will'. This capacity of Hitchcock's was always part of his stock-in-trade, available to him in much the same way as some artists had access to 'techniques' of their own (e.g., Picasso's brilliant draftsmanship - as seen in Clouzot's fine film The Picasso Mystery [1956]) to build their works around. In effect, this 'nuancing' of his films by Hitchcock is what we've been discussing here recently ...

September 29 - 1999
Of course, audiences can always tell themselves, in watching a Hitchcock film, 'he's only joking!' Hitchcock was careful to establish the joking tone early in most of his films (I exclude something like The Wrong Man, obviously), as in his use, very often, of his cameo appearances to precisely that end. In Psycho, he nonchalantly admires his star Janet Leigh as she passes him at the entrance to Lowery's realty office. (We chortle at spotting him in his Texan hat, and simultaneously notice that assessing glance he gives her!) He does something similar in Marnie as 'Tippi' Hedren passes him in a hotel corridor, and then Hitch glances back at the camera/us as if to say, 'Interesting?' Even more ambiguous is his cameo in The Birds. There, 'Tippi' is whistled at by a small boy, then a moment later Hitch passes her at the entrance to a pet shop, but is 'innocently' preoccupied with walking his two pet dogs. But, as I say, this joking tone has a tendentious purpose, as Freud might describe it. Inside the pet shop in The Birds, Mitch (Rod Taylor) asks Melanie ('Tippi'), 'Doesn't this make you feel awful ... keeping birds in cages?' Melanie appears to misunderstand him as she replies, 'Well, we just can't let them fly around the shop, can we?' But Hitch has nonetheless implanted the idea, around which the film will revolve, that humankind's treatment of birds has been pretty thoughtless and smug and cruel, and continues to be so - a point that we can just see as a joking one, if we wish. (The film's trailer works similarly.) On the other hand, the film can be seen to be making a serious observation about human nature and its egotism and rapaciousness - all products of what Schopenhauer called the world's 'Will' - and whether we like (or know) it or not, the film does put us in a bemused or conflicted state of mind that is very Hitchcockian, acceptable largely only because of the humour and suspense involved. Concluded tomorrow!

September 28 - 1999
Notice from yesterday's entry that once Hitchcock had found a principle that 'worked', such as that of incongruity, he was free to keep on using it thereafter, and to develop it. That particular principle, and related ones, such as the use of dramatic contrast, he had used as early as The Lodger (1926), in which a big city (London) conceals a lone killer known as 'The Avenger', and in which the killer, who appears to be from an upper-class background, is shown hiding out in the home of a respectable but impoverished middle-class family, the Buntings. And of course the more sound working principles that Hitchcock 'discovered', the richer and more satisfying his films became. Perhaps it was alsoThe Lodger that first showed him that murder is just one of the things that 'respectable' people don't really think about, except in 'safe', distanced ways, such as via sensational newspaper reports; and that society is like this in all kinds of ways. In the same year that The Lodger came out, Freud was just reaching the London stage, in a play called 'The Lash'. From Freud's notion of repression, Hitchcock would eventually learn much about audiences - and quite possibly himself - that he then put into his films. By the time he started making his television appearances in 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', whose staple fare was murder (one murder in at least nearly every episode), he had fully learned the importance of humour and suspense (a closely related thing) in rendering such matters tasteful rather than distasteful to audiences. Another case-in-point of how society can't, or doesn't, face the truth about itself, arises in films like Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963) with their 'joking' references to humankind's unthinking, callous ill-treatment of animals and birds, etc. (see, for example, my discussion of the Psycho pesticide scene in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story') - which if you know your Schopenhauer or Peter Singer, can be seen for its parallels with Nazism's blind-eye turning, murderousness, etc. Hitchcock was not a shallow director, and audiences have always sensed (or half-sensed) this, and appreciated it. More tomorrow.

September 27 - 1999
Robert Schoen and I got talking after the last "Editor's Day" item (see above). Robert has been reading the out-of-print book 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Illustrated Guide to the Ten-Year Television Career of the Master of Suspense' (1985) by John McCarty and Brian Kelleher, and comparing its synopses of the individual episodes with the shows themselves. We both feel that the book has an excellent introductory chapter of some 50 pages, but Robert has found that the synopses leave a lot to be desired - 'full of mistakes and giving no flavor whatsoever of the episode's drama'. A passage in the Introduction that I like describes what Hitchcock brought to the series when it began on Sunday October 2, 1955. The director 'was determined not to come across as your average master of ceremonies. In the words of writer Richard Gehman, he sought to twinkle like a jovial undertaker.' (Almost like a character from Dickens, I might add. Think of the undertaker Mr Sowerberry in 'Oliver Twist' whose 'features were not naturally intended to wear a smiling aspect, [and yet] he was in general rather given to professional jocosity.') '"If the shows were going to be macabre, what I wanted was the counterpoint of humor to introduce them," Hitchcock insisted. His total image, he felt, had to be one of incongruity [my emphasis]. "It would be a mistake, for example, he said, "to place me at the North Pole wearing an Eskimo suit. Rather, I should be at the Pole wearing a plain black suit, or a dinner jacket.' (p. 36) This of course was a principle that Hitchcock had already applied to his movies such as Rope (1948), in which a cruel and senseless murder is soon followed by a cocktail party hosted by the murderers themselves in their elegant Park Avenue apartment; and which he would apply again, as in North by Northwest (1959) where Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) wearing a grey Madison Avenue suit is menaced by a lethal biplane in the middle of a Midwest cornfield. More tomorrow.

September 23 - 1999
Robert Schoen ('Hitch and Alma') has tonight sent me a little message headed 'Metaphysical Hitch'. Robert was watching an episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' the other day, an episode called "The Disappearing Trick" originally aired on 6 April, 1958, i.e., around the time that Vertigo was released. The story, about a swindling, was written by novelist Victor Canning, whose 'The Rainbird Pattern' was later filmed by Hitchcock as Family Plot (1976). (Canning was an Englishman who began writing suspense and spy fiction after World War Two. The 'Reader's Digest' once called him one of the six finest thriller writers in the world.) What particularly struck Robert was something Hitchcock says at the end of the episode: 'Because these programs are recorded on film and will probably be seen by viewers many years from now, I would like to make a request to those of you in the audience who are watching this in the year 2000. Please write and tell us what life is like then. I'm very curious.' Wonderful! The remark, probably scripted for Hitch by the remarkable James Allardice, is whimsically sad, as if it were picking up on Hitchcock's beloved 'Mary Rose', the play by J.M. Barrie, with its sense of the impossibility of halting time's flow - except, that is, in an author's imagination, where an out-of-time character like Mary Rose (or a viewer of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' in the year 2000!) may be conjured up. This is Hitchcock, the Romantic artist and creator, sharing his vision of the larger picture with his audience, as he also does in Vertigo (where Scottie, who has 'artistic' feelings awakened beyond those of his brassière-designing girlfriend Midge, finally loses his inspirational 'muse', Madeleine, to a very worldly death - a fall from a high tower). By the way, Robert Schoen notes that the actor who plays the husband in "The Disappearing Trick" is the same actor who plays the psychiatrist in Vertigo.

September 22 - 1999
Someone asked me recently about the re-make of Hitchcock's The Lodger (itself made in 1926 for Gainsborough) that appeared in 1932, again starring Ivor Novello. This was directed by Maurice Elvey for Twickenham. According to Charles Barr's 'English Hitchcock' (1999), the guilty party proves this time to be the lodger's twin brother, also played by Novello. Two other versions (scarcely re-makes) of the story later appeared. The first was John Brahm's version in 1944 for Twentieth Century Fox, starring Laird Cregar, in which the lodger is guilty of the murders (as in the original novel by Mrs Belloc Lowndes). Later there was The Man in the Attic (1953) directed by Hugo Fregonese and starring Jack Palance, again made for Twentieth Century Fox. The lodger is again guilty. Meanwhile, in 1940, Hitchcock had directed a radio version of the story, starring Herbert Marshall, Edmund Gwenn (in the role played by his half-brother, Arthur Chesney, in the original film), and Lurene Tuttle (who, twenty years later, would play Mrs Al Chambers in Psycho). This time the lodger's guilt was left indeterminate - which, I would argue, is how the 1926 film also ends, if you watch, and think about, it closely. (See 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'.) Because the 1944 and 1953 films were not really re-makes of Hitchcock's original film, that leaves the record for the most re-makes of a Hitchcock film with Shadow of a Doubt (1943), which has been re-made three times. (Again, details are in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'.) There's an irony - or an instructive lesson - in that, inasmuch as Shadow of a Doubt is in several ways Hitch's own, American re-make of The Lodger. (Think, for example, of how both both stories concern a serial-murderer, who is given a double, hiding out in the home of an average, middle-class family.)

September 21 - 1999
Recently added to our 'New Publications' page is a review of a round-table discussion with five Hitchcock actresses. A peculiar item of information to emerge is that, following an operation, Hitchcock was left without a belly-button - a piece of trivia which answers a question sent to me earlier in the year by a Dutch correspondent. (When I sent him the answer recently, he didn't bother to reply. Hmm.) Apparently, Hitch took pleasure in showing off his 'difference' to someone like actress Karen Black (Family Plot), who needed cheering up one day. That reminds me of something that may shock some readers. According to Australian film scholar Dr Brian McFarlane, who once interviewed Madeleine Carroll (The 39 Steps, Secret Agent), Hitch was dismayed soon after starting work with her, because she seemed to him too staid for his purposes. (This chimes with an observation of Michael Powell, reported in his 'A Life in Movies', about when he saw Carroll near the beginning of her film career - about 1929.) Failing to get from Carroll the startled reaction he needed for a particular shot, Hitch told his cameraman to start filming and then, without warning, 'exposed himself' to the actress. Her look of horror was exactly what the shot required ... Perhaps not coincidentally, Hitchcock gave an interview to 'Film Weekly' at this time. 'You see,' he noted, 'just as I try to make a woman human by making her appear in awkward and comic situations and taking away her glamour, so I try to keep the whole film on a human level, with emotions mixed in the incongruous way they are in real life.' As I see it, Hitch's emphasis on the 'human' in his films was an enlightened one. The fact that some actresses of the period were too 'lady-like' for their own good says something about the English class-system then prevailing. That stories of Hitch's 'misogyny' began at about the same time doesn't seem to me to make them 'true'. Arguably, Hitch was trying to 'liberate' women. And, as far as his films were concerned, just about any means to achieve the desired effect was warranted!

September 20 - 1999
It was nice to hear recently from an elderly Dr Theodore (Ted) Price, author of the shamefully-neglected (though still sometimes plagiarised-from) book, 'Hitchcock and Homosexuality' (1992), whose real theme is expressed in its sub-title: 'His 50-Year Obsession with Jack the Ripper and the Superbitch Prostitute - A Psychoanalytic View'. Price sees the theme of retribution against promiscuous women in The Lodger (1925) as paradigmatic of much of Hitchcock's later work - and I find it easy to agree with him. Dr Price was kind enough to send me a message saying that his book, currently out-of-print, was 'not reviewed intelligently (if at all) except by kind and knowledgeable people like Ken Mogg'. In gratitude, he has sent along material by him on Marnie (1964) with permission for us to print it in a forthcoming 'MacGuffin'. (Dr Price has also said that we may reprint his chapter on Torn Curtain [1966] from his book, 'because I do not think anyone to this minute has interpreted the film that way even though, as is well known, the storyline is based on two famous British homosexuals [the 'moles' Burgess and Maclean] at the time'. ) Further, he has sent notes on a college course on Hitchcock that he recently prepared. Price's thoughts on the film The Manxman (1929) chime with my own. He observes, as I also have, that Anny Ondra's line to her lover, 'We're free', on hearing of the drowning of Pete (Carl Brisson), her would-be husband, pre-echoes a similar moment in I Confess (1953). Price notes further similarities to moments in Strangers on a Train (1951) and The Paradine Case (1947). To those, I would add a moment in Topaz (1969) when unfaithful wife Nicole Dévereaux (Dany Robin) tells lover Jacques Granville (Michel Piccoli), 'I'm a free woman' - though all the events in the film go to show that freedom is an illusion. (See 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'.) This 'pessimism' is characteristic of Hitchcock's work, though it is not absolute - individuals, Hitchcock seems to intimate, may sometimes make their own freedom. Price's observation to his students is, 'You can see here how the Recurrent Theme method can illuminate key aspects of an artist's work.'

September 16 - 1999
Thanks to DA who comments about the entries of the past two days: 'Whether Hitch was really influenced by [Wilkie] Collins (and I think it more than likely he was) really isn't the point. It's fascinating to me to see how similarly these artists approach various moments - or more importantly, what changes they made.' Yes, I agree. That is indeed something I've been trying to do, to make a simple comparison or analogy between two scenes, or a real-life event and how Hitchcock appears to have adapted it to his film, thereby leaving the reader free and detached (rather than committed to some 'theory' or other) in order that she (or he) may draw her own inferences about Hitchcock's creative input and choices. I have always disliked being forced to interpret a film via some elaborate (Freudian, Lacanian, Lyotardian ...) schema, when you know darn well that such a schema excludes more than it encompasses - even the best of schema. So I try to use abstract theories and schemata as little as possible, more for reference-points than for underpinning! After all, Hitchcock himself was not given to abstraction. ('Directors who lose control are concerned with the abstract', he told Truffaut.) And I like Dr Samuel Johnson's defence for his use of comparisons and similes: 'They give you two things for the price of one, sir.' But RW has a further criticism of my "Vertigo and its Sources" article. He writes: 'Your perceptions (often dubious, as I have intimated ...) are interesting and ingenious, but they don't seem to me to lead to any new insights that are valuable beyond the "Oh, isn't that interesting - Hitchcock got that bit from [William] Dieterle" syndrome - which really tells me nothing new about Foreign Correspondent.' I must say that I find this, very largely, unfair. If you look at the article, it isn't about Foreign Correspondent but about Vertigo. The earlier film is cited only for how it indicates a knowledge by Hitchcock of Dieterle's work (specifically The Life of Emile Zola [1937]), because I later want to show a likely influence of another Dieterle film (Portrait of Jennie [1948]) on Vertigo. As noted yesterday, I have analysed the many influences on Foreign Correspondent in another, separate article.

September 15 - 1999
Above all, in comparing respective scenes from Wilkie Collins's 'The Moonstone' and Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief - both works about jewel thefts (something to which I'll come back) - I intuit a direct connection; and I am disappointed that RW doesn't give me credit for that. Intuition, which clearly Hitchcock himself set store on (it is a theme of such films as Rear Window and Frenzy), isn't, if intelligently taken up, a mere whimsical device in lieu of a 'better' kind of analytical film criticism. It is a way of allowing a deep critical involvement in a director's work where nuances in that work begin to stand out that are denied to more casual reviewers (nuances of the sort that I like to think I often share in this "Editor's Day" feature), nuances that begin to whisper a secret connectiveness, and point to hidden structures. I've noted above how To Catch a Thief is about jewels and jewel robbery, as is Collins's 'The Moonstone'. What I've often noticed is how Hitchcock was himself sensitive to these images or motifs at the centre of his films and to the 'genre' features involved. In 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', I observe that the very title To Catch a Thief comes, via David Dodge's novel, from one of E.W. Hornung's famous stories of Raffles, the jewel thief. I don't think that Hitchcock was oblivious to this - he was too well versed in the rich tradition of English crime, mystery and thriller fiction, of which the Raffles stories are a celebrated part. Likewise, Collins's 'The Moonstone' is another part of that same tradition. Nor does RW give me credit, I fear, for my ongoing efforts to open up Hitchcock's films to reveal this sort of 'borrowing' that was indeed a crucial part of Hitchcock's filmmaking method - in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' (and in 'MacGuffin' 16), I note of Foreign Correspondent (1941) that it contains at least ten 'borrowings' from other films (not counting Hitchcock's own), including two from producer Walter Wanger and two from Gaumont-British. In addition, Foreign Correspondent contains several important 'literary' borrowings of the sort I've attributed to To Catch a Thief. More tomorrow.

September 14 - 1999
Correspondent RW has read my article on "Vertigo and its Sources" (it's on this site) and found it 'at times ... fanciful'. He cites the opening paragraph, in which I note how the scene in To Catch a Thief (1955) where Francie (Grace Kelly) suddenly invades the bedroom of Robie (Cary Grant) with an anguished demand that he 'give them back - Mother's jewels!' may recall a famous episode in fiction, 'the central incident of William Wilkie Collins's great mystery-story about a jewel, "The Moonstone" (1868)'. '[W]hy', asks RW, 'should such an elementary, almost hackneyed, psychological insight be attributed to the influence on Hitchcock (or his screenwriter perhaps) of Wilkie Collins?' (The 'elementary ... psychological insight' is presumably how jewelery may be a sexual symbol. In Freud, bags and jewelery are generally interpreted that way. In the famous case of Dora, in Dora's dream, her mother's jewel-case is kept on her bedpost ... Cf Sarah Street, "Hitchcockian Haberdashery", in the 'Hitchcock Annual', 1995-96, p. 36, n.8.) I'll answer RW as follows. First of all, as a footnote in my article notes, Hitchcock had recently encountered the work of Collins when his daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, had been heard in a radio production of 'The Moonstone' on 16 November, 1953. Secondly, Hitchcock is on record (see Father Neil Hurley, 'Soul in Suspense', 1993, p. 293) that he considered Collins 'quite brilliant'. Thirdly, the similarity of the two episodes - in 'The Moonstone' and To Catch a Thief - is striking. Recall that the scene in the film follows hard on the preceding fireworks episode, another 'hackneyed' moment (similar symbolism occurs in Basil Dearden's Saraband for Dead Lovers [1948] and David Lean's Summertime [1955]), implying that Francie and Robie have made love - in spectacular fashion! In the Collins novel, the bedroom episode takes place late at night, and in the heroine's bedroom this time, 'when her tacit acquiescence in the theft of her valuable becomes hysterical reaction by morning' (Anthea Trodd). Fourthly, RW might have noted that I never actually claim that there was a direct influence of Collins on Hitchcock - only that the respective episodes are alike, and that there's other evidence for Collins's influence on the English filmmaker. More tomorrow.

September 13 - 1999
In I Confess (1953), Hitchcock shows Madame Grandfort (Anne Baxter) married to her politician husband Pierre (Roger Dann) but not loving him - because she continues to love her former sweetheart, the no longer available Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift), who has become a priest. Just why Logan became a priest is never spelt out, but it's implied, I think, that the War, in which Logan served with distinction as a soldier, hastened his decision, showing him his vocation - warfare serves in the film as one of several metaphors of the folly and destructiveness of men. (The Quebec City locale, with its monuments and landmarks such as the Château Frontenac, is used to invoke that city's past miltary history. This prefigures Vertigo ...) In turn, there's a sense in which Madame Grandfort's continuing (romantic) love for Michael offers a parallel to Michael's own sense of vocation. Their love for each other, which the film idealises in a famous flashback scene, is destined never to be fulfilled; this is itself a Hitchcock metaphor for 'the lost paradise'. But that Madame Grandfort's love for Michael is based in fantasy is implied, for example, by how she comes to think that he may even have killed (the blackmailing lawyer Vilette) for her. (Cf Strangers on a Train where young Babs tells her sister Anne, 'I think it would be wonderful to have a man so in love with you that he'd kill for you.') Near the end of the film, when the truth is finally revealed, Madame Grandfort turns abruptly to her husband and says, 'Take me home, Pierre.' She doesn't even seem concerned any more that Michael's life is still in danger as he confronts the real killer, Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse), inside the Château Frontenac. Discussing this in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', I note that the Madame Grandfort character is like the character Yvonne in Hitchcock's Aventure Malgache (1944) who, disregarding the surrounding War, wants only to keep her lover to herself. (The setting of this scene, in Yvonne's boudoir, implies the selfishness, in an absolute sense, of what she asks.)

September 8 - 1999
James Robertson's wonderful little book of poems inspired by Hitchcock, mentioned above, includes short items (including a sonnet about Marnie), lyrical pieces, and, most typically, dramatic monologues. I'll review the book on our New Publications page within a day or so. Meanwhile, here's the book's shortest item (apart from a 'hitchku' on the back cover), called "MacGuffin": 'That peculiar thing the MacGuffin,/A device to convey or hide stuff in,/Whether bulky or small/Has no substance at all/And if somebody has one they're bluffin'.' All keen Hitchcock buffs will want this book! Called 'I Dream of Alfred Hitchcock', it has 24 pages, and is illustrated. It can be ordered for £2.50 per copy (or £9 for four copies, or £10 for five copies) from the author and publisher, James Robertson, 8 South Street, Kingskettle, Fife KY 15 7PL, Scotland (telephone 01337 831129; email kett@cranrobertson.sol.co.uk). Thoroughly recommended!

September 7 - 1999
One's early encounters with Hitchcock's films were, for many of us, impressive. For reader JR, the film that began her fascination with Hitchcock was The 39 Steps (1935): 'it was a wonderful film ... the suspense ... not knowing who was the friend or the foe ... being blamed for something that you didn't do ...'. For this writer, the decisive early encounter was with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). I was a kid in Melbourne, Australia, and some of us one evening attended a screening at a local scout hall in Caulfield. The film was on 16mm, and there was only one projector, which meant that there were breaks at the end of each reel for re-threading. I think that there were three breaks altogether, and the suspense, even after the first, was enormous! The audience, including a lot of adults, groaned out loud each time, impatient for the film to re-start! I still remember the tingling feelings of scariness from that evening and the momentous excitement of the Albert Hall scene! On television at about the same time I saw Spellbound (1945) and The Paradine Case (1947), and again was impressed. And when I saw North by Northwest (1959) at a cinema, I couldn't get the film out of my mind. The lonely prairie scene, with the plane coming out of nowhere to attack Cary Grant, was something that just seemed astounding to me! Afterwards, I kept re-running the film inside my head, out of delighted disbelief. Someone else who must have been impressed by Hitchcock at an early age was Scottish poet James Robertson. He has just published a little book of poems called 'I Dream of Alfred Hitchcock', and it is excellent, at times brilliant. I'll review the book on this site soon, and give publication details. One of the poems is based on The Birds (1963), only it's about a lady poet who is attacked by flocks of ... words! A wonderful thing about the book is that it brings back so much of one's early inchoate delight at the films.

September 6 - 1999
In 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', I note of Strangers on a Train (1951) how 'the structure and imagery of the murder sequence is classically Freudian, even to the way it follows Freud's formula for telling a "tendentious" or sexual joke'. I'm referring to how the sequence, tinged with sexual anticipation (Miriam's come-ons to Bruno, the Tunnel of Love episode, the necking couples on the island), slowly builds to the murder, with at least one false climax when Miriam screams but only because one (or both) of the young men in her boat has been 'trying it on' with her. Freud's point about telling a sexual joke was that it needs to be quite elaborate in order to prepare the listener to accept the final innuendo or punch-line: each lesser climax or 'joke' frees (or de-cathexes) a further charge of psychic energy in the listener for use at the joke's pay-off. So, apropos the murder sequence in Hitchcock's film, I quote Danny Peary's excellent description of how the viewer is worked over: 'Miriam's murder comes shortly after we wrongly thought she'd be killed in the Tunnel of Love and shortly before we next expect it to happen.' The sudden final outcome - the murder - maximises the viewer's 'pleasure' with minimum dispersal of the viewer's mental energy after the build-up. Hitchcock was a gifted story-teller even off the set. His fondnss for regaling listeners with stories - including the plots of films he was working on - is well known. I like David Freeman's account in 'The Last Days of Alfred Hitchcock' (1984, now in paperback): 'He kept his listener attentive by letting his story unfold slowly, with several false climaxes. As he spoke, he managed to look both at his listener and look away, as if into his memory. The listener's task was to wait out the pauses until he chose to go on. It was like a duel. The stories were often like shaggy dog stories, interesting but [seemingly] not heading anywhere special. The point of the false climax was to keep a viewer alert. If you laughed, or gasped, or whatever, at a false climax ... [Hitch] would move on anyway, to a slightly more intense false climax.' And so on.

September 2 - 1999
I'm not sure how this entry is going to turn out! It concerns (I think) mainly Marnie (1964). Recently I was reading the 19th-century 'suspense' novel 'The Dead Secret' (first published 1857) by Wilkie Collins, as mentioned above on July 18. At the centre of the situation in the novel is a character, Sarah Leeson, whose 'secret' is that she has mothered a 'love-child' which had been raised by someone else, now dead, who has passed the child off as her own. Years afterwards, Sarah is haunted by the memory of what had happened. She feels that the dead woman might return to chastise her for not keeping a death-bed promise to inform the woman's husband of the truth. Sarah is heard asking, 'Uncle! Do you believe that the dead can come back to this world, and follow the living everywhere, and see what they do in it?' A ghost-story situation, in short. Just a page or so earlier, the haunted Sarah has been feeling so low that she has exclaimed, 'I'm not like other people. I seem never to have grown up in my mind, since I was a little child.' All of this reminded me of how like a ghost-story Marnie is. Like Sarah, Marnie is haunted by an event that happened long ago (and which, in Marnie's case, she now scarcely recalls). Sarah often looks into dark corners, in fear of what she may discover there. This is like when Marnie cowers from lightning flashes or from the colour red. And Sarah's feeling that she is still like a little girl has more than one echo in Marnie, even to identical dialogue about Marnie's not being like other people. Hitchcock's film, interestingly, links this to sexual repression - I think that Hitchcock has always sensed that freedom-to-be-human and release from sexual inhibition are related matters. In Spellbound (1945), the initially cold and repressed Constance (Ingrid Bergman) has a comic line in which, Garbo-like, she tells a suitor that her own 'desires and pulsations' in no way resemble his. Conclusions? That Freud has allowed someone like Hitchcock to smuggle the form of the ghost-story into his filmmaking under another guise, that of the psychological thriller. Contrariwise, that there was always a lot of psychology in some ghost-stories.

September 1 - 1999
In 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', I write about Hitchcock's Champagne (1928), starring Betty Balfour, and how its theme 'is what the critic Robin Wood euphemistically calls Order versus Chaos'. What I'm implying here is how the film is about libidinousness which Hitchcock, rather like the Surrealists, senses to be potentially limitless, and (again potentially) richly variable. Then I write: 'In the cabaret, with its art deco friezes and pillars, The Man [Theo von Alten] tells Betty [Balfour], "anything could happen to you in a place like this" - and the recurring shot of [a] champagne glass briefly returns.' In the ensuing shots, The Man appears to rape Betty, but then it appears that we've been shown some sort of fantasy. But whose? 'The Man's? Betty's? Ours? All of those?' It's an extraordinary sequence, which I liken to Bunuel. The recurring shot of the champagne glass is like the trigger of various 'surreal' moments that occur throughout the film; and the character of The Man (who for much of the film appears to be a Vile Seducer, a Dirty Old Man) permits the film to evade the (Freudian) censor and insinuate outrageous thoughts by the spectator. The technique that Hitchcock employs here, of suggesting the libidinous nature of our thinking without Hitchcock himself being accountable for that suggestiveness - because the film provides an innocuous explanation for what we're shown (The Man was sent by Betty's father to safeguard her, i.e., protect her from the very libidinousness the film evokes!), is the basis of many effects in later Hitchcock movies. (In The Birds, for example, there's a 'phallic' suggestiveness about the birds' attacks, but it is never exactly spelt out.) Also, as I've suggested previously, 'Hitchcockian ambiguity' is often a way of allowing two (or more) 'realities' to exist simultaneously, when normally one of them would seem to deny the other. That extraordinary sequence in Champagne alerts us to the sort of 'surreality' that the film as a whole is offering us. I'm reminded of what Jaques Derrida calls a 'pharmakon', something that permits two 'mutually exclusive' readings to occur together ...

August 31 - 1999
Readers of this site know my conviction that Hitchcock's films and Schopenhauer's philosophy have much in common. In discussing the prairie crossroads scene in North by Northwest (1959) in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', I note parallels between aspects of that film and the work of three major 20th-century artists: the poet T.S. Eliot, the painter Giogio de Chirico, and the playwright Samuel Beckett. What struck me (only) last night was how all three of those artists are known to have been influenced by Schopenhauer! Eliot studied Schopenhauer at Harvard, something we know from the book 'Josiah Royce's Seminar, 1913-1914' (1963) by Harry T. Costello. Chirico was deeply influenced by the thought of both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, writing that they 'were the first to teach the deep significance of the senselessness of life, and to show how this senselessness could be transformed into art. ... The dreadful void they discovered is the very soulless and untroubled beauty of matter.' (Quoted in Carl G. Jung, ed., 'Man and His Symbols', 1964.) Beckett's indebtedness to Schopenhauer was major. According to Deidre Bair's 'Samuel Beckett: A Biography' (1990), 'Schopenhauer's ideas would become in later years the philosophical foundation of much of Beckett's thought and the system with which he felt most at ease'. Towards the end of the last century, the work of Schopenhauer had been promoted in England by such publications as 'The Westminster Review' and by such people as George Bernard Shaw (whose play 'The Devil's Disciple' Hitchcock had once wanted to film). In turn, such writers as Joseph Conrad and W. Somerset Maugham were strongly influenced by Schopenhauer - and both of them had works adapted and filmed by Hitchcock (as Sabotage and Secret Agent respectively). Schopenhauer was often called a 'pessimist'. Perhaps it's hardly surprising that Hitchcock's films have been similarly labelled ...

August 30 - 1999
Hitchcock's 'sadism' has many facets, but what's basic is its universal appeal as a dramatic device. I've remarked previously on the extraordinary scene in Murder! (1930), in which the aristocratic Sir John (Herbert Marshall) and two of his servants gang up on poor Handel Fane (Esme Percy), transvestite, in order to trick him into revealing his guilt of murder. (The scene derives from Hamlet's 'Mousetrap' ruse to catch out Claudius, and is repeated in a variant form in Stage Fright.) Then there's the scene in Topaz (1969), in which the nervous paraplegic spy Jarré (Philippe Noiret) attends a luncheon arranged by Dévereaux (Frederick Stafford) where, we later learn, he has cracked under the pressure, eventually paying for his 'weakness' with his life. (Meanwhile, Hitchcock further unsettles him by having Dévereaux's son-in-law, François Picard [Michel Subor], arrive to interview him half an hour earlier than arranged.) Not so different again is the case of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), another transvestite murderer, in Psycho (1960), and his wonderful line about being hounded: 'He [Arbogast] came after her [Marion] and someone will come after him.' Sure enough, Lila (Vera Miles) and Sam (John Gavin) turn up, and Hitchcock includes a scene in which Sam starts getting insolent with poor Norman. Lastly, tonight, I think of poor Verloc (Oscar Homolka) in Sabotage (1936) and poor Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - the epithet 'poor' is surely natural for these latter characters in particular, given Hitchcock's sympathy for their weariness - who have matching scenes in which each is shown lying on a bed, feeling indolent and helpless, wondering how to get out of the plights in which they find themserlves. (In Sabotage, Hitchcock includes the fine scene in the aquarium in which Verloc tells his boss that he wants no more killing, but is overruled.) As I say, all of this makes for fine drama, and fine characterisation. Why 'fine'? Not least, because the emotions involved (sadism, etc.) are universal ...

August 26 - 1999
(slightly late) Notes from correspondents. On yesterday's piece, TG writes: 'Glad you got something out of [the 'National Review' article by] Teachout. For me there's always been this annoying thing going back to the '70s which is even worse than [the film theorising of ] academe and [notions of] postmodernism, which is when pompous magazines (the 'New Yorker' included, or the ' NY Times') pay supposedly normal respectable writers to condescend to glance at somone like Hitchcock or Ford or Rossellini, and they always come out with some remark to the effect that they're not in the same bed with Shakespeare, by which they really mean that they're not in the same bed with Edward Albee. But I am surprised to learn that Balanchine is is bed with Verdi and Shakespeare.' Even so, TG, maybe Hitch should have employed Balanchine to choreograph the ballet scenes of Torn Curtain?! Speaking of which, there's this factual correction by RD to something that's in my book: 'wondering why [you] put in that wrong info about Robert Burks dying right after he shot Marnie? He was still working as a cinematographer in 1967 on Waterhole 3'. Oh dear! Here's how I replied to RD: 'There are several errors in [the biography of Hitchcock by] John Russell Taylor, from which the false information about Burks's demise straight after Marnie [unfortunately] derives. It is a significant error in this case, because what you say indicates that Burks would have been available to photograph Torn Curtain (given that he'd worked almost continuously with H since Strangers on a Train). One might read in: like Evan Hunter, he fell out with Hitchcock over the content of Marnie. In which case, Taylor's report (relying on what he'd been told by Hitch?) is almost a cover story to save face by H.'

August 25 - 1999
Terry Teachout concludes: 'Measured against the golden yardstick of true greatness, Hitchcock comes up short. For all his undeniable gifts, he is too emotionally constricted, too obsessional, to be seriously compared to Shakespeare or Verdi or Balanchine (or Renoir, for that matter). His films, even the best of them, are melodramas played out on the narrowest of stages, returning again and again to the same short list of feelings. Guilt, fear, longing: We expect more of a genius than that.' Indeed we do. We expect life and love and sexuality and fun (if not politics and social consciousness) - all of which are in Hitchcock. Not to mention passages of poetry and lyricism (as in parts of The Farmer's Wife and Young and Innocent, say), and sheer surreal joy and 'vision' (much of The Trouble With Harry). In my book, I note Hitchcock's recurring 'lost paradise' theme, and how Hitchcock gives it many contexts, though invariably these show a keen awareness on his part of the ongoing 'life-force'. I have seen many articles like Terry Teachout's - two other recent ones have been in 'GQ' and 'The New Yorker' - and they all have exactly the same tone of phoney reasonableness. ('Let's agree that Hitchcock was a minor master.') What each article does is reveal how superficial is the writer's understanding of Hitchcock! It's true that (as a few of my friends know) in the 1980s I had a 'crisis of allegiance', in which I wavered about whether or not to 'desert' Hitchcock in favour of precisely Renoir and other 'open' directors (as opposed to 'closed' directors of a more expressionist bent, like Hitchcock). After much soul-searching, but also quiet waiting on my part for what the truth of the matter might show itself to be, I decided that 'the way up and the way down are one and the same' (Heraclitus!), and that Hitchcock was as much a truth-seeker and truth-revealer as Renoir: both were genuine artists on a path to working out necessarily subjective visions of what the world is like. Just because Hitchcock, the popular filmmaker, deals in 'guilt, fear, longing' doesn't mean that there's not a richly informed intellect and artistry detectable behind his films.

August 24 - 1999
I've disagreed once before with something that music/film critic Terry Teachout has written on Hitchcock (I think it's on our 'Selections' page), and now I may be about to do so again - with qualifications. In a (back-handed) tribute to Hitch in the 'National Review', Teachout thinks that he made only seven superior films, and says '[t]hat is not a very long list for a man who directed 55 movies in 51 years'. He continues: 'most people who write about movies, as John Simon has pointed out, are "enthusiasts or fantasts who either worship all films or conceive of film criticism as a means of justifying irrelevant cravings," and are thus inclined to ascribe greatness with ill-informed abandon. If Strangers on a Train is a "great" movie, then what adjective can rightly be used to describe, say, Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game? Mega-great?' Firstly, I'd say that seven masterpieces isn't bad for a director working in a genre form, though doubtless John Ford, for example, made more. But there were a lot of near-misses in Hitch's output, and most of them were still splendidly entertaining and with wonderful ideas and/or sustained passages of feeling. Secondly, I agree that there are a huge number of rabid 'filmies' and 'filmniks' who lack perspective on movies; but, please forgive my saying this, in making my own high estimation of Hitchcock's abilities, I do dissociate myself from those people! In comparing Hitchcock to the novelist Charles Dickens (with all kinds of qualifications, including in the matter of the two artists' relative 'greatness'), I make my judgment against a wide background of teaching and reading/viewing of literature and film! Few things are more disappointing to me than when people assume that I've made the comparison lightly or in an arbitrary fashion. And I love much of Dickens, for all that he was a popular entertainer and showman besides being a skilled artist and craftsman in the fields of melodrama, the comic-grotesque, and the macabre. Thirdly, I wouldn't for a moment dispute that Strangers on a Train is a lesser work than La règle du jeu - but isn't that a loaded comparison? More tomorrow (and apologies if I've been self-indulgent today).

August 23 - 1999
Charles Barr's 'English Hitchcock' is now out in the UK, and there's a review on our New Publications page. I liked Barr's succinct comment on the performances in Jamaica Inn (1939): 'Charles Laughton's mannered and blustering performance makes his scenes virtually unwatchable, Robert Newton is an exceptionally dull hero, and Maureen O'Hara, though at times touching in her vulnerability, can hardly carry the film (as she might have done if it had retained du Maurier's restricted narration).' (p. 204) By 'restricted narration', Barr means the subjectivity of some of the chase thrillers (e.g., The 39 Steps, which basically gives us only Hannay's consciousness). But I'd have to say that Barr, a very cautious writer (no Raymond Durgnat, say!), often misses the films' more poetic dimensions. A case in point is his elaborate description of the final image of Jamaica Inn, which tells us what the camera does, who is in the shot (the butler Chadwyck finally shakes his head), and even ventures to suggest, by some straining logic, that this is a 'self-reflexive' image by Hitchcock, expressing his exasperation with the project and that he's glad he's off to America! (pp. 204-06) What this misses is how Chadwyck's head-shaking represents his non-understanding (after many such earlier moments) of his master, Pengallan's, Byronic vision of 'the Great Age' that has now ended. The film is about multiple subjectivities and determinisms (see 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'); and in the case of the villainous Sir Humphrey Pengallan (Laughton), he is shown to have a rich vision that has become decadent and finally turns to madness - for which his isolation in remote Cornwall (n.b., Hitchcock's perennial theme of isolation from the life-force) is no doubt largely responsible. I see Chadwyck's ultimate bemusement as like the final image of Orson Welles's The Immortal Story (1968), in which the dead Clay's servant, Levinsky (Roger Coggio), listens one more time to the sound of a seashell held to his ear, and murmurs dully, 'I've heard that sound before - but where?'

August 18 - 1999
Here's further indication of how there are precedents in 19th-century fiction for some of the effects found in Hitchcock. I long ago noticed how some passages in Dickens's novel 'Our Mutual Friend' (1864-65) anticipate parts of Vertigo. I shan't give examples tonight, because what I really want to mention is something that Danny Nissim drew my attention to recently. Dickens deliberately hinted to the reader that the character John Harmon in 'Our Mutual Friend' wasn't really dead, and that the character called John Rokesmith was actually Harmon who had returned in disguise. Dickens reasoned that the reader would be kept in suspense about when Harmon would reveal himself. Moreover, Dickens had a precedent in his friend Wilkie Collins's novel 'The Dead Secret' (1857). In the Preface to the 1861 edition of that novel, Collins wrote: 'I was blamed for allowing the "Secret" to glimmer on the reader at an early period of the story, instead of keeping it in total darkness till the end. If this was a mistake (which I venture to doubt) , I committed it with both eyes open. After careful consideration, and after trying the experiment both ways, I thought it most desirable to let the effect of the story depend on expectation rather than surprise; believing that the reader would be all the more interested in watching the progress of "Rosamond" and her husband towards the discovery of the Secret, if he previously held some clue to the mystery in his own hand.' As Danny Nissim comments, 'Surely this is a perfect example of the Suspense versus Surprise question, a century before Vertigo.' Indeed it is. (Hitchcock, of course, reveals well before the end of Vertigo who Judy is, so that the viewer will be kept wondering what Scottie will do when he learns that he's been tricked.) Incidentally, Hitchcock is on record as calling Collins 'quite brilliant', though I've been unable to find out if he encountered Collins's work earlier than about late 1953, when Patricia Hitchcock performed in a radio production of 'The Moonstone'.

August 17 - 1999
More on the theme of 'juvenile versus adult' that's in several of Hitchcock's films of the 1930s ... In Waltzes From Vienna, it's again seen mainly in the difference between the two female leads, here Schani Strauss's sweetheart Rasi (Jessie Matthews) and the older Countess (Fay Compton). It's the Countess who prompts Schani to see that it's time he stood up to his father, the elder Strauss (Edmund Gwenn), in order to make a name and career for himself as a composer. So already the Oedipal theme is operating in Hitchcock's work. In The Man Who Knew Too Much, the theme is mainly enacted in the chilling narcissism of Abbot (Peter Lorre), whose relation to 'Nurse' Agnes (Cicely Oates) resembles that of a son to its mother; but the bachelor 'Uncle Clive' (Hugh Wakefield) is also seen as someone who has never quite grown up. In Secret Agent, the Peter Lorre character, The General, is again the juvenile one, and is the one most connected with professional espionage - though initially both Ashenden (John Gielgud) and Elsa (Madeleine Carroll), especially the latter, are excited by the prospect of 'killing someone'. After Ashenden promises Elsa, late in the film, that he'll give up the mission, it's The General who tempts him back into action - at a chocolate factory, which is like a symbol of the juvenility involved. (In my book, I liken The General to Bruno in Strangers on a Train, who represents the dark side of Guy.) And in Young and Innocent, the film's very title suggests that the film is about 'growing up'. Erica (Nova Pilbeam) is one of Hitchcock's teenagers on the verge of womanhood (cf. young Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt), and she is still living in a world of innocence. The turning-point is when she loses in a mine-collapse her antique car, a gift from her father, to which she had become attached: there's a parallel here with Marnie's loss of her beloved horse Forio near the end of Marnie.

August 16 - 1999
Danny Nissim has sent me a follow-up to the above. 'I take your point about Banks's concern for his daughter,' Danny writes, 'but I do feel that he is indifferent to poor Clive's sufferings, especially in the dentist scene. As they prepare to go in, he examines Clive's teeth and mutters "pity…". Once inside, we stay with Banks as Clive submits to the torture. Hearing him scream, Banks is alarmed and pulls out his gun, only to smile and put it away. This is the blackest of humour and hardly serves to endear Banks to us, I feel.' Which is true. In fact, such extreme black humour may be seen as a weakness of the film, not present in the later version. Hitchcock himself at the time could be pretty callous and high-handed towards colleagues, for example. So there's perhaps a note of self-portrayal (or self-betrayal) by Hitchcock in this early version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. The director's previous film had been Waltzes From Vienna, and he had repeatedly taken out his irritation with the film's material on his star Jessie Matthews and the other members of the cast. However, as so often with Hitch, he seems to have been aware in some degree of his own shortcomings, and to have - consciously or otherwise - explored them in his films. Rich and Strange (1932) is at once an exposure and a critique of its English couple's naivity and solipsism when they travel abroad, and they might almost be Hitch and Alma! Several of Hitch's films of the 1930s, including Number Seventeen, Waltzes From Vienna, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Secret Agent, Young and Innocent, and The Lady Vanishes,all have a theme of 'juvenile versus adult', stressing a need to 'grow up'. That's the point, for example, of the difference between the two heroines, younger and older, of Number Seventeen, who prefigure (in a rudimentary way) Midge and Madeleine in Vertigo (1958). Both the latter film and its successor, North by Northwest (1959), have heroes with Oedipal problems, and each hero is told that he's 'a big boy now'. But the basis of these sophisticated later films is to be found in earlier ones, such as the 1930s films mentioned above.

August 11 - 1999
Danny Nissim in London has also sent me his thoughts on the bachelor 'Uncle Clive' (Hugh Wakefield) in the original The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). 'The figure of Clive is a strange one', Danny writes, 'but important to the story of the film. First shown sitting on the floor playing with a toy train, he's treated in all his scenes like a small child who is subjected to constant humiliation. And of course a child has just been forcibly removed from the family. In short shrift Clive has a tooth pulled, is hypnotised and finally arrested and carted off to prison. He is the butt of much of the black humour of the film, and in story terms serves to deflect violent attention from Bob Lawrence [Leslie Banks], the notional hero, whose indifference to Clive's suffering makes him seem all the more complacent.' This is interesting. I'm not sure, though, that Bob is actually complacent during the course of the film, especially once his daughter has been kidnapped! There's a lot of 'stiff upper-lip' about the behaviour of Bob. In my book, I note that his character derives from the original idea of the filmmakers to have the film centre on Bulldog Drummond, the celebrated fictional creation of 'Sapper' (H.C. McNeile). And Clive, I note, with his monocle and services background is the equivalent of Drummond's staunch ally, Algy Longworth. In a way, Clive represents an aspect of Bob. In the fine scene where Clive and Jill Lawrence (Edna Best) look at the kidnapped Betty's abandoned toys, including the toy train, Jill notes sadly that Clive has not been a good uncle to Betty; and we recall how at the start of the film Betty had expressed a hope that Louis Bernard (Pierre Fresnay) might become her 'new' uncle. The implication is that the family was becoming complacent and disunited (a similar theme recurs in Hitchcock's 1956 remake of the film). That the bachelor Clive becomes 'the butt of much of the black humour of the film' is in line with the film's ultimate emphasis on the value of 'the family'. I think of how in Mr and Mrs Smith (analysed here recently), once David and Ann find their marriage dissolved by a technicality, they are both subjected to a series of humiliations. Hitchcock wants us to feel the importance of the family's getting back together, because that's where emotional security is to be found ...

August 10 - 1999
More on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), and today I'd like to just quote some of Danny Nissim's comments after seeing the new BFI print in London. First, Danny feels that the Peter Lorre character, Abbot, is surprisingly sympathetic, almost an alter ego for Hitchcock in the film. But then, '[f]inally there are two moments of real poignancy: the first comes when father and daughter are torn apart, having just been re-united in the Tabernacle. As she is taken away screaming, we cut to a rare close-up of Lorre, eyes downcast, as if yearning for the emotional bonds of a family he knows he will never have. The other moment comes in the final shoot-out. His mysterious straight-laced female companion (first introduced as his 'nurse') is shot and dies in Lorre's arms. His look of tenderness and regret is one of the finest moments in the film. From then on he is a man with nothing to live for.' Another of Danny Nissim's comments is about 'Hitchcock's distrust of authority figures throughout the film'. 'The man from the Foreign Office callously informs [the Lawrences] that the life of a statesman is more important than the life of their daughter, who may be dead anyway. Later, at the siege, one sturdy old policeman is sent to knock on the door, and is immediately shot (a scene all the more effective for being held in long shot). The rest of the men are then sent 'over the top' and immediately mown down. Though the Siege of Sidney Street was the direct source for this scene, it is hard not to see parallels with the trenches of the First World War. In a telling detail, the police chief steals a sweet from a shop, while his men are being sent out to die.'

August 9 - 1999
In the St Moritz scenes of the first The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), we see the chief villain, Abbot (Peter Lorre), accompanied by a young woman. But in the London scenes, the young woman is not seen again; instead, Abbot is accompanied by a rather motherly woman called 'Nurse Agnes' (Cicely Oates), whose death in the climactic shoot-out grieves Abbot profoundly - clearly he has loved her, perhaps in an almost incestuous (son-mother) way. In my book, I suggest how this is one of several details that the film has borrowed, with modifications, from Howard Hawks's classic gangster film Scarface (1932). I wondered if Charles Barr's new book, 'English Hitchcock', would comment on this matter. But apart from printing a still of Abbot and the young woman dining in St Moritz (it's on p. 137), Barr doesn't add anything new. So here's my own comment. I believe that Abbot and Nurse Agne's relationship is the 'real' one, deliberately made by the film somewhat strange and 'campy'. The young woman in St Moritz is simply a 'cover', employed by Abbot to lend him an air of 'respectability' in a public place, much as the sinister-looking assassin named Rien in the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) is given a young woman as company when he attends a symphony concert at the Albert Hall where he is to kill a foreign diplomat. (In the latter film, there's an actual line referring to the need to make the assassin appear respectable, 'if that is possible'.) I'm aware that the first The Man Who Knew Too Much has been almost inaccessible in the UK for years, and that a recent screening of the film in London by the NFT/BFI has seen the film win new supporters. In fact, reader Danny Nissim was so enthused by the film that he sent me a splendid 'review' of the film, parts of which I'd like to quote here, starting tomorrow.

August 4 - 1999
The Melbourne Film Festival has just shown two documentaries on Hitchcock. The first was Tim Kirby's two-part documentary for the BBC, which is excellent - one of the most intelligently compiled films about a director that you could wish to see. Nothing was over-stated, nor did the documentary insist on putting films into evaluative pigeon-holes, never to be re-assessed! (I shan't attempt to review the film here, though I'll quote in a moment a friend's comment after the screening, concerning 'Tippi' Hedren.) The other documentary was Michael Epstein's film about Hitchcock & Selznick, and I found it pedestrian. I must admit, though, that I didn't know that a first draft of the script of The Paradine Case (1947), by Hitchcock, was so rambling that it didn't even have a court scene (that is to say, I don't recall Leonard Leff ever mentioning such an unlikely thing in his book 'Hitchcock and Selznick'), and frankly I'm inclined to disbelieve it. Perhaps my ears deceived me! (The novel, of course, like the film as eventually re-scripted by Selznick and others, focusses on the trial at the Old Bailey of Mrs Paradine, and the downfall of her barrister, Anthony Keane, who has become obsessed with his beautiful client.) Okay, now here's something a friend said to me after we'd seen the BBC documentary, in which Hitchcock is reported to have threatened 'Tippi' Hedren that he would destroy her career by denying her work following Marnie (1964) - the film on which director and protégée had a falling-out. My friend mentioned that one of the studio stills of 'Tippi' seen in the film shows her looking very like Faye Dunaway of the same period - and how, if Hitchcock hadn't intervened, Tippi's career might indeed have proceeded along Faye Dunaway lines. Interesting thought! (Happily, the mother of Melanie Griffith, i.e., 'Tippi', doesn't seem at all resentful today about how things turned out.)

August 3 - 1999
The memories of screenwriters seem to be often self-serving. One of the revelations contained in Dan Auiler's 'Hitchcock's Notebooks' (1999) is how substantial a part Hitchcock's friend, screenwriter Angus MacPhail, played in the development of the screenplay of the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). (See Auiler, pp. 176-202.) By the time that John Michael Hayes took over the writing, the basis of the final film was firmly established; and it would seem only a slight exaggeration to say that Hayes's principal contribution to the screenplay was the dialogue. Yet Hayes told Donald Spoto that MacPhail was 'a dying alcoholic' who 'did no work on the script'; and when Hitchcock fought Hayes to have MacPhail given a screenplay credit in the finished film, amazingly the Writers Guild arbitrated in Hayes's favour, having MacPhail's name removed from the credits altogether! Hitchcock never employed Hayes again, and Hayes afterwards spread stories about Hitchcock's lack of generosity about giving credit where it was due - but very possibly the truth of the matter was otherwise. Here I'm reminded of how another of Hitchcock's talented screenwriters, Charles Bennett, who scripted Hitchcock's Gaumont classics of the 1930s (including the original The Man Who Knew Too Much), in after years always denied that people like Alma Reville and Joan Harrison had made any contribution to the screenplays he was involved with, even though Hitchcock sometimes insisted that they be given subsidiary credits. (Once again, one suspects that Hitchcock saw the matter more clearly.) And another example or three of mis-remembering by a screenwriter, this time Evan Hunter, is contained in a long review of two books on The Birds (1963) that's on the Web, at the 'Screening the Past' site (run by La Trobe University, Australia), written by Bill Krohn. For example, it now appears that the film's scene in the sand dunes was written by Hitchcock's friend, the eminent short story writer and man of letters, V.S. Pritchett. Over the years, Hunter has variously attributed the writing of this scene to 'Tippi' Hedren and Hitchcock himself - though, it's true, he did once tell the 'Hitchcock Annual' that he didn't know who had written the scene - which he has always ridiculed!

August 2 - 1999
Okay, it had to happen. Someone - a journalist - has tonight asked me what I think of Kenneth Anger's claim, in 'Hollywood Babylon II' (1984), that Grace Kelly once let Hitchcock 'fulfil his voyeurism with her'. Here's basically what I said: 'Over the years I have thought about this matter more than once, and I find it quite impossible to believe - we are asked to think that Grace would position herself near a lit-up window for H to watch her through a telescope from a mile away 'across the soft Laurel Canyon night', and that there would be no likelihood that anyone else would see what was happening. And how was H able to position himself in just the one spot where he could see what was going on and nobody else could? And what excuse did he make to Alma that night (and/or to whoever the person was whose house he 'borrowed' to set up the telescope)? ' I then added a footnote to my reply. 'Someone sent me an article containing an interview with Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell from the London "Daily Mail Weekend" for Saturday 22 May this year. The article is headed with points to be covered in the printed interview, including "What happened on the night he [H] spent with Grace Kelly?" - but that particular point is not raised in the article/interview. Was something censored at the last minute?!' However, something that is in the printed interview is Patricia's angry denial of all such scurrilous stories about her father: 'There has never been a shred of evidence suggesting infidelity or an improper overture.' That denial doesn't quite ring true in the case of Donald Spoto's allegation of what once fleetingly happened between Hitchcock and 'Tippi' Hedren - Spoto, a reputable biographer, must have had some evidence for his claim - but you can't say that about Kenneth Anger's fantastic-sounding story

July 28 - 1999
Worldly success is nice but it doesn't count for everything, at least not in Hitchcock's Catholic metaphysics. Several of Hitchcock's protagonists must experience a moment of personal Calvary: for example, Robie in To Catch a Thief (which we were discussing yesterday) ends up on an expressionistic rooftop 'where', says the police inspector on the ground, 'I always knew he'd be some day'. (Earlier, Robie had told insurance man Hughson [John Williams] that 'one day' he'd be sorry for taking an ashtray from a hotel - so the theme of a personal day of reckoning runs through the film.) We're all in the same boat (as is said in Lifeboat), all of us are merely players on life's stage (a theme of several Hitchcock movies, such as Stage Fright), the world is ultimately just One (which I suggest in my book is implied by The Birds), the recognition of which is connected with a capacity for a general sympathy (which I take to be demonstrated by The Trouble With Harry) ... All of these observations relate to Hitchcock's use of sporting metaphors, mentioned above. Life, he implies, is a game of winners and losers. Hence the expressionistic gambling motif in several of the films (e.g., Spellbound). In turn, Hitchcock allows a note of hope, even to the films' apparent losers, including their villains. This note of hope is also included for the films' audiences, no doubt partly due to commercial considerations. Yet the realist in Hitchcock remains pessimistic. So there's a balancing act on Hitchcock's part, nicely stated in Father Neil Hurley's description of the typical endings of the films, with their 'open-ended pessimism'. I see a clash in Hitchcock here between his 'Nietzschean' optimism and his 'Schopenhauerian' pessimism. (In a 1996 book called 'A Schopenhaurian Critique of Nietzsche's Thought', Harry J. Ausmus likens Nietzsche to a sort of Norman Vincent Peale purveyor of hope, as against the stark realism of Schopenhauer.) But I was simply trying to illustrate something of what I meant by Hitchcock's largeness of outlook. QED!?

July 27 - 1999
In effect, the dramatist in Hitchcock says to the viewer, 'I can be bigger than you!' Exactly like Schopenhauer, he sees the world in a realistic perspective, as a (serious) game with rules that are socially-imposed, but to that extent are arbitrary, though they appear real enough to the players. But there is a greater reality, and that is the world's 'Will'. One of Hitchcock's great scenes, I think, is the Albert Hall scene in the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), in which an individual 'will' (that of the Doris Day character) effectively finds itself opposed to the larger Will. The clash is resolved by an inarticulate scream, which is perhaps the only possible way that such a clash (which is beyond words, belonging finally to the noumenal realm) could be dramatically resolved. Such an opposition can be given a Christian interpretation. Thus Under Capricorn (1949) plays on the existence of two types of 'kingdom', a worldly one and God's own Kingdom. The film is one of Hitchcock's several 'lost paradise' films: Lady Henrietta (Ingrid Bergman) had in her childhood ridden a horse at a fence 'as if it had the Kingdom of Heaven on the other side'; as she recovers from her present alcoholism, the Hon. Charles Adare (Michael Wilding) promises her that she shall 'be queen again in her own kingdom'. (Briefly she does appear to achieve that state, as when she triumphantly wears a tiara to the Governor's Ball, but worldly matters quickly intrude to disrupt proceedings ...) Several Hitchcock films, too, hinge on a contrast between worldly justice and eternal justice (see yesterday's item): I detect it in such films as To Catch a Thief (1955), The Wrong Man (1957), Vertigo (1958), and The Birds (1963). Thus in the first of these, John Robie (Cary Grant) finds himself dwelling undeservedly in 'a kind of travel-folder heaven', and Mrs Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) has likewise overnight gained great wealth when oil was found on her land; meanwhile several of Robie's former Resistance comrades must still 'work like idiots for a loaf of bread', as Danielle (Brigitte Auber) puts it. More tomorrow.

July 26 - 1999
Writing on The Lady Vanishes (1938), in my book, I venture to suggest how the train and its journey function as an unforced metaphor for the life-force that is shared by all of the characters. 'Hence', I say, 'the appositeness of [the defeated villain] Hartz's very sporting, "Jolly good luck to them!", as the train finally leaves him behind in the pine forest ... His remark recognises the universal situation they have all shared and still share. (Cf. Miss Froy's "I do hope and pray ... that we shall all meet again one day.") The pine forest as a further unstressed metaphor for life and hope will recur at the climax of North by Northwest [1959].' Yes, and there's a similar sporting reference by the defeated villain, Vandamm (James Mason), of that film, whose last line complains of his captors, 'That wasn't very sporting of you, using real bullets!' Likewise, in the ending Hitchcock wanted for Topaz (1969), he would have had the hero and villain fighting an 'old-fashioned' pistol duel, an image of 'gentlemanly' values that the modern world hardly espouses any more. A variant on such an outlook is implied in the cry of despair by Alicia's Nazi father to his accusers in Notorious (1946), 'You can put me away now, but next time ...' What lies behind these allusions in Hitchcock's films? (There are plenty more.) Basically, I'd say, his largeness of outlook and what I call his 'outflanking technique'. Famously, Hitchcock declared that 'everything's perverted in a different way'. In his Buddha-like detachment, in his ability to decentralise from himself, he saw that ultimately everything is One. (Schopenhauer called it the world's 'Will'.) He saw that in this life there are winners and losers, not always the 'right' ones, much as Schopenhauer drew a distinction between 'worldly justice' (what this world hands out by way of justice) and 'eternal justice' (true justice). More on this huge topic tomorrow.

July 22 - 1999
The famous writer Aldous Huxley, whose short story "The Gioconda Smile" (1922) finds an echo in Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954), once made an astute comment on the limits of intelligence. Given what I've been saying above about foolishnesses often perpetrated in academic articles on Hitchcock, it seems worth quoting what Huxley says. Here it is: 'Man is so intelligent that he feels compelled to invent theories to account for what happens in the world. Unfortunately, he is not quite intelligent enough, in most cases, to find correct explanations. So that when he acts on his theories, he behaves very often like a lunatic. Thus, no animal is clever enough, when there is a drought, to imagine that the rain is being withheld by evil spirits, or as a punishment for its transgressions. Therefore you never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion. No horse, for example, would kill one of its foals in order to make the wind change its direction ... asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies.' No, but followers (or perpetrators) of academic theory - such as a theory about what a certain framing 'means' (see the examples quoted yesterday) - often do write like lunatics when they try to foist their interpretations on unwary readers. (For example, when they tell us that the composition and framing of a shot of Leonard in an early scene of North by Northwest foretells his death by falling off Mount Rushmore.) So many academic writers on film, I've always found, think along follow-my-leader lines, which is a form of religion, after all. The philosopher Schopenhauer saw that tendency in Hegel, whom he despised as a charlatan. But Schopenhauer himself had the right idea: theoretical writing should always be based on direct percepts, rather than on a chain of mere concepts, which need never touch base in reality ...

July 21 - 1999
Okay, here are two instances of what I mean by foolishnesses in academic writing on Hitchcock - but I could quote dozens. In a description of the baggage-car scene in The Lady Vanishes (1938), Karen Beckman (in 'Camera Obscura', September 1996), notes that Iris (Margaret Lockwood) stands on a suitcase in order to disarm the sinister magician, Signor Doppo, who is wielding a knife. Beckman comments: 'the camera pans to show only her feet and legs, dramatically severing her at the waist. Thus, amid the magician's paraphernalia, Hitchcock imitates another favourite trick in the magician's repertoire - sawing a woman in half.' (p. 88) To me, that's nonsense - not one person in a thousand, in watching that shot, would think 'Ah, Hitchcock has sawn his star in half, like a magician' - and therefore there's not the slightest likelihood that Hitchcock intended such a meaning. And here's a second example of foolishness. Writing about North by Northwest (1959) in 'Wide Angle', Vol. 4, No. 1 (1980), Marion Keane notes that the first time Thornhill (Cary Grant) sees the sinister Leonard (Martin Landau) is when he looks out Vandamm's study window and sees Leonard on the croquet lawn. 'It is worth noting', says Keane, 'that this initial view of Leonard ... , croquet mallet upraised in one hand, implies his potential for violence, and, in the composition of windowpane frames dividing his body in two, also foretells his death at the film's end.' (p. 212 of James Naremore, ed., 'North by Northwest', 1993, where Keane's essay is reprinted) How in the name of all that's holy does a view through windowpane frames foretell Leonard's death by falling off Mount Rushmore, after being shot, two hours later (in screen-time)? It doesn't, of course. These two instances of 'intelligent' theorising remind me of a remark by writer Aldous Huxley, which I'll quote tomorrow. Meanwhile, comments from readers are welcome.

July 20 - 1999
Some thoughts on 'learning lessons' ... I'm grateful to DC from the University of Oklahoma who sent a message saying that she quite agrees with my general point about 'Hitchcockian ambiguity' (an example of which is in yesterday's "Editor's Day" item: in Family Plot, is Blanche psychic, or isn't she?). DC suggests that you can see Hitchcock's preference (it may seem) for ambiguity in his interview with Truffaut, 'for just as T tries to pin H down, H slides right out from under him'. As I see it, ambiguity isn't just an either/or thing that isn't cleared up. It is the making of simultaneous statements that may or may not both be true, or connected, but where to foreclose on one or other possibility is to do violence to the richness of the situation. (In Blanche's case, maybe her belief in her psychic power, which once was a put-up job, has allowed her to graduate, so to speak, to real psychic awareness, or something very like it ...) But you never hear anyone say that Hitchcock has put his finger on a truth about the way we all, each day, tend to short-circuit our perceptions by thinking in an either/or way. (The closest I have seen to anyone say this in discussing Hitchcock may be in Robert Samuels's book, 'Hitchcock's Bi-Textuality', with its Lacanian distinction between 'Symbolic' and 'Real'.) So that's one thought on 'learning lessons' - or not learning them. Another concerns how so much academic writing (e.g., on Hitchcock) manages to include foolishnesses that should never have seen the light of day. At times, on reading these (I've quoted some instances recently on our New Publications page - no doubt there are inadvertent ones elsewhere on our site!), you suspect that the writers never did allow the ideas exposure to the light of good, common sense before publishing them. Those writers haven't (sufficiently) learnt the lesson that many ideas that seemed admirable enough when first conceived, just don't stand up when re-examined later. More tomorrow.

July 19 - 1999
That's enough on Mr and Mrs Smith for now. (I'll tie some of the loose ends together in a full analysis for 'The MacGuffin', probably later this year.) Let's turn to the last scene of Family Plot (1976), which Fergal Hughes, the Irish Republic's keenest Hitchcock buff, asked me about recently. Blanche (Barbara Harris) appears to be psychic when she goes into a trance and locates the stolen diamond hidden in the chandelier. Boyfriend George (Bruce Dern) exclaims, 'Blanche, you did it! You really are psychic!' Whereupon, Blanche turns to the camera and winks. The film's last shot is of the coruscating diamond, an image that 'echoes' the wink. Clearly the scene is highly ambiguous. John Russell Taylor's 'Hitch' (1978) attempts to deal with the matter by noting that screenwriter Ernest Lehman was insistent that Hitchcock 'justify' the episode at a rational level, by 'planting' a moment earlier in the film when Blanche could have learned of the diamond's whereabouts. (Note: the last scene was written by Hitchcock himself, who presumably threw out Lehman's scene.) But it's hard to find such an earlier moment, so maybe Hitchcock just ignored Lehman on this. In any case, Hitchcock evidently wanted us to feel that Blanche could be psychic. Norman Lloyd's book 'Stages' (1990) talks of the delight Hitchcock felt in leaving an audience a bit puzzled ... Another thing about Blanche's (rather sexy) wink is that it 'doubles' as a wink from Hitchcock to us (cf. the film's trailer, and some of the posters for the film). Blanche's 'psychic' power may thus be read as a metaphor for Hitchcock's own gift of imagination and art. (There's a more literal expression of the same sort of Romantic notion of the artist at the end of David Lean's Doctor Zhivago, 1965, where the Alec Guiness character says of Tonya's musical ability, 'Ah, it's a gift then' - which the girl has got from her mother and father, Lara and Yuri, but is implicit in the film's own 'inspiration', as provided by Lean himself, which in turn relates to the 'rainbow' at the film's end: cf. the coruscating diamond at the end of Hitchcock's film.) Then again, Blanche's wink 'implicates' us, as 'co-conspirators', and inspiration, of Hitchcock's 'crimes', i.e., his films. In short, he acknowledges us as his life-long collaborators, a fitting end for his last film (as it proved).

July 14 - 1999
In my book, I compare the broken-down ferris-wheel incident in Mr and Mr Smith to the breaking down of the movie projector in the home-movies scene in Rebecca: both scenes are about someone's life that has gone wrong. The point in Mr and Mrs Smith seems to be that Ann is learning that life outside marriage isn't exactly the bed of roses, or the fun and games, that she had fantasised it would be. Most marriages are troubled, of course - David's and Ann's is just a slightly surreal exaggeration of a 'normal' marriage - but those marriages typically manage to work their power for maturity, etc. (Hitchcock's movies tend to end up supporting marriage, however much they may have first called that particular institution in question.) That's a reason why Mr and Mrs Smith comes full circle, so that the Smiths get back to where we saw them at the start: playing games. For example, at the start, Ann is the one who pretends to be asleep; near the end of the film, it's David's turn to try that ruse. Ann pretends to be offended when she catches David out - but it's all part of the healing process! She pretends she wants to leave but surreptitiously makes sure that David will catch her, and make love to her! In effect, like the astute observer (even philosopher) he was, Hitchcock sees that this is still Life, but at a deeper level than normally understood. (Does anyone still wonder why I like comparing Hitch to Schopenhauer?!) I haven't forgotten that Mr and Mrs Smith is a comedy, of course. I'm merely trying to show that all of the film's scenes have their point to make. For example, the various scenes that occur between when Ann and David break up and when they get back together typically imply an embarrassment at being watched. (There's more privacy to make a fool of yourself when you're married!) I've already mentioned the ferris-wheel scene - in which Ann and Jeff are stranded in full view of the people watching on the ground. Another central scene takes place in the Florida Club, where it's David's turn to be publicly humiliated. And at the beginning of the Lake Placid sequence, it's stressed that all of the cabins are named after American Presidents. This detail, anticipating the Mount Rushmore climax of North by Northwest, manages to hint at a 'watching' conscience. (Jeff is clearly concerned that no hanky-panky take place!) More another time.

July 13 - 1999
Critic Tim Pulleine's retrospective review of Mr and Mrs Smith in 'Monthly Film Bulletin' (BFI), October 1980, has this to say about Jeff, the gay-seeming rival of David Smith for his wife Ann (after the Smiths' marriage proves invalid because of a technicality): 'it is hard to suppose that the almost parodically uncharismatic quality of Gene Raymond as the "other man" was not a malicious contrivance of the director - and the very element of caricature which attaches to him and weakens the alternative way of life he represents also serves to expose the element of pointlessness underlying the hero and heroine's strenuous ploys in ultimately vanquishing it'. Yes, I too have problems with seeing Mr and Mrs Smith as a satisfying, purposefully-advancing whole. Tonight I can best describe it as one of Hitchcock's 'vacation' films - in this case, a vacation from marriage, in which both spouses, but particularly Ann, indulge some of the fantasies and desires that married life had bottled up inside them. (Two other Hitchcock 'vacation' films are Rich and Strange and Rear Window, which also teach cautionary lessons about indulging fantasies. The first is about another married couple, who let their hair down on a round-the-world trip and nearly destroy their marriage; the second is about a married-couple-to-be, in which one partner, the news photographer Jeff, fantasises about staying 'free' all his life: his partner, Lisa, tells him that he's like 'a tourist on an endless vacation'.) So Mr and Mrs Smith manages to imply, in rather surrealistic vein, some of the nature of marriage - not just its fantasies but also its dynamics, including the sexual one (hence the fairly explicit image/symbol that ends the film, a pair of crossed skis, telling us that Ann has wrapped her legs around David, thereby acknowledging the couple's mutual attraction and need for each other, in spite of everything). In the middle section of the film, meanwhile, what they have experienced in their renewed 'singles' state has been 'Life' with all its chaos. The symbol of this is the fairground ferris-wheel - displaying an actual sign saying 'Life' - that breaks down and leaves Ann and Jeff stranded in mid-air for several hours in drenching rain. More tomorrow.

July 12 - 1999
Someone last week asked me to give the bottom line of my views about Hitchcock's screwball comedy Mr and Mrs Smith (1941). Someone else asked for information about the out-of-print book 'Hitchcock and Homosexuality' (1992) by Dr Theodore Price. In answering the latter question, I tried to give a thumbnail summary of Price's book, as follows. 'Dr P has latched onto something that is fundamental in Hitchcock ... and that is H's love of/interest in sexual innuendo. Basically, many of H's males are put in situations that imply that they could be gay, and many of H's females are put in jobs (modelling, acting, etc.) that manage to carry implications of prostitution! (My qualification would be that H almost invariably allows an ambiguity, and doesn't commit himself in the films one way or the other. For example, is Marnie a lesbian? Dr P says simply, 'yes, of course'; H allows the thing to ride.)' It occurs to me that Mr and Mrs Smith bears out the general idea of Price's book fairly well. Recall the basic situation: after three years of stormy but not unloving marriage, David Smith (Robert Montgomery) and wife Ann (Carole Lombard) find that in fact, due to a technicality, they have never been legally married. So, in an act of mutual wilfulness, they split up for a time, savouring their regained 'freedom'. Ann is especially determined, it seems, to show her former mate that she can do without him. Letting it be known that she's 'available', she encourages David's business partner, Jefferson Custer (Gene Raymond), to woo her. She even takes active steps - one night when she plies Jeff with liquor - to seduce him. But Jeff proves to be a real Southern 'gentleman'. For whatever reason, he just doesn't seem up to the challenge! I interpret this to mean that Jeff knows that David is 'really'still Ann's husband, whatever the law may say; but of course Jeff is made to look pretty silly, as if he is basically gay but won't admit it. Meanwhile, Ann enjoys the thrill of the chase - 'prostituting herself ' - much as David, on finding their marriage not legal, had fantasised about having Ann as his new 'mistress'! More tomorrow.

July 7 - 1999
Michael Gould's description of the Joseph Cornell-like shot of the seagull impaled (in mid-flight, it almost seems) in the broken window of Dan Fawcett's bedroom - near an overturned glass case of stuffed birds - goes like this. 'The shot lasts less than one second, but the care with which the prop was prepared is most apparent. ... The lighting is clear and bright, and the effect is similar to that of those "window boxes" some artists make. ... [Joseph] Cornell created little memory boxes of paraphernalia and frozen time. Two basic features of this type of image are the importance given to the frame, and the quality of stillness. In this shot from The Birds, we find Hitchcock as master still-life painter; we could call the shot [à la Surrealism] "Dead Bird in Glass." Not only do we see the image within the screen's frame but also within the frame of the window. When one thinks of double frames one also thinks of [Surrealist painter] Magritte, who has done many paintings (for example "Euclidean Walks") where a frame is put around some scene within the frame of the painting itself.' Excellent descriptive writing. But I'd have liked Gould to have made more of that 'echo effect' with the shattered glass case of birds near the broken window. The overall effect is visually beautiful, as Gould's description indicates. But the stuffed birds in the glass case are a subtle double-reminder of death - their own, at the hands of humans, who arrogantly took it upon themselves to kill them and then show off the result - and the death of the farmer whose body lies nearby, perhaps in recrimination ... The film's opening scene in the pet-shop had already hinted at the arrogance of humankind in caging (and often killing) birds, and then not giving it a further thought. The same scene had contained Mitch's remark to Melanie about seeing what's it's like 'to be on the other end of a gag'. The film as a whole, it seems to me, pivots on that remark. (I analyse it further in my book.) But, basically, the reversal of normality when the birds start killing humans is ... surreal. (The exaggerated emphasis on Cathy's freckles, referred to yesterday, is perhaps a hint of the larger exaggeration to come.)

July 6 - 1999
Someone on the Web claimed the other day that Camille Paglia, in her recent fine monograph on The Birds (1963), had drawn attention 'not before time' to Hitchcock as a Surrealist filmmaker. Well, that's erroneous. As soon as The Birds appeared, Carl Belz wrote a pithy short article for 'Film Culture' (Winter, 1963) fitting the film into the Surrealist tradition, and noting the tension between the humdrum setting in Bodega Bay and the ambiguous events and characters that finally yield a vision of something extraordinary. (I recall that Belz found significance in a detail like Cathy's freckles which the film gives a prominence that seems deliberately exaggerated.) Similarly, as soon as Vertigo (1958) appeared, the perceptive Cuban critic (later novelist), Guillermo Cabrera Infante, wrote a review praising it as 'the first great Surrealist film' and referring to its 'fainting theme of love'. (The Surrealists suggested that one thing alone could transcend everything else - love - though the depiction of love, to be surreal, had to be of an extreme kind: e.g., 'mad love'. It's perhaps debateable whether the ambiguous depiction of the lovebirds in The Birds is surreal.) For more on Infante, see an item near the bottom of our New Publications page. What I'd also draw attention to in this brief note (more tomorrow, perhaps) is that an excellent little book called 'Surrealism and the Cinema' was published in 1976 by a young Canadian writer, Michael Gould, who seems to have disappeared. So, too, has his book, virtually. Despite having a 20-page chapter on Hitchcock, the book isn't listed in Jane Sloan's supposedly 'definitive' 'Alfred Hitchcock: a filmography and bibliography' (1995) A highlight of Gould's few pages on The Birds is his analysis, accompanied by a frame-still, of the meticulously-composed shot of a seagull impaled in the broken window of the farmer Dan Fawcett's bedroom. Also, the frame-still clearly shows nearby an overturned tableau of stuffed birds in a smashed glass case. Gould likens the whole effect to the 'window-boxes' or assemblages of an artist like Joseph Cornell.

July 5 - 1999
Hitchcock was very good at querulousness. By that I mean that he got down on film, and/or in the film's dialogue, classic moments of disgruntlement or peeved hostility or offended suspicion. How often have we all attempted to relay someone else's point of view, which had sounded perfectly feasible when we first heard it stated, but which goes 'cold' when we recount it? So when 'Scottie' (James Stewart) in Vertigo (1958) experiences just such an occasion, telling 'Midge' (Barbara Bel Geddes) what he's been told by Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), it rings very true - and is funny. Scottie's voice is suitably peeved as he comments, 'I'm not telling you what I think, I'm telling you what he thinks!' (On a small scale, this is the sort of archetypal content that I suggest in my book is so often found in Hitchcock, using Doris Day's scream in The Man Who Knew Too Much as an illustration: the scream represents a reaction to a truly universal predicament - roughly, love versus duty - and is absolutely 'logical', therefore believable, therefore definitive.) At such moments, we get close to a pure expression of a person's 'will'. In Marnie (1964), Hitchcock is constantly implying the boredom of office routine, and hence the note of impatience so clearly heard in the whining voice of one of the women employees at the end of the day's work (a Friday, moreover), when she upbraids a fellow employee in the washroom: 'Are you going to just haaang around and wait?' Sometimes, querulousness is a purely visual thing in Hitchcock - taking advantage of his power of caricature - and no less funny for that. An example: the thick-necked plane passenger in Torn Curtain (1966) who glowers at Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) who has just remonstrated at Sarah (Julie Andrews) for following him onto the flight to East Berlin. The moment is doubly funny because (a) the passenger has difficulty craning his neck around far enough, and because (b) he's being a busybody - the effort to turn his neck almost makes his eyes obtrude - so serve him right if he does himself an injury!

June 30 - 1999
Philosophy is a funny thing. One author of a book that is largely about Nietzsche, Norman O. Brown, in 'Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History' (1959), maintains that Nietzsche embraced both life and death and was therefore superior to his predecessor Schopenhauer. (I'll explain more in a moment.) Yet when another author, the philosopher Harry Ausmus, wrote his 'A Schopenhauerian Critique of Nietzsche's Thought' (1994), he reached exactly the opposite conclusion: that because Nietzsche said of death that it will be 'transformed into a means of victory and triumph', Nietzsche was creating a (merely) 'hopeful' philosophy, and was therefore inferior to the more 'pessimistic' (or realistic) Schopenhauer. Ausmus quotes T.S. Eliot to nail the matter: 'Humankind cannot bear very much reality.' (That, in turn, is ironic, inasmuch as Eliot was a foremost espouser of Nietzsche in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s.) But such ambivalence about Nietzsche has long been the case. Hitchcock inherited the ambivalence, or a related one, from his favourite author, John Buchan, whose Nietzschean villain in 'The Power-House' (1913) is given a superior intellect but is made to despise the mass man. That Nietzschean villain is the basis of several Hitchock villains, such as Charles Tobin (Otto Kruger) in Saboteur (1943). Hitchcock's strongest grappling with, and critique of, Nietzschean positions is in Lifeboat (1944) and Rope (1948). There is also a detectable Nietzschean influence in The Trouble With Harry (1955) and Vertigo (1958). And, in both the latter films, there is again an ambivalence. Harry seems metaphorically to thumb its nose at death (represented by the film's MacGuffin, the body of Harry), but Hitchcock is careful to include reminders of death as real, albeit subsumed in the film's imagery of the passing seasons. (See the wintry scene depicted in the painting over Jennifer's mantelpiece.) As for Vertigo: the film seems finally to acknowledge the Nietzschean position that 'there is only one world' - yet leaves a question-mark hovering. The ambivalence is why I see these films as finally more Schopenhauerian than Nietzschean, and all the better for it.

June 29 - 1999
Further to the above ... Nandor Bokor naturally visited the Mission Dolores when he was in San Francisco. This location - so superbly filmed with a panoply of different lenses and fog-filters by cinematographer Robert Burks for Vertigo (1958) - has an unstressed significance in the film: the original mission was called the Mission San Francisco de Asis and was founded in the same year, 1776, as the city to which it eventually gave its name. So when the mysterious Madeleine (Kim Novak) initially leads Scottie (James Stewart) here, she is helping to establish a connection in his mind (and ours) with the city itself, a connection that the film proceeds to play up. Hitchcock often ought to 'animate' and 'personify' a city in this way, starting with the London of The Lodger (1926) ... Now to come back to Nandor's visits to Hitchcock locations in Europe. He notes that he couldn't locate in Brixton the site of the Ambrose Chapel from The Man Who Knew Too Much (which I recall that Doris Day says in her autobiography was indeed situated in Brixton, though the film gives it a different, fictitious address). Between us, Nandor, Danny Nissim and myself did some work with a London street directory of the time, and then Danny went and checked out the present-day locale. It seems that a whole area of houses, and several streets, has been demolished. So that seems to wind up any hope of finding the 'Ambrose Chapel' today. Nandor mentions that both versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934; 1956) used the Albert Hall as a major location. So, too, did another Hitchcock film, and that was The Ring (1927), whose climactic prize-fight is set there. (Hitch was himself a keen attender at both boxing and wrestling matches at the time.) And, in Paris, Nandor visited the site of the Charletty Stadium, where another Hitchcock climax - the duel that he intended to end Topaz (1969) - was filmed. I say several things about this scene in my forthcoming book. Among them: that Hitchcock had done his research and found that a duel had been fought there within the past five years. So much, then, for the objections of some preview audiences that the scene was 'unbelievable' and 'confusing' (causing it to be dropped).

June 28 - 1999
If you haven't yet read Dr Nandor Bokor's two pieces recently re-posted (slightly revised) on our Web site, "A 'Hitchcock tour' of the USA" and "Hitchcock locations in Europe", let me urge you to do so soon. Nandor is a genuine Hitchcock enthusiast, and his two accounts of his visits to Hitchcock 'locations' are knowledgeably written and entertaining. Nandor even spots one or two errors that crept into the Truffaut book on Hitchcock. For my part, this time around I've added in parentheses a couple of additions to Nandor's comments. For example, Nandor notes that he visited 3 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, which is where the villain Bob Rusk (Barry Foster) lives above a publishing company in Frenzy (1972). I've added the information that the publisher concerned is the famous one of Duckworth and Company, who published books by John Galsworthy ('The Skin Game') and Eden Philpotts ('The Farmer's Wife'), for two. Hitchcock had himself visited just such an apartment above a Henrietta Street publisher (perhaps it was Duckworth's) in the 1920s when he called on woman author 'Clemence Dane' (Winifred Ashton), and that's how he got the idea to set Rusk's apartment there. Very possibly Hitchcock's visit was in connection with his upcoming film at the time, Murder! (1930), which was adapted from the novel 'Enter Sir John' co-authored by Dane (with Helen Simpson). Another piece of information I've added to Nandor's account of Hitchcock locations in London is the name and address of the real-life taxidermist's that served as the model for the one visited by Dr Ben McKenna (James Stewart) in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). It was: Messrs Edward Gerrard and Sons, 61 College Place, Camden Town. (The film even retains the same street number, though the name of the street itself has been changed.) Thanks to mutual friend of Nandor and myself, Danny Nissim, for this last piece of information, which comes straight from the horses's mouth - Danny lives in Camden Town.

June 23 - 1999
I cited Claire Tomalin's book on Dickens for (I think) good reasons. For one thing, both Dickens and Hitchcock were inveterate play-goers all their lives (in Dickens's case, he was also a passionate producer and performer in amateur theatricals). Both knew the London theatre-scene of their day intimately. The sort of ogling of actresses onstage, and the seduction and flesh-peddling of actresses and prostitutes offstage, that is depicted in Hitchcock's first film, The Pleasure Garden, was also something familiar to Dickens, though (not surprisingly) it didn't get described in his novels. Tomalin's book reports how young actresses in the Victorian theatre were typically required to perform boys' parts for one main reason: so that they had to wear tights, which appealed to the male patrons. And the sort of flesh-peddling I mentioned was carried on in the streets outside certain theatres: Tomalin prints an 1860 sketch from Henry Mayhew's famous book about London, showing gentlemen and prostitutes making their deals in the Haymarket 'after the show'. This sort of thing was familiar to Hitchcock, and he drew on it in The Pleasure Garden (whose title is significant). In this respect, there's another parallel between Dickens and Hitchcock worth making. By now, everyone has heard that Hitchcock propositioned actress 'Tippi' Hedren during the making of Marnie. Patricia Hitchcock's recent denial of such an event, in the London 'Daily Mail Weekend', 22 May 1999 - 'There has never been a shred of evidence suggesting ... an improper overture' - doesn't quite ring true. On the other hand, and I've said this in my book (and am writing a separate article about it), Donald Spoto's account of what took place, and the evidence he adduces, is certainly over-dramatised. After all, any number of famous men, and non-famous men, have committed sexual peccadilloes, or worse: many have taken mistresses. Such a person was Dickens, who propositioned actress Ellen Ternan to become his mistress in 1858, when she was just 19, and he was 46. (So Hitch's pass at 'Tippi' looks tame by comparison.) More about this another time.

June 22 - 1999
Hitchcock's first feature film The Pleasure Garden is set initially in and around a music hall of that name; and it begins by showing both positive and negative aspects of the theatre scene - its liveliness (in the fullest sense) and its sordidness. Chorus dancers scamper down a spiral stairway onto the stage where they begin to kick up their legs, which is all very pleasing, especially to the male viewers in the theatre audience! Hitchcock shows these latter persons ogling the dancers, and some of the 'gentlemen' in the front row even resort to the use of theatre-glasses. (A woman member of the audience, meanwhile, appears to be nodding off to sleep - shades of Jedediah Leland in Orson Welles's Citizen Kane, equally bored when watching Susan Alexander try to perform the opera 'Salambo'!) The shots of these sweaty, rich men recall some of the satiric lithographs of Honoré Daumier (1808-79), the artist whose work dissected Parisian society in the 19th century. So this is an early example of Hitchcock's 'caricaturist' mode. But what is already equally typical of him is that he chooses to side with the spirited chorus girl Patsy (Virginia Valli), who is clearly not impressed by the looks she is receiving, and even deigns to poke her tongue at one of the oglers. Not much has changed forty years later when in Marnie Hitchcock makes fun of Strutt's 'victimisation' by the 'brunette with the legs' (as Mark Rutland calls her), Marnie, whom he'd taken on as his secretary without proper references, and is 'cleaned out' by her. But, to return to The Pleasure Garden, Hitchcock goes further and shows the sordidness of the whole theatre scene with its 'stage-door johnnies' and other hangers-on, out for what they can get - mainly sexual pickings, clearly. (There's a symbolic moment, which will recur in several Hitchcock films thereafter, when a newcomer to the theatre, Jill, played by Carmelita Geraghty, is robbed of the contents of her purse when she arrives at the stage door.) This is all hard documentary detail, recalling the sort of behind-the-scenes goings-on that are recounted in an excellent book about the 19th-century stage, Claire Tomalin's 'The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens' (1990). More tomorrow.

June 21 - 1999
One of the points I make in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' (out in July) is how the notion that Hitch wasn't interested in 'documentary detail' is belied by the opening sequences of virtually all of his silent films, and aspects of his later ones. In the Thirties he said that he would definitely like to make a documentary (if producers would give him the freedom) such as one about Derby Day, in the manner of the famous - and detailed - painting by William Powell Frith (1819-1909). Of course, Hitch also had the eye of a caricaturist, developed from his early training as a draughtsman, and he was familiar with the work of the great English painter and engraver William Hogarth (1697-1764). There's a pointed reference in Suspicion to the Hogarth Club, possibly drawing a parallel between Johnnie (Cary Grant), who in the novel is a lady-killer in every sense, and Hogarth's 'The Rake's Progress'. Both of these aspects of Hitch - his interest in 'documentary', and his eye for caricature - are apparent in such late films as Marnie and Frenzy. (Marnie, for example, has considerable 'documentary detail' in the scene at the Atlantic City racetrack, though of course there's much else going on here, too. The high-shot of the track that locates it beside the sea is one of a series of 'atmospheric' high-shots running through the film. As for the film's aspect of caricature, the marvellous moment when the monomania about money of 'Cousin Bob' is shown as he stands on the 'Wykwyn' doorstep conversing with Lil - light glinting off his spectacles - is unforgettable, and it relates to the whole satirical view of the business ethos that informs the film, summed up by the steely grey surfaces and routine of the Rutland office.) But from his very first film as director, The Pleasure Garden, made in 1925, Hitch showed his skill with both documentary and caricature. I'll talk about this tomorrow.

June 16 - 1999
The scene in the crofter's cottage in The 39 Steps is a small 'triangle drama' in itself. Cleverly, Hitchcock and his screenwriter Charles Bennett got the idea from a slightly risqué story they'd heard - and which is recounted in the Truffaut/Hitchcock interview book. (But the shot when the suspicious crofter peers in at his own window to try and catch out his wife and Hannay, which is a good piece of visual dramatics - and voyeurism - has several precedents in Hitch's films, such as The Lodger and The Farmer's Wife, and would recur in later films such as The Paradine Case and Psycho. Hitch often used an outside/inside dichotomy as a pivot for a shot or scene: think of his cameo appearance in North by Northwest, when he misses the bus. Typically in these examples, we're asked to identify with the excluded party.) Now back to The 39 Steps ... As mentioned last time, Hitch cut a montage showing how Hannay obtained a change of clothing before he arrived at the crofter's cottage. Without ever actually showing Hannay, the sequence depicts a succession of persons who find themselves with somebody else's cast-offs, i.e., who've been robbed of their own clothes and left with somebody else's. The clear inspiration for this sequence is an episode in Chaplin's The Pilgrim (1922) which Hitch would later cite as an example of pure visual storytelling. It goes roughly like this. A man emerges from a swim in a river and looks in bewilderment at the clothes he'd left on the river bank. He holds them up and we see that they're a prison uniform. The film then cuts to a railway platform. Walking along it, trying to look nonchalent, is Charlie - wearing a parson's garb that is several sizes too large for him. (To compare the cut Hitchcock sequence, visit Steven L. DeRosa's Web site, 'Alfred Hitchcock and His Writers', and click on "Alfred Hitchcock's Trim Bin".) There's another 'borrowing' in The 39 Steps that I'd like to mention. But I think I'll make it the topic of our next 'Odd Spot' (below). Check there in the next day or so.

June 15 - 1999
[K.M. is back. Here's his first item ...] My thanks to Robert Schoen for filling in with his thoughtful pieces about Hitch in recent months. I hope to have some online discussions with Robert in the near future. But tonight (and next time) I want to talk briefly about The 39 Steps (1935). It's typical of Hitch that so much of this film is a pastiche of other 'sources'. For example, did you think it was Hitch's own idea to have his hero and heroine handcuffed together? Not a bit of it! Hitch got that idea from the novel 'Mr Priestley's Secret' (1927) by A.B. Cox (who as 'Francis Iles' wrote the novel on which Hitch's Suspicion was based). Okay, but the memorable scene in which Hannay (Robert Donat) makes an impromptu speech at a political rally, and speaks glorious nonsense, surely that was Hitch and screenwriter Charles Bennett's devising? Not really! It's largely an amalgam of two or three episodes in John Buchan's novels, notably 'The Thirty-Nine Steps' itself (1915, the chapter called "The Adventure of the Radical Candidate") and 'Castle Gay' (1930, the chapter called "Portaway - Red Davie"). In the latter novel, which isn't one of the Hannay books at all, a reclusive newspaper editor named Craw finds himself suddenly called on to make a political speech at a Communist rally and gloriously improvises by turning his previous anti-socialist editorials into pro-Communist rhetoric. Right. But what about the Hitchcock film's great scene in the crofter's cottage, a virtual triangle situation with Donat, Peggy Ashcroft, and John Laurie? Wasn't that Hitch's and Bennett's own work? Well, yes and no. (Explanation next time.) Or the clever moment when Hannay's life is saved when a prayer book in his coat stops a bullet. A thoughtful piece of religious symbolism? May be - but it has a real-life precedent. (Details next time.) Or the cut scene in the film which accounts for how Hannay got a change of clothes before arriving at the crofter's cottage (see "Alfred Hitchcock's Trim Bin" on Steven L. DeRosa's great Web site, 'Alfred Hitchcock and His Writers'). Wasn't that an original piece of writing? No, it wasn't! (The facts will be given next time.) Stay tuned!

June 14 - 1999
[Final piece for now from Robert Schoen, which he heads dramatically, 'Ken Mogg returns' ...] As many of you readers know, 'The MacGuffin' Editor Ken Mogg has been busy for many months preparing an upcoming volume on Hitchcock's cinema for Titan Books. I'm happy to report that Ken will shortly be returning to write the Editor's Day posts on these pages. There has been a wonderful behind-the-scenes correspondence between myself and Ken in which he's offered valuable information relating to my posts and occasionally 'cracked my knuckles' over some observation he considered too speculative on my part. I would like to share some of Ken's correspondence as a prelude to his return. On two recent postings concerning Hitchcock and the theater, Ken sent to me the following: 'A quote I saw a while ago now haunts me as one of the most revealing about Hitchcock. He said that he had always managed to keep his innocence re watching plays performed on stage, by which he meant that he could watch them without thinking of the mechanics and production techniques involved. I extend the significance of this sentiment to account for much of Hitchcock's (wilful but cinematically wonderful) outlook on life. He willed and imagined his films into being, he was never confined to merely recording them.' Ken wasn't convinced about my speculation that the dead ringer Hitchcock-look-a-like Jessyln Fax who played the sculptress in Rear Window and a motel owner in 'The Woman Who Wanted to Live' (AHP episode) was a symbolic stand-in for the inner female psyche that informs much of Hitchcock's work. Ken wrote: 'Hitch made feminine-quality films, as we both know. But how does casting the fat lady in RW support/enhance/forward such a thought? After all, there is perhaps something of Hitchcock in each of the characters over the way in RW, though his cameo-visit to the composer's apartment, to wind his clock, is especially important (in so far as it has importance). The fat lady's sculpture, a la Henry Moore, called 'Hunger', with a hollow centre (shades of NxNW to come, but also of RW's own central courtyard around which a community exists, seemingly never to properly realise itself - which is a point of the film) is a visual gag anyway, given its well-fed owner/sculptor, but of course the word 'hunger' can also mean 'people-hunger', which seems much more relevant here. Furthermore, Hitchcock's (and Jeff's) principal alter ego across the way is male: Thorwald. (He's the father-figure, like Dr Murchison in Spellbound, waiting to be dispossessed.) So, too, is the composer a male. So picking out a lone female, albeit a fat one, as especially depicting something in Hitchcock himself seems straining.' Ken went on to say, 'Film criticism should be infinitely more disciplined, and more un-self-centered, than it often is. In any number of books on Hitchcock, various authors have been guilty of straining to unearth some esoteric theme unnoticed by every other mortal, when there should be infinitely more time spent on synthesising, bringing together, spelling out the fairly unsubtle and merely complex ways in which Hitchcock made films. And in empathising with Hitchcock, in all of his complex background of Edwardiana, Englishness, etc.' I couldn't agree more. I wish to thank Ken for the wonderful experience of filling his shoes and share the sentiments of everyone out there in welcoming him back.

April 27 - 1999
[Robert Schoen 'interviews' Laura Elliot about Strangers on a Train ...] The actress who so memorably played the role of Miriam Haines in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, Laura Elliot, recently shared many recollections of working on that film and of her film career in general. In 1951, Miss Elliot was a contract player for Paramount, having appeared in DeMille's Samson and Delilah, Frank Capra's Riding High, and even briefly in that other 1951 masterpiece, George Steven's Place in the Sun. Elliot tried out for Miriam's part, which was taking a very long time to cast, and finally was picked as one of six actresses to be screen tested for the role. She was finally chosen by Hitchcock on the strength of that test. Ironically, in order to play Miriam (from the Latin "to look") Elliot had to wear a pair of glasses so thick that she literally couldn't see while wearing of them. Hitchcock had sent her to an optometrist and six identical pairs of glasses were ordered. But even though a pair with normal lenses was made up for the long shots, Hitchcock insisted Elliot wear the thick lenses for every scene. It became a running joke between Elliot and her co-star Robert Walker (Bruno Anthony), who actually wore thick glasses all the time in real life, that they both were blind as bats during most of the filming. In her first scene in the music store, Elliot had to feel her way along the counter in order to reach her mark. Later, Miriam had to be literally guided by her two boyfriends onto the city bus when Bruno first encounters her. A great testimony to Elliot's acting skills was that she was able to elicit the most electric acting from the usually flat Farley Granger in their shared scene in that music store. This tense encounter between husband and wife was filmed entirely in a Warner's studio, and the wonderfully appropriate background sound of dissonant piano tuning was only added later in postproduction. The scenes in the amusement park were filmed on a lake an hour outside of Hollywood. Hitchcock had a real amusement park moved to the site. But the famous strangling scene, seen through the lens of Miriam's dropped glasses, was meticulously filmed in the studio, without Robert Walker being present. Hitchcock set up the camera to film the giant convex lens reflecting Elliot slowly falling back toward it. It took seven takes to get it right. Hitch told Elliot he wanted her to lean back onto the ground as if she was floating on air, but every time she tried to, she would fall like a rock the final two feet. Finally she was able to float all the way down, to which Hitchcock dryly commented, "Let's move on to the next scene." Elliot says that Hitchcock in real life acted exactly as he did on his television series. She recalled what a pleasure it was to work with Bob Walker, who answered her every flirtatious look in the amusement park scenes with his one of his own. Together they created one of the most perverse courtships in cinematic history. Elliot came up with the suggestive "ice cream licking," ("pretty racy for the time, if you got it," she said) which Hitchcock heartily approved. He gave little direction to the actors, except in the most general of terms, but always recognized when an actor brought something exceptional to their role. With the creation of such a memorable Bad Girl, it's a shame Laura Elliot didn't go on to become the next Barbara Stanwick (the two actresses did appear together in No Man of Her Own.) But when Elliot returned to Paramount, that studio practically ignored the good reviews generated by her role as Miriam. Later Laura Elliot reverted to her real name Kasey Rogers, as she began a television career on the popular series, 'Peyton Place' (playing Julie Anderson) and 'Bewitched' (playing Louise Tate). She became good friends with 'Bewitched' co-star Marion Lorne, another alumnus of Strangers, who delighted audiences again with her batty Aunt Clara. The confusion of the name change from Laura Elliot to Kasey Rogers has caused this wonderful actress to fall off the radar for many admirers of her cinematic work. Hopefully this situation will change as many Hitchcock fans and film producers learn that she is still available for work and happy to hear from them.

[I could not locate any posts earlier than April 27 1999 in Ken's records - AF]