Editor's Week 2001

December 19 - 2001
[Sculptor, and Hitchcock devotee, Robert Schoen, author of the 'screenplay' called 'Hitch & Alma', concludes his thoughts about appearing on television alongside Hitchcock's daughter.]

One of the main inspirations for writing 'Hitch & Alma' was the poignant 1952 photo of Alma by Samson Raphaelson. She sits on a sofa before a luminous glass of juice, her tightly drawn face framed by her disheveled hair as she stares intently into the camera through her steel rimmed glasses, looking very much like a Hitchcock protagonist (or victim, for that matter.) For me, this Kafkaesque portrait speaks volumes about the extent of Alma's true involvement in her husband's vision. After my interview, I made a symbolic pilgrimage to the couple's Bel Air residence. I drove up the nearby hills and through the grand arched entrance of Bel Air itself, then along curving, manicured Belaggio Road, finally arriving before the nearly hidden gate leading to the surprisingly small cottage that was the setting for much of my screenplay/novel. Just being there, you could almost feel Hitchcock's presence. I have no idea what reaction, if any, Ms Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell had to my book. I sent her one of the first copies, but never heard back from her. So it will be interesting, to say the least, to see how our respective interviews for TV Ontario look when aired together. But I am certain, as I expressed in my interview, that Ms O'Connell is certainly entitled to the definitive last word on what went on in the Hitchcock home, and the obvious professional and private accord that existed between her parents. I hope she follows through with her stated intent to write a biography on her mother, Alma Reville Hitchcock. It would be a tremendous contribution to our understanding of the other half responsible for the Hitchcock legacy.

December 18 - 2001
[Interviewed for TV, Robert Schoen modified his earlier views on Hitchcock's relations with his leading ladies ...]

As I arrived at the Los Angeles Hotel's 'W' suite, where I was sat before the hot lights for my interview, little did I know that my recorded observations would be spliced next to those of the daughter of someone whom I had admired and studied for most of my life. Worse, that my comments might form a debate with this daughter over the morality of a man for whom I have nothing but admiration and respect. In other words, who was I to expound publicly on the private life of a man I had never met, effectively pitting my views against those of his loyal and only daughter? Thinking about my comments later, I felt as though I were reprising Doreen Lang's role of the accuser in The Wrong Man! And yet, was my point of view about Hitch and Alma as a couple, and stated in my book, really all that different from Ms. O'Connell's? I explained to the interviewer that the theme of the book (which I have always described as fictional) was to show how the Hitchcocks functioned as a professional couple who shared a mutual vision, which the director ultimately brought to the screen. As the 'MacGuffin' in my novel/screenplay, the director's secret longings for his leading ladies are expressed in a series of outtakes from his most famous films that he keeps locked away from Alma's prying eyes in the private screening room of their home. But Alma knows where the key to the room is hidden and all about her husband's fantasies, which she grudgingly accepts as part of his artistic process! However, since the publication of my book four years ago, I've developed a new hypothesis about Hitchcock's involvement with his leading ladies, which I expressed for the first time during the TVOntario interview. It occurred to me that Hitchcock, always the master of self-promotion, might have been trying to create for himself the public persona of a ladies' man, just to garner publicity for his films. In his role as producer, the bottom line to any film project was its financial return, and the press back then (as now) ate up any rumors of romance behind the cameras. Think of that staged photo of Grace Kelly in massive hooped gold gown trimming Hitch's hair during To Catch a Thief. Or Hitch's comments to screenwriter David Freeman about how Ingrid Bergman was 'constantly throwing herself at me.' Like a studio publicist, Hitchcock was known to frequently make up anecdotes about his leading ladies to illustrate a point or to publicize a movie. There is the often repeated story of how during the shooting of Vertigo he constantly shot take after take of Kim Novak plunging into San Francisco Bay. Then there's the story of how Hitch came to have a belated respect for Novak's acting ability after she showed up late for a dinner at his home claiming to have had a car breakdown. According to Hitchcock, she appeared at the door wearing a carefully placed grease smudge on her perfectly made-up face and a symbolic single hair out of place, just like a true movie star. If Hitchcock were capable of fabricating such white lies about a leading lady who was not quite his type, wouldn't he also be capable of exaggerating his interest in those who were his type?

December 17 - 2001
[Editor's note. This week, sculptor and author Robert Schoen, whose 'screenplay' called 'Hitch and Alma' deals in somewhat bizarre and surreal fashion with Alfred Hitchcock's relations with the women in his life - his wife, his daughter, and several of his leading ladies - considers further the subject of his book, in particular Alma Hitchcock, née Reville.]

TV Ontario's 'Saturday Night at the Movies', Canada's most watched television program, airs a weekly double feature of some of the finest films ever made, along with an original interview segment related to the films. For five years running, TV Ontario has hosted an annual Hitchcock double feature, and in the past they have interviewed many well-known Hitchcock actors, writers, biographers, and film authorities. As the author of 'Hitch & Alma', I was somewhat surprised and honored to be invited to Los Angeles this summer to be interviewed for this year's TVOntario's Hitchcock segment. Assuming that I would be one of many authors who would participate, I learnt that the only other interviewee that was scheduled to be taped for the Hitchcock program was Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell herself. Knowing how assertive Ms. O'Connell had been during the Hitchcock Centennial in defending her father's reputation against the long-published assertions that he had secret obsessions with his leading ladies, this put me in the awkward position of having to debate Hitchcock's daughter apropos one of the principal themes of my own book! Like Michelangelo or Picasso, Hitchcock is one of those artists whose personality is as fascinating as the art he created. The biographies of such men are essential reading to fully appreciate both their accomplishments and the recurring psychological themes found in their works. It is for this reason I have long admired Donald Spoto's masterful Hitchcock biography, 'The Dark Side of Genius'. Heroic in its scope and breath, it courageously attempts to link Hitchcock's life to his art. Yet this book was roundly attacked by Ms. O'Connell and others as both mean-spirited and inaccurate about Spoto's allegations concerning Hitchcock's attentions to Tippi Hedren and other actresses. While I felt Spoto's respect for his subject throughout was obvious, my one major reservation with the book, which I have read several times and refer back to constantly, was that it seemed to short-change Alma's role in both Hitchcock's life and art. Another of the book's glaring omissions, considering the importance of the recurring 'Mother' theme that runs through Hitchcock's oeuvre, concerned how Spoto did not adequately address in his book what elements in Hitchcock's life might have colored such a hostile portrayal of motherhood. In 1996, with the encouragement of Twelve Monkeys producer Robert Kosberg, I began to write a screenplay on Hitchcock's life in which I would try to construct a movie, not so much in the style of Hitchcock, as one that explored Hitchcockian themes such as shared guilt, the double life, and the profound sacrifices one makes out of love. Hitchcock's fascination with Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, or Tippi Hedren is nowhere as interesting as his complex love affair with his wife Alma. More tomorrow.

December 11 - 2001
[Editor's note. Today's 'guest editor', like Thomas Leitch yesterday, teaches in the English Department of an American university: Dennis Perry, of Brigham Young University, Utah, is preparing a comparative study of Edgar Allan Poe's literary works and Hitchcock's films. The book will be published by Scarecrow Press in 2003. Here, in addressing a certain disparity between surface and event in The Birds (1963), Professor Perry seeks to raise our awareness of the humorous elements that contribute to an 'aesthetics of horror' governing that film.]

In doing the literature survey for a chapter of my book on the aesthetic relationship between Poe and Hitchcock, I was surprised to note how many critics see only the dark side of The Birds. While many critics hover over the problems associated with establishing a coherent reading of the film at all, an even greater number of scholars, particularly those ideologically committed to current social/critical theories, stress the dark ironies of a pathological film about Oedipal tensions, female punishment, male triumph, or homosexual assault. Partly as a result of my comparing the film to its sister Poe tale, "The Masque of the Red Death," which is so much darker in its fatal conclusion, The Birds seems to cry out for a lighter reading to balance the critical scales. While I haven't space here to offer a definitive revision of the prevailing wisdom on the film, I will offer a few hints from which such a reading could be developed (and will be in my book). Briefly, then, I see at least three reasons for a more optimistic reading of the film: 1) its humor, 2) Cathy and her love birds, and 3) its apocalyptic imagery in relation to its 'ending.' First, in terms of its humor, besides the often noticed light romantic comic feel of the first part of the film, there are the raft of comic actors and funny characters leavening the graphic horror: Ruth McDevitt (the flustered bird shop owner), Richard Deacon (the man in the elevator), John McGovern (the perplexed Brinkmeyer), and Doodles Weaver (the shocked boat rental man). These are faces most often seen in television comedies and Disney movies and seem to offer reassurance that, after all, 'its only a movie.' Another source of humor is Hitchcock's comic reduction of his own suspense techniques (such as during Melanie's delivery of the birds in her absurdly vain way). One other strange manifestation of humor comes in the sometimes visually funny attacks themselves: the girl at Cathy's party kicking her legs mechanically under the fence with a bird on her neck (in fact, the entire party sequence , viewed with sound off, is incredibly artificial and funny), the jump cuts of Melanie watching the fire trail from the window, and Melanie's blind flailing at birds that are not there near the end. These scenes are Hitchcock's innovation in the aesthetics of horror - comic relief during horrific violence. Second, in many ways Cathy and her love birds are the invisible center of the film, bringing all of the characters together and helping to redeem Melanie by continually insisting on her presence (both consciously at the party and unconsciously 'willing' her to bring the love birds to Bodega Bay). Despite the obvious ambiguities (Camille Paglia wants to slap her and Robin Wood finds Cathy's characterization banal and awkward), Cathy is a powerful attractive force that eventually counteracts the chaotic violence of the birds. Finally, in my comparing The Birds to Poe's "Masque" as apocalyptic stories, the score of biblical references to fire, smoke, darkness, birds, plague, and the magic number seven (Poe's seven rooms and Hitchcock's seven major bird attacks which we witness) both link and separate the narratives. Poe's is an apocalypse with little hint of redemption - a darkly ironic reversal of its biblical imagery, presenting the catastrophe of global annihilation. However, Hitchcock's apocalypse more conventionally promises a millennial dawn - complete with optimistic shaft of light as hopeful goal for the now united Brenner party. To say, as Donald Spoto has, that the film 'simply stops,' is to ignore the subdued birds, Melanie and Lydia's subtle but significant reconciliation, and the talisman love birds that will seemingly continue to protect this group of people who have overcome complacent prejudice and neurotic clinging. And all of this is not to mention the two darker endings (Hunter's original ending and the obviously tempting Golden Gate Bridge shot) Hitchcock rejected. My conclusion is simply that despite its ambiguities and dissonances, there are far too many hopeful - and downright funny - elements in The Birds to ignore them and still claim to have captured the essence of Hitchcock or the film.

December 10 - 2001
[Editor's note. Moving back into the chair of 'guest editor' tonight - he has already given us his review of the book 'The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion' - is Thomas Leitch, author of 'Find the Director - and Other Hitchcock Games', who teaches in the English Department at the University of Delaware. Professor Leitch is writing 'The Alfred Hitchcock Encyclopedia', to be published by Facts on File. Here he reviews the book by Peter Conrad, 'The Hitchcock Murders', which has just come out in paperback in the UK.]

By my informal count, Peter Conrad’s 'The Hitchcock Murders' (Faber and Faber, hb and pb) is the 66th book on Hitchcock to appear in English, and its single most remarkable feature is how little use it has for the other 65. Conrad, an Oxford historian of literature and culture whose many other books have often treated their scholarly progenitors with similar indifference, makes no bones about his impatience with academic criticism that uses Hitchcock’s films to advance ideological agendas, overlooking how 'deliriously beautiful and achingly sad' Vertigo is in order to note its sexism, its attacks on the construction of masculinity, or its cinematic self-reflexiveness. It gradually becomes clear that Conrad has done his homework. He is armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of Hitchcock’s literary sources, and he usefully draws attention to discrepancies between the transcripts of François Truffaut’s interviews with Hitchcock and the edited version that found its way into print. Even so, reading him is a bit like paying the proprietor of a private shrine for admittance to the sacred mysteries. Conrad’s Hitchcock is very much his own, introduced by his autobiographical reminiscence of sneaking into Psycho as a child of 13 and proceeding through what seem to be successive unmaskings of the director as a master of “The Art of Murder,” “The Technique of Murder,” and “The Religion of Murder.” Although the air of penetration to a thematic core - the unholy fascination with the taboos of death, mystery and the macabre Hitchcock managed more successfully than any Establishment artists of his century to communicate to the public - turns out to be largely illusory, Conrad is never less than an entertaining and well-informed guide to the films, which he tours with insouciant arbitrariness. Like God, Hitchcock arranged miracles in The 39 Steps, Shadow of a Doubt, and The Wrong Man. His technical tricks - the dream sequence of Spellbound, the long takes of Rope, the red suffusions in Marnie - invariably correspond to neurotic quirks that 'force us to share his surrealized vision of the world.' His facetious remark to Truffaut, 'I practice absurdity quite religiously,' was philosophically rigorous and literally true. Trying to follow Conrad’s larger argument is like driving down Broadway and hitting every red light for ten miles. But his gift for writing a nonstop series of provocative paragraphs may make 'The Hitchcock Murders' the one book on Hitchcock you’d most want to take to a desert island - especially if, like Conrad, you were willing to dispense with all the others.

December 6 - 2001
[In his final report on the scripting, production, and post-production of Suspicion, Bill Krohn reveals a further mystery about the film's ending - which will be publicly solved here next month!]

The last ending but one written for Suspicion was a comic one. Hitchcock and Raphaelson started it on May 26, before Johnnie’s bedroom confession had been previewed, and revised it on June 14, the day after the first unsuccessful preview. (Here I can refer the curious to 'Hitchcock’s Notebooks' by Dan Auiler, with one caveat: the script pages reproduced on pp. 69 and 76 are incorrectly dated 5/14 - they should be dated 6/14.) Perhaps anticipating that the preview ending would get laughs, Hitchcock and his collaborator devised a way for Lina to realize her error that was guaranteed to have that effect: a cutaway shows that the family dog is present in her bedroom when she starts to drink the glass of milk, and when she sets it down still full, Johnnie, with a remark about 'waste,' feeds it to the dog. Lina’s horrified reaction reveals her suspicions, and a discussion ensues that ends with Johnnie swearing to reform, and Lina passionately telling him that she believes him. Johnnie: 'Do you know - I’m beginning to believe it myself!' They both laugh. The confessional ending was previewed again on June 23, and again drew a discouraging response from the crowd. Then, on June 25, just before flying to New York to appear on the radio show 'Information, Please,' Hitchcock reshot the ending in the bedroom, a fact I only discovered recently when delving into the production files for this guest editorial. Because only script and production files are available at UCLA, there is no way to tell, just from the scene numbers on the production report, what the content of this reshoot was. There are three possibilities: 1) It may have been the 'leave ‘em laughing' ending just described. 2) Hitchcock may have tried reshooting the preview ending to make it work. 3) He may even have finally tried shooting the unhappy ending with the 'twist' of the letter, which was certainly foreshadowed in the body of the film. Only the continuity reports typed up daily by the script supervisor for use by the editor can tell us what Hitchcock filmed that day, and for several years now, RKO post-production records have been unavailable to scholars. Fortunately, a helpful soul in the Turner organization has promised to research the matter for me. I will report the results here in January, and in the meantime I invite the reader who has stayed with me this long to cast his or her eye over the evidence I’ve presented and make an educated guess. (My money is on 2.) Whatever the mystery ending was, no account before this mentions it or any attempt to preview it. Instead, we know that Hitchcock rushed back from New York because the new head of production, Sol Lesser, had recut the film, and the director seems to have spent much of July getting his picture put back together The third and final ending he came up with in these tense circumstances - moving the wild car ride to the morning after Lina thinks Johnnie tried to poison her and shooting a brief confession scene on a cliff - was not just an editing job, as I too hastily stated in 'Hitchcock at Work'. It actually involved reshooting bits of the scenes leading up to the wild ride and most of the ride itself. Once again, Hitchcock’s interview in the 'Tribune' offers the best explanation of how he came to this ending after doing everything in his power to pull off a long dialogue scene that would be right at home at the end of a film by Raphaelson’s regular collaborator, Ernst Lubitsch. (Hitchcock would finally pull that one off with the help of a constantly moving camera in Under Capricorn.) 'Short stories and films are taken in all at one sitting,' he tells the 'Tribune' interviewer. 'There are no breaks to give the audience digestion time. The plot in each case must spin directly to a conclusion, and speed is essential to directness.' Speeded up, the 'twist' of Johnnie’s innocence worked with the audience, as Hitchcock points out when he sums up the Suspicion experience at the end of the piece: 'Well ... those troubles are over now, for better or worse. By the run, I judge that it’s for better! And the troubles were never as bad as they might have been. I’d greatly prefer to have a story stall at the end than in the middle. There won’t be any such difficulties with my next - I trust.'

• [Editor's note. My deep thanks to Bill Krohn for publishing his breakthrough research on Suspicion here first - a different version, with added emphasis on the aesthetic implications, will appear in the French journal 'Trafic'. Bill acknowledges inspiration for his reading of Suspicion to Mark Crispin Miller's essay "Hitchcock's Suspicions and Suspicion" - cited above on November 12 and 26 - and to the chapter on Suspicion in Donald Spoto's 'The Art of Alfred Hitchcock'. Bill would add that the first researcher to note the significance of three mooted titles for the film, all containing references to the mailing of a letter (e.g., Posthumously Yours), was Steven DeRosa on his 'Hitchcock and His Writers' website - there's a link to that site on our Links page. Finally, readers are encouraged to check back here in January when Bill will reveal what form of the film's ending was shot, or re-shot, on June 25, 1941. Could it have been the 'incriminating letter' ending?]

December 5 - 2001
[Today, Bill Krohn's penultimate report on the making of Suspicion adds more detail on the different revelations and explanations that were considered for the film's ending.]

The endings which appear in early drafts of Suspicion indirectly support Hitchcock’s surprising statement that in the ending previewed Lina actually drank the milk and only realized her error about Johnnie when it dawned on her she wasn’t dying - that is more or less what happens in all of them. Two other common features: in all the early endings Johnnie realizes that Lina has suspected him of murder - a detail that would be eliminated in the endings actually filmed - and none of them mentions suicide. It wasn’t until the preview ending, written during the hiatus while Fontaine was out sick, that Hitchcock and Raphaelson hit on the idea of Johnnie planning to kill himself - a 'twist' that hardly had the shock value of Johnnie mailing the letter that would send him to the gallows in the last shot, although it must have looked like genius to Hitchcock in comparison to what he had on paper up to that point. In the November 28 draft by Harrison and Reville, which set the pattern for the ending, Johnnie berates himself after realizing what Lina has been thinking and compares his life to Hogarth’s 'The Rake’s Progress.' (The comparison survives in the name of the London club where Johnnie claims he was when Beaky died: the Hogarth Club.) Raphaelson’s initial contribution in his December 18 screenplay and additional drafts appended to it was to stick with the idea that Johnnie is as guilty as if he had done the things Lina imagined because he might have done them - a morally dubious (albeit very Hitchcockian) proposition that Raphaelson expanded into an even longer monologue by Johnnie about being born into the impoverished branch of an illustrious family and turning to gambling (and cheating) to pay for the expensive tastes he acquired in childhood, a monologue that builds up to the most infelicitous sentence Raphaelson, one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood, ever put on paper: 'You were writing my story more accurately than I lived it.' In one of these variants Johnnie even takes the theory of virtual guilt to the limit by shockingly announcing 'You’re right. I’m your murderer. I killed you!' and going on to explain: 'You saw me as Beaky’s murderer, and yours. That makes me as guilty as if I had done it.' If we consider that all of these quotes are from drafts done just before and after the start of production, I don’t think we have to posit a Machiavellian strategy of Hitchcock’s to understand why, when he was signing off on the plans for the Village Street, he stuck a letter-box in the middle of it, just in case. If he were really trying to sabotage the happy ending to get his way, why would he keep trying to find a happy ending that worked? When Fontaine went home sick on April 23, he and Raphaelson started to rework the ending by cancelling the second part, which would have sent Johnnie off to fight the Battle of Britain, and trying out two ways of ending the film in the bedroom: in the first Johnnie says 'You were willing to die for me ... you never knew that at any moment since I first laid eyes on you, I would have died for you.' This harks back to a March 15 draft that still segued to the RAF, but the alternative typed up the same day, April 23, takes the conclusion in a different direction: Johnnie’s monologue about his sad childhood and virtual guilt is cancelled; instead he swears, 'No more betting, no more lying, no more cheating. You believe me, don’t you dear?' Lina: 'Yes, of course I do.' They embrace, and in the last shot 'She looks out over his shoulder at the audience [italics mine] - she smiles, very maternally and very understandingly, while she strokes his hair. But we know she cannot believe him.' The collaborators subsequently hit on the suicide 'twist,' which was filmed in May and previewed in June, but their first attempt at a conclusion free of melodramatic speech-making (anticipating by almost forty years the last shot of Family Plot) would become the basis for yet another rewrite that Hitchcock initiated ten days after shooting wrapped, as soon as he had had a chance to see the whole film cut together with the preview ending in place. Significantly, the new ending that was started on May 26, which may even have been filmed, was a happy ending, too.

December 4 - 2001
[Bill Krohn reveals that there may have been a variant of the previewed ending of Suspicion whose script version is published on this website ...]

After accessing memos in the RKO archives, Donald Spoto says that it was actually Hitchcock who, when the West-Ingster script for 'Before the Fact' was proposed to him, sold RKO on the idea of filming the story of a woman who imagines things, and who had Joan Harrison and Alma Reville start writing something along those lines. This meshes with what Lionel Godfrey says in 'The Light Touch', his biography of Cary Grant: that Hitchcock actually asked RKO to give him the project, and that he thought the West-Ingster script was 'beautiful,' but wanted to take the story in another direction. It is quite possible that Hitchcock only hit on the 'twist' of the incriminating letter, as a way of punishing Johnnie, after he had sold RKO on this approach, and after two new drafts with happy endings had been written. This would explain the late appearance of 'A Letter to Mail' in the last of three lists of suggested titles, dated December 10, preserved in the Hitchcock Collection at the Herrick Library. Perhaps if Michele Morgan had not had a thick French accent when she did her two screen-tests for Hitchcock in late1940 he could even have implemented the idea with Morgan and Olivier, RKO’s first choice for the role. But when Morgan didn’t work out, he may well have been hoist by his own petard, because it was evidently the next draft (finished on December 28), with dialogue by Samson Raphaelson, that sold the project to an enthusiastic Joan Fontaine, although Cary Grant, at least in retrospect, has said that he would have preferred to play a villain, as he was apparently willing to do for Hitchcock in Dial M for Murder. 'I thought the original was marvelous,' Grant told Nancy Nelson during the 70s. 'It was a perfect Hitchcock ending. But the studio insisted that they didn’t want Cary Grant to play a murderer.' The 'perfect Hitchcock ending' would of course be the incriminating letter, which all witnesses have said the studio would have none of once they had stars like Fontaine and Grant. Why, then, did Hitchcock persist in laying the groundwork for this ending while filming, a decision that must have been made at the start of production when he was ordering sets to be built, including the village street set in which the letter-box plays such an ominous role? (The last-minute adjustments Hitchcock ordered for this set on March 11 consisted only of deepening the store behind the bookshop window. The letter-box must have been part of the original plans for the set, and therefore of Hitchcock’s plans for the film.) Here again the 'Tribune' interview is helpful: 'Toward the end of the film Grant brings Miss Fontaine a glass of milk which she believes is poisoned. It seemed logical to me that she should drink it and put him to the test. If he wished to kill his devoted wife, then she might well want to die. If he didn’t, fine and good; her suspicions would clear away and we’d have our happy ending. We shot that finish. She drained the glass and waited for death. Nothing happened, except for an unavoidable and dull exposition of her spouse’s innocence. Trial audiences booed it, and I don’t blame them. They pronounced the girl stupid to willfully drink her possible destruction. With that dictum I personally do not agree. But I did agree that the necessary half-reel of explanation following the wife’s survival was really deadly.' In the preview ending as shot, Hitchcock says here, six months after the events he is describing, Lina actually drank the milk before discovering that Johnnie had contemplated suicide. Even though the preview cards do not show the audience balking at this idea, it is certain - and perfectly understandable now that we have a rough text of what was shown to them - that they balked at the 'necessary half-reel of explanation' that followed. But that is precisely the alternative Hitchcock was faced with when he went into production in early February, except that the 'half-reel of explanation' at that point was more like a full ten minutes. A review of the solutions that were tried on paper once he had committed to a happy ending will help us understand why, on strictly esthetic grounds, Hitchcock was simultaneously preparing the way for a solution he knew would work

December 3 - 2001
[Author of 'Hitchcock at Work', Bill Krohn, this week concludes his analysis of how key parts of Suspicion evolved during production and post-production. Today, more about Hitchcock's intentions.]

The following account of how the ending of Suspicion came to be is based in part on second-hand information because large areas of the RKO production record are currently hard to get at. But after picking the film apart into its successive script-versions, I want to speculate on its production in a way that leaves the door open to taking it seriously as one of Hitchcock’s best 40s films, a flawed but brilliant first attempt at what would eventually be done to perfection in Rear Window. To supplement what Hitchcock said years later to Bogdanovich, Truffaut and Taylor, I will quote from a little-known interview that appeared in the 'New York Herald Tribune' on December 7, 1941 (no wonder no one read it!), when Suspicion was already a hit (half a million in profit, with virtually no foreign moneys coming in) and Hitchcock already hard at work on Saboteur. Stories had been appearing in print about RKO’s struggle to do justice to 'Before the Fact' since before Hitchcock took on the project, and I have yet to find a contemporary review which doesn’t talk about the ending as one of many that had been considered. His setting-the-record-straight interview with the 'Tribune' makes no mention of the 'incriminating letter' ending, which he would only begin talking about years later, but if we make allowances for the inevitable show of solidarity with the studio when Oscar ballots had yet to be mailed out (Suspicion eventually received three nominations), and if we put what he says together with what we know about the knotty process he had only recently brought to a successful conclusion, it gives us a pretty accurate glimpse of Hitchcock’s thoughts about turning Francis Iles’s novel into a film. He begins by contrasting cinema with plays and novels and emphasizing what it has in common with short stories. 'The short story and the screen play have unity and speed in common,' he explains, 'and one thing more - each, in my opinion, requires a twist ending ... For instance, all through Suspicion belief piles up in the wife’s mind and the audience’s that the husband is a murderer. The written novel had time for soliloquy and brooding. So when the husband is proved actually to be a murderer it is psychologically right and proper. But that conclusion wouldn’t do in a film or a short story. Build him up as a killer with all the tricks of a trade and then say yes, he is a killer, and the audience would ask a weary "So what?" Esthetically the novel’s outcome is perfect. In a picture it would be simply flat. No, it’s got to have a twist .... I knew as soon as I read ‘Before the Fact’ that there’d have to be a different ending ...' (And indeed, even the ending Hitchcock says he was not allowed to film would have been different from the novel.) 'It is axiomatic in Hollywood that unhappy endings breed commercial failures ... But supposing we had forgotten all that and made the husband a murderer - then we’d have had the Hays Office to deal with. The code demands that a murderer face punishment by law. All right. The man poisons his wife and it’s psychologically right and as esthetic as all get-out [i.e., as esthetic as hell - Ed.]. But it will take an anti-climactic reel or two to turn him over to justice. That’s no good.' Hitchcock is omitting from his retrospective analysis the 'twist' of the incriminating letter, which would supply swift justice, solving both problems posed by making Johnnie a murderer, but what if this were a description of his reasoning in 1940 when he was first presented the Nathanael West-Boris Ingster script, which RKO was nervously considering filming with Laurence Olivier when Hitchcock came to RKO on a loan-out from David Selznick? One great flaw of that script, in which Johnnie is a very bad character indeed, is precisely the long wrap-up (Lina kills Johnnie in self-defense and is tried for it), and the same is true of an even earlier version in which he is hunted by the police and shot down in the woods. Given Hitchcock’s esthetic, which dictated speed and surprise, it is perfectly logical that he, and not RKO, would have objected to this ending, assuming that he had not yet thought of the letter gimmick. This is just what the record seems to show he did

November 28 - 2001
[How did Hitchcock's mind work? Here's further evidence, assembled by Bill Krohn after delving minutely into the production of Suspicion.]

Hitchcock apparently didn’t feel that the train compartment scene was quite right after reshooting it on May 7 and 8, because he retook the last few shots of the scene on May 14, just before the picture wrapped. This was presumably when Johnnie’s unscripted poke at the conductor about the stamp - 'Write to your mother!' - was added, perhaps at the suggestion of Cary Grant, who frequently contributed comic bits to his films. While it certainly adds nothing to the general 'postal theme' which had by now been scripted and filmed, the remark brings the encounter between Johnnie and the official to a highly satisfactory conclusion, and so has a reason to be in the film apart from the peculiar one of alluding to an ending that was never filmed. (The happy ending that would be unsuccessfully previewed on June 13 was being filmed, on May 14, 15 and 16, even as this new conclusion to the film’s first scene was added.) The same thing can be said for the cameo of Hitchcock mailing a letter in front of the village bookstore, which signals the beginning of the film’s sinister second half, when the possibility of murder has entered the picture via Johnnie’s remark at the end of the previous scene: 'One of these days it will kill him.' Already well-known to American audiences (his caricature had even appeared in ads for the comedy Mr and Mrs Smith), Hitchcock signals by his mere presence dark doings to come, even if his action in this walk-on would have appeared innocuous in 1941 to all but a very small handful of spectators close to the production who knew about the 'incriminating letter' ending. But only that handful of spectators would notice the imposing presence of the mailbox in the earlier tracking shot of Lina and Isobel, the mystery writer, walking down the street just before Lina spots the chairs Johnnie sold in the window of the antique shop: the looming black object comes between them and the camera, obscuring Lina as she tells Isobel that she has just bought her latest mystery novel for Johnnie. A little bit of spatial choreography to make RKO’s one-set English village more real? Why not - but why a letter-box? And isn’t it a virtual admission of the poverty of the set that the letter-box looms even larger when Lina is walking away from a very unpleasant conversation with Helen Newsham about Johnnie’s day at the races (during which the letter-box is visible behind them in a solitary front-angle shot that seems to have no other reason for being there), one that will lead her to have an even more unpleasant conversation with Johnnie’s erstwhile employer, Captain Melbeck, during which she will learn that her husband has been sacked for embezzlement? The second tracking shot was filmed on the 13th, right after Hitchcock’s cameo, with camera rails laid in a different position than they had been on the 12th to put the camera closer to Lina’s troubled expression ... and to the letter-box. Could these repeated intrusions (four in the space of just under seven minutes of film) possibly be a very distant allusion to the cruel nickname Lina’s family gives her in Francis Iles’s novel? ('You funny little monkeyface,' Johnnie says fondly while they’re on their honeymoon, using his pet name for her for the first time. 'My family used to call me letter-box,' Lina replies, ashamed. In the October treatment, written before one of Hollywood’s reigning beauties was cast as Lina, Joan Harrison has her explain that the nickname means her mouth is 'big enough to post a letter in.') Perhaps; although fans of Iles’s novel would probably be too busy bemoaning the massive liberties the filmmakers had taken with their source material to appreciate the homage. But when even the remotest possible public meanings have been ruled out, this slightly blurred dark mass that twice covers Lina's face like a dark cloud, a pure piece of mise-en-scène too fleetingly glimpsed to ever coalesce with a four-square literary device like the 'postal theme,' remains for me the most convincing proof that Hitchcock was up to something when he filmed these tracking shots, and his cameo in March, as the creator of this website persuasively argues in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'. I will try to determine just what that might have been, from the skimpy, contradictory evidence available, when I return to the eternal question of the film’s ending before handing the reins back to Ken.

November 28 - 2001
[Bill Krohn further addresses his, and others', suspicions ...] [Revised.]

November 27 - 2001
As we have seen, Hitchcock and Samson Raphaelson started revising the first scene of Suspicion almost as soon as it had been shot. It finally came together on paper on April 23 and on film on May 7 and 8. In the April 23 version of the scene, Johnnie cheekily takes a stamp from Lina’s purse (an idea that began to take shape in drafts dating from early March), which he tries to pay back in another scene rewritten on April 23 and filmed in May - the Hunt he has come to Lina’s village to ride in. After seeing her looking glamorous on a horse, he rides after her, grabs her horse’s reins to stop her, and offers her a stamp to repay the one he took. She rejects it and it flies out of his hand into a mud puddle. When he recovers it and brushes it off, he sees she has ridden away, leaving him with the stamp stuck to his fingers. (This scene was shot and later eliminated.) Persistent, Johnnie has friends take him to Lina’s home for a proper introduction. When they shake hands, Lina looks down to see, in an insert, that Johnnie has put a stamp in her hand. This detail was not scripted, but production memos show that Hitchcock was planning to shoot it as late as August 8, when the film was basically already finished. The stamp’s travels describe a new version of the symbolic circuit that was originally scripted between Johnnie and Lina’s father, and displacing this subtle postal battle between men into the love-game with the stamp makes the same points about Johnnie in a less obnoxious way: he seems to be after Lina’s money (the stamp on the train), but falls for her when he sees her looking beautiful on her horse (the stamp at the Hunt), and finally gets her to accept his symbolic repayment (the stamp in the sitting room), which he offers to a softer version of the girl he met on the train, curled up with a book about Modern Art while waiting for her parents to go to church, after which she will probably moon over his photo in 'The Illustrated London News'. Eventually Hitchcock would eliminate not only the collect telegram (never filmed), but the letter announcing the elopement (filmed and cut out), so that Lina’s hopeful trip to the post office to see if dear Johnnie has written, and her alibi about 'going to the post office' when they elope, would have become the logical conclusion of the romantic postal motif begun on the train, with Johnnie once again - belatedly - paying his debt. Do youngsters in England play 'post office'? In any event, that is what Lina and Johnnie have been doing, until another kind of postal motif erupts, putting their relationship in doubt - the series of sinister letters and telegrams in the film’s second half that make it appear that he is planning to murder her. This extended postal love game is actualized in the film, but in a truncated form: Hitchcock cut the horseback scene between Lina and Johnnie and never filmed the payoff in the sitting room, leaving the stamp motif 'unfinished,' as he told François Truffaut he was obliged to do with the blue footprints in The Man Who Knew Too Much (set up when Louis Bernard crashes into a man with a bucket of paint while fleeing the police in the marketplace), which he was planning to shoot on the Paramount backlot practically up to the moment the negative was cut. Left unfinished, Lina and Johnnie’s stamp game has taken on, for some critics, the dark meanings attached to letters in the second part of the film, and something Hitchcock added to the train scene when he reshot it for the third time on May 14 has certainly done nothing to allay those suspicions.

November 26 - 2001
[Our current guest-editor, Bill Krohn, emailed us tonight: 'It's a good thing your webpage favors the "work in progress" approach.' He thinks the final wrap-up on Suspicion will occur by the end of this week. Now read on ...]

The story so far: After starting production on Suspicion in early February of 1941 with an unfinished script and a last-minute cast that committed him to a happy ending, Hitchcock polished as he filmed, concentrating particularly on the film’s crucial first and last scenes, which were rewritten several times during production. Lina’s first meeting with Johnnie, which was filmed on the first day of production (February 10), was rewritten for the last time on April 23 and completely reshot in early May, just before wrapping, with a new opening. Hitchcock had originally planned to begin the scene and the film conventionally with an establishing shot of a train, followed by a closeup of the photo Lina sees of Johnnie in an illustrated magazine: pan up to the real Johnnie, dozing on the seat across from her. And this photo/reality substitution would have been repeated at the end, when Lina, searching for Johnnie after he runs away, sees a photo of him sporting an RAF uniform in the same illustrated magazine. But the April 23 rewrite (done after Hitchcock decided, perhaps because of cost overruns, not to film the RAF ending), had the scene beginning this way: 'Lina McLaidlaw is seated in the corner of a first-class railway compartment ... With a warning shriek, the train suddenly plunges into a tunnel ... As the train emerges out of the tunnel into the light once more, we find Johnnie Aysgarth in the act of stepping over Lina’s legs. JOHNNIE: "I’m terribly sorry - I hope I didn’t hurt you."' The production report for May 7 notes that the 'light effect' took some minutes to set up, and when Hitchcock filmed it, he revised it in a very interesting way: The film begins without an establishing shot, in total darkness, with the sounds of a train and a compartment door banging shut: 'JOHNNIE: "I’m sorry - is that your leg?”' Then, as the lights come on to show him stashing his bag over his seat: '“I had no idea we were coming into a tunnel.”' This opening, which does away with the slightly risqué shot of Johnnie straddling Lina’s legs, could be taking place in the movie theatre, when the film goes dark after the director’s credit and before the film begins. (In Notorious, their next collaboration, Hitchcock would introduce Grant as the silhouette of the man sitting in the seat in front of us, watching Ingrid Bergman being terribly gay at a party.) As Mark Crispin Miller has pointed out in an article about Suspicion as a predecessor to Rear Window, with its hero who is a surrogate for the voyeuristic movie audience, this suggests from the very first image that Lina is a spectator - specifically of the kind of romantic woman’s film that Suspicion’s title cards seem to be proposing. And at the end of the scene, Hitchcock uses the discarded opening to put her and us back into the mood for romance - Lina sees Johnnie looking dashing in 'The Illustrated London News', then raises her eyes to confirm that the rather boorish individual across from her is the same man. The spinsterish provincial, a closeted romantic, has found her hero. Incidentally, the photo she sees is actually a still from a scene that was shot for later in the film, when we would have seen newlywed Johnnie, who is supposed to be at his office, at the track with his friend Beaky - not shown in the photo - and the flirtatious Mrs Newsham. This insert of the shot in the newspaper is all that survives of that scene, which was eliminated in the editing - it would have been the only scene in the film showing Johnnie without Lina. The cut scene also would have put us out of synch with Lina’s suspicions in the next scene, when Mrs Newsham pulls up in her fancy car and twits her by revealing that she has run into Johnnie at the track, because it would have shown Johnnie resisting Mrs Newsham’s advances with the comment that he will never be unfaithful to Lina except with a racehorse. Without the racetrack scene, the film is entirely from the point of view of Lina, who has been subtly designated as the on-screen stand-in for the audience, so that when her romantic marriage with the dashing playboy on the train darkens into a Gothic chiller about the unsuspecting girl who married a murderer, we have no choice but to see it her way.

November 19 - 2001
[More from Bill Krohn on Suspicion. In a few days, it will all have come together ...] [Revised.]

In the Harrison-Reville first draft, the scene where Johnnie and Lina meet in a railway compartment begins when she notices that he is the handsome playboy she is reading about in an illustrated magazine, and does not take their acquaintance very far. The conductor informs Johnnie that he is travelling in a first-class compartment with a third-class ticket and obliges him to pay up. Johnnie is then joined by Helen Newsham and Cora, two fashionable friends who are also going to the country for the local Hunt, and the trio speculates that his dowdy travelling companion must be a governess - an impression that will change when they see her on horseback later that day. The postal theme, such as it is, is confined at this point to the little romantic motif of Lina 'going to the post office'. We can assume that the train scene was filmed on February 10, the first day of shooting, pretty much as it appears in the Reville-Harrison first draft, but Hitchcock must have been unsatisfied, because he ordered the set held. The wording of the production manager’s memo is intriguing: 'Set #1 [the train compartment] is not finished, will work again at the end of the Plot.' And in fact this scene would be completely re-shot (and the set rebuilt to accomodate a 'lighting effect') in May, at the same time as Hitchcock was filming the preview ending (Lina discovering that Johnnie has been planning to kill himself), which had also been merely sketched in when the film started shooting in February. Efforts to come up with a satisfactory first scene and last scene would continue throughout production - they were the only scenes to receive this kind of attention. The first rewrite of Lina meeting Johnnie on the train, dated February 18, introduces a transaction between them for the first time. When Johnnie needs a penny to get the conductor off his back, Lina shyly volunteers one. Joined by Helen and Cora, Johnnie learns that Lina is an heiress. Cora gives him a penny to return to Lina, betting him 5 pounds that he can’t date this prude, and he begins a phony conversation with the latter about concerts and museums, while the other two women watch in amusement, until it dawns on her that she’s being mocked. With wounded dignity, she gets up and leaves the compartment. This comic opening would be discarded, but it already shows Hitchcock and Raphaelson planning to establish Johnnie’s financial state and propensity for borrowing, so when the scene of the telegram arriving before the Ball was filmed six days later, Hitchcock could drop the harsh business of it being sent collect. In this phase of the script, the penny borrowed and repaid on the train initiates the rhythm that will structure the rest of the film: Johnnie does something that shocks Lina (the handsome playboy is supercilious and ill-mannered, if not literally penniless!), then reassures her (he always repays his debts - particularly his debts to her). Their evolving relationship is tainted now at the outset by ambiguity (the penny, the 5-pound bet), which will become more sinister with each new shock, but now the rhythm is nothing but the ebb and flow of what passes between the two of them - the General has been relegated to a supporting role, like the conductor. Undated pages inserted at the end of the February 18 script then show the collaborators hitting on the postage stamp idea, which would probably have been incorporated in a March 6 rewrite of the first scene that makes Johnnie more of a brash charmer, complaining to Lina about leaving the window open because he has a hangover, talking about how much he drank the night before, and going to sleep when she reads him a passage from her 'Child Psychology' book about narcissistic male children who are adored by their mothers. When the conductor wakes him up and demands payment, Lina again bails him out with a penny, but Cora and Helen are dropped in this version, as well as the rather nasty bet and the equally nasty prank that followed it. Then, in the loose pages I referred to earlier, when Lina stuffily insists on being paid back her penny ('I don’t like to be taken for granted'), Johnnie first offers her a check and then takes an old letter out of his pocket, pries off the stamp and makes her take it. With this addition, all the elements of the scene that would finally come together weeks later had been assembled, including the idea that Johnnie should win us over by taking a verbal poke at the conductor. Forced to go through his pockets looking for change to satisfy the stern official, he pulls out a golf tee and a woman’s lipstick, and when he finds he is a penny short, before Lina offers to help, he asks the conductor if he couldn’t use the lipstick. This suggestion picks up on a strategy he uses in the Reville-Harrison first draft to get rid of an interior decorator who is insisting on presenting a bill Johnnie knows he can’t pay: 'Don’t you think this room is a little effeminate?' he wonders out loud, then says he’s sure it will be fine and shoos the poor fellow away. Like that bit of gay-bashing, the lipstick joke succumbed to Hitchcock’s eraser and was never filmed, but it would eventually be replaced by the equally insulting parting shot that is in the film: 'Write to your mother!' When the scene on the train finally gelled on April 23, however, it would become part of a symbolic circuit much larger than the discarded one which made Lina’s marriage part of a struggle between Johnnie and the General, as we shall see in a later installment

November 14 - 2001
[Bill Krohn continues to track the evolvement of Suspicion ...]

There is no denying that both the stamp that Johnnie takes from Lina to pay for his railway ticket and the letter we see Hitchcock mailing halfway through Suspicion allude to the suppressed ending of what I’ve been calling the Ur-Suspicion: Johnnie's mailing of the incriminating letter to Lina’s mother. However, this private meaning - which Hitchcock made public when he started talking to interviewers about how he would have liked the film to end - is not the only one. When the stamp Johnnie takes from Lina during their first encounter was written into the script on April 23 (the day the production shut down for two weeks because Joan Fontaine had fallen ill), it was being added to a script where stamps, letters and telegrams had an important role to play from the beginning. In the November 28 first draft written by Alma Reville and Joan Harrison, a postal theme is sounded when Lina says goodbye to her parents without telling them that she’s eloping: instead, she says she’s going to the post office 'to buy some stamps'. That phrase stayed in the script but didn’t make it into the film, where Lina just says she’s going to the post office. But another first-draft postal reference did survive. Earlier in the film a lovelorn Lina really does go to the post office hoping that there will be a letter from Johnnie - there isn’t. Eliminating the irrelevant stamp reference while filming the touching elopement scene made for a perfect echo: Lina’s second trip 'to the post office' is not in vain because this time she and Johnnie are running away to get married. This modest romantic postal motif contrasts with the flood of sinister communications which arrive for Lina in the second half of the film when her suspicions have taken root: the telegrams announcing her father’s and Beaky’s deaths, the letter from Johnnie’s employer threatening him with prison if he doesn’t replace the money he stole, and the letter from the insurance company informing Johnnie that the policy will be paid only in the event of Lina’s death. We can also add the most sinister letter of all, the one that would have hanged Johnnie if the Ur-Suspicion had been made - still a possibility, it would seem, while this first draft was being written. In his December 28 'final' draft, Lubitsch-collaborator Samson Raphelson added a comic variation on these two postal clusters, as we might call them: Lina's hoped-for letter from Johnnie never comes, but he does finally send a collect telegram (which Lina’s outraged father is obliged to pay for) announcing that Johnnie will be attending the Hunt Ball - an uninvited visit during which he sweeps Lina off her feet. The next day a boy delivers a letter and package to Lina’s parents after she has 'gone to the post office'. Reading the letter, which announces the elopement, General MacLaidlaw drops the package with an off-screen thud. This postal one-two punch is repaid with a kind of grim exactitude when Johnnie receives two nasty surprises from his reluctant father-in-law: the antique chairs, brought by messenger, that dash his hopes of a lavish wedding present, and the telegram announcing General MacLaidlaw’s death, followed by the reading of a will which leaves Johnnie and Lina nothing but a portrait of the deceased. But Johnnie’s part in all this rather Lubitschian one-upmanship didn’t make it into the movie: the dialogue about the collect telegram was never filmed, and the arrival of the letter announcing Lina’s elopement was filmed but eliminated in the editing. (All the eliminated touches that I have described so far are in the script for sale from dealers like bookcity.com.) Instead, a symbolic circuit like the one I've sketched between Johnnie and Lina’s father was set up in the railway car at the beginning - a circuit this time connecting Lina and Johnnie, and with the stuffy conductor standing in for General MacLaidlaw before he ever appears. In my next "Editor's Day" item, I'll try to show how that suggestive little scene took root and grew as the story was being written and filmed.

November 13 - 2001
[Author Bill Krohn, Hollywood correspondent for 'Cahiers du cinéma', has his suspicions about Suspicion ... ]

See Ken Mogg’s introduction on this website to the original ending of Suspicion for background about RKO’s attempts to produce a more faithful adaptation of Francis Iles’ 'Before the Fact' before Hitchcock ever came to the studio. The fact that one of these treatments was shown to Orson Welles when he arrived at RKO suggests that the studio might happily have let Johnnie be a murderer if the right actor played the part: because Welles had played many tragic heroes and hero-villains on stage and on the radio, audiences would have accepted him in the role, as they later did in The Stranger (1946). In fact, it appears that even as Joan Harrison and Alma Reville were writing a treatment and first draft based on the idea that Lina is imagining things, Hitchcock and the studio were still toying with a casting idea that would have made a darker story possible. On November 16 and again on December 2, 1940, two months before the start of production, Hitchcock directed screen-tests with Michele Morgan and Edmond O’Brien. Is this, you wonder, why RKO was collecting lists of titles implying a murderous conclusion as late as December 10? (Fontaine and Grant were tested on January 31 and again on February 4, six days before the cameras rolled.) Since the first draft was finished on November 28, before the second Morgan-O’Brien screen-test, Hitchcock May well have felt - given the systematic ambiguity concerning Johnnie’s guilt or innocence that had to be maintained in the audience’s mind to the very end - that he would not have to have a whole new script written to start production on I’d Die for You (one of the suggested titles), starring Morgan and O’Brien, should the need arise. A French Lina, on the other hand, would have required more than a few adjustments, and in fact Claude Bonique-Mercier notes in a brief biographical sketch (in his 'Michele Morgan', 1983, p. 193) that the actress lost the chance to make her American debut under Hitchcock’s tutelage 'because of her accent'. A studio memo about the tests leaves it open whether O’Brien, an alumnus of Welles’ Mercury Playhouse who had been cast in a featured role in RKO’s Hunchback of Notre Dame (1938), was a serious candidate to play Johnnie with a fake British accent: 'Test [of] Michele Morgan for the part of Lina, supported by Ed. O’Brien.' Two things are certain: O’Brien played the role not once but twice for Hitchcock’s camera (where is that footage?), and if he had been cast opposite Morgan, the film could have been made as RKO had always planned, with a murderous Johnnie and a $650,000 budget. Perhaps the ambiguity of the screenplay that was being written would actually have permitted Hitchcock, with a few adjustments, to start making such a film on January 10, as RKO wanted, although the director was never overly solicitous about the studio’s deadlines for this picture. (The January 10 start date is mentioned in a December 12 memo from J. R. McDonough in UCLA’s RKO archives). Did that built-in ambiguity subsequently encourage him to hope that, even with Fontaine and Grant, he might eventually turn Before the Fact (the title used during production) into the film he wanted to make (call it the Ur-Suspicion), just by shooting a different ending when the time came? Ken Mogg was the first Hitchcock scholar to suggest this possibility, and it is hard to disprove, even when the scripts at UCLA show no trace of any such ending ever being put on paper. Moreover, in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' Mogg cites three strong pieces of evidence that Hitchcock was preparing audiences for just such a conclusion. 1) When Johnnie and Lina meet in a railway coach in the first scene, he is traveling first-class with a third-class ticket and doesn’t have enough cash to pay the stern conductor the difference, so he brashly asks Lina for help and settles for a postage stamp she has in her purse. As the conductor leaves, outraged at having to accept a stamp as 'legal tender', Johnnie fires a parting shot - 'Write to your mother' - which certainly seems to allude to the last scene of the Ur-Suspicion: Johnnie mailing the incriminating letter to Lina’s mother. 2) Later, just before Lina gets some unpleasant news from Helen Newsham in front of the village bookstore, Hitchcock himself is seen posting a letter in a nearby mailbox. 3) In an earlier scene, when Lina is walking through the village with Isobel, the mystery writer, the camera pans past that mailbox, which momentarily blocks our view of Lina. Noting Hitchcock’s cameo in 'Hitchcock at Work', I interpreted it, like Gene Phillips in his study of Hitchcock, as 'a sly allusion', an in-joke which eventually became public when Hitchcock told Truffaut (and before him Peter Bogdanovich) how he had wanted the film to end, but Mogg argues persuasively that by inserting all these postal references Hitchcock was laying the groundwork for an ending he could spring on RKO after it became evident that audiences weren’t going to accept Johnnie’s innocence, just as he had made plans to shoot a sound version of Blackmail without telling British International. More about that mysterious 'postal theme' tomorrow.

November 12 - 2001
[Editor's note. Newly published on this website, for the first time anywhere, is a script excerpt from Hitchcock's Suspicion giving the only ending of that film (with a mysterious possible exception which will also be unveiled on this website shortly: see entries for December 4, 5 and 6, below - Ed.) that was actually shot and previewed - apart, that is, from the ending we now have. Our guest this week, Bill Krohn, the author of the award-winning 'Hitchcock au travail'/'Hitchcock At Work', discusses his research into the various planned endings of Suspicion, plus some related matters.]

The best account of the imbroglio over the ending of Suspicion (1941) is given in John Russell Taylor’s biography 'Hitch' (1978). Hitchcock had previously told François Truffaut that his preferred ending would have been for Lina (Joan Fontaine) to knowingly let her adored husband Johnnie (Cary Grant) kill her, as in the book by Francis Iles, but only after giving him an incriminating letter to mail to her mother, which we would have seen him do in the last shot. Asked if the ending was ever filmed, Hitchcock told his biographer no, and Taylor, who had access not only to his subject’s papers, but to the complete RKO files, added that the preferred ending was never even written down. Instead, from the outset Hitchcock and his collaborators wrote a screenplay about a woman who simply imagines that her ne’er-do-well husband wants to kill her to collect her insurance and pay back money which he has embezzled. In the ending that was first shot, Johnnie brings Lina a glass of milk she thinks is poisoned, she sets it down untouched, then steals into his room just in time to stop him from taking poison himself - and her paranoia is cured. For those who May wonder why two separate preview audiences laughed at this ending, it is now reproduced on this website. As I explained in 'Hitchcock at Work', Hitchcock then saved the day by moving a wild car ride that was to have come before the poisoning to the morning after, followed by a brief explanation (still involving Johnnie’s intention to commit suicide rather than go to jail) on a cliff overlooking the sea. When 'Life' magazine asked Hitchcock for stills showing 'the three endings for the film' (I'll explain 'three' later: see entries for December 4, 5 and 6, below - Ed.), so that the public could make up their own minds, Hitch refused. Unfortunately, exactly what he feared has occurred. Following the Truffaut interview and subsequent commentary - which made things even murkier - so much speculation has arisen that the avuncular presenter on American Movie Classics not long ago confided to viewers who had just watched the film that 'somewhere in the vaults of RKO' there is an ending in which Lina gets pregnant by another man and commits suicide! Those speculations, combined with the fact that the clifftop confession does play like something pulled out of a hat, have led some critics to undervalue one of Hitchcock’s best '40s films. To the best of my knowledge, Mark Crispin Miller is the only critic who has taken seriously, in his essay “Hitchcock’s Suspicions and Suspicion”, the idea of Lina as fantasist, and applied it at length to interpreting the film - although I recently appropriated his reading in my commentary for the French DVD of Suspicion, introduced by the chapter heading "An English Bovary". Most critics have just taken it for granted that Hitchcock made a film about a woman married to a murderer and tacked on an unsatisfactory ending after the real one was unsuccessfully previewed. Pascal Kane’s 'Cahiers du cinéma' critique from 1971, which is unfortunately not available in English, makes that assumption and goes on to defend the film as an exemplary Hitchcock work, concluding that credulous Lina’s murder will still occur, being 'virtually programmed by the [happy] ending.' Since a more sophisticated version of this argument has been made by Ken Mogg, who lent me this pulpit, I will need to state the arguments pro and con ...

November 7 - 2001
[Finally, Richard Allen looks at Freud's theory of idealization ... ]

One final speculation ... and thanks, Ken, for allowing me to use your space to pontificate. In Freud's explicit theory of creativity - the theory of sublimation - perversion and sublimation are contrasting outcomes of the sexual instinct in human development. However, as Freudian theorist Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel has argued, Freud's concept of idealization intimates a different account of the relation of perversion to creativity: aesthetic activity is not a displacement of perversion but an enactment or realization of it, and the artwork is akin to a fetish object. 'Idealization,' Freud suggests in his essay "On Narcissism," involves not a deflection of sexual instinct from sexual satisfaction but an investment of the sexual instinct in the aggrandization of the object, in particular the objectified self of the narcissist, that for Freud underlies all perversion. The incipient pervert conveniently fails to recognize the existence and authority of the father and the fact of sexual difference. He erects the fetish that sustains the narcissistic illusion that he is not differentiated from his mother, even though he knows that he must be. He manages to believe that his pre-genital sexuality is equal, if not superior, to the sexuality of the father, and in this way idealizes his abject, fragmented, infantile state with respect to heterosexual genital sexuality, as if it that state were whole and perfect, as if it were adequate to or even better than the phallic sexuality of the father. Freudian theory serves to exactly describe the relationship between creativity and perversion in Hitchcock and Oscar Wilde [cf. entry for October 30, above]. The revelation/ concealment of human perversity through the idealization of surfaces is the self-conscious and obsessive preoccupation of both artists. In the medium of film, Hitchcock discovered a form of representation that ideally suited the dramatization, the exhibition, of his own deepest obessions. As a medium of surfaces that precluded the kind of depth characterization afforded by the novel or even dramatic dialogue, silent cinema was used by Hitchcock to convey the sense that conventional forms of plotting and characterization embodied in the romance narrative were at once idealized surface, a hyperbolic reality more real than reality itself, and yet only skin deep. The performance of gentlemanliness and the masquerade of femininity, the romantic pursuit that is realized in the supreme explosive moment of the kiss, all this in Hitchcock's work, however elaborated and fully realized it becomes, is a pretext for the staging of a shadow world of perversity that is secreted beneath the veneer of orthodox values. Hitchcock's revelation/concealment of human perversity is not something hidden in his work, something that requires, say, a psychoanalytic theory to diagnose, for it is dramatized or staged in his art, and thereby made manifest through the supremely Hitchcockian strategies of performance, black humor, and suspense.

November 6 - 2001
[The life-and-death aspect of Shadow of a Doubt is discussed by Richard Allen ...]

Today, some thoughts on the ring motif in Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Hitchcock's film elaborates a complex metaphor of the ring as the circle of life and romance, but also, equally, as an incestuous circle, the circle of death, expressed not simply in the ring exchanged between Uncle and niece but in the recurring image of the waltzing couples (waltzing widows and their beaus?) that occupies a surreal space in the narrative world of the film, neither simply imagined nor part of the ordinary world. Furthermore, shooting from the edge of the waltz and from below, the camera occupies a childlike view that bestows a larger than life quality on the dancers. The image is of identical couples, replicating the figure of a circle both in their individual dances and their collective movements. It is a circle of life, romance, and merriment. Yet there is a profoundly mechanistic quality to their movement as if the figures were puppets rather than people, their movements operating according to a pre-ordained scheme. It recalls the mechanism of the spinning-jenny where individual spools unwind on a larger circular wheel. It anticipates the merry-go-round of Strangers on A Train (1951) with its theme - 'Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde as the band played on' - that links the waltz with a mechanism. The provenance of the merry-go-round as a figure of the uncanny lies in Dr Caligari and Variety (via Hitchcock's The Ring) and in the uncanny mechanical puppetry of E.T.A Hoffman. It is as if the circle of life is actually a figure of deathly repetition, of stasis. The waltz carries with it an aura of nostalgia, as if it represents a prelapsarian utopia of romance and leisure - artistocratic and Vienesse - before the fall into modernity and history. Dimitri Tiomkin's score introduces a modernist dissonance into the waltz, and when it first appears the image dissolves into a shot of rotting cars and a group of hobos - beneath the veneer of a timeless ideal lies the fallen temporality of modern civilization, of rot and decay. The second time we see the waltzing widows, the dresses of the female dancers in the foreground are edged in black, as if registering the death of the widows at the hand of Uncle Charlie and anticipating the resistance of Young Charlie to Uncle Charlie which occurs moments later when she begins to hum the tune and identifies it as the Merry Widow waltz. By the third time we see and hear the waltz motif after Young Charlie has guessed the provenance of the ring, the Merry Widow tune now begins to be vocalized by a female chorus, and Uncle Charlie, with his back turned, no longer owns the image. The final waltz occurs as Uncle Charlie, having struggled to the death with Young Charlie (a struggle that is itself a dance, an embrace), slips and falls into the vortex created by an oncoming train in a manner that suggests the wrenching spirals of Vertigo (1958). The theme of the waltz is now entirely appropriated by the female voice. Wrestling with the angel of death, Young Charlie has emerged victorious. It seems that the incestuous circle of death is finally redefined as the circle of life, and yet ... there remains the suspicion that Uncle Charlie has orchestrated his own death. In the image of the ring and the spiral Hitchcock approaches the most abstract statement of his philosophy.

November 5 - 2001
[Richard Allen will write for us again this week. Here he discusses The Lodger - this is an extract from a longer piece to be published in the next 'Hitchcock Annual'.]

Hitchcock's first re-working of the Jack the Ripper/Jekyll-Hyde myth in his film The Lodger (1926) is profoundly indebted to the 1913 novel by Catholic writer Marie Belloc Lowndes (sister of Hillaire Belloc). The Ripper myth is quoted by the heroine, Daisy, from a letter written to a newspaper: 'It seems to me very probable that The Avenger - to give him the name by which he apparently wishes to be known - comprises in his own person the peculiarities of Jekyll and Hyde, Mr. Louis Stevenson's now famous hero.' Lowndes's singular contribution to Hitchcock's career is that she domesticates the Ripper myth, she brings the sensational into the domain of the familial and the ordinary (as Hitchcock claimed for his TV shows). The character of Lowndes's lodger (aka The Avenger) conforms to William Ruskin's mid-century idea of a gentleman, exhibiting 'that fineness of structure in the body, which renders it capable of the most delicate sensation; and of structure in the mind which renders it capable of the most delicate sympathies' ('Modern Painters'). The psychological drama of the novel turns on the fact that while the proprietor of the lodgings, the kindly Mrs Bunting, increasingly suspects that the Lodger is The Avenger, her instinct is to protect him from exposure, to preserve his shameful secret. She is motivated by both class allegiance (she was in service) and by maternal/feminine feelings - a desire to care for and protect this good-looking young man of 'delicate sympathies'. Given the Lodger's evident indifference to women, the relationship between Mrs Bunting and her 'queer' lodger (the word is repeatedly used though not exactly in its contemporary sense) resembles the cliche of the overprotective mother and her homosexual son. Belloc-Lowndes was a society lady and an intimate of Constance Wilde, Oscar Wilde's wife. Her comments on Constance and Oscar are suggestive in this context. She writes in her diary: 'I was told by a friend, who did everything in her power to help them both, when it came to their day of shame and misery, that Constance was completely ignorant of Oscar's other life. To her he had always been the courteous, affectionate and indeed, devoted, husband.' Lowndes' experience of the Wilde affair from the perspective of Constance surely informs her portrayal of the relationship between Mrs Bunting and her lodger. In the novel, narrative suspense is subservient to the development of character psychology, in particular, to bestowing a level of depth and complexity upon the character of Mrs Bunting. But in Hitchcock's film ambiguity resides not in the motivations of character but in visual narration, in the legibility of appearances. Depth becomes a matter of surface, as it were. The pleasures of narrative suspense are not subservient to moral insight, as in Lowndes's novel, but become an end in themselves. A deadly serious question - is the Lodger a psychotic killer? - becomes in Hitchcock a source of entertainment, a macabre joke, thereby defining Hitchcock's aesthetic for the rest of his career.

October 31 - 2001
[Richard Allen discusses further literary resonances in Hitchcock. Comparing Hitchcock and Charles Dickens, he talks about the opening shot of Frenzy.]

Today, some tidying up (ironically enough). The theme of pollution is linked in both Dickens and Hitchcock with human waste products. In Dickens's 'Our Mutual Friend' the pompous, vainglorious 'podsnappery' of the London elite is contrasted with the dirty polluted city represented by the murky Thames that at night is combed for corpses by human scavengers. Psychoanalytically speaking, the two sides of anality are the manifest, unavoidable presence of shit and the imperative to deny its existence, seen in obsessive cleanliness, order, and the sublimating fantasy of a spiritual elevation that might raise humans above their debased bodily condition. Arthur La Bern's novel on which Hitchcock's Frenzy [1972] is based conceives of London's Picadilly with its statue of Eros as London's anus. In Frenzy this role is accorded to the Pool of London: London's cesspool. The opening shot of the film May be thought to evoke the act of anal penetration as the camera sweeps beneath Tower Bridge. The pompous and grandiose government official (who looks like the murderer Rusk) articulates the fantasy of a shit-free environment but the camera soon reveals to us the cesspool which he seeks to magically wish away by official pronouncement. However, it is a particular piece of shit that floats in the cesspool, a female body with its buttocks exposed. The link between female sexuality, pollution and death is dear to Dickens. In 'David Copperfield', the fallen woman, Martha, is characterized in a famous passage precisely in terms of her affinity to the polluted Thames. In Hitchcock's film the whore actually floats in the cesspool of the Thames. Since pollution is equated with female sexuality, the opening camera movement can also be taken to evoke a more conventional form of sexual intercourse. Of course, both interpretations are needed. The London revealed by Hitchcock's camera is, metaphorically, a diseased or perverted whore: corrupted nature. And if London is a whore, the politician is the whore's pimp.

October 30 - 2001
[Richard Allen, contributor to and co-editor of 'Alfred Hitchcock: Centenary Essays' (1999), published by the BFI, today ruminates on the importance to Hitchcock of Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' - a novel which the director read several times when he was young.]

Today, more on literary connections. In 1891, three years after the London stage production of Stevenson's 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', and after he had moved from Oxford to live in London, Oscar Wilde published 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'. In it, Wilde transposes the already established myth of Jack the Ripper as a Jekyll/Hyde figure into the sensibility of fin-de-siècle decadence and aestheticism. Dorian is afforded eternal youth by assuming the identity bequeathed upon him in the idealized portrait painted by Basil Hallward. Under the influence of the dandy Lord Henry, this immunity to physical decay allows Dorian to freely indulge his desires. However, the portrait unflinchingly registers his increasing depravity just as Hyde reveals the inner soul of Jekyll. 'Dorian Gray' is important to the development of the myth of Jack the Ripper as Jekyll/Hyde, and to Hitchcock's life-long preoccupation with that myth (see Theodore Price, 'Hitchcock and Homosexuality'), in at least four respects. First, in 'Dorian Gray', the dandy's gentlemanly persona considered as an artful fabrication that reveals/conceals dark desires is linked to the surface of the artwork that likewise reveals/conceals desires. Second, the visual pun of the decaying portrait renders literal the notion that art, as a form of idealization, murders its object. Wilde celebrates the converse, murder as a form of art, in his essay "Pencil, Pen, and Poison", on the artist murderer Thomas Wainwright (see Peter Conrad, 'The Hitchcock Murders'). Third, in 'Dorian Gray', art not only defies the temporality of human mortality and decay but also implicitly defies the futurity [optimism] of the romance narrative with its logic of character development and anticipation of a happy end. The creation of the artwork involves a displaced expression of perversion that 'suspends' the logic of narrative development. The brief romance developed between Dorian and the lower-class actress Sybil Vane is predicated upon Sybil mirroring in her endless roles as lover the idealized, de-temporalized identity of Dorian himself. Dorian in effect casts Sybil as an idealized version of the prostitute to mirror his own identity as an idealized version of Jekyll/Ripper. The moment that Sybil resolves to step outside her roles as a lover, assume her real-life identity as a woman, and 'fall' in love with Dorian, Dorian's desire is quenched and Sybil, rejected, precipitously dies by her own hand. Fourth, especially after the Wilde trials, where it was featured evidence, 'Dorian Gray' came to designate a work whose aestheticism functions as a displaced expression of homosexual desire - conventionally conceived as a form of perversion. Such notions, and a would-be defiance of them, lie at the heart of Hitchcock's 1948 masterpiece Rope.

October 29 - 2001
[Editor's note. Associate Professor Richard Allen, former Chair of Cinema Studies at NYU, is writing a new book on Hitchcock. He has lately been comparing the novel and film of Rebecca, drawing extensively on biographies and critical studies of author Daphne Du Maurier to illumine some of the novel's and/or the film's more recondite aspects. One such aspect is the significance of the house and estate called 'Manderley'.]

There has been much discussion on the meaning of 'Manderley' in this column. Here is my take in a nutshell: 'Manderley', the man of/in the valley, stands not for Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier in the film) but more likely for the powerful, aristocratic, 'masculine' Rebecca. Du Maurier's novel suggests that English patriarchy between the wars, embodied in the ideal of the English country house, is a facade, a masquerade, maintained by 'masculine' women like Rebecca (and du Maurier herself). Its real foundation had already collapsed in the disaster of World War One. 'Manderley' does not simply become the hollowed out facade it appears when 'Rebecca' begins, it was always a facade. Du Maurier is nostalgic not for English patriarchy per se but for a moment when married lesbians (such as herself), provided they masqueraded their identity, could have their cake and eat it too. This suggests a female correlative of the Establishment homosexual spy culture that so fascinated Hitchcock. Written in 1938 on the cusp of war, 'Rebecca' describes an era that is clearly coming to an end, that has already come to an end: the facade both of the old class order, and the masquerade of femininity that serves it, is a fiction no longer tenable. This peculiarly English configuration of class, gender and sexuality between the wars is attenuated in Robert Sherwood's screenplay version, in favor of a more fairy-tale atmosphere. Englishness, the garden of England, takes on an imaginary quality as a kind of aristocratic never-never land, and the Joan Fontaine character fulfills the fantasy of the young American princess who marries into English civilization and culture (though Fontaine, of course, is an English-born actress) - but how little she understands! Rebecca's incipiently lesbian identity is more heavily disguised in the film but Hitchcock turns the resources of Hollywood to his advantage and evokes Rebecca's powerful, subversive presence through the strategy of intensifying and dramatizing surfaces. The medium of film thus allows Hitchcock to explore and undercut the manifest or apparent content of the heterosexual romance-narrative and the idea of the social order it supports and articulates. 'Rebecca' is of singular importance in Hitchcock's work because the subversive surface it manifests, its textual dandyism (if you will), is distinctly feminine, distinctly beautiful. Through his portrayal of its uterine corridors, shimmering watery surfaces, and monogrammed fabrics, 'Manderley' becomes in Hitchcock's Rebecca a sapphic temple or shrine of awesome beauty. Imagine - it was his first Hollywood film!

October 24 - 2001
[Hitchcock sometimes grew exasperated with Cary Grant, reveals Stephen Rebello ... ]

Among the many other revelations gleaned through interviews I conducted with Hitchcock associates, as well as through oral histories ... First, that the director's admiration of Grant was more a matter of shared business and creative interests than personal affinity. In fact, one longtime Hitchcock co-worker and confidante went so far as to assert that the director didn't flat-out like Grant and confined his dealings with the actor as much to the set as possible. On North by Northwest, for instance, the actor constantly challenged the screenplay and its writer Ernest Lehman (who liked Grant very much). Grant complained, among other things, that the script made absolutely no sense and that it made him shoulder too much of the action and far too much exposition. During location shooting for the film, Grant, one of the highest paid and most demanding actors in the business, astonished co-workers with a tight-fistedness that extended to his charging fans for autographs and occasionally asking Lehman or others to join him for dinners at local greasy spoons but always avoiding picking up the tab. Grant was a shrewd businessman whose contractual dealings on films exasperated Hitchcock. On North by Northwest, Grant and his agents insisted upon such perks as choice of leading lady (he championed Sophia Loren but Hitchcock rebuffed him), choice of director should Hitchcock depart the project, his choice of uniformed chauffeur, the right to insist that any remake of the film not be titled North by Northwest, a specific window of time before the film could be shown on television and his own 16mm and 35mm print of the film. The perfectionist actor seldom let up. When he saw the dailies of the film, he expressed to Hitchcock particular unhappiness with the entire Glen Cove, Long Island drunk driving sequence. Why? Vanity. He felt he didn?t look good. Was Grant worth the trouble? Absolutely. But Hitchcock's difficulties with him, and with other major stars, helps explain why, after North by Northwest, he often tended to work with newer or less expensive stars in such movies as Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot. Interestingly enough, the only other time that Hitchcock after Cary Grant worked with a big star was with Paul Newman and Julie Andrews on Torn Curtain. Apparently, he wasn't thrilled with either of them. Perhaps it's true that on a Hitchcock picture, there was only room for one star? Hitchcock himself.

October 23 - 2001
[Professor Leitch has indeed written an encore piece, which we'll publish soon. Today and tomorrow, though, Stephen Rebello returns to provide some little-known tidbits about actor Cary Grant.]

Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant stand as one of movie history's most emblematic and ideal director-actor pairings. In Suspicion, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest, Hitchcock adroitly exploited not only the actor's impeccably suave exterior and likeability but also a streak of ruthlessness, a sexual and moral complexity, that seemed to roil under Grant's carefully-maintained screen image. As an icon and as an actor, Grant was and is, simply, irreplaceable. If Hitchcock had his way, the star might have also joined him on several others of his projects, including a period romantic adventure based on the exploits of the rakish highwayman Jack Shepherd, as well as Rope, in which Grant was Hitchcock's first choice to play the college professor whose teachings help inspire two of his most brilliant students to kill a fellow student for thrills. After North by Northwest, Grant was also on the minds of Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman when they began plotting a project about a blind jazz musician who regains his sight after an eye operation only to find himself pursued by a killer. The project never came to fruition and neither, at least for Grant, did the possibility of his being the leading man in The Birds and Marnie (Rock Hudson was also offered the role of the Philadelphia book publisher). Then, again, the off-screen Grant was elusive, skittish, and indecisive. The list of movies to which he apparently committed only to back out at the last moment includes Sabrina, A Star Is Born, Some Like It Hot and My Fair Lady, to name a mere few. For To Catch a Thief in 1955, Hitchcock virtually had to coax Grant out of one of his series of self-imposed retirements; the fifty-one-year-old international star and sex symbol already thought himself too senior to be believable as a romantic leading man on screen, particularly opposite someone as spectacular as the twenty-seven-year-old Grace Kelly. Three years later, during casting for North by Northwest, the wooing process took the persuasive Hitchcock even longer. In researching the production history of that film for a book-length study, I learned through Hitchcock's notes that other possibilities for the leading male role included Frank Sinatra, William Holden, Dean Martin and James Stewart (though the director thought his Vertigo star too old). Tomorrow: Grant's darker side.

October 22 - 2001
[Editor's note. We seem to be getting through our guest-list at a rate of knots! Today's guest, Thomas M. Leitch, teaches English and Film at the University of Delaware. He is the author of the stimulating book 'Find the Director and Other Hitchcock Games' (1991) which even manages to include commentary on the unmade The Short Night. Professor Leitch has told us that if we mention that he is also the author of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Encyclopedia', forthcoming from Facts on File, he might write us an encore to today's entry - which is a book review.]

Hitchcock’s work for television, from the hundreds of episodes of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' and 'The Alfred Hitchcock Hour' he introduced to the twenty television segments he directed himself, has always gotten short shrift from critics. Now comes a book that goes a long way toward redressing that neglect. 'The Alfred Hitchcock Companion', a profusely illustrated, doorstop-sized guide by Martin Grams, Jr., and Patrik Wikström (OTR Publishing, P.O. Box 252, Churchville, MD, 21028, $29.95 paper) makes thousands of details about Hitchcock’s television programs public for the first time. Grams and Wikström have produced a prodigiously informative volume, vastly more comprehensive than its predecessor, John McCarty and Brian Kelleher’s 1985 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. A series of essays detailing Hitchcock’s abortive attempts to host his own radio program, his relationships with AHP/AHH producers Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd, his working habits, and the critical and financial fortunes of the two programs set the stage for the main course: detailed synopses, complete cast credits, and transcriptions of each of Hitchcock’s classic introductions and conclusions (including alternate versions that were recorded but not aired) for every episode, interspersed with interviews with technicians and stars of particular episodes. For the first time, fans can trace Hitchcock’s facetious running battle with his unnamed sponsor or consult a 31-page index that will direct them, for example, to every one of the ten roles Patricia Hitchcock (who also contributes a brief introduction) played in her father’s television series. Nobody would want to read these closely-printed 658 pages straight through; it’s as a reference, not a critical study, that Grams and Wikström are most useful. And their volume has some surprising flaws for a reference book. The many photographic illustrations - studio portraits, stills from the series, backstage shots, and images of Hitchcock delivering his incomparably deadpan introductions - are fascinating, but poorly reproduced. There’s a shower of typos: names and obscure words are too often misspelled, and some of the index’s page references turn out to be inaccurate. And many pages are missing their numbers - a lack that can make tracking down particular items frustrating. The main limitation of the book, however, is its title, which doesn’t begin to do justice to the wide range of material on display here, from Ken Kaffke’s essay on the connection between Hitchcock and 'Mad' magazine to Grams and Wikström’s comprehensive list of Hitchcock anthologies. Their volume, which immediately becomes the point of departure for future studies of Hitchcock’s television work, should go a long way toward bringing that work out of the closet.

October 17 - 2001
[François Truffaut's La Sirène du Mississippi/Mississippi Mermaid (1969) reminds Inge Izzo of Hitchcock not just because it's based on a Cornell Woolrich novel and the Catherine Deneuve character is duplicitous, but also because Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a man who willingly, and lovingly, would die at his wife's hands. The Woolrich novel is called 'Waltz Into Darkness', a title that also fits Suspicion ...]

When Johnnie, in Suspicion, arrives home from (supposedly) London, he probes Lina with questions. Did she tell the police about the corporation and his partnership with Beaky? What else did she tell them? That she was expecting him back from London any minute. Upon hearing this, Johnnie picks up the phone and calls the police (proactive as always). Unknowingly, though, he puts his foot in it by saying he stayed at his club. Now, Lina had earlier checked, and he was definitely not at his club. What should we make of this? Of course he later has a ready story for Lina about being in Liverpool. But why was he questioning her so closely? Also, he energetically and righteously condemns the mystery Englishman who took the brandy-bet with Beaky - but hey, wasn't Johnnie a betting man? These self-confident histrionics make us recall Beaky's enthusiasm about Johnnie's charm: he could lie his way out of anything, and what's more, he was so good that he was a treat to watch. Such details, placed at intervals throughout the film, are much more disturbing than if they were clustered around a final showdown. As for Lina, she has shown us that she is half in love with easeful death - if it were to be inflicted by the man she loves, Johnnie - by murmuring to Isobel, 'Is whatever it is painful?' François Truffaut made a film on a similar situation, Mississippi Mermaid. There we see Jean-Paul Belmondo ready to die (of poisoning) at the hands of his beautiful mail-order bride Catherine Deneuve. All very romantic! But back to Johnnie. Even the last image of the couple reunited is far from reassuring. It is Lina who (wilfully?) insists on starting anew, whereas Johnnie's final words are 'No, Lina, no.' At least he doesn't make promises he can't keep. Is Johnnie's arm around Lina really a comforting gesture, or is he merely going to bide his time until he can engineer another death and collect, rather than borrow on, his wife's life insurance? We know that Hitchcock wasn't allowed to make Cary Grant a murderer, but we May feel that he has just about kept his cake and eaten it too.

October 16 - 2001
[Inge Izzo comments further on the teasing nature of Suspicion ...]

Suspicions, in Suspicion, are raised by cinematographic means ... Typically Hitchcock composes the frame so that our perceptions are coloured, and intensified, and we fall into the trap of all-but condemning Johnnie out of hand - that's to say, we are never dispassionate (with the result that we are constantly being tossed on waves of emotion like corks on the ocean). The classic instance of this is the scene with the glass of milk: the viewer's eye is directed to the luminous white glass lit from within by a torch globe, so that our whole attention is focussed at that one point. It is our heightened awareness (awakened earlier by talk of untraceable poisons: Hitchcock sets his trap carefully, and we fall into it most willingly!) that causes us to see Johnnie as a murderer, but in reality mightn't he be just a solicitous husband bringing his overwrought wife a nightcap? We suspect the milk is poisoned but we will never know for sure. It is the framing and lighting of the image, the looming shadow, the close-up of the clock, the fractured waltz of the soundtrack, which call forth our emotional response. There are thus two parallel stories running through the film, and we should have been alerted to this at the outset when Johnnie played with the two phrases 'kill you/kiss you'. At every heightened moment we believe Johnnie capable of planning murder. But at the same time, if we step back from this heightened cinematic intensity and shake off Hitchcock's magic, we could easily argue in favour of Johnnie's innocence - even generosity and concern towards Lina and Beaky. The film, true to its title (cf. Shadow of a Doubt), teases us continuously: we can never be sure. There are also actual details rather than cinematographic effects which seem to condemn Johnnie. For example, the job-offer letter from Captain Melbeck which Johnnie produces for Lina is shown in close-up but it is half-folded as if purposely hiding its true recipient. Also, Johnnie becomes uncharacteristically angry when Lina interferes with his and Beaky's real estate plans. And lastly, who was the 'Awlbeam, or Holebeam' mentioned by the French police as having given Beaky the fatal brandy, if not 'old bean' Johnnie? Sure, this was a familiar term at the time, but our ear has become so used to Beaky's repetitive use of it that we clamour for an explanation that will either incriminate or exonerate Johnnie. Let's not forget too that Beaky died before dissolving the partnership with Johnnie, so the latter stood to gain something from his death. All this is left hanging. Maybe Johnnie is indeed one of the 'happy murderers', alluded to by Isobel, walking around free and undetected. The editor's day [This feature will run on approximately a Monday-Wednesday basis, i.e., about three days a week. It will cover musings on Hitchcock-related topics and similar matters with which the 'MacGuffin' editor has been occupied lately. Don't expect total rigour - these are basically 'ideas in progress'. Thanks!] [Editor's note. While I am on 'leave' for a month or two, this column will be written by a number of very capable 'guest editors'. Relish the change! KM.]

October 15 - 2001
[Editor's note. Thanks again to our guests so far, who May return in a week or so. But this week our guest is freelance writer Inge Izzo from Melbourne, Australia, who once studied under filmmaker Eric Rohmer at the Sorbonne. Inge here looks at Hitchcock's Suspicion and tries to see it as the audience-experience that it is. Her comments help to catch the rich wit that informs the film.]

Hitchcock told Truffaut that Rebecca [1940] lacked humour. How different in tone is Hitchcock's other film starring Joan Fontaine, Suspicion [1941]. Its considerable humour is, of course, generated by Cary Grant who plays the captivating, lovable cad Johnnie. Despite Johnnie's glamour and charisma we soon start to have second thoughts about him and even believe him capable of murder. The humour however is part of the reason why suspicions over his innocence or guilt are never resolved. He is never at a loss for words and is attractive to all who meet him: the society women, Lina [Fontaine], Beaky [Nigel Bruce], the novelist Isobel and, let's face it, most important of all, the viewer. Who wouldn't empathise with Johnnie when he croaks protestingly the word 'Work?!' Or his shock when he lays eyes on the wedding present - two unbelievably ugly chairs, a major disappointment in anyone's eyes? Or who wouldn't side with Johnnie when he realises he's met his match in General McLaidlaw's portrait? And haven't we all been caught out by petty officials such as the ticket inspector on the train, or by little white lies which were meant to smooth things over for a while? Who wouldn't be angry when his wife rejects him saying she'd rather sleep alone? Even Isobel, whom we trust as the voice of reason, admits she can't deny Johnnie anything; and old friend Beaky excuses Johnnie's lying and gambling from way back, saying that's what makes him Johnnie. And yet chinks begin to appear. Hitchcock undercuts the urbane patter with close-ups which are at odds with the dialogue. In the dinner table scene at Isobel's (already heralded uneasily with distant drumbeats), Hitchcock and his screenwriter, Samson Raphaelson, play with talk of corpses, giving us a close-up of Isobel's brother's dry-looking roast chicken as he cuts into it whilst talking of exhuming a body. Isobel's complimentary remarks about Johnnie ('You couldn't commit a murder if you tried for a hundred years') are undercut by the camera which lingers just a little too long on Cary Grant's face until his smile drops ominously. Thus suspicions are raised by cinematographic means rather than actual dialogue. More tomorrow.

October 10 - 2001
[Gary Giblin on the lure of seeking out film locations. Spot the references to Psycho, Blackmail, Frenzy, Stage Fright, and Young and Innocent.]

What is it about visiting film locations that turns so many of us on? On the one hand, it seems rather akin to celebrity worship or autograph-seeking - an attempt to 'touch' that which has touched us. Certainly, a location cannot sign an autograph or thank us for adoring it, but it can pose for pictures and, more importantly, stand there as the object of our contemplation long after most celebrities will have walked away. On another, and I think, more important, level, the location seems to provide a way to re-live or even re-imagine a favorite film or a favorite film scene - to locate ourselves within a cinematic world heretofore reserved to its privileged players alone. Let’s face it, standing at the foot of the Bates house - even if it has been relocated from its original location on the Universal lot - does something to you. Watching the film May captivate and distract you, May call upon the greatest reserves of your imagination. But for all that, you are still outside, looking in. To visit that spot, to see that house in three dimensions, in a living context, is to do something more. As with Buster Keaton in Sherlock, Jr., it is to cross the proscenium and enter the film itself. The trip might well be a short one: car horns, talky tourists, and a myriad other distractions can combine to break the spell. But for a few precious moments (perhaps, on a quiet day or in a remote locale, even more) there is bliss. In a very real sense, you are now in the picture. And so I find myself, desirous of the escape, tracking down locations from one film or another (usually Bond or Hitchcock), on journeys which my good friend (and 'MacGuffin' contributor) Nandor Bokor and I frequently discuss. I stand, for instance, inside the entrance to the British Museum, scarcely changed in over 70 years, awaiting Tracy’s breathless arrival; I park outside Brenda’s flat on a rainy evening, and wonder if her husband is still inside. I look out through the window of Rusk’s flat and admire St Paul’s Church, wondering what Hitchcock was thinking as he took the shot. (Why were the shots of the church so important?) I grieve at the loss of the Frenzy alley (where Brenda was murdered), but rejoice at the discovery of Cooper’s mews, as tranquil a setting as the day he left it. I marvel at a postcard 'picture' of a Georgian house, frozen in time, all the better to accommodate Miss Gill and her mother. I journey to the site of a rural hotel where a man in blackface once struggled to light a cigarette. It scarcely matters that the 'hotel' was in fact the exterior of a soundstage.... A case could be made that confronting a cherished locale in the harsh light of 'reality' might degrade the magic or break the spell. But for me, the discovery of these places not only quickens the magic, but also completes the journey. They are, in a way, as close as we can come to the Hitchcock genius.

October 9 - 2001
[Gary Giblin on the benefits, and limitations, of verisimilitude to storytellers ...]

During my years of reading about and researching the life of Bond creator Ian Fleming [1908-64], I have been struck by people's belief that he perfected the so-called 'Fleming effect' in order to ground his thrillers in reality and thus allow the reader to properly suspend disbelief. In other words, if he described in great detail things like Bond’s clothes, the villain’s house, the local geography, and the way in which meals are prepared, then he could get away with, say, having Bond menaced by a giant squid! Whether or not Fleming consciously worked this way is open to debate. My feeling is that he simply loved to describe things, and did so. So, too, with Hitchcock, who seems to have been obsessed with details and accuracy. 'What is the minimum age for a Chief Inspector?' he asked his researchers during the pre-production of Frenzy [1972]. How many scratches were in the tables at the Old Bailey, whose Court No. 1 was to be replicated for The Paradine Case [1947]? At what point would rigor mortis begin on a summer's day in London (another Frenzy question)? What was the vehicle in which spy George Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs Prison (research for The Short Night) and precisely how was the rope ladder made that he used to scale the wall? And the results of Hitch's inquiries are all there, on film, from the recreated courtroom of The Paradine Case to the class of patrons seen in a Mayfair pub (subtly different from those of a pub in any other district, apparently) in Stage Fright [1950] to the number of cars parked in front of the Albert Hall in The Man Who Knew Too Much ('56). Of course, accuracy only gets you so far when you are crafting a thriller. Thus, for his novel 'Moonraker', Fleming describes locales and driving routes throughout Kent, all thoroughly researched, then plunks down a massive atomic missile base on the coast near Dover and staffs it with a horde of vengeful ex-Nazis! (A progenitor of both Fleming and Hitchcock, the novelist 'Sapper', would have been pleased.) Likewise, for Blackmail [1929], Hitchcock undertook detailed studies of the corridors and offices of New Scotland Yard, faithfully replicated these at the BIP Studios, then started a car chase in one street, made a dramatic U-turn in another street, and ended up going in exactly the same direction in exactly the same street as he started out! And again, after planning a meticulous recreation of Blake’s escape from prison, right down to the correct vehicle, the correct flowers (to camouflage a walkie-talkie), and even the actual house and adjoining street in which Blake was secreted, Hitchcock promptly turned the man into a monster by having him strangle a female acolyte! These are the demands of drama and the constraints of realism - the audience needs its shocks and the filmmaker must sometimes make do. (And when filming car chases or any exteriors in London before the War, you pretty much had to take your chances and shoot whatever, wherever, and whenever you could!)

October 8 - 2001
[Editor's note. Our next guest is Gary Giblin, who has two books coming from Daleon. The first is 'James Bond's London', to be published later this year. The other is 'Alfred Hitchcock's London', on which Gary is still working. Gary is the editor of 'Secret Intelligence' Web magazine. His first topic below concerns a couple of Hitchcock improvisations on location.]

As Bill Krohn demonstrates in 'Hitchcock at Work' (2001), The Master didn’t always have things so worked out beforehand that the shooting of the film was simply a chore through which he could nap. Hitchcock’s creative juices continued to swirl on the set and through post-production, as his papers and production files show (and as common sense would suggest). I’ll mention two items of improvisation that struck me during my recent research for 'Hitchcock's London': the Frenzy titles sequence and the Man Who Knew Too Much ('56) embassy kitchen scene. The former had been planned as a long helicopter shot up the Thames, commencing at Tower Bridge and climaxing under the director’s name at County Hall. Here, the soundtrack would fade in the Health Minister’s speech about pollution, setting us up for the grisly visual punchline to come. Unfortunately, the complete shot, incorporating a number of bridges in the heart of London, would have lasted some nine minutes - three times longer than the proposed titles! What to do? Without missing a beat, Hitchcock said, fine, we’ll simply track into Tower Bridge itself, end on a cloud of dark smoke and dissolve to the speech. And so they did. (My information comes courtesy of associate producer Bill Hill.) Shooting of The Man Who Knew Too Much was complicated by the extensive location filming required both in Morocco and London. One London location - the foreign embassy to which the Draytons take Hank - proved troublesome from the start. No one building seemed to have everything that Hitchcock needed - a suitable exterior and foyer, a suitable rear entrance, and a suitable kitchen. In the end, four separate buildings were pressed into service, and that's not counting the sets built in Hollywood. Two of the buildings were relatively easy to secure (after many candidates were reviewed and rejected), providing an entrance foyer and a front exterior (the latter shot was ultimately dropped) and a ball room interior for the finale. More problematic was the kitchen - where to find a back entrance and where to find an interior? No-one seemed to have the answer. Finally, during the extensive shooting at the Royal Albert Hall, someone suggested having a look at the Hall’s kitchen. And though incredibly cramped - then and now - this is where Hitchcock managed to squeeze in a camera, some lights and enough extras for English character actor Walter Gotell to order about. (Note that a double, the American Milton Frome, whose footage was shot later in Hollywood, actually says 'Wait till I clear the kitchen.') On that same day, based apparently on a last-minute reconnoitre, Hitchcock quickly re-assembled the crew in a nearby street to shoot the arrival of the Draytons at the back door of a building that is, sadly, no longer extant. And that’s how the four became one!

October 3 - 2001
[Stephen Rebello concludes his observations about casting matters ...]

If one reads film-related articles in the popular press (which I hope you do because I sometimes write them), almost yearly another actress gets touted as exactly the sort with whom Hitchcock would be working were he alive and making films today. Sharon Stone, Gretchen Mol, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson are just several of the blondes whom other journalists have written about in the past decade as born too late to be Hitchcock heroines. But, as someone who has spent too many hours in screening rooms suffering through such would-be Hitchcock movies as Last Embrace [1979], Final Analysis [1992], A Perfect Murder [1998], Snake Eyes [1998] and Don't Say A Word [2001], even I've found myself wondering what contemporary actors Hitchcock might spark to. Mere speculation, of course, but imagine the extra shadings and depth Hitchcock and his screenwriters could give the immensely likeable and sympathetic Tom Hanks, who in Cast Away [2000] proved he makes a superb average-man-in-extraordinary-circumstances. The handsome and mysterious Ralph Fiennes also strikes me as someone Hitchcock could not only loosen up but also unleash as a complex, suave villain. So, too, such relative newcomers as the gifted Hugh Jackman (who, as X-Men [2000] hinted, projects a magnetism and watchability that recalls the young Sean Connery) and Hollywood's hottest new leading man Colin Farrell, though mass audiences have yet to see Farrell in his upcoming sci-fi thriller for Steven Spielberg, let alone his star turn in the Hitchcockian thriller Phone Booth. Similarly, the unconventionally beautiful, hugely gifted Cate Blanchett projects a verve, intelligence and dormant sex appeal with which Hitchcock might make hay. In a lighter mood, Hitchcock might do something wonderful with Cameron Diaz, whom some observers have seen as the closest thing we have today to Carole Lombard. Of course, Julia Roberts has been mentioned as the possible star of a movie based on a reworking of Samuel Taylor?s wonderful script for Hitchcock's unmade project No Bail For the Judge, but I'm not so sure Hitchcock would have cast the role that way. Still, 'What would Hitchcock have done?' makes for a fun, if ultimately bittersweet, mind game.

October 2 - 2001
[Editor's note. Change of plan. First of our guest "Editor's Day" contributors is Stephen Rebello, writing here on matters of casting and what might have been. Stephen is author of the ground-breaking 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' (1990), a beautifully written study of the genesis, production and 'afterglow and aftermath' of Hitchcock's most frightening film.]

Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake [1998] notwithstanding, Hitchcock's original has etched itself so deeply and indelibly into our consciousness that it's virtually impossible to imagine the film with actors other than Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam, Vera Miles and others chosen by the director himself. Yet, one of the many pleasures of my researching 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' was discovering notes made by the director and his collaborators as to the range of actors who might be suitable to play Norman Bates, Marion Crane, Milton Arbogast, Sam Loomis and others. These notes allowed us to imagine an alternative-universe Psycho starring Lana Turner or Piper Laurie, say, or one offering Dean Stockwell as Norman. Imagine Roddy McDowell as Norman? Since the publication of the book, these details - along with many others of the production - have routinely been repeated in other books, magazine stories and on websites with their source unacknowledged, as if the information had always been out there, always been widely known. Not so. I remember the thrill of being the first to find them (or to report them, at least) since Hitchcock and company concocted them. Because Hitchcock required a certain kind of actor for his films and because many observers have commented that his work, like those of many other golden age directors, suffered with the demise of the studio system, I've long been fascinated with what the director might have done with certain stars past and present. Rather than lament the box-office minded miscasting of Paul Newman and Julie Andrews in Torn Curtain [1966], which I recently watched again on DVD, it's intriguing to wonder what Foreign Correspondent [1940], for instance, might have been like starring Gary Cooper opposite either Barbara Stanwyck or Claudette Colbert, as Hitchcock had envisioned it. We'll also never see a Strangers On A Train [1951] with William Holden and Montgomery Clift playing the roles taken instead by Farley Granger and Robert Walker, respectively. What would the unfortunately-aborted No Bail for the Judge [circa 1959] have been like with Hitchcock directing Audrey Hepburn, Laurence Harvey and John Williams? Or the romantic espionage chase The Three Hostages from the John Buchan novel with Sean Connery and 'Tippi' Hedren as the wisecracking, sparring, resourceful team of Mr and Mrs Richard Hannay? Or Frenzy [1972] as Hitchcock had at one time considered it, with Michael Caine in the role taken by the wonderful (and less expensive) Barry Foster, and Lynne Redgrave in the part played eventually by Anna Massey? Or a Family Plot [1976] that might have featured such early choices as Faye Dunaway and Liza Minnelli? And what about that other late period Hitchcock, never-filmed spy adventure possibly to feature Connery, Catherine Deneuve and Walter Matthau, The Short Night? Tantalizing possibilities, all. More tomorrow.

October 1 - 2001
Vale your editor! For a few weeks he intends to 'disappear' while he retreats to do some hardcopy writing, including the next issue of 'The MacGuffin'. But you will be left in good hands. This column will continue to appear. Several 'guest editors', all of them amiable souls, and with extensive knowledge of Hitchcock and the cinema, have been lined up to make appearances here. Their amiability is both natural and understandable. Most of them have either penned outstanding books on Hitchcock or are in the process of doing so! I have given them carte blanche to write here on topics of their own choosing, and expertise, so expect the unexpected. Mind you, I May regret my, er, generosity! At least one of my invited guests, Gary Giblin (whose 'Hitchcock's London' is nearly finished), is already beginning to act as if he owned the place. He took a look at this page and, apropos both my Australian-ness and the news item below on The Mountain Eagle, emailed me as follows: 'You blokes down under May have an outback, but apart from a steakhouse chain here, we in the US do not! Thus, to describe [The Mountain Eagle] as "set in outback Kentucky" sounds rather goofy to us. We might say "set in rural Kentucky", though of course that would apply to most of what is still a rather backward state! (I live about 15 minutes from Kentucky, so I know!) We might also say "set in the hills of Kentucky", where, I'm sure, to this day, you could still find Fearogod types (hell, you can find them in Congress!).' Okay, Gary, I'll probably change the wording of that item soon. How does 'in the backwoods of Kentucky' sound to you? (I wanted to emphasise, like the film itself, the general backwardness of the characters - though Fearogod is actually the film's hero, notice.) Or you May change it yourself next week, when you become 'editor for a day (or three)'! Meanwhile, the "Editor's Day" for the rest of this week will be written by either 'yours truly' or by my friend Inge Izzo, who is knowledgeable about both Hitchcock and François Truffaut (with whom she once corresponded). My thanks to all of the guest editors who will be writing here over the next month or so ...

September 26 - 2001
So, if the ascending camera in the library in Shadow of a Doubt viscerally represents Charlie's sinking feeling, visually it symbolises her Fall: the teenager seems to plummet away from us. Again Kierkegaard is the best exegetist. In general terms (anticipating Vertigo, and much melodrama and film noir), he speaks of 'the road we all have to take - over the Bridge of Sighs into eternity'. (Auden, op. cit., p. 30) Of dread specifically, he notes: 'Everything turns upon dread coming into view. Man is a synthesis of the soulish and the body. But a synthesis is unthinkable if the two are not united in a third factor. This third factor is the spirit [which, in the state of innocence, is present only as 'a state of immediacy, a dreaming state'].' And this: 'Once the sexual is posited as the extreme point of the synthesis, it is no use ignoring it. The task is of course to win it into conformity with the destiny of the spirit. (Here lie all the moral problems of the erotic.) ... But why this dread? Because in the culmination of the erotic the spirit cannot take part. I will speak here with Greek candour. The spirit indeed is present, for it is this which constitutes the synthesis, but it cannot express itself in the erotic experience; it feels itself a stranger. It says as it were to the erotic, "My dear, I cannot be a third party here, therefore I will hide myself for the time being." But this precisely is dread.' (Auden, pp. 165, 172-73) Accordingly, I see Shadow of a Doubt as an allegory of a teenager's sexual awakening (by her Uncle Charlie's visit) and her eventual arrival at the verge of womanhood where she is joined by her future partner (it seems likely), the police detective Jack Graham (MacDonald Carey). In my book, I note, however, that she 'will always know that her uncle remains a part of herself'. As for the crane shot in the library, it most poignantly expresses the girl's sudden isolation as she struggles to come to terms with her newly-recognised sexuality and to overcome her 'dread'. Now, my friend Tag Gallagher recently asked me, 'Do you think a high-angle shot in Hitchcock always represents a God's-eye point of view?' My answer was: only sometimes (or only very obliquely). Sometimes it is merely an expedient transitional shot, or designed to make a simple plot-point (as in Frenzy [1972] where the overhead shot of Blaney in his cell is intended to show how small the cell is: a mere arm-span wide). But what about the sudden high shot in Vertigo (1958) after Madeleine's seeming death, as we see Scottie (James Stewart) emerge from the foot of the mission tower and slink away? (This certainly fits with Professor Miller's generalisation about Extreme High Angle shots marking 'a moment of irreversible crisis'.) Here I think the Shadow of a Doubt instance May give us the best clue: just as young Charlie experiences a sudden sinking feeling, expressed by the camera's withdrawal, so the shot in Vertigo is telling us how 'small' Scottie feels - and appears to us - having just let the woman he loves fall to her death. That is, the shot is subjective: in a non-literal way, it represents Scottie's view of himself. But of course, given the 'spiritual' and 'historical' dimensions of Vertigo (and Shadow of a Doubt), and the proximity of the mission (or library), there May also be a God's-eye view implied here. Kierkegaard would surely think so.

September 25 - 2001
I think that Professor Miller's "Hitchcock's Iconography" (see above) offers valid generalisations concerning the 'meaning' or 'tone' of ten common Hitchcock shots or techniques. Understandably, there are omissions or approximations, and I'll discuss some of these in a moment. But I do think that the list provides a useful stimulus for students just beginning Hitchcock studies. As I emailed a friend, it serves as a 'handle into the vast room that is H's movies. It doesn't lead to a narrow perspective, whereas using a handle labelled "Transference of Guilt" (say) would'. Okay. It so happens that I've lately been discussing - again with friends - Hitchcock's use of high-angle long-shots. So let's compare our thoughts about those with Miller's point above (4): 'The cut or crane up to an Extreme High Angle shot. This is present at a moment of irreversible crisis - of sudden awareness, an important decision, or the onslaught of physical or moral danger. (The person in the shot May be in danger or May be a threat to others.)' A good example of this type of shot is certainly the moment in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) when young Charlie (Teresa Wright) finds proof that her beloved Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) is the Merry Widow Murderer. Alone in the local library (which has just closed), and with a sinking feeling, she reads in a newspaper (representing the outer world, from whose reality she has heretofore been protected) an account of the murderer and his latest victim - a woman whose initials match those on the ring given to Charlie by her uncle. This is certainly 'a moment of irreversible crisis - of sudden awareness ... [and] the onslaught of physical or moral danger'. Accordingly, the camera cranes rapidly up and away from the teenage girl, isolating her in her new and shocking - and dangerous - knowledge. The ascent of the camera represents viscerally her sinking feeling of which I spoke above. But it does much more, too. (So this is where iconography must yield to a feel for - or close analysis of - the individual film.) For a start, the ring that Charlie handles at this point is a sexual symbol. Even before the arrival of her uncle from out of town, the teenager has been living in a state of unfocussed excitement corresponding to what the great 'existential' philosopher Sören Kierkegaard (1813-55) called 'dread'. Yes, this has a sexual connotation, but also a spiritual one. Here is Kierkegaard: 'Dread is a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic sympathy. One easily sees, I think, that this is much more truly a psychological subject than it is a concupiscence. Language confirms this completely. One speaks of a sweet dread, a sweet feeling of apprehension, one speaks of a strange dread, a shrinking dread, etc.' And Kierkegaard continues: 'The dread which is posited in innocence [like young Charlie's until this moment] is, in the first place, not guilt; in the second place, it is not a heavy burden, not a suffering which cannot be brought into harmony with the felicity of innocence. If we observe children, we find this dread more definitely indicated as a seeking after adventure, a thirst for the prodigious, the mysterious.' (W.H. Auden, 'The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard', [Midland Books pb, 1963], p.164) But then comes, for each of us, the Fall. More tomorrow.

September 24 - 2001
My thanks to Joseph Miller who teaches in the English Department at the University of Maryland. Back in 1975, when he began teaching a course on Hitchcock, Dr Miller listed for his students ten instances of "Hitchcock's Iconography". (He defines an icon as 'a visual image having a consistent symbolic meaning. This is a term borrowed from the history of art, useful to signify a moment that occurs on the screen, one that contains an "idea" and is visually apparent. Genres like the Western or the detective film possess an iconography; so too do the films of an individual filmmaker - the contents or techniques of shots that serve as visual metaphors for his personal world-view.') The list follows (I May make some comments about it tomorrow):
(1) The Dutch Tilt [where the image is slanted 45° from the horizontal]. This is present when the familiar world of a character is suddenly "turned awry," about to go cockeyed, to be rent asunder.
(2) Stairways. These are transitional spaces between places of safety and danger.
(3) Checkerboard Floors. The location of physical, moral, or psychological conflict. Look for betrayal, rejection, the imminence of violence.
(4) The cut or crane up to an Extreme High Angle shot. This is present at a moment of irreversible crisis - of sudden awareness, an important decision, or the onslaught of physical or moral danger. (The person in the shot May be in danger or May be a threat to others.)
(5) The Emerging Body shot. A whole body, or a head, or an eye, rises into the frame from the side or bottom, or from around some object. The complacent character is anxious and distraught; the pessimist is calculating mischief.
(6) The Subjective Profile shot. This shot occurs during a conversation between two characters. Following an objective shot of the first person, we have a subjective shot of the second person, seen in profile, having 'turned away' his face to indicate some withdrawal of feeling.
(7) The Mirror Double. A character will be seen reflected in a mirror or glass - indicating that the person is self-divided, of two minds or natures.
(8) The Circling Camera shot. The camera dollies around a couple, about 180 degrees, signifying a reversal in the relationship: new understanding, betrayal rather than trust, etc.
(9) Cross-tracking. This technique involves a combination of two alternating shots, both with a moving camera: one objective (of a person walking, say) and the other subjective (of what the person sees as she moves). This is present when a character is being drawn into a situation that her own character finds irresistible, but which is highly dangerous.
(10) The Personified Camera shot. When the camera moves in on (or away from) a scene as if it is a curious explorer, the viewer feels present in the scene, and May be in the awkward position of participant in morally questionable acts.

September 19 - 2001
(Continued from yesterday; revised.) You scarcely need a Romantic view of the artist to appreciate the uncommon insight of someone like Hitchcock into what filmmaking involves - or leaves out. But it May help! The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) spoke of the superior artist as genius, someone who, however fleetingly, sees something that at other times is invisible. 'The true province of genius', Schopenhauer believed, 'is imaginative perception, and not conceptual thinking. Art which is structured around some proposition, or worked out on a wholly rational plan, is dead and uninteresting by comparison.' (Christopher Janaway, 'Schopenhauer' [1994], p. 64.) For his part, Hitchcock thought that 'logic is dull'. Accordingly, when making his films, he strove to be independent of logic (which, incidentally, May help to explain his sometimes eccentric behaviour like that noted here on September 5 - though, in later years, the extravert trappings were replaced by the soon legendary decorum and calm of Hitchcock's office and set - Alma's influence perhaps?). Further, Schopenhauer said that the genius stands for something impersonal, the rare ability to still the individual will in order 'to see the universal in the particular' (there's surely a lot of Hitchcock in that, as witness films like Vertigo and The Birds) and to attain a heightened perception (as opposed to conceptual thinking). In sum, what theorists May overlook is how some artists (Hitchcock? Kubrick?) really are, more than most people, masters of all they survey. Now let's make this discussion concrete. When he read the entry here yesterday, with its reference to how Hitchcock wanted to make a film about the 1926 General Strike, Bill Krohn was reminded of a passage in his book 'Hitchcock at Work' (p. 142) describing 'the battle between strikers [and non-strikers] that was going to open Saboteur (treatment only), and is memorialized in a photo on the wall of Jimmy Stewart's apartment (script only) in Rear Window'. (The Saboteur scene became anachronistic once the unions signed a no-strike pledge after Pearl Harbour.) Further, Bill was reminded of something that Patricia Hitchcock reported, circa 1949 - that her father's favourite reading at that time was 'books about international politics'. So let's appreciate just how broad Hitchcock's interests were, and how his films often managed to include, among their many perspectives, a political one. Lastly, Bill emailed me this comment, which bears directly on what was said here yesterday: 'My work on the book started with The Birds because I was impressed early by Raymond Bellour's discussion of the lake-crossing. Published in ['Cahiers du Cinéma'] in 1969, that was the first article to set down the cause/effect relationship between characters' looks of jealousy or lust and the bird attacks, which I joyfully pillaged and tried to show empirically how it came to be. But when you trace that process out in detail from the papers [in the Hitchcock archives], even if you're not sure which artistic choices were conscious and which were not, the idea that "the structure of film language" or of "the filmic apparatus" did all this kind of blows away - you see an artist at work.'

September 18 - 2001
Stanley Kubrick once told 'Sight and Sound' that he had never read a review of his films that told him anything that he, the director, didn't already know. I quoted that remark last year (see our New Publications page) when I reviewed Bill Krohn's eye-opening 'Hitchcock at Work'. And it still seems to me that, whatever French theorists like Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida May say, some filmmakers are acutely aware of the myriad of factors that operate when they make a film. For those who doubt this, I wrote in my review that they should straight away 'read what Krohn reveals about Hitchcock and his colleagues' incredibly meticulous work on such films as Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), or The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) ... The conscious creative decisions taken at the time of these films' making - and traceable in surviving documents (if you know how to interpret them) - were rich, intricate, and often profound. Film theory has never arrived at Hitchcock's measure because, frankly, he knew more than all the theorists "put together" (to quote Singin' in the Rain) ...' Well, this view was recently challenged by DS, on the academic H-FILM forum, who regards all 'auteurist' (author-focussed) studies as 'narrow-minded, elitist, hierarchical and ignorant of the huge number of social, cultural and economic factors that influence [a film's] meaning'. In other words, his position and mine would seem to be pretty much opposed! In my own defence, I thought some more about the evidence indicating Hitchcock's privileged knowledge of his global audience, and his considerable awareness of the factors that influence a commercial filmmaker's work. Just look at some of the things he says in 'Hitchcock on Hitchcock' (1995), edited by Sidney Gottlieb. Here's Gottlieb himself (pp. 161-62): 'Those who think of Hitchcock as primarily and intentionally a formalist and "nonpolitical" artist May be surprised to hear him explain, "Circumstances have forced me into the realms of fiction. I have always wanted to make films with some sociological importance - but I have never been allowed to do so." His most startling statement is that he wanted to make a film about the General Strike of 1926, showing "fistfights between strikers and undergraduates, pickets, and all the authentic drama of the situation," but this was "immediately vetoed" by the British Board of Film Censors. Even one of his current [1939] film projects, Titanic, he says, is encountering political opposition because cruise operators do not want anyone to be reminded of the horror of the sinking of the Titanic and the incompetence that May have precipitated it.' However Gottlieb also points out that Hitchcock managed to smuggle some of these matters into his films - The Manxman (1929), for instance, 'is set during a time of economic distress and labor protest and subtly announces its political subthemes by stylistic allusions to Eisenstein' - and he concludes that 'much more work needs to be done on the often very subtle political dimensions and intentions of [Hitchcock's] films, as he himself alerts us in his writings.' In interviews, Hitchcock repeatedly pointed out how large film budgets brought subtle and not-so-subtle obligations to the producers. But immersed in the creative process, I repeat, when his mind was working at white heat, he was probably more aware of what making a film entails, and the truths it can tell (or conceal), than any theorist, or pack of theorists, has ever dreamed of. More later.

September 17 - 2001
Far be it my desire to criticise Patricia Hitchcock, now a venerable lady in her seventies, but this is a scholars' website and this item concerns a matter of (shoddy) scholarship by none other than, yes, Hitchcock's daughter. Perhaps I should preface what follows by quoting the somewhat lofty remark of a friend recently: 'DVDs [with commentary tracks] are to research as Sesame Street is to Harvard'. Or, as Mitch (Rod Taylor) says in The Birds (1963): 'Caveat emptor: let the buyer beware.' The fact is, I recently ran the 'making of' documentary that's on the DVD of The Trouble With Harry (1955) and promptly heard Pat Hitchcock say that novelist Jack Trevor Story had appeared in her father's silent film Champagne (made the very year that Pat was born). In my head, alarm bells began ringing. I had once investigated this matter myself, and I can assure readers (and, for that matter, Pat Hitchcock) that the actor named Jack Trevor (1893-1976) bore no family relation to Jack Trevor Story (1917-1991). Anyone who knew that Jack Story's first published novel was 'The Trouble With Harry' (1949) would not have made the slip that Pat Hitchcock made. (And anyone who wants to know more about that excellent author should read this tribute to him by his close friend, and fellow writer, Michael Moorcock: Savoy People: Jack Trevor Story.) As for actor Jack Trevor, not much is known, but it is tantalising. Born in London, he worked mainly in Germany. One of his first major film roles was in G.W. Pabst's Secrets of a Soul (1926), where Hitchcock almost certainly saw him (Pabst's film is a likely influence on Hitchcock's Spellbound [1945]). Two years later, Hitchcock brought him to England to play 'The Officer' in Champagne. Then he must have returned to Germany. One of five films he made there in 1929 was the German/UK 'remake' of Champagne (UK title: Bright Eyes), filmed in Vienna, though Geza von Bolvary's film actually bore little resemblance to Hitchcock's apart from the use of its title and two of its actors - Betty Balfour was again leading lady, playing a scullerymaid who works in the cabaret Palais de Luxe, and Jack Trevor this time played a waiter (supposedly a deposed Russian aristocrat) whom the heroine secretly loves. After the War, Jack Trevor (real name: Anthony Steane) returned to England where he died, at Deal, Kent, in 1976.

September 12 - 2001
If it's all the same to you excellent people reading this, I shan't write a full entry here today. I have been preparing a new page for this site containing a not-previously published script extract from Suspicion (1941). The extract sets out an ending for the film that was shot and previewed (no, not the one in which Johnnie [Cary Grant] joins the RAF) and then replaced by the ending we now have. The new page will draw on research done by Bill Krohn in Hollywood. I particularly like Bill's description of Lina (Joan Fontaine) as a sort of English Madame Bovary. (Bovary was Hitch's favourite character in fiction.). Bill says that he was inspired by Mark Crispin Miller's essay, "Hitchcock's Suspicions and Suspicion", which sees Lina as a bookish fantast ...

September 11 - 2001
Someone posted an interesting message about Hitchcock DVDs on an academic film site, SCREEN-L, the other day. JB wrote: '[S]everal of Hitchcock's British films have been released on DVD with digitally enhanced audio tracks. I was watching the DVD of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) recently and was stunned at how much clearer the dialogue was. The signal-to-noise ratio has been much improved. Normally, I'd advocate seeing films in their original condition, but I think this is one case where the manipulation of a film is truly an improvement.' I wrote back: '[H]ow do you know that you have ever seen and heard TMWKTM (1934) in its original condition? Maybe all of the prints and video copies that have been available in recent decades have been inferior (as is often the case with old films)? I heard that the BFI released a new print in 1999 that was excellent, however. Perhaps it was struck from an original print?' The most interesting responses (two of them) to that observation came from Dr Leo Enticknap. They are quite technical (so pay attention, good reader), but here's the gist of them. 'Hmm, there are some thorny ethical questions here [writes Dr E] ... 1930s optical soundtracks played back through 1930s thermionic valve (tube) amplifiers and doped paper cone speakers will sound subjectively a lot "better" than if they are reproduced through modern equipment without any re-recording, because the 30s equipment "looked" for a much smaller frequency range than transistor-based stuff. A transistor amp will produce hiss when it can't find a signal in the higher frequency ranges, which is why many types of early film soundtrack, especially variable density ones, can sound horrendous without archival re-recording. In the case of this DVD, I'd guess that the track has been re-recorded digitally, placing a flat signal over those areas of the frequency range which MPEG-2 can reproduce but 1930s Western Electric cannot. I don't have any [ethical] problem with this, because the end result is to make the film sound closer to what it would have sounded like when played in a typical cinema in 1934 (minus the reverb you got in those huge theatres, admittedly). But [it's a different matter] when you get re-releases such as the recent re-issues of Vertigo and Jaws, in which the soundtrack has been totally remixed for 5.1 channel surround when it was only ever played in mono for the original releases ...' Quite so! Anyway, Dr E also wrote: 'I've seen a nitrate (i.e. original release copy) print of reel 2 [of TMWKTM], and don't have any particular memories about the track, so I guess it must have been average for the time. But the early generations of Movietone/Western Electric (variable density) tracks [...] needed very precise densitometry control in the lab. Very fractionally overexposing or developing the print stock and all you'd be left with was a frying egg noise. So I can well believe that when we got to the 60s and 70s, the dupes that were going around must have been pretty bad. As for the BFI restoration, again, I have no particular impression one way or another about the sound. I did think that in the picture, they were a tad overzealous about wet-gating out scratching and dirt, which meant that the sharpness and density of the image suffered. It just didn't look as crisp as 1930s studio shooting should. I'd have gladly lived with some light neg scratching for a sharper picture overall.' Any views or information on these matters from our readers?

September 10 - 2001
Writing on Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940) in 'MacGuffin' #16, I noted an instance of what I called 'literal foreshadowing'. All of a sudden, we learn that Fisher (Herbert Marshall) isn't what we took him for. As the film cuts to his shadow on his study wall, we hear him ask the sinister Krug (Eduardo Cianelli) to leave - because Johnny Jones (Joel McCrae) in the next room has rumbled the fake Van Meer shooting (though he hasn't guessed that Fisher is himself the ring-leader). To drive home the revelation of his perfidy, the camera promptly swivels to Fisher's face: in effect, giving us confirmation of his words - and emphasising our shock. '[You] could also say', I noted, 'that the shadow represents our sudden glimpse of the real, [traitorous] Fisher.' By way of comparison, I cited an instance from David Lean's Great Expectations (1946). For the first third of the film, we get to know the boy called Pip (Anthony Wager) who lives with his sister and her husband, the blacksmith Joe Gargery (Bernard Miles), in their house on Romney Marsh. But then the film leaps forward a few years. With typical thought for his audience, Lean prepares us for the change in Pip - now a strapping young man (John Mills) who works as Joe's apprentice in the forge - by filming his shadow on the forge wall. Here, the effect is doubly (!) appropriate because the suggestion of a 'doppelgänger' fits the emphasis on Pip's self-alienation that will figure at the centre of the story. Now here's an earlier instance of the same sort of thing. Last night I watched the French documentary Fritz Lang - The Circle of Destiny (1998) which included a clip from the famous scene early in Lang's M (1931) in which the eponymous child-murderer (Peter Lorre) is introduced. A small girl, Elsie, is playing in a street, bouncing a ball against a circular pillar of the sort used as a billboard. The camera cuts to a close-up of a 'Wanted' poster, which asks the question, 'WHO IS THE MURDERER?'. Suddenly, as we hear someone (compulsively) whistling "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Grieg's 'Peer Gynt', the shadow of the whistler falls across the poster. From off-screen comes his wheedling voice: 'What a pretty ball. What's your name?' The shadow is of course Lorre's, arriving as if summoned by Elsie's song that she had earlier been (compulsively) singing: 'Just you wait a little while,/ The evil man in black will come.' The documentary cuts at this point to Claude Chabrol, who comments on Lang's (and Hitchcock's and Lean's) technique thus: 'Nothing's stronger than a voice off in a world totally closed off by the frame. You suddenly prepare the audience for a world to be broken apart by a voice off.' (Incidentally, the whole Lang-Hitchcock connection, often mentioned these days, began very early. Hitchcock saw, and was impressed by, Lang's Der Müde Tod/The Weary Death/Destiny [1921] in Germany at the time of its first release. His own The Lodger [1926] in some ways prefigures Lang's M - for instance, in the way a whole populace [London, Berlin] is stirred by the presence of a murderer in its midst. Of course, Chabrol's comment elsewhere in the documentary - that '90% of Hitchcock is in [Lang's] Spione/Spies [1928]' - is typical French hyperbole!)

September 5 - 2001
Now let's tidy up! I started out by saying (September 3) that I would try to focus some tendencies in Hitchcock's films of the '30s and '40s, and beyond. I proceeded to demonstrate (I trust) Hitchcock's knowing investment of these films with a certain 'energy' and 'sportiveness' and 'elitism'. I equated such qualities with the director's own 'Nietzschean' bent (more on that in a moment) - though I might equally well, perhaps, have used the epithet 'Blakeian'. Englishman William Blake (1757-1827) said that 'energy is eternal delight' and that 'If the sun and moon should doubt,/They'd immediately go out'. Such Romanticism is part-and-parcel of Hitchcock's creative outlook, which I also see as 'Schopenhauerian'. (Schopenhauer was Nietzsche's immediate predecessor, and a formative influence on his most fundamental ideas.) From The Lady Vanishes (1938) through Jamaica Inn (1939) and Rebecca (1940), and Hitchcock's subsequent American films like Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Lifeboat (1944), Rope (1948), and Vertigo (1958), the director explored matters of sportiveness, energy, the life-force that is also a death-force (Schopenhauer's 'Will'), and issues where the unbridled expression of human energy (not tempered by 'the laws of society') results in corruption and decadence and evil. The paradox for Hitchcock might be summed up in Somerset Maugham's dictum: 'Only the artist, and Maybe the criminal, can make his own life.' As an artist, and a 'Nietzschean' one at that, Hitchcock cut a unique figure. For many years, much influenced by his English upbringing, he eccentrically smashed teacups and practised outlandish practical jokes - as if to assert his independence of 'herd morality', like Brandon and Phillip in Rope - and spoke of 'the moron masses'. But in his films Hitchcock was always self-aware and masterful. Accordingly, those films are as much critiques of Nietzschean values as they are celebrations of them. True to his own dictum about making films where the audience can both 'run with the hare and hunt with the hounds', where both masochism and its opposite, sadism, have their exemplary figures (such as Lina and Johnnie respectively in Suspicion [1941]), Hitchcock typically first indulged his villains and then punished them. When, in Rope, Brandon drops the length of rope in a kitchen drawer with a neat flourish, Hitchcock's 'subjective technique' reinforces the exultancy of the moment by photographing it through a swing door - a tour-de-force of timing by actor and cameraman and director. But Brandon and Phillip's comeuppance is on the way, and Rupert, throwing open the apartment window, will denounce their crime in the name of 'society' and the truer, bigger picture it offers. All very Schopenhauerian. (For more on all of the above, see the Author's Note in my book, and passim.) Now, finally, here's a not-irrelevant note on the film Kind Lady (John Sturges, 1951). It is based, via a stage play, on a short story by an English author admired by Hitchcock, Sir Hugh Walpole (1884-1941). The plot concerns a confidence trickster (Maurice Evans) who terrorises a rich old lady (Ethel Barrymore) and takes over her house. For suspense, for a breathtakingly outlandish idea that underpins that suspense, and for what I call in my book the 'crucible' principle - all qualities, too, of a Hitchcock film like Rope - Sturges's film is instructive. Hitchcock certainly saw it (there's a likely influence on Strangers on a Train, made the same year). Moreover, it has actor John Williams playing a snooping insurance investigator, and thus trying out for his roles in Dial M For Murder (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). Try and catch it.

September 4 - 2001
Following the triumphant Rebecca, Hitchcock made a wartime propanda thriller, Foreign Correspondent, probably in part to address (and justify himself to) his beleaguered people back home - as well as the 'isolationists' in America. Then, for RKO, he made in quick succession two studies in marriage: the screwball comedy Mr and Mrs Smith and the darkly surreal Suspicion (both 1941). Both of these, in different ways, show the English 'sportiveness' and 'Nietzschean' disdain for convention to which I referred yesterday. Thus Mr and Mrs Smith isn't altogether the paradox it appears to be: an American genre-piece with an English director. Like Ralph Bellamy in His Girl Friday (and Burgess Meredith playing a character named Alex Sebastian [!] in Ernst Lubitsch's dry-witted That Uncertain Feeling [1941]), Gene Raymond plays a low-libido fall-guy. Most of the film's energy is generated by the husband-and-wife-who-aren't (cf. the 1951 film We're Not Married), played by Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard. Energy, and living on the edge of the law, is what matters. Accordingly, David Thomson's summing-up on 'comedies of re-marriage' seems apt: 'They are, I believe, a kind of rule book for Hollywood aristocracy, one dominated by lecherous, manipulative men, so often divorced that they were spurred on to find some justification. So [such comedies] May serve as their fig leaf, but the term should not mask the full genius and rascal superiority of those adorable movies.' Note the use of 'aristocracy' and 'rascal superiority'. Whether the happily-married Hitchcock and his (female) producer-star Lombard knew it, they were serving the interests of an elite. But, as I've indicated, such 'elitism' came easily to Hitchcock. Accordingly, in Suspicion, he cast fellow-Englishman Cary Grant as a virtual (if ambiguous) Übermensch-figure, for whom conventional rules don't apply and a wilful energy is paramount. When the lady crime novelist in Suspicion says, 'My villains are really my heroes', it could be Hitchcock speaking. Nonetheless, Hitchcock always remained ambivalent about his 'Nietzschean' villains, which is why, in his next film, Saboteur (1942), he allowed Barry (Robert Cummings) to denounce Tobin (Otto Kruger) in a speech that owed much to John Buchan's 'The Power House' (1912). Now let's skip to Rope (1948). Given what I've been saying lately, it's easy to see that this is really another 'comedy of re-marriage', albeit a homosexual one. The gay couple, Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger), have become bored - the traditional situation that initiates a Hitchcock or a Buchan adventure. (Yes, even Mr and Mrs Smith and Suspicion.) So, as avowed Nietzscheans, they carry out a 'motiveless' killing to assert their 'superiority'. But their real reason is unconscious, and more primitive. (Cf. Schopenhauer's 'Will' and Freud's 'id'.) Even as Hitchcock is indulging - and having fun with - their 'elitism', he is preparing to denounce it. At the end, a self-righteous professor (James Stewart) denies that he could ever have committed such a crime. He, too, sounds like the hero of 'The Power-House' when he tells Brandon and Phillip that 'society' has it in for them, and a good thing too ...

September 3 - 2001
A recent review by David Thomson of the book 'Fast-Talking Dames' by Maria DiBattista May help to focus some tendencies in Hitchcock films of the '30s and '40s and beyond. Thomson notes that the coming of sound to American movies was associated with a certain snobbery that valued 'Englishness'. He claims that 'talkies coincided with, and helped to propel, the urge of many in Hollywood (second-generation Jews, Ivy League types like [Howard] Hawks, as well as the Eastern intellectuals employed and enriched by sound) to detach themselves from the raw, immigrant showbiz character most linked to silent pictures ... and to be as smart as good theater and new novels.' Thomson cites the friendship between jeweller's son David Selznick and the fabulously wealthy heir John ('Jock') Whitney as the most striking instance of the new social climbing by Hollywood figures which, in this case, would lead to the partnership that made Gone With the Wind (1939) and Rebecca (1940). (See Thomson's 'Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick [1993].) He observes: 'It was no accident that so many English or English-sounding actors and actresses thrived in this climate.' Further, discussing Hawks's His Girl Friday (1940), Thomson speaks of 'a certain English sportiveness' (call it elitism) informing this 'comedy of re-marriage' whose butt is Bruce, the Ralph Bellamy character. Thomson writes: 'It was [Stanley] Cavell's belief, or hope ... that the action [of screwball comedies] helps to re-educate both man and woman into a fit state for true marriage. I see it rather as a game played for the benefit of a society gone wild on promiscuity and divorce. The newsroom [in His Girl Friday] is a metaphor for the cockpit of Hollywood - pitilessly professional, yet as addictive as the stage ... So Walter [Cary Grant] and Hildy [Rosalind Russell] play the dangerous game of breaking up, so that they can find each other again and fall in love. Falling, you see, is the rapture and rush that Hollywood believed in.' Okay. Mutatis mutandis, I see a lot of Hitchcock in this. The man whom John Steinback called 'an incredible English snob' - and who, like his admired John Buchan, had a 'Nietzschean' side, like so many English intellectuals of the early 19th century, and beyond - made plenty of films that fit the paradigm Thomson describes. Already in The Lady Vanishes (1938), the way that Iris (Margaret Lockwood) and Gilbert (Michael Redgrave) bury their differences and manage to defeat the fiendish Dr Hartz (Paul Lukas) bespeaks the sort of 'English sportiveness' (parodied in the Charters and Caldicott characters!) that Thomson puts his finger on; and when we finally glimpse Iris's dull-looking fiance in London, we know immediately that she'll abandon him for Gilbert, just as Hildy abandons Bruce. Hitchcock and Selznick's Rebecca (1940), one of the director's 'lost paradise' films, ostensibly celebrates the 'saving' of Maxim and his second wife's marriage - but there's more than a sneaking respect in this ambiguous film for the first wife, Rebecca, whom I call in my book 'a female Übermensch'. Tomorrow I'll discuss some of Hitchcock's films of the '40s.

August 29 - 2001
Hunches confirmed? Of Suspicion (1941) I wrote in my book that 'the lively Johnnie [Cary Grant] is the film's true "hero" - in the sense that a certain Tom Rakewell is the hero of Hogarth's famous series of engravings, A Rake's Progress. Hitchcock probably had such a resemblance in mind, for he has Johnnie stay at the Hogarth Club in London.' Now Bill Krohn tells me that in one draft of the screenplay, writer Samson Raphaelson 'had Johnnie imagine how his life could have gone, from gambling to wife-murder, after comparing it explicitly to Hogarth's "The Rake's Progress." That's in an intermediate draft at UCLA written just after SR joined the project, half-draft, half-memo, which has many fascinating things in it.' Incidentally, speaking of 'the lively Johnnie', notice that he fits the typical pattern (mentioned yesterday) of the Hitchcock villain who is more 'alive' than the poor sap who is the nominal main character. Think of Brandon (as opposed to the limping Rupert) in Rope, Bruno (as opposed to the straight-and-narrow Guy) in Strangers on a Train, and even Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) in Vertigo who only appears to represent what Scottie (James Stewart) fears in himself - having to 'sit behind a desk, chair-borne' - when in fact he is fully determined to grab the 'colour, excitement, power, freedom' (i.e., heightened life) of which he speaks wistfully in order to needle Scottie. Incidentally again, Bill Krohn had one of his own hunches confirmed when he examined the Hitchcock files pertaining to the scene in Saboteur mentioned above (August 22). Bill's 'Hitchcock au travail'/'Hitchcock at Work' has as its thesis that Hitchcock was far more prepared to improvise and extemporise on-set than the legend of the director as meticulous pre-planner would have us believe. Bill wrote to me the other day: 'As for the Nazis in Saboteur, please note that putting the chief in the back seat with [Robert] Cummings and having the two thugs in front sing that Tchaikovsky (!) love song while Cummings looks uncomfortable was an on-set inspiration that revised how the scene was scripted and storyboarded. Without the written word to guide him, [chief censor Joseph] Breen missed the connotations of the scene and made no objection to it.' Okay. Now, several years ago, when writing about Vertigo for an article in 'The MacGuffin', I mentioned how the Mission Dolores was originally called the Mission San Francisco de Asis and was founded in 1776, the same year as the city to which it eventually gave its name. I indicated the 'expressionistic' appropriateness of this to Hitchcock's film, since for Scottie the Madeleine character (Kim Novak), whom he trails around the city, including to the Mission Dolores, soon comes to represent for him the mystique of San Francisco itself. (The first Hitchcock film in which a character virtually 'dons' a city or environment was The Lodger - A Story of the London Fog [1926]. Significantly, in the case of Vertigo, Hitchcock envisioned Madeleine as having just materialised from out of the San Francisco fog. Hence her grey suit.) Well, yesterday I read the entry on I Confess in 'The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations' (see August 27, above). I was particularly intrigued by this: '[Montgomery] Clift's church, Sainte Marie, is Eglise Saint-Zéphirin de Stadacona (Stadacona was the name of the native village which stood on the site Quebec City now occupies).' QED?!

August 28 - 2001
Today, let's come back to Rope. Taking its lead from Patrick Hamilton's play, the film is one of many in Hitchcock's oeuvre in which the idea of wanting more out of 'life' is mooted. (Cf. Rich and Strange, Lifeboat [of course], and Vertigo.) Near the start, Brandon tells Phillip, 'You and I have killed for the sake of danger and for the sake of killing. And we're alive. Truly and wonderfully alive.' In his next film, Under Capricorn (1949), Hitchcock seems to have wanted to show the very ebb and flow of the life-force; and he employed as screenwriter the Scottish playwright and physician 'James Bridie' (Osborne Henry Mavor, 1888-1951), who believed in such a force. Then came Stage Fright (1950), set in post-War England, a film in which 'life' and 'theatre' constantly overlap and become confused (cf. Murder! [1930]). But there is a strong feeling present that the life-force will win out (James Bridie was again co-scripter), and that the theatrical community's zest is only an extension of the English people's capacity to 'bear up', whether under bombs or a heavy shower of rain. Lastly, in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) the psychopath Bruno is more 'alive' than anyone - he even has plans to harness the life-force on Mars! He is the very 'double', or extension, of the 'straight sets' Guy who has more down-to-earth ambitions; Bruno, indeed, might almost be a younger brother of the Nietzsche-spouting Brandon in Rope. That is, it's conceivable that these two gay men were both spoilt products of the wealthy Long Island household we see in Strangers on a Train, and that their flibbertigibbet mother christened them Brandon and Bruno respectively. Equally, it's possible to imagine Rupert in Rope and Guy in Strangers on a Train as related; certainly both are alike in being less than fully aware of their 'shadow' side. A younger James Stewart might have been well-cast as the professional sportsman Guy (though Hitchcock is on record as saying that he would have liked William Holden to play him). My thanks, now, to Bill Krohn ('Hitchcock at Work') who responded to the news that the screenplay of Rope has been produced as a stage version and rendered more explicit in the process: 'The new trend is to turn connotations into denotations, which can be good if it's done for a polemical purpose. At no time in Executive Action [1973], an early polemic about the JFK assassination, is it said that [Burt] Lancaster, playing the chief engineer of the plot, is CIA, although a glance in his direction when the word is spoken indicates that he is. In JFK [1991], all the names are named, including Lyndon Johnson's, and that's progress from a political standpoint. But in drama, it rarely is. I saw a bit of The Talented Mr. Ripley [1999] on a friend's cable recently, and boy is it denotative! But it doesn't strike me as better than Strangers on a Train for that reason - on the contrary, Bruno is eerier because his nature is left up in the air.' More tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are a couple of links. For a review from the 'Los Angeles Times' of the the new stage production of Rope, click here: With Staging, 'Rope' Comes Full Circle. And for reviews of a 1993 UK production of Patrick Hamilton's 'Rope', including one by Hamilton biographer Sean French, visit this site: BEDLAM: ASH: Rope.

August 27 - 2001
More about Rope soon. Meanwhile, today I feel impelled to mention a new book called 'The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations' (Titan Books, London). It's by Tony Reeves, who has done a superb job in text and photographs to inform the reader about exactly where thousands of movies, listed alphabetically, were shot. The blurb on the back cover of this handsome paperback says: 'If you've ever wanted to have Breakfast at Tiffany's, follow in the footsteps of James Bond, visit the far-flung worlds of Star Wars or live La Dolce Vita, then this is the book for you.' Hitchcock fans will be delighted by what the book discloses about many of our favourite films. The first film I looked up was The Trouble With Harry (1955). The entry notes the splendid photography by Robert Burks 'of the autumnal New England location of East Craftsbury, 30 miles north of Montpelier, northern Vermont. It adds: 'Interior sets were built inside a school gym in Morrisville, some fifteen miles away.' Then I remembered that To Catch a Thief fan, Matthew Gear, had once asked me if I knew where the villa occupied by Cary Grant in that film (1955) was located. I had been unable to help. But now I know. After noting that Grace Kelly's character stays at the Carlton Hotel, 58 la Croisette, Cannes, Tony Reeves informs us that unfortunately 'the terrace restaurant on the bay is long gone. Cary Grant's villa is just below the huge rocky outcrop of Baou de St Jeannet. The flower market is on cours Saleya, in the old town of Nice. The bridge is at Éze. The chase was shot on the Grande Corniche, above Monte Carlo.' Naturally I looked up Vertigo (1958), and I wasn't disappointed. Not only is there a very comprehensive, illustrated (7 b/w photos), double-page entry - I bet you didn't know that the sanitarium where Scottie (James Stewart) recuperates after his breakdown is at 351 Buena Vista Avenue East - but there's also a page devoted to "Vertigo's San Francisco" consisting of 6 colour photos and a map of the city. Now, I've never been quite sure (but have often been asked) where the Prairie Stop scene in North by Northwest (1959) was shot. Tony Reeves has found out. 'Far from Indiana', he writes, 'the crop fields are actually at Wasco, near Bakersfield on Route 99, in the desert 80 miles north of LA. A favourite road of Hitchcock's - it links Hollywood to the vineyards of Northern California - it's the same stretch of road on which James Dean met his fate.' Okay. But how does the book fare with its entries on some of the earlier films? Well, anticipating Gary Giblin's forthcoming 'Hitchcock's London', I looked up The Paradine Case (1947). Gary's book will have much more to add, of course, but now I already know that the address of Gregory Peck's house in that film is 60 Portland Place at Weymouth Street, W1, that the inn where he stays in Cumberland (Cumbria) is the Drunken Duck Inn, Barngate, and that the nearby Paradine manor called 'Hindley Hall' is actually 'a mock-Elizabethan manor house built in 1891, now the Langdale Chase Hotel, on the A591 between Brockhole and Ambleside on the north shore of Lake Windermere, Cumbria (telephone 015394.32201)'. Finally, did you know that Simpson's Restaurant, seen in Sabotage (1936), was one of Hitchcock's favourite eating places and was where he entertained the press to publicise that film? Well, although the scene was actually mocked up in the studio, 'you can see the real thing in Howard's End [James Ivory, 1992]'.

August 22 - 2001
This matter of Rupert and Brandon - did they or didn't they? - in Rope, is crucial to Hitchcock's method of filmmaking. After all, as I've often pointed out, there's an ambiguity in his films that goes right back to The Lodger (1926) where we can't be certain that the Ivor Novello character May not be 'The Avenger', his sister's murderer - though an apparent 'happy ending' ultimately deflects our attention away from such a possibility. Similarly, in I Confess (1953), the scene in the summer-house is allowed to remain unresolved by an expedient fade-out and fade-in. Of Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift), who was newly returned from war service at the time, we May ask: did he or didn't he have sex with the married Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter)? Of course, we're told that he hadn't known that Ruth was married, which raises the further question even more 'shocking' (if you're so inclined): did she or didn't she lead him on? (When asked about this scene, Hitchcock added an ambiguity of his own, replying to the effect that he was a non-judgemental recorder of events, but that he naturally wished the pair well!) So you May see why I question a stage production of the Rope screenplay that too explicitly indicates that Rupert and Brandon had once had an affair. At most, the possibility should hang in the air. That possibility was always there (despite what I wrote yesterday, school teachers have been known to have affairs - of whatever degree of involvement, including homosexual involvement - with students, and I believe there was a 'school' of lesbian writing in England that showed as much at about the time Patrick Hamilton's 'Rope' appeared), but to spell it out is counter-productive to the dramatic effect. At least, Hitchcock appears to have thought so. True, perhaps he was equally concerned to find his away around censorship rules (and by the time of Frenzy [1972] he was prepared to take advantage of a perceived easing of those rules), but certainly part of the 'Hitchcock touch' was to positively delight in hinting at the 'unthinkable'. When, in Saboteur (1942), a car-load of (male) fascists starts singing "Tonight We Love" to the melody of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, this is more than an illustration of actor Norman Lloyd's observation that Hitchcock liked to leave audiences a bit puzzled. (At other times, when suspense was paramount, he liked to be as crystal-clear as possible.) It also hints, for those prepared to take Hitchcock's point, at how these men are gay. Indeed, to drive home the point, one of the men is heard saying that his mother had dressed him as a girl until an abnormally late age! Likewise, in Under Capricorn (1949), made the year after Rope, there are the merest hints that in the years when husband (Joseph Cotten) and wife (Ingrid Bergman) had been separated while he served his sentence as a convict, she had survived by prostituting herself and he meanwhile had practised homosexuality. (But, the film implies, there's no blame - only the feeling of shame that has created the 'great gulf fixed' between them.) Accordingly, it worries me that the director of the stage production of the Rope screenplay has seen fit to 'go explicit' about a matter that Hitchcock intended to be otherwise. After all, it's the emotional truth in these cases that is important, not their possible physical basis ...

August 21 - 2001
How does one take the announcement (above) that 'A key interpretive change [rendered by a recent stage version of the Rope screenplay] ... was to make it clear that Rupert, the boys' former teacher, had once had an affair with Brandon ... Although hinted at in [Arthur] Laurents' dialogue, this dimension was never evident in [James] Stewart's portrayal'? Thinking about it, I find it hard to accept that such an 'affair' was ever contemplated by either the original author of 'Rope', Patrick Hamilton, or by the film's director, Hitchcock. For one thing, for a schoolteacher to have had a gay affair with one of his pupils would have been almost unthinkable either in 1929, when Hamilton's play was first performed, or in 1948, when the film appeared. It would have been utterly scandalous. Also, to the best of my knowledge, Patrick Hamilton (1904-62) was not himself gay, at least not professedly so, though reports indicate that he had a tyrannical father and a smothering, over-possessive mother (either of whom might easily have driven him gay, one supposes). According to Michael Holroyd, who has read Sean French's 1993 biography of Hamilton, the playwright 'rather unconvincingly denied that he had founded "Rope" on' the Leopold-Loeb murder case, in which two young homosexuals killed a boy. 'Though he was pleased by the play's success, he wanted somehow to distance himself from it.' (Michael Holroyd, "Introduction", in Patrick Hamilton, 'The Slaves of Solitude', Penguin Classics, 1999) So the element of denial in Rupert's character, in the play and film, May reflect a certain denial in the playwright himself. Indeed, the director of the new stage version of Rope, Jack Shouse, acknowledges (in the newspaper article quoted yesterday) that 'there's a moral core in [Rupert] that prevents him from acting on' what he teaches in his philosophy classes. Is it likely that such a man would have seduced (or been seduced by) one of his male pupils? Accordingly, I suspect that Shouse has taken liberties with Arthur Laurents's screenplay: that is, I am doubtful that the latter's dialogue ever really 'hinted at' such a seduction or at an affair between teacher and student. Another point I would make is that the film works perfectly well - thematically - with Rupert as the 'innocent' representative of society. It May even work better. One of the things that comes across strongly to me when I see the film is the Schopenhauerian truth that we're all imprisoned in our pillars of flesh, our subjectivities, our 'private traps' - Rupert no less than everyone else. Accordingly, he is taken by surprise, and shocked to the point of denial (of his own guilt), when he finds that something he taught jokingly, if 'daringly', about the right of a mythical Superman (Übermensch) to take another person's life, has been interpreted literally by two of his students (and without regard to how they could objectively declare themselves 'superior beings'). Rupert's guilt is not due to his possible homosexuality but to the fact that he is a human being, with a human being's inherent limitations. Incidentally, this is an ethical matter that every film director, such as Hitchcock, who makes seeming 'statements' about what is normative conduct, should confront. I'm sure that Hitchcock did so. More on Rope tomorrow.

August 20 - 2001
Today's entry is occasioned by a news item in yesterday's 'Los Angeles Times'. The world première of a stage adaptation of Hitchcock's Rope (1948), based not on the original play by Patrick Hamilton but on the screenplay by Arthur Laurents, is to take place on Thursday at the outdoor Festival Theatre, Solvang, California. (Next month the production will move to the Marian Theatre, Allan Hancock College, Santa Maria.) Director is Jack Shouse of the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts. The production has the support of Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell, who is on the PCPA Foundation board of directors. Something that particularly caught my eye in the news item was this: 'A key interpretive change Shouse and his cast made early on was to make it clear that Rupert, the boys' former teacher, had once had an affair with Brandon, the mastermind of the pair [of killers]. Although hinted at in Laurents' dialogue, this dimension was never evident in [James] Stewart's portrayal ... a homosexual, Nietzsche-spouting philosophy teacher was not in the actor's repertoire. "The film turned into a detective story," maintains Tim Casto, who plays Brandon in the PCPA production, "and you miss a lot of the history - the emotional ties - between my character and Rupert. Brandon has a desperate need for Rupert's approval. All along he's been trying to impress and then surpass this mentor who he sees as a father figure." ' So now the cat is right out of the bag. (There's a related item about Rope in our News and Comment section below.) Incidentally, I was reminded recently that there's no reference to Nietzsche in Patrick Hamilton's play - that addition seems to have been made by Hitchcock, who similarly added a reference concerning Nietzsche's concept of the Superman to John Steinback's story for Lifeboat (1944). Nonetheless, the father-dominated Hamilton, rather like the two killers in his play, felt that Nietzsche's superior thought 'was strong enough to free him from the force field of his father's megalomania' (Michael Holroyd). The news item in the 'Los Angeles Times' quotes the new play's director. ' "The difference between Rupert and Brandon is the crux of the play in a nutshell," Shouse says. "It's about philosophy versus ethics. Rupert [whom Shouse notes has "created his own little Frankenstein here"] can talk about a philosophy, but there's a moral core in him that prevents him from acting on it. Brandon's lack of ethics is the conceit society can't tolerate." ' More about Rope tomorrow. Meanwhile, to read the full 'Los Angeles Times' report, click here: Hitchcock Without the Camera.

August 15 - 2001
I'm not saying that Sir John (Herbert Marshall) in Murder! is a Schopenhauerian, exactly, because the way he achieves 'liberation' for himself and Diana Baring (Nora Baring) is scarcely what Schopenhauer had in mind when he spoke of art's power to liberate. Schopenhauer saw our ultimate goal as detachment from the will's constant demands, and art, the aesthetic experience, as offering an important means of attaining such detachment, if only fleetingly. (In turn, detachment means seeing the world aright, seeing it sub specie aeternitatis: Schopenhauer would have appreciated just such an aspect of Vertigo.) In Murder!, the previously sedentary Sir John gets involved in the real world (with its risks, embarrassments, setbacks, etc.), finds himself in uncomfortable situations (including being woken by a bawling baby, kids with sticky fingers, and cats), and must exercise his imagination and intellect to help another person, the woman he has come to love (and who loves him). Nonetheless, the film pointedly contrasts Sir John's inability to be detached and to think clearly when pressured by the other jurors in the juryroom, and his state of reverie - accompanied by the music of Wagner (Hitchcock's favourite composer, who was hugely influenced by Schopenhauer) - when he has his flash of insight while shaving alone at home, which gives him the vital clue to the accused woman's innocence. And of course not for a minute did Schopenhauer deny the importance of interacting with the real world (whatever that is), only that true liberation could be found there. Accordingly, the ambiguous and open-ended conclusions to Hitchcock's films, their 'open-ended pessimism' as one scholar has called them, are fully compatible with Schopenhauer's understanding. Something else that DP wrote to me (see yesterday's entry) was that Murder! has a final scene that 'is at once both the end of the film and the end of Sir John's [new] play', so that film and play have effectively 'been one all along'. The happy ending, in which Diana is now back with Sir John, and in which their stage marriage signals their own newly-married state, is thus accompanied by a reminder to the audience that art and life are both always dream-like, always subjective - though art May also provide us glimpses of something more, something other. I have written elsewhere on the Web about Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), pointing out that the audience effectively wills the film into being, and that the distraught mother's accusation to us, 'I think you're the cause of all this, I think you're evil', is thus apt and accords, moreover, with Schopenhauer's teaching about the predatory nature of Will (whose symbol in the film is the attacking birds themselves). One final point, then, about Murder! is this. Commenting further on the start of the film (see yesterday's entry), DP writes: '[the audience] are deceived early in the scene as Hitchcock's shooting script arranges the shot of a woman's silhouette changing: "a glimpse of a silhouette of a beautiful figure and profile on blind. As the latter goes up we find to our disappointment that it is the angry face of a not very attractive woman."' This gag prefigures moments in Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo, and subliminally reminds us once again of our own subjective needs, our willing, and how it determines everything we see - or desire to see.

August 14 - 2001
Throughout Murder!, whose principal characters are all stage people and performers, Hitchcock enhances the general theatricality in various ways. One instance was recently pointed out to me by scholar DP. 'The opening scenes', he writes, 'show a clock tower chiming at the end of the street, followed by a scream and a series of windows opening and people trying to see what the ruckus is all about. In fact, these people suggest spectators at a play trying to get a better look at the stage from an obscure balcony seat.' Quite so - not to speak of the general 'drama' in any case. Likewise, a scene set in a jury-room becomes, in effect, a backstage 'courtroom drama' whose theatricality is further emphasised when the other jurors repeatedly chant at the Herbert Marshall character, 'Any answer to that, Sir John?' - like some sort of Greek chorus. Later, a key scene involves a literal re-enactment of the murder to try and trap the suspected killer into betraying his guilt - a scene obviously inspired by the 'Mousetrap' scene in 'Hamlet'. By the time he came to make Stage Fright (1950), about a trainee actress (Jane Wyman) caught up in a murder case, Hitchcock was ready to take this 'theatricalisation of everyday life' further. Notably, there's the scene where 'Doris Tinsdale' - significantly, an alias or role - speaks on cue pre-arranged lines from an adjoining room, which functions like the wings of a theatre, to her employer (Marlene Dietrich). And in this film, too, there is a 'Mousetrap' scene, involving a doll with a bloodstained dress, which takes place at a so-called 'Theatrical Garden-Party'. What is going on here are two instances (Murder!, Stage Fright) of a general principle of Hitchcock's: you must create a world, and a style, to match the subject of your film. The successive films, The Wrong Man (1957), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959), all involve a man mistakenly or unfairly accused of a crime (or, in the case of Vertigo, incompetence at his job) of which he is more-or-less innocent but is caught up in forces beyond his control. But how different these three films are in their styles! That's because they have three quite different protagonists (Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Cary Grant) whose respective 'worlds' are voids apart. In each film, the style reflects the man - as well as vice versa. But the audience of any particular film is scarcely aware of this 'manipulation', the way in which we ourselves become 'caught up' in a subjective screen world (the protagonist's, ours) which we cannot control. As I said yesterday, Hitchcock had grasped the Schopenhauerian truth that all appearance is an illusion (what Schopenhauer called 'Representation'), while reality (the world's 'Will', a life-force that is also a death-force) remains inscrutable; and he proceeded to make that principle the very basis of his art. The turning-point was arguably his filming of Murder! In that film the arch-thespian Sir John says: 'I have trained myself to - how shall I put it - apply the technique of life to the problems of my art.' But when faced with what Schopenhauer called the shortcomings of temporal justice, he liberates himself (and the girl he loves) by drawing on fresh resources: '[Now] I find myself applying the technique of my art to a problem in real life.' More tomorrow.

August 13 - 2001
(Hitchcock was born this day, in 1899.) We all know that Hitchcock became 'The Master of Suspense' in the 1930s after he joined Gaumont-British. There, he and screenwriter Charles Bennett turned out a succession of wonderfully entertaining 'spy films' such as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The 39 Steps (1935) - though 'spy films' is really a misnomer since espionage in these films was never more than a MacGuffin. However, looking back, Hitchcock considered The Lodger (1926) 'the first true Hitchcock film' (it was his third film, after two earlier melodramas made in Germany), and it is worth asking why. Was it because The Lodger contained, besides an exciting climax (his first two films had involved showdowns between armed men), the element of continuous suspense? Clearly, yes, that's part of the explanation. From the moment the new lodger (Ivor Novello) comes to Daisy's house, the audience wonders whether she is safe with him. Could he be 'The Avenger' whose victims have all been young blondes like Daisy? Furthermore, The Lodger knowingly involves - and implicates - the audience in its events. For one thing, Daisy's youth and attractiveness are not lost on us, so that her prettiness and sex-appeal almost place us in the murderer's position: he, too, has an eye for such lovely creatures! Of course, we also want 'The Avenger' (whover he might be) to be caught. We are swept into the general excitement that has seized London. When we're shown the back of a fast-moving news van in the street, and it momentarily seems to have rolling eyes (its back windows), the image isn't just of a searching gaze, it might almost be our own reflection! So this represents an early emblematic instance of what I call the essential subjectivity of Hitchcock's films. That subjectivity is a major part of the films' secret. Their suspense is enhanced by the high level of involvement they provoke in us. Hitchcock summed it up by referring to the typical 'double chase' of his Gaumont and post-Gaumont thrillers, in which the audience both runs with the fox and hunts with the hounds. (The emblematic image of that state of affairs is, of course, the hunt scene in Marnie [1964].) Between The Lodger and The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hitchcock continued to explore the nature of screen subjectivity. In Downhill (1927), a scene apparently set in a restaurant turns out to be taking place onstage, part of a theatrical review in which Roddy (Ivor Novello again) is playing a waiter. 'Ah, fooled you!', we can almost hear Hitchcock telling us. Three years later, in Murder! (1930), which is set almost entirely in the world of theatre, he took the same idea further. Realising that the very nature of the theatrical experience, not to say real life (as described by, say, Schopenhauer), is one of reality versus illusion, i.e., a matter of so-called objectivity versus our inevitable subjectivity, he made this rare Hitchcockian whodunit a continuous joke on the audience. More tomorrow.

August 8 - 2001
Here's yet more evidence for how Hitchcock the film-buff would 'borrow' even the slightest detail from a film he had recently viewed when it suited him to do so. In 1955 Hitchcock would have been interested to see Vincente Minnelli's new film The Cobweb. Its topic was, after all, psychiatry, and its setting was a mental home in the countryside, like that in Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945). Moreover, its plot concerned tensions between inmates and staff, the latter, to quote David Shipman, 'as usual, more loopy than the patients'. Even the much to-doing over the institution's new drapes was Hitchcockian - like the sort of fuss over a MacGuffin by a film's characters that Hitchcock often described to interviewers (cf July 25, above). Shipman is arguably right to point out how all of the business with the drapes, and further to-doing over an unfaithful wife (Gloria Graham) of the head of the institution (Richard Widmark), are 'matters which are interesting but not to be taken seriously'. Nonetheless, the tensions involving one matter reflect or exacerbate the tensions involving the other. Describing the film as '[o]ne of the best of Minnelli's 50s dramas', Jane Clarke sees its subject as a temporary threat to 'the paternal law and order of the clinic and the home: a worried Widmark appears to be losing his place in both, and only when the two women [Graham and an 'unusually maternal' Lauren Bacall] are back in conventional place can sanity be restored'. In fact, when you boil it down, The Cobweb isn't so far removed from the to-doing enacted in Hitchcock's own 1955 project, The Trouble With Harry, another film with a rural setting and a lot of fuss over a MacGuffin - Harry's dead body - which is only ended when the representative of law and patriarchy, sheriff Calvin Wiggs (Royal Dano), is nominally restored to his authority. Now here's the evidence I spoke of above. The Cobweb ends with a printed title on the screen: '... the trouble was over'. That's a virtual admission that all of its to-doing has amounted to a virtual storm in a teacup (though of course the teacup May be a microcosm of the wider world). Likewise, The Trouble With Harry ends with all of its concerns 'laid to rest' (you might say), and a printed title which I have always wondered why Hitchcock chose to use it: 'The trouble with Harry is now over'. Well, today I think I understand. Hitchcock had seen or previewed Minnelli's film (he often kept tabs on what was happening at other studios, or the same studio, when he was working on a project), and, given his perennial and nominally 'pessimistic' theme of the vanity of human wishes (and human to-doings), saw the appropriateness of such a gently deprecatory title ...

August 7 - 2001
I had occasion recently to correspond further with reader Denise Noe, this time about Hitchcock's 'lost film', The Mountain Eagle (1926). ('What happened to it?', Denise wondered. The answer is that very few prints were ever made, and none appears to have survived.) Here's a synopsis of the first half of the film, taken from my book: 'In a mountain village in Kentucky, Beatrice Brent (Nita Naldi), a schoolteacher, incurs the enmity of Pettigrew (Bernard Goetzke), the unpopular local storekeeper and Justice of the Peace. Pettigrew thinks that Beatrice has encouraged advances by his crippled son, Edward (John Hamilton), who she's been giving evening lessons. However, when Pettigrew questions Beatrice, he feels her charm and attempts liberties, which she repels. Furious, he publicly accuses her of wantonness. Edward, who saw what took place, goes into hiding. The villagers drive Beatrice out, but fortunately she is saved from the mob’s further anger by a handsome young man known as Fearogod (Malcolm Keen), who takes her to his remote cabin. Later, to end any scandal, he and Beatrice return to the village and compel Pettigrew to marry them (planning to get a divorce later, if necessary). Pettigrew is enraged by this new humiliation,especially when he recalls that he and Fearogod had once loved the same woman, who had died in giving birth to Edward.' Pettigrew comes across as a harsh, ill-at-ease, puritanical figure - though the loss of his young wife adds an element of tragedy to the portrait. It is easy to imagine here a prototype for later Oedipal, father-son rivalries in Hitchcock, such as those between the younger and older Strausses in Waltzes From Vienna (1933) and even Jeff and Thorwald in Rear Window (1954). But even more, as I said to Denise, The Mountain Eagle sounds to me 'like an early study in the psychology of American puritanism', thus anticipating Psycho (1960), a film which depicts a 'divided' society (in a suitably double sense of 'divided') where everyone has something to hide and is thus 'schizophrenic', whether they are actually psychotic (Norman Bates) or more-or-less 'normal' (Marion and Sam). Of course, The Mountain Eagle can be seen to introduce related 'Hitchcockian' elements. A distrust of 'the mob' and the mass mind (as opposed to a certain confidence in individuals) is apparent in Hitchcock's next film The Lodger (1926) and to some extent his American movies like Saboteur (1942) - the latter certainly about a 'divided' society though one with a potential for unity (see entry on Saboteur in my book). And puritanism was also targeted elsewhere in Hitchcock. For example, the Scottish crofter in The 39 Steps (1935) seems in obvious line of descent from Pettigrew in The Mountain Eagle. Revealingly, Hitchcock called himself a 'puritan' at times. Just today, I was watching a video in which he tells French filmmaker and critic André Labarthe that he was a puritan when it came to not depicting certain things on film, but instead only implying them. The film they were discussing? Psycho.

August 6 - 2001
Our New Publications page now has a guest-review by Gary Giblin of 'Writing With Hitchcock', a stylish book by Steven DeRosa about the collaboration of Hitchcock with gifted radio writer and film scenarist John Michael Hayes that produced such fine films as the masterly Rear Window and the glorious The Trouble With Harry ('a nice little pastorale', to quote Hitchcock on the novel). Good reader, go and read it now (the review, the book).

July 31 - 2001
(revised) German actor and director Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) settled in Hollywood from 1922, and was famous for 'the Lubitsch touch' (defined by Leslie Halliwell as 'a form of visual innuendo, spicy without ever being vulgar'). He was thus another of those German emigré directors (cf July 17 above) whose work Hitchcock seems to have taken a special interest in, and been influenced by (though 'the Hitchcock touch' was distinctively Hitch's own, typically having droll or macabre aspects and often being aimed at that embodiment of authority, the police - Hitch was a true Cockney at heart, after all). Contrariwise, Lubitsch liked Hitchcock's work and attended several dinner parties hosted by Hitch. That last bit of information comes from Scott Eyman's biography of Lubitsch ('Laughter in Paradise', pb 2000), and was told to me by Dr Nandor Bokor who has been reading the Eyman book. What is striking, notes Nandor, is how often these two directors' statements about their work echoed each other. For instance, in 1924 Lubitsch said this: 'A photoplay today often is nothing else but the narration of a story told in subtitles and interrupted by a series of moving pictures. In some cases this goes so far that not only the telling of the plot but also the characterization is done almost totally by means of subtitles and the motion pictures serve merely as illustrations.' As Nandor says, this recalls Hitchcock's disdain for films that were 'photographs of people talking'. It also reflects the concern of some German filmmakers in the 1920s to try and achieve the ideal: a picture without any subtitles (or intertitles) at all. (Hitchcock used to cite Murnau's Der letzte Mann/The Last Laugh [1924] as coming close, noting also the American film The Old Swimming Hole [1920], starring Charles Ray - its makers, however, 'cheated' by giving the main character a diary whose photographed pages took the place of subtitles.) Indeed, Lubitsch is on record as saying: 'What we must strive for as the ideal to be attained is the title-less motion picture'. And how about these 'Hitchcockian' statements made by Lubitsch? 'A good scenario should contain the smallest details of business and leave nothing to chance direction or the whim of the moment.' '[Once the script is done,] I've finished the picture. All I have to do is photograph it ... As you write the script, you cut the film, you build the sets, you light your players, you design their wardrobe, you set the tempo, you delineate the characters ... For me, it's virtually all done in the script.' Finally, here's corroboration by two of Lubitsch's colleagues. Cinematographer Charles Van Enger: '[Lubitsch] would come in the morning, no script, he knew exactly where everybody was going to be, he knew exactly what camera angle he wanted, and not once did he look through the camera, as long as I was with him.' And an unnamed actor: 'The whole film was visualized in his head, so he wasn't very flexible. He didn't want you going off the beaten track with a gesture if it wasn't what he had in mind.' Possibly all of this amounts to further evidence of Hitchcock's seeking credit for ideas that he had in fact 'borrowed' (ideas dating back, obviously, to his time in Germany, rather than to his specific meetings with Lubitsch in the 1940s). But I prefer to think how these principles were so ingrained in Hitch (as in Lubitsch) that for him to attribute them to particular individuals, or at all, would have been to 'objectify' them and to risk losing their meaningful intensity for the creative filmmaker in him ...

July 30 - 2001
(late yet again) Thanks to Mike F who has followed up his inquiry of the other day, about the nature of the MacGuffin (also spelt 'McGuffin', 'maguffin', etc. - wrongly so, in my view), with another. 'Do you suppose, Ken,' he asks, 'that one might see the various (mis)spellings of maguffin as a kind of metaphor for the whole Hitchcock oeuvre, a body of work that can have so many meanings to so many people and can be mined in an indefinite number of ways?' And Mike adds: '[W]hat I like about that conceit is that - as in the case of H's films - May be NO ore in the mine, but the act of mining itself produces endless riches . . . so that the act of chasing the meaning/macguffin produces meaning . . .' Yes, I agree! If the MacGuffin (that's my preferred spelling) 'can be mined [for meaning] in an indefinite number of ways', and if, as Hitchcock indicated, the MacGuffin is capable of any number of substitutions (a necklace, industrial diamonds, secret papers, unnamed government secrets, a non-existent person), then clearly it might as well be represented by a symbol or cipher that 'stands for' any of those things - and the process of seeking it is all. (Also, there can be 'local' MacGuffins, such as the 'empty' prairie in North by Northwest, that are themselves symbols of the main MacGuffin, and pose their own suspense-making questions such as, 'what's going on here?' or 'where can Cary Grant hide?') Hitchcock spoke of himself as a maker of pure film, after all, whose analogue is music (cf 'All art tends to the condition of music' - Walter Pater) which in turn is an analogue of the world's Will ('[M]elody expresses the many different forms of the will's efforts' - Arthur Schopenhauer). And just as Hitchcock likened the MacGuffin to 'nothing at all', so Schopenhauer likened the Will (the life-force that is also a death-force) to an ambiguous 'nothing' ('[T]his very real [cosmos] of ours with all its suns and galaxies is - nothing'). Further, just as Schopenhauer said that sex is the supreme expression of Will ('[T]he genitals are the focus of the will'), Hitchcock for his part recognised the correlation between suspense and sex (as a writer in 'Movie' [UK] once noted). Accordingly, when Hitchcock stated that 'the core of the movies is the chase', he was effectively implying not only how the chase is the quintessence of what the MacGuffin involves for the film's characters (call it 'excitement') but also how it is the emblem, or apotheosis, of that 'mining' for meanings, by both characters and audience, noted by Mike F. I have often written (and here again I'm agreeing with Mike's suggestion) that a Hitchcock film knowingly provides 'something for everyone' - and tries to alienate no-one. Hence Hitchcock's insistence on getting the details right, both to heighten a sense of conviction and to remove 'flaws', leaving the audience no exit. In his own way, Schopenhauer's contemporary, Goethe, is expressing a related matter of showmanship when, in the Prelude in the Theatre at the start of 'Faust', he has the Director, the Poet, and the Clown discuss the nature of the theatrical occasion. The Director sums up: 'The mass is overwhelmed only by masses,/ Each likes some part of what has been presented./ He that gives much, gives something to all classes,/ And everybody will go home contented.'

July 25 - 2001
MF of Bentley College, Massachusetts, asks: '[W]hat EXACTLY are we to understand by the term and concept "MacGuffin"? . . . [A]s you know, even the spelling of the term is a point of some disagreement . . . Because of a project I'm working on, which would want to see the MacGuffin as representative of a narrative strategy that goes far beyond Hitchcock, I find myself needing a more precise sense of what the term has come to mean . . .' Okay, here goes. First, Hitchcock himself wasn't 100% clear about what it meant. In 1950 he called it 'my own term for the key element of any suspense story' ("Master of Suspense", 'New York Times', 4 June 1950) when in fact Hitchcock's friend, screenwriter Angus MacPhail, seems to have coined the term. (So I take its correct spelling to be 'MacGuffin', not 'McGuffin'.) In 1947 Hitchcock was quoted in the book 'The March of the Movies' as saying: '[F]or every mystery story you require what we call the 'McGuffin" (sic). The McGuffin, I always consider, is of relatively small importance. In the old days it was always the stolen pearls or something like that.' In 1963 Hitchcock told noted journalist Oriana Fallaci: '[I]n a film about espionage what the spy is looking for isn't important: it's how he looks for it. Yet I have to say what he's looking for: it doesn't matter to me, but it matters a great deal to the public. And most of all it matters to the character in the film.' ("ALFRED HITCHOCK: Mr Chastity", in 'Limelighters') However, by 1969 Hitchcock was back-pedalling: '[W]hen you come down to it, it doesn't matter what the spies are after. The characters on the screen worry about what they're after, but the audience don't care because they only care about the safety of the hero or heroine.' ("Alfred Hitchcock" in 'The Celluloid Muse', edited by Charles Higham and Joel Greenberg) And in 1972 Hitchcock told Charles Thomas Samuels: 'I realized by [1959, when making North by Northwest,] that the audience doesn't really care about the McGuffin (sic); it's the excitement of the chase that counts.' ("Alfred Hitchcock" in 'Encountering Directors') Another revealing comment of Hitchcock's comes from the 1950 'New York Times' article already quoted: 'There May have been a "MacGuffin" in my film appearance, but not a ham. My motives have always been more devious [than to ham it up] ...' Finally, here's part of what I wrote in my book: '[The MacGuffin is] really just an excuse and a diversion. In a whimsical anecdote told by Hitchcock, he compared the MacGuffin to a mythical "apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands". In other words, it could be anything - or [almost] nothing - at all. In Notorious [1946], it’s just a lot of fizz: uranium-ore hidden in champagne bottles. In North by Northwest, it’s "government secrets", whatever they May be. (Hitchcock considered that this was his "best" MacGuffin, because virtually non-existent.) Actually North by Northwest turns out to be one vast MacGuffin, being full of "nothings" like the "O" in Roger O. Thornhill’s name, or the empty prairie, or the non-existent agent named Kaplan. In effect, the function of a MacGuffin is like the "meaning" of a poem - which T.S. Eliot compared to the bone thrown by a burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind while the poem goes about its own, deeper business.' ('The Alfred Hitchcock Story', 1999, the uncut UK edition) Professor Peter Conrad, who tells me that he has read my book, seems to agree. In 'The Hitchcock Murders' (2000) he explains that '[t]he meat [or bone] is a poem's meaning, which distracts the conscious mind; the robber's goal is the unconsciousness, peacefully asleep upstairs.' (p.10)

July 24 - 2001
Yesterday I referred to how 'The MacGuffin' has, over time, cited some hundreds of 'borrowings' made by Hitchcock's films from the cinema, other media, famous crime cases, etc. To recognise and appreciate these specific inspirations offers a way of understanding how Hitchcock's creative mind worked - as valid a way of appreciating the films (or perhaps more valid) than applying some semi-arbitrary grid (e.g., a Lacanian one) and then 'reading' the films accordingly. One more such 'borrowing' was recently pointed out to me by Denise Noe. In Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place (1950), starring Humphrey Bogart, there's a scene re-enacting a death by strangulation. The volunteer to be 'strangled' is the attractive young wife (Martha Stewart) of a policeman; demonstrating his theory of how the strangling was done is Bogart, playing a feisty, neurotic screenwriter. When Bogart almost forgets where he is, the young woman is lucky to escape with a slightly bruised throat. Almost certainly, the scene prompted a similar one in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, made the following year. Several circumstantial factors add to the likelihood. First, Ray's film, though not actually a thriller, is itself Hitchcockian, in that there is talk in the film of an author's sympathetic relation to his characters, especially his villains. Moreover, the character played by Bogart is like a predecessor of the one played by Jon Finch in Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972): that is, he's a man suspected of the violent murder of a woman, whose proneness to temper suggests that he could easily have commited such a crime though in fact he is innocent. (Such characters in Hitchcock go back at least as far as the husband played by Laurence Olivier in Rebecca [1940].) And there's another factor. In Ray's film, the actress who plays the 'strangled' wife bears an uncanny resemblance to Hitchcock's daughter, Patricia, who appears in the corresponding scene in Strangers on a Train! Accordingly, we can easily imagine Hitchcock seeing Ray's film and immediately thinking how dramatic it would be to show his own daughter in such a predicament. (I looked at Patricia Highsmith's novel on which Hitchcock based his film. There is no such scene there - the party scene in Chapter 32 has no mock-strangling.) Finally, apropos yesterday's "Editor's Day" entry, notice another thing: though the script of Strangers on a Train was written by someone's else's hand, or hands, than Hitchcock's (by Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde, Whitfield Cook), the scene just described was certainly Hitchcock's own contribution, or suggestion.

July 23 - 2001
(late again) My thanks to Steven DeRosa, author of the new book 'Writing With Hitchcock: The Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and John Michael Hayes', who has just sent me a cheery note. '[B]e assured,' he writes, 'I wrestled with being fair to both sides [Hitchcock and Hayes], and always sought documentation or another account to corroborate what I was told. I believe the end result shows it. I was happy, at least, that the Variety reviewer stated I never made the mistake of belittling Hitchcock while bolstering Hayes.' The review, by screenwriter Allison Burnett, to which Steven refers appeared in Variety for June 4-10, 2001. It concludes: 'Hitchcock emerges as a formidable artist, whose gift for choosing writers and shaping stories was equaled only by his genius for creating suspense. If there is an enemy to truth suggested by DeRosa's story, it's not necessarily Hitchcock. DeRosa instead blames critics, who accepted Hitchcock's prideful assertions without skepticism, and other directors, who, seeking to create a paradigm for their own overwheening ambitions, insist even today on making the great man into more than he was.' There's not too much I disagree with in that - except that it seems to leave out the mysterious something, much more, or other, than a genius for suspense, that Hitchcock brought to his filmmaking. Call it his knowledge of his chosen genres (crime, mystery, etc.) and mediums (film, art, etc.), plus his intelligence, his sensitivity, and his sense of humour. The 'Hitchcock and Art: Fatal Coincidences' exhibition currently running in Paris (see link to Professor Peter Conrad's review further down this page) makes clear Hitchcock's knowledgeable attention to the many visual aspects of his films. Equally, 'The MacGuffin' has demonstrated several hundred 'borrowings' from cinema, literature, famous crime cases, and other real-life matters that Hitchcock put into his films, invariably with a twist or 'Hitchcock touch' added. And here's a related matter. Analysing Hitchcock's (and Hayes's) The Trouble With Harry (1955) elsewhere on this website, I refer at one point to the 'Dickensian' way the main characters come together, much as the 'forces for good' in Charles Dickens's 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' (1870) gather in Captain Tartar's shipshape rooms in London. (The 'villain' in The Trouble With Harry is the humourless, puritanical Calvin Wiggs; the villain in 'Drood' is the Jekyll-and-Hyde figure, cathedral organist John Jasper.) When I wrote that, I was aware that Hitchcock's film, and Hayes's script, closely followed the novel by Jack Trevor Story. Nonetheless, I felt justified in evoking Dickens because of (a) the intangible but real-enough feeling that the parallel was apt, and (b) my knowledge that Hitchcock had studied four Dickens novels at school (namely, 'Bleak House', 'A Tale of Two Cities', 'Great Expectations', and 'Our Mutual Friend'). No matter that Hayes, from Massachusetts, May never have read Dickens; I still detected a Dickensian ambience in the scenes as directed by Hitchcock. Well, recently I felt vindicated. Examining a 1973 inventory for insurance purposes of Hitchcock's art collection and library, Bill Krohn spotted that Hitchcock had made a point of acquiring several Dickens novels in their original, serialised form: 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood', 'Martin Chuzzlewit', 'Bleak House', and 'Our Mutual Friend'. More tomorrow.

July 18 - 2001
(late) Am still working on adding to our Selections page. Another possible item for inclusion is the following "Editor's Day" piece originally posted here on 26 November 1998. 'I've added a new "Odd Spot" [to this website]. It deals with childrens' street games (specifically the chant, "Step on a crack and break your mother's back") in Shadow of a Doubt (1943). A reader suggests that such games probably represent a "rite of passage" whereby a child shows his defiance of the mother and his former dependence on her. He thereby demonstrates that he's "all grown up"! Something I find interesting about this interpretation is how well it fits with the meaning attributed by famous child-lore experts, Iona and Peter Opie, to the skipping-rhyme heard in Hitchcock's Marnie (1964). One version of that skipping-rhyme, going back to at least the 19th century, begins, "Mother, mother, I feel sick,/ Send for the doctor, quick, quick, quick". A new version was noted in America in 1952: "Mother, mother, I am ill,/ Send for the doctor from over the hill./ In comes the doctor,/ In comes the nurse,/ In comes the lady with the alligator purse./ Penicillin, says the doctor,/ Penicillin, says the nurse,/ Penicillin, says the lady with the alligator purse." It's this latter version, modified, that is heard in Marnie. In "The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren" (1959), the Opies quote a 1955 book, "Jump Rope Rhymes", by Patricia Evans, on how the strange lady with the alligator purse is a recurring figure in American child rhymes. The Opies suggest that the children chanting the ryhme May, when they were younger, have feared death "as a frightening and private subject", but have now brought it into the open. "They have found that it is still a long way off, and these songs are a sign of their emancipation." (p. 35) Is there a parallel here with Marnie's own special "emancipation" enacted in Hitchcock's film? Mortality, "cold", and "illness" are everywhere in the film, but the abreaction at the end (effected by the flashback to Marnie's childhood) seems to offer release and a new hope.'

July 17 - 2001
I finally subscribed to cable TV. One of the first films I caught on TCM (which we get here in Australia) was William Dieterle's Jewel Robbery (1932), starring William Powell and Kay Francis. Leonard Maltin describes it well: 'Lubitsch-like bauble with wealthy, married Francis (who aches for excitement in her life) being captivated by debonair burglar Powell. Breathlessly paced, witty and charming.' Maltin notes that the film was based on a play by (the Hungarian) Ladislaus Fodor - who, I gather, worked in France before eventually settling in America. At least one of Fodor's plays was adapted for the English stage by no less a personage than novelist P.G. Wodehouse, who sometimes collaborated in such adaptations with other English playwrights like Ian Hay and Guy Bolton - both of whom also collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock (Hay thrice, Bolton once). Okay, that's background. One reason I watched Dieterle's film was that I admire his work anyway, just as Hitchcock apparently did. Dieterle was one of several German emigré directors in America whose films Hitchcock kept an eye on and was influenced by: for instance, Dieterle's Portrait of Jennie (1948) is clearly a predecessor of Vertigo (1958). See "The Fragments of the Mirror: Vertigo and its sources" elsewhere on this website. Another reason I watched Jewel Robbery is that 'The MacGuffin' once ran an "Odd Spot", based on information supplied by Steven DeRosa ('Writing With Hitchcock'), which suggested that the film's last shot, in which Kay Francis turns to the audience with a 'shushing' gesture, was the inspiration for the last shot of Hitchcock's Family Plot (1976), which also concerns jewel robberies and in which the character Blanche (Barbara Harris) finally turns to the audience and winks. Having seen the film myself, I think that suggestion probably stands up, especially in light of the sort of 'circumstantial evidence' for Dieterle's influence I've sketched above. Moreover, there's this. When you read Leonard Maltin's description of Jewel Robbery, were you perhaps reminded of yet another film, namely, Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955)? After all, Francie Stevens (Grace Kelly) in that film is someone else who 'aches for excitement in her life' and falls for the debonair ex-jewel thief and cat-burglar, John Robie (Cary Grant). In turn, the very title of To Catch a Thief recalls its generic predecessor, the famous 'Raffles' stories of English author E.W. Hornung (1866-1921), which Hitchcock certainly read. The gentleman burglar Raffles is clearly the model for the character played by William Powell in Jewel Robbery. Moreover both that film and To Catch a Thief (and the novel by David Dodge) follow Hornung's story called 'To Catch a Thief' in climaxing with their hero having to go back to the rooftops, either to clear himself or to flee. (Hornung: 'Raffles was on one of the parapets of the gulf that my foot-bridge spanned, and in the sudden illumination he stepped across it as one might across a garden path. The width was scarcely greater, but the depth!') In sum, here is yet more evidence for how so many of Hitchcock's films are deeply embedded in certain narrative and generic traditions, which scholars have only recently begun to uncover.

July 16 - 2001
In the next day or so, I'll be putting a review of the book 'Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window' (2000), edited by John Belton, on our New Publications page. Better late than never! Meanwhile, as I've indicated before, I'm working on an update of our Selections page. This partly involves my going through past "Editor's Day" items to see if there are some choice morsels there, worth reprinting. One possibility is this, dated August 4, 1998. 'One of the films that Hitchcock certainly saw, as part of his mandatory research, when he was making Psycho (1960) was Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), adapted from the 1958 play by Tennessee Williams. It stars Katherine Hepburn as the possessive, oddball mother, Montgomery Clift as the ambivalent young neuro-surgeon, and Elizabeth Taylor as the young woman whom the Hepburn character wants lobotomised because she knows too much ... In Camille Paglia's fine monograph on Hitchcock's The Birds, she suggests a likely influence of the Tennessee Williams play, and refers to the latter's vision of nature as voracious: as the character Mrs Venables says, 'We're all of us trapped by this devouring creation.' In turn, Paglia speculates that the possessive Mrs Brenner in The Birds effectively 'lobotomises' Melanie Daniels ('Tippi' Hedren), her rival for her son Mitch (Rod Taylor), and suggests that by the end of the film Melanie is 'out of her mind' (p. 87). I agree that some such parallel exists; moreover, Suddenly, Last Summer seems to have influenced other Hitchcock films. First, the possessive mother with a sexually ambivalent or gay son (the homosexual Sebastian in Mankiewicz's film) is one obvious parallel with Psycho which Hitchcock would have immediately spotted. Note that by the end of Suddenly, Last Summer the viewer somehow thinks of the Clift character as a 'double' for the dead Sebastian (both have occasion to dress in white, for example). And indeed Mrs Venables finally goes 'psycho' herself and does address the doctor as Sebastian, effectively turning him into a substitute son. Bird imagery and the line about how we're all 'trapped' (quoted above) are further parallels between the two films. But there's something else. Sebastian, we're told, had once thought to 'give up the torments of this world and become a Buddhist monk'. Is this an inspiration for why, at the end of Psycho, Norman is draped in a robe-like blanket and is heard intoning, '[I] wouldn't even harm a fly', thus effectively turning him into a Buddhist monk?! Lastly, as I've discussed elsewhere, the final flashback of Suddenly, Last Summer is certainly the structural model for the climactic scene of Hitchcock's Marnie (1964) ...

July 11 - 2001
'Identification' May be not only an 'infantile' thing (see above) but - a related matter - an involuntary acknowledgment that we are all part of the world's Will. The great scene in Marnie (1964) in which Marnie robs the company safe while, unbeknownst to her, a cleaning lady approaches, is proof of Hitchcock's claim that we all want to abide by the Eleventh Commandment: 'Thou shalt not be found out'. But, more than that, it is one more scene (the film is full of them) redolent of our common mortality. The scene is suspensful because we can't help identifying with the thief Marnie; such identification is made easier because Marnie and the cleaning lady - and by implication, the audience - are bound together by our common intent to stay alive as best we can, to triumph over obstacles or adversity in whatever ways present themselves. (Cf Samuel Johnson: 'Life is to endured or enjoyed.' Significantly, we'll learn that the deaf old cleaning lady just wants to get home to bed.) The lecherous businessman Strutt complains of being 'victimised', but the tone of the film is everywhere one of sympathy for its heroine in particular. Notice how Hitchcock and his cinematographer Robert Burks photograph the safe in ways that make its dials glint with a golden light, the same golden light that, glistening on Marnie's hair in the riding scenes, reminds us of her once-happy childhood. The contrast with the leaden greys and blues and dull greens of the office scenes is no accident, and the overall suggestion is of present oppression from which Marnie - but not only her - would escape. We really can't help but identify with this remarkable woman who is so like us even when she seems hell-bent on being different! Then again, other things being equal, it wouldn't matter too much to the identification-effect if it were a robot or even a Rottweiler who were committing the crimes. The will-to-life is what is being emblemised here. Related to this, in turn, is another of Hitchcock's points: the more you go into detail (as in Stevie's extended trip across London in Sabotage [1936], Iris and Gilbert's trans-European train journey in The Lady Vanishes [1938], Scottie's following Madeleine around San Francisco in Vertigo [1958], and Marion's eventful drive to the motel in Psycho [1960]), the more the audience gets involved and - to some extent - identifies with the protagonist. Perhaps there's a latent memory here of our involuntary first trip after being expelled from the uterus on our way to being born! I wouldn't know! What I do think is that all of these passages or sequences invoke 'life', which was a perennial Hitchcock subject (sometimes explicitly referred to, as in the title of Lifeboat [1944]). Another identification-factor is point-of-view. This can be fairly blatant, as in the shot through Fred's viewfinder in Rich and Strange (1932) as he takes a picture of Em on the ship's deck - though it May still be complex (such a shot invites a degree of identification with both Fred and Em); or it May be subtle (the first parts of such films as Vertigo, Psycho, and Torn Curtain [1966] are told from the narrative perspective of one protagonist, their latter sections from someone else's perspective). So I conclude as I began a couple of days ago: the film theorists who talk about 'identification' typically seem unaware of how big a matter it is. If I had time, I could extend the above discussion much further.

July 10 - 2001
In this matter of identification - or engagement or assimilation - of viewer and character/s in a film, as in many other areas of film theory, I never cease to be amazed by the reductionism practised by the theorists. The reason that the nature of identification of viewer and character/s is so hard to pin down is that so many factors are involved. So why not admit this? Why not live with it, and be open to those myriad factors, rather than closed down by excessively reductionist theories? (Here, once again, my training in yoga by the remarkable Shri Vijayadev Yogendra spurs me to ask these questions of the traditional Western academic method which, in the case of film studies, constantly threatens to turn its students into pedants and dogmatists!) Yesterday, I gave instances of how identification is, at base, a childhood thing; and I stand by that. Another instance would be the opening scenes of Joel Schumacher's The Client (1994) in which two boys in a glade watch a fierce-looking Mafia lawyer prepare to commit suicide in his car, and then are spotted by him. The scene is tension-packed precisely because, to a large extent, we identify with the boys against the threatening adult; at no point is, say, a high long-shot inserted to invite us to be detached about what is happening. Now, it occurs to me that this matter of identification - this 'childhood thing', as I've called it - is really an infantile thing, quite literally. We're told by Lacanians and others that the very young child (before the onset of the 'mirror-phase') feels itself totally at one with the mother; and at no point thereafter do we altogether lose this capacity to become one with another person. The mature adult is certainly more objective about life than the child, yet even that adult retains the capacity to merge with another. It is part of being human. After all, what is love if not such a (caring) capacity for merger; also, isn't sexual excitement heightened when we recognise in our partner an excitement that in turn stimulates our own? Yet, as we watch a film, any number of factors May operate to increase (or decrease) identification. Among them is tone. Just as love-making is facilitated and enhanced by congenial surroundings (a nice room, say), so in watching a film we more readily enter into the screen experience if we have already been made sympathetic to that particular film and at least some of its characters. Screenwriter John Michael Hayes (Rear Window, etc.) once told me that breaking down an audience's coldness, both towards the film and towards each other, was one of his principal tasks when writing opening scenes. Humour, he noted, was a great ice-breaker. In such films as To Catch a Thief (1955), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963), even Hitchcock's traditional cameos serve that purpose: they all take place early in the films, indubitably to help win over the audience (who invariably chortle, congratulate themselves for having spotted Hitch, and then relax back into the films). More tomorrow on this vast topic of identification ...

July 9 - 2001
What is this matter of identification which occurs in films, especially thrillers? Film theorists have variously sought to define and delimit the term. The author of the book 'Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion and the Cinema' (1995), Murray Smith, sensibly prefers the term 'engagement' when speaking of our merging relationship with characters. In turn, he proposes three levels of engagement: recognition, alignment and allegiance. Likewise, Noël Carroll (an author I respect), in his book 'The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart' (1990), gives the matter of identification considerable thought, and summarises his position like this: 'Very often in film studies, one says that the emotional state in relation to the character is identification, that you become one with the character. I thought, and I still think, that this is not the best way to model this relationship. If you look very closely at fictions, probably most of the time the psychological state of the viewer is different than the psychological state of the character.' (Extract from interview with Carroll in the Web journal 'Senses of Cinema', #13, April-May 2001: The Strange Case of Noel Carroll) In the case of tragedy, Carroll sees that a term like 'assimilation' is more apt. 'We feel bad for the [tragic hero]', he notes, 'partly because we see how it is that the character, such as Oedipus, feels the way he does, such as guilty and shameful. But we don't identify, or become one, with him, though we need some access to that viewpoint. Assimilation is access to a viewpoint without sharing the same psychological state as the character.' (Ibid) All very true - but, like most theory, how inadequate! Of course we don't wholly become a character on the screen. It is the child in us that does that. That's a reason why children's books (e.g., by Enid Blyton, who knew a thing or two) do typically invite a large degree of reader-identification by having children as their main characters. It also helps reader-identification when the author invokes a sense of danger and insecurity and latent paranoia (us against them), so that there's a closing-down effect, a sense of nowhere else to turn. The famous opening chapter of Dickens's 'Great Expectations', in which young Pip, shivering on the lonely Kent marshes, is suddenly affronted by the escaped convict, Magwitch, works like that; it's an identification-effect which Dickens consolidates throughout the brilliant childhood scenes of the book's first section, and never entirely abandons - even though, when Pip grows up, the critical adult in us increasingly sees how much he has still to learn. But even from the start, the novel has been full of humour, and that wouldn't have been possible without the reader's sense of being distanced from Pip, if only momentarily, in order to observe the grotesqueness and exaggerated (because so subjective) plight of the boy and youth. Now, something very similar operates in the early scenes of Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) when Marion Crane acts alone, and impulsively, and steals the money that the loathsome Cassidy had flapped so beguilingly, and obscenely, in her face. Our sense of her primitive impulses (including a primitive moralism and idealism) and controlled panic and guilt is remarkably analogous to how we experience the first section of 'Great Expectations' (a book which Hitchcock read at school). More tomorrow.

July 4 - 2001
Hitchcock's unfilmed Mary Rose, scripted by Jay Presson Allen (Marnie, Cabaret) from the play by Sir James Barrie, is in the tradition of such films as Portrait of Jennie (1948) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) in which girls vanish into a timeless dimension then later reappear (or, in the case of Peter Weir's film, tragically stay vanished). Typically they remain un-aged by the experience. The first time that Mary Rose disappears on an island in the Outer Hebrides, she is just a child and is gone only 20 days. Years later, when she is about to marry a young man, Simon, her mother warns him that Mary Rose is 'a little different from other girls' and that there is 'something she doesn't know of herself'. This echo of Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) - the scene in Gavin Elster's club - isn't accidental, of course. Hitchcock is known to have had the original 1920 stage production of 'Mary Rose' in mind when making his film. Mary Rose bears a child (just as Madeleine's ancestor, Carlotta Valdes, in Vertigo had done) but then vanishes again, this time for many years. When she returns, her parents are old and her son, Kenneth, has grown up. But she herself is unchanged, still essentially 'innocent'. (For a fuller synopsis, and other details, see Truffaut's 'Hitchcock' and Joseph McBride's recent article on Mary Rose in 'Cineaste', reviewed on our New Publications page). Our friend Robert Schoen, author of the screenplay 'Hitch and Alma', read the Mary Rose screenplay last week. He reports that 'it is written with a floating world narrative in which there are rapid scene shifts from one time to another (something I haven't seen before in a Hitchcock film)'. He thinks that it is related psychologically to Marnie but with an atmosphere more like that of Under Capricorn (1949) - perhaps coincidentally, the son has gone to Australia and become a soldier. 'The Mrs Otery character, the house caretaker that Kenneth confronts when he returns at the end, is a hardened mother figure, from the Bernice Edgar school. She serves to suggest how old Mary Rose actually would be in relation to her 40-year-old son. One of the most interesting characters is Cameron, the 22-year-old medical student who rows Mary Rose and her husband out to the island where she disappears for the second time. Cameron speaks in a thick accent that screenwriter Allen spells out, much as she did in her Marnie script ("I swan..."). This makes him seem provincial, yet he is extremely learned, reading original Greek. His learnedness and innate wisdom make the mystery of Mary Rose's disappearance all the more illogical. Like her, he is described as preternaturally young, even after 18 years have passed and he brings her back to her husband. This is the script's most poignant moment for me. The couple embrace in the dark, Mary Rose acting as if they have been separated for just a few hours. Then as they come inside the house, she sees Simon as an old man for the first time, and she tries desperately to conceal the horror and disorientation she is feeling. Then she sees her aged parents; finally, she asks for Kenneth, and is informed he is a prisoner of war. Distressed, she dies of a heart attack. It is a beautifully written scene in which an at-first happy young woman gradually becomes more and more brittle until she finally crumbles ... Perhaps Mary Rose would have been as misunderstood as Marnie, but it would have also furthered the mature exploration of psychological themes that Marnie initiated, and if it had been made, could have led Hitchcock's cinema in new and wonderful directions that we can now only imagine.'

July 3 - 2001
This could be a rather nebulous entry, but here goes anyway. As reported here before, Hitchcock's official biographer John Russell Taylor was told that Hitchcock had once said, 'If I hadn't met and married Alma when I did, I might have gone gay'. (Quoted by Taylor in the documentary 'True Hollywood Stories - Alfred Hitchcock'.) In his younger days, Hitchcock read Oscar Wilde's 'decadent' novel 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' - 'several times', according to unofficial biographer Donald Spoto. And now, courtesy of Bill Krohn ('Hitchcock au travail'/'Hitchcock at Work'), I have learnt that another prominent Victorian figure, one of many, who had intrigued Hitchcock was a (non-gay) friend of Oscar Wilde, the critic and caricaturist Sir Max Beerbohm (1872-1956). Hitchcock owned a pencil drawing "On Stage" signed by 'Max', and in his guest-room at 10957 Bellagio Road, Bel Air, kept a 10-volume set of Beerbohm's writings, presumably for his guests' perusal and enjoyment. Recently I borrowed my neighbour's copy of Richard Ellmann's 'Oscar Wilde' (hi, Juliet!), and here are some of the things I found. Max Beerbohm first met Wilde in 1888, while still at school at Charterhouse. They became friendly in the early 1890s. Ellmann: 'Beerbohm was quick and clever: Wilde taught him to be languid and preposterous. Beerbohm referred to Wilde as "the Divinity"; Wilde said that Beerbohm had "the gift of perpetual old age." If Wilde celebrated the mask, Beerbohm in his first essays would celebrate maquillage; if Wilde wrote Dorian Gray about a man and his portrait, Beerbohm would write The Happy Hypocrite about a man and his mask.' (pp. 291-92) So here, perhaps, is evidence for Thomas Elsaesser's point that Hitchcock was something of a 'dandy' in dress and persona; and wasn't it George Cukor who said of the Buddha-like Hitchcock that he would never tell you what he really thought, 'never, never, never'? Now here's something else I found in Ellmann's book. Beerbohm became friendly with novelist and music-critic Robert Hichens (who would later write 'The Paradine Case', filmed by Hitchcock). In the summer of 1894 Hichens showed him the manuscript of his novel 'The Green Carnation', clearly based on Oscar and his lover Lord Alfred Douglas ('Bosie'). Hichens, by the way, was himself gay, and moved in Wilde's circle. Ellmann comments: 'The Green Carnation was published in September 1894 ... The moral of the book - and like Dorian Gray it has too much moral - is Lord Reggie's slavish imitation of Amarinth's conversational leads. In the process he ceases to be himself or anyone at all ... The book's main burden of imitation was in the stance taken towards experience. Solemnity was something for other people, triviality was its antidote. Wilde said later that he had made literature out of brilliant triviality, but it was triviality of a special kind, subversive of established modes.' (pp. 399-400) I suggest that, mutatis mutandis, there's a lot of Hitchcock in that 'burden of imitation', not least his masterful stance and his inclination to go his own way, particularly in his art.

July 2 - 2001
In Rope (1948) there's a startling moment when the short-sighted Mrs Atwater (Constance Collier) arrives at the party hosted by Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) and sees one of the other guests, named Kenneth. 'David!' she exclaims - mistaking Kenneth for the young man, David Kentley, whom we know to be already dead, murdered by Brandon and Phillip, and whose body lies in the chest placed in the centre of the room. (This was well before the eloquent phrase, 'in your face!', was coined.) Brandon is momentarily disconcerted - as we are - but quickly recovers to inform Mrs Atwater that she has made a mistake. And her escort, none other than the murdered youth's father, Mr Kentley (Cedric Hardwicke), tells her reassuringly that, 'Kenneth is often mistaken for David, even by people who are clear-sighted.' One effect of this incident is to insinuate in our minds, no doubt in order to question, a vague sense that one person is as good as another, that the death of David is 'cancelled out' by Kenneth's (live) presence at the party. (Elsewhere in the film reference is made to the recent War, prompting Brandon to ask mordantly whether it isn't expected of good young men that they will die on the battlefield. Likewise, in Strangers on a Train [1951], the psychopath Bruno [Robert Walker] asks, 'What's a life or two, Guy?') But another reason that Mrs Atwater's mistake startles us is that, just for a moment, we wonder whether the dead youth hasn't after all returned from the dead. Shades of Vertigo (1958)! Further, it raises a fear in Brandon and Phillip that they are being persecuted and that their existential gesture - the murder - has been for nought. This was an effect that Hitchcock had used before and would use again. In both Juno and the Paycock (1930) and Sabotage (1936), there's a background of endless, politically-motivated, male-induced violence; when Mrs Verloc (Sylvia Sidney) in the latter film watches a cartoon showing one Cock Robin being killed by another - who is no doubt destined to be overthrown in his turn - it underlines the irony (which a whole 'pessimistic' tradition from Ecclesiastes onwards has pointed to) of the vanity of human wishes. Even in Psycho (1960) something similar is felt. Poor Norman Bates (!) begins to feel persecuted when he tells 'Mother' that it's no use killing interlopers like Arbogast: 'He came after the girl and now someone will come after him.' The sort of surreal undertones I've indicated here help make Hitchcock's 'thrillers' so much more than 'mere' entertainments ...

June 27 - 2001
(revised) One of the oldest motifs in human thought, going back to Plato, is that of illusion versus 'reality'. Not surprisingly, you regularly find it informing the films of Hitchcock, who often embodied it in another motif, that of the stage (and screen) world versus the outside world (vide Murder! [1930] and Stage Fright [1950]). In turn, a filmmaker aware that we're all bound in illusion/subjectivity is likely to adopt a compassionate, or perhaps cynical, narrative stance (arguably, Hitchcock's Vertigo [1958] adopts both!). In the theatre of Hitchcock's youth, the leading exponent of these motifs was Italian author and playwright, Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936). In my book, I mention how Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) May have been influenced by a performance of Pirandello's 'Right You Are (If You Think You Are)', starring Claude Rains, staged in London in 1925. Pirandello's use of such themes as illusion versus reality, subjectivity versus objectivity, the nature of theatre, and the need for compassion, was sophisticated and often sardonic: he himself was influenced by the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). (Schopenhauer's mentors were Plato and Kant.) Now, the theatre scenes in Hitchcock's The Pleasure Garden (1925) and Downhill (1927) had played with the notion that what you see isn't necessarily what you think it is (or what you end up getting). But later, in such films as Rich and Strange (1932) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943), there's a real critique of how, though we consider we know what the world is like, in reality it is much more harsh and strange (if also richer). What I find especially impressive here is how Hitchcock clearly recognised that he was part of the universal benightedness - even though in his films he might play at being God. (In Shadow of a Doubt he jokingly gives himself a perfect hand in spades; in The Wrong Man [1957] he appears in a prologue set in a lonely film studio whose sombre shadows are, significantly, an extension of those in the film proper.) In reminding young Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt that there is evil abroad, Hitchcock is also reminding himself. He isn't content to be like Charlie's father, and his next-door neighbour Herb, who play at perpetrating and solving murders without giving a thought to the reality of killers and victims. Hitchcock had a well-developed conscience. The gifted matte-artist Albert Whitlock told a BBC interviewer how he had once chided Hitchcock for making death on the screen look too easy, almost cosy. In a London hospital during the War, Whitlock told Hitchcock, he had seen a man with half his head shot away: the man took three weeks to die. Whitlock was convinced that Hitchcock later filmed the scene in Torn Curtain (1966) of Gromek's protracted killing in order to make amends, as it were, for his earlier 'flippancy' in depicting death. Meanwhile, Hitchcock himself had once said on the BBC that 'reality is something that none of us can stand, at any time'. There's an echo of that remark at the end of Psycho (1960) where the psychiatrist explains that 'when reality came too close', Norman Bates retreated into madness. I detect a real compassion for Norman and the other characters, each considered as victims of their particular 'private traps', in this film. It also happens to be a very Pirandellian film, containing echoes of 'Right You Are (If You Think You Are)' ...

June 26 - 2001
The other day (June 20) I mentioned the tendency of some Hitchcock characters to 'run away' rather than face their problems - and how Carl Jung had written that such flight 'is no substitute for a true inner liberation'. Jung's term for the process of inner liberation - or becoming an integrated individual - is 'individuation'. He noted that there are well-known symbols for the process of achieving such inner wholeness, notably the mandala (circle) which is found in many different cultures (and often in dream-symbolism). I was reminded of how, in Torn Curtain (1966), Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) pauses in mid-flight during the art museum sequence, exactly in the centre of a magnificent mandala set in the tiled floor. Analysing the film in the current 'MacGuffin', #27, I have shown both how the film does indeed exhort Armstrong to broaden his outlook (a passage in the novel based on Brian Moore's screenplay has Armstrong say that when he gets home he must read more widely, including about art and ballet) and how a theme of the film is that we have lost touch with our Western (ancient Greek) heritage which is precisely about the ideal of the integrated individual and the nation-state that encourages such integration. Another Hitchcock film about a man running away from his problems, even retreating into amnesia, is the misunderstood and mis-appreciated Spellbound (1945). It specifically begins by reminding us, per the Bard, that 'the fault is not in our stars ... but in ourselves'. The central moment in the film, where the protagonist (Gregory Peck) literally starts to look inside himself, is of course the dream sequence. And how does it begin? In 'MacGuffin' #15 I wrote: 'The sequence begins with a forward tracking movement. There's a dissolve from Ballyntine [Peck] to a shot of several star-like points of light which, in turn, become a succession of realistic, though disembodied, eyes; only next do we arrive in the gambling-house with its grotesque, staring eyes painted on the drapes ... Well, Freud tells us that every dream "is the fulfilment of a wish". That's certainly the case here inasmuch that the gambling-house - which might almost be a brothel - represents the world as a part of Ballyntine might wish it to be. Note that we arrive within its flimsy walls by means of a "cosmic" journey, leaving the stars behind, no doubt both because they don't concern us (as the film began by emphasising ...) and because they're beyond human understanding and intervention anyway.' In analysing his dream, with more than a little help from Constance (Ingrid Bergman), Ballyntine begins to achieve the 'inner [and outer] liberation' that Hitchcock's film about psychoanalysis had all along seemed to promise. Robin Wood has a point, then, when he speaks of the 'therapeutic' intent of Hitchcock's films.

June 25 - 2001
Go to our New Publications page, jocund reader, for a review of 'The Hitchcock Murders' by Peter Conrad, and for news of an eye-opening, major article by Bill Krohn on what happened to the film of a thousand cuts, Hitchcock's Topaz (1969), which will appear in the July issue of 'Video Watchdog'. (We strongly recommend that you obtain a copy.) Now here is information about DVDs, new or forthcoming. UK readers will be pleased to learn that last week the following titles were released to stores: Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 version). And in the US, we hear that Criterion has announced that they will release Rebecca, Spellbound, and Notorious. No information as yet about what else will be on the discs.

June 20 - 2001
The 'Hitchcock and Art' exhibition gives little attention, if any, to Hitchcock's appreciation of paintings by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632-75). That's a major oversight. For a start, there's a shot in Topaz (1969), when Kusenov's daughter is playing a piano in the safe-house in Washington, D.C., that is clearly inspired by Vermeer. And when reporter Dennis Barker visited the set of Frenzy (1972), he noticed two art books in Hitch's caravan: they were on (French pre-Impressionist) Corot and Vermeer. Hitchcock, noted Barker, 'quotes painters often in making points about visual composition'. The director's house contained at least 75 books on art. Now, one of Vermeer's most famous paintings is variously called "The Art of Painting" and "Allegory of Painting", and is the one showing a painter (Vermeer himself?), with his back to us, seated at an easel as he paints a quietly smiling young woman who stands holding a yellow book and a trombone. She is said to represent Clio, the muse of history's future. Recently I read notes on that painting by Jed Perl of 'The New Republic', and I was struck by similarities to characteristics of Hitchcock. Here's the passage in question: 'For Vermeer representation is both an abstract value and a dramatic value. Art's very mechanisms - perspective, modeling - generate brilliant plot twists, and even, sometimes, suggest a kind of character development. Vermeer shatters genres and categories, but all the while he is working with concepts adapted from Renaissance and Baroque treatises on painting, with ideas about the allegorical properties of arts that were already fairly conventional in his day, and with themes drawn from the more casually naturalistic images of the artist's studio done around the same time.' This reminds me of Hitchcock in several ways. For instance, in the late 1920s Hitchcock was already enjoining young directors to master the basic principles of composition and editing as set out in technical journals of the time. That is, he wasn't advocating someone's high-fangled theories, just a knowledge of the basics of filmmaking. With those skills mastered, Hitchcock implied, each director could adapt them to his own further use. (The article I'm thinking of is somewhere in 'Hitchcock on Hitchcock', edited by Sidney Gottlieb.) Also, Hitchcock was happy to consider himself an essentially abstract filmmaker, one who dealt in 'pure cinema' - wherein he discovered many of his themes and character points and even his film's dramatic twists and turns as he went along. Psycho is exemplary. Marion's flit by car with her boss's money is a brilliant and cinematic sequence, moody and involving, but it isn't fortuitous or extraneous. Rather, it illustrates Marion's 'short madness' (not separable, really, from a form of anger - which is what I once heard the phrase 'short madness' used to define - directed at the loathsome Cassidy, her boss's client). Further, it carries symbolic meaning, such as a tendency of people to substitute 'running away' for problem-solving: the book 'Man and His Symbols' (1964), edited by Carl Jung, devotes a section to just this tendency, and illustrates it with a travel poster urging travellers to 'run away to sea' - which is something that happens in several Hitchcock films, from Champagne (1928) to Marnie (1964). But such a flight, Jung's text notes, 'is no substitute for a true inner liberation'. Marion's eventual death comes as a cautionary 'punishment' for her seeking to take the easy way out. She should perhaps have stayed at home and 'waited' (as a 'Miltonic' subtext of the film hints).

June 19 - 2001
Speaking of Psycho (1960), I see that it was voted most 'thrilling' American movie in an American Film Institute poll. (Thanks to the several people who sent me the poll results.) I regard it as an 'experimental' and somewhat atypical Hitchcock film, though not necessarily the worse for that. But given that other finalists in the AFI poll included Casablanca and Lawrence of Arabia, you have to wonder just what was being voted on. (I don't recall that Citizen Kane was among the finalists, but why not? Aesthetically, it is full of thrills, from minute to minute, whereas the middle section of Psycho is largely plot-driven, and is visually nondescript. Of course, it's a mark of Hitchcock's mastery that he knew what he could get away with here.) Anyway, I'm happy to have published the above parallel with a tale written in 1855 by English writer Wilkie Collins, which does help to give perspective to the tradition in which Hitchcock felt he was ultimately working. Another illuminating parallel is with the murder of Nancy in Dickens's 'Oliver Twist' (1838), a ferocious scene which Dickens took pleasure in making the pièce-de-résistance of his repertoire of public readings. Dickens, Collins, and Hitchcock - in his own way - were all keen public performers, for whom making melodrama was their livelihood if not their life-blood. (So filming Psycho wasn't atypical of Hitchcock, though the film itself perhaps was - if I may draw that distinction. Another of the film's models was French director Henri-Georges Clouzot's Les diaboliques [1954], which may remind us that Dickens and Collins also sometimes looked to French writers - and French criminals - for their inspiration.) I gather that the 'Hitchcock and Art' exhibition (ex-Montreal) currently running at the Pompidou Centre in Paris rather downplays just how English, and both literature- and cinema-derived, as well as art-influenced, Hitchcock's films always were. A forthcoming article by Bill Krohn in 'Cahiers du Cinéma' should help to correct the balance. Meanwhile, the overall quality of the exhibition isn't in doubt. And it does illustrate scenes of London that Hitchcock would have known, and it does mention some literary figures, notably Edgar Allan Poe, that Hitchcock had read. Here's part of a review of the exhibition from the 'International Herald Tribune' (my thanks to Dr A.T. in Athens who kindly forwarded it). '[T]he organizers have grouped paintings that Hitchcock might have seen and taken inspiration from, in particular De Chirico for his sense of perspective, Sickert's theater and music hall scenes (Hitchcock owned a Sickert [actually he owned several - K.M.] and the parallel with The 39 Steps and The Man Who Knew Too Much is convincing), and above all the Pre-Raphaelites and Symbolists, with their impassive, and often drowned, women. "That's exactly what my father loved, women abstracted from the real world," his daughter told [the exhibition's co-director, Dominique] Païni apropos of the Pre-Raphaelites while recalling frequent visits with her father to museums and galleries.'

June 18 - 2001
Again I'm grateful to correspondent Christopher Philippo ('Toff'), this time for pointing me to a transcript on the Web of part of a 1964 television interview with Hitchcock and composer Bernard Herrmann. In particular, I was elated to read these comments by (Anglophile) Herrmann about his boss: 'Hitch has his own world of film. He's created characters and places and stories for it very much the way [author Charles] Dickens did. It's not a question of whether it's a real world, or an actual world, but it's a world that has been imagined and realized. Dickens was able to do it through the page and Hitch does it through film. And although many of the stories he has told are stories of our time, I believe the presentation and the motivating psychology [are] essentially of the period of Dickens and the great Victorian writers.' At this point in the interview a clip from Psycho was shown. During it, Herrmann continued: 'Psycho is very much, for example, like a Wilkie Collins story. I think this is part of Hitch's great heritage as an Englishman and one he has been able to transmute and carry forth in the world of the cinema.' I wasn't the only person elated to see Herrmann confirm what some of us have been saying for some time (though I won't mention names at this stage). For instance, I've often referred on this website to the likely influence of stories by Dickens and his friend Wilkie Collins on Hitchcock films. Last night I decided to re-visit one of those stories, Collins's short tale called "The Ostler". (It was originally published in the Christmas Number of Dickens's journal 'Household Words' for 1855. Later it was expanded several times by the author, including for a public reading. In the process it changed its name to "Brother Morgan's Story of the Dream Woman" or just "The Dream Woman".) The first thing to say is that the tale deals symbolically with the fears of a mother-attached man who eventually marries a flaxen-haired blonde despite his mother's forebodings. (Sound familiar? What about a man's fears of marriage - especially, it may seem, to blondes - revealed in such Hitchcock films as Spellbound, Rear Window, and Psycho?) Even more telling is how at one point the man is nearly stabbed to death in a lonely inn at night by a premonitary image of his bride-to-be. Herrmann, then, was surely not wrong to compare Psycho to a Collins story! (Apropos the Collins tale, I see that his biographer Catherine Peters wonders if the prophetic dream doesn't embody some of Collins's own deepest fears about the nature of marriage. And another biographer, Robert Ashley, suggests that the tale prefigures the more famous and more complex dream technique of Collins's novel, 'Armadale'.) Want further reading? Well, my copy of 'Wilkie Collins: The Complete Shorter Fiction' (1995) is edited by Julian Thompson. And there's a new book (which I haven't yet seen) called 'The Fiction of Geopolitics: Afterimages of Culture, from Wilkie Collins to Alfred Hitchcock' (pb, 2000) by Christopher Lloyd Gogwilt, who has also written a book on Joseph Conrad. As for the part-transcript of the 1964 interview with Hitchcock and Herrmann, just click here: Telescope: A Talk with Hitchcock.

June 13 - 2001
So, does Psycho touch on those 'Eleusinian mysteries' invoked by Peter Conrad in 'The Hitchcock Murders'? And what is the connection, if any, with the sort of 'excremental vision' I referred to above (June 11) apropos Psycho? The first thing to say is that psychoanalysis would see a unity, a constant factor, in all of the imagery in Psycho concerning bundles of money, property, gifts, 'babies' (cf Cassidy's line, 'Tomorrow my sweet little baby gets married away from me'), love, and angels - and also the contrast (which is also a connection) between 'black' and 'white'. I will quote here from the chapter on Jonathan Swift in Norman O. Brown's 'Life Against Death'. No author, says Brown, was more concerned in a misanthropic way with human excrement than Swift (e.g., his depiction of the filthy Yahoos in the fourth book of 'Gulliver's Travels'). Brown writes: '[w]hereas for Rabelais and Aristophanes the anal function is a part of the total human being which they make us love because it is part of life, for Swift it becomes the decisive weapon in his assault on the pretensions, the pride, even the self-respect of mankind.' Importantly, Brown reminds us that love itself has a connection with anality by quoting a couplet from W.B. Yeats: 'But Love has pitched his mansion in/The place of excrement.' The crucial point about this witty observation (from "Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop") is that it may remind us that love is one form of sublimation. Another, as Swift was aware, is religion, or spirituality. Which leads us back to Psycho. Again I'll quote from Brown: 'According to [one of the least contentious parts of] Freudian theory, the human infant passes through a stage - the anal stage - as a result of which the libido, the life energy of the body, gets concentrated in the anal zone. This infantile stage of anal erotism takes the essential form of attaching symbolic meaning to the anal product. As a result of these symbolic equations the anal product acquires for the child the significance of being his own child or creation, which he may use either to obtain narcissistic pleasure in play, or to obtain love from another (feces as gift), or to assert independence from another (feces as property), or to commit aggression against another (feces as weapon).' Brown notes that these symbolic meanings of anality are never lost, and are thus present in some of the most important adult social transactions and behaviour. Psycho provides a case in point. When Marion steals Cassidy's $40,000, which was intended to buy a house and property as a birthday gift for his 18-year-old 'baby' (and thereby assert his continuing 'possession' of her, no doubt in an 'anal-retentive' way), why does she do it? Fairly clearly, to present it in her turn to her boyfriend Sam as a way of reminding him that she wants a baby of her own. (There are precedents for such 'maternal' motivation in earlier Hitchcock films, beginning with The Pleasure Garden [1925], and including Rich and Strange [1932], The Man Who Knew Too Much [1934 and 1956], etc.) In the glimpse and insight it provides of irrational human behaviour, there is here a true 'Eleusinian' mystery being enacted for us. I'd say it concerns nothing less than what Schopenhauer termed the world's Will, or what Norman O. Brown succinctly called (to quote his book's full title) 'Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History'.

June 12 - 2001
I recently (June 5) described as 'remarkable' a new book, 'The Hitchcock Murders', by Peter Conrad. Since then, I have read another 200 pages of the book in preparation for writing reviews of it on our New Publications page and in 'The MacGuffin'. (I'll finish the book this week and put up a review straight away.) I must say that the middle sections of the book disappointed me in comparison with its powerful opening sections. The text becomes relatively facile, and real insights are few and far apart. Good enough for the belles-lettres set (who may fall over themselves to laud this book by an able writer who is also a Professor of English at Oxford), but not likely to satisfy serious Hitchcock fans - who will already have absorbed most of the connections and associations that Conrad makes, just by viewing the films repeatedly themselves. However, with his section headed "Into the Next World", running from page 249 to page 261, Conrad abruptly redeems himself in my eyes. This section is part of the larger one called "The Religion of Murder", and it comes close to pinpointing the ultimate meaning of the films, the nature of their 'great Mystery'. That term is one that Conrad got from the father of surrealism, André Breton. He writes: '[Hitchcock's] films tentatively probe the same proscribed, subterranean areas that have traditionally fascinated the theologians of mystery, from ancient Greece to the surrealists in the early twentieth century - the tense balance between creation and destructiveness; the tug of irrationality, which mines civilization from within; the affinity between love and death, or between sex and murder.' (p. 252) (On page 253, Conrad evokes the 'forces of nature' which he identifies as the subject of the famous pioneering spy novel by Erskine Childers, 'The Riddle of the Sands' [1903]. That's the novel that I have shown elsewhere was an influence on Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent [1940].) Further, Conrad elaborates as follows: 'In classical Greece, Breton's "great Mystery" was institutionalized in the festival of Eleusis, when neophytes were permitted to share in a forbidden knowledge.' (p. 253) Unfortunately, neither Conrad nor anybody else knows what that forbidden knowledge was! But he speculates (p. 254) that it was 'a preview of death, mercifully allowing a return to life when the ritual was concluded.' Then he says: 'During the nineteenth century, romantic poets and musicians probed the Eleusinian mystery of the love-death - an expiry that was ecstatic, like a sexual consummation. At the end of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, the heroine dies spontaneously, with no apparent cause, and her "Liebestod" describes the process of sublimation, as she dissolves into an elemental universe that does not differentiate life from death or keep souls imprisoned in bodies.' (p. 256) All of this is in keeping with my own conviction that Hitchcock's 'vision' shares much in common with that of the philosopher Schopenhauer, for whom all is ultimately One - but which is unknowable because of our essential subjectivity and the working in us of blind, irrational Will, the life-force that is also a death-force. More tomorrow, including the possible relevance of this to Psycho.

June 11 - 2001
Where would this page be without its correspondents? Floundering in treacle, probably. Thanks today to Dr Ulrich Ruedel and Sarah Nichols for fresh information and insights. First, Uli (he's a friend) recently referred me to the online publication 'DVD Savant'. There, a letter from filmmaker and special effects supervisor Robert Swarthe is published concerning the new Universal Home Video DVD of Hitchcock's Torn Curtain (1966). It appears that the DVD's "Bonus Materials" section has attempted to match up Bernard Herrmann's unused score with the existing film, but has got it wrong - at least in the scene where Gromek is killed. The music starts over a minute early! Another piece of news from off the DVD is that the deleted scene with Gromek's brother no longer exists - though Hitchcock told Truffaut that he would donate that particular footage to the Cinématheque Français. Lastly, Robert Swarthe says that Laurent Bouzereau's documentary on the making of Torn Curtain, included on the DVD, 'mentions [matte-artist] Albert Whitlock in a nice postitive way, but does not say that every single wide exterior and interior of the museum that [Paul] Newman walks through is a Whitlock matte painting. They are PERFECT.' I've analysed that scene here before (and in the current 'MacGuffin'), and noted how it implies an absence comparable to the absence of Rebecca from 'Manderley' in Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940). In effect, it is saying that 'the times are out of joint', and that nothing less than our Western social and cultural heritage has been lost sight of. And, yes, the scene is a beautiful one, in every way. To read all of Robert Swarthe's letter, click here: Bernard Herrmann Soundtrack for Torn Curtain. Now, here's part of a message sent by Sarah Nichols. 'Why', asks Sarah, 'is Psycho so food oriented?' She recently compiled a list of the film's references to food, eating, and mouths, and came up with a total of 28. 'Does it come down to "Mother's" "she won't be satisfying her ugly appetites with my food or my son", or is there more to it? Marion's life, at least as we see it, begins and ends with a meal: unfinished lunch in the hotel with Sam, and dinner with Norman before her [fatal] shower.' My short answer to Sarah's question is that, yes, Hitchcock and writer Joseph Stefano are preoccupied in Psycho with 'appetites' and bodies (and orifices and 'black holes'). It is the film that culminated in the 'excremental vision' of Frenzy (1972). The best book I can recommend about this is Norman O. Brown's 'Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History' (1959). But I'll try to return to the topic soon, perhaps tomorrow.

June 6 - 2001
Here's an item, chosen more or less at random, that first ran on this page three years ago (July 27, 1998). Why am I repeating myself? Have I dried up? Run out of ideas? No, that's not it, benign reader! It's simply that I have begun to look into the "Editor's Day" archives (yes, they exist!) with a view to updating our 'Selections' page. And the following is a token of what I have found so far ...

More about influences on Marnie [1964], etc. When Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) at afternoon tea pointedly asks inquisitive sister-in-law Lil Mainwaring (Diane Baker) whether she'll be taking lemon with her tea, I suspect that he's echoing a line from James Whale's The Old Dark House (1932). There, Penderel (Melvyn Douglas) innocently inquires of the sour, hostile Rebecca Femm (Eva Moore), 'Vinegar, Miss Femm?' James Whale was of course a British stage-director who went to Hollywood; The Old Dark House was based on the novel 'Benighted' by J.B. Priestley [who later contributed dialogue to Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, 1939], and the screenplay was written in part by Benn Levy who had worked on Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929). In any case, Whale's influence on Hitchcock is detectable in at least a couple of other instances. The memorable scene with the hermit in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) finds an echo in Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942). And a shock moment in both Bride and the same director's The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), involving a quick succession of angled jump-cuts, was quietly echoed (as Leslie Halliwell noted) in Hitchcock's The Birds (1963). Finally, here's another 'source' of Marnie. Remember the moment when a louring Strutt accompanies Marnie into dinner? I'd say Hitchcock had remembered here a scene from Robert Z. Leonard's Pride and Prejudice (1940), in which a butler announces, 'Dinner is served', and there's a grim procession into the dining-room led by Lady Catherine de Burgh (Edna May Oliver); the heroine Elizabeth (Greer Garson) finds herself escorted by the detestable Mr Collins (Melville Cooper - seen the same year in Hitchcock's Rebecca).

June 5 - 2001
On our New Publications page recently I wrote of Sabotage (1936): 'the initial blacking-out of London parallels other depictions in Hitchcock of how everything, including the very film itself, is a reflection of a single "life-force" that is normally taken for granted and is invisible'. Now I see that Joseph Conrad's preface to his novel 'The Secret Agent' (1907), on which Sabotage was based, describes the city as a 'cruel devourer of the world's light' - further indication of a Schopenhauer-influence on Conrad and indirectly on Hitchcock. (Arthur Schopenhauer spoke of the world's 'Will' - a life-force that is also a death-force - and Conrad is known to have read and admired him. Note Conrad's use here of the epithet 'cruel', in keeping with Schopenhauer's conception of the nature of Will.) Actually, I read the above-quoted phrase not (this time) in Conrad's novel but on page 24 of a book by his namesake - the remarkable 'The Hitchcock Murders' (Faber & Faber, 2000) by Professor Peter Conrad. On page 61 of the same book, in a section headed "Playing God", Professor Conrad writes: 'In the Bible, God's first feat was to illuminate the world. Hitchcock had a different priority. He preferred to suddenly turn the lights off, or to put out the light that serves as a rational monitor in our heads.' (Surely not coincidentally, I was reminded of what Hitchcock once said about his use of music in films: 'I prefer to use it for the moment when I can turn it off.') Professor Conrad gives examples, starting with the moment in The Lodger (1926) when a gloved hand switches off the lights at a dance, and in the - emblematic - darkness a girl is murdered. A few films later, in The Ring (1928), a boxer is k.o.'d, and Hitchcock's subjective screen is again plunged into darkness punctuated by white flashes and swirling, out-of-focus images. Another example given by Professor Conrad is the start of Suspicion (1942), where a train plunges into a tunnel; only after several moments do we realise where we are - inside one of the train's carriages - and we hear Cary Grant's voice apologising for his having (accidentally?) touched a woman's leg in the darkness! I can think of related examples, such as the recurring image of the lighthouse beam in The Manxman (1929) that intermittently stabs a warning into the surrounding darkness; or the shot that Hitchcock wanted for the climax of Secret Agent (1936), of the film tearing and appearing to catch fire (this, nearly a quarter of a century before Ingmar Bergman's Persona [1960]). But the film that best consummates this sort of thing - and Hitchcock's subjective cinema in general - May well be Rear Window (1954). Hitchcock described it as 'perhaps the most cinematic film I have made', and I don't think that he was referring to just the constant use of point-of-view shots from Jeff's apartment or the film's 'Kuleshov experiment' in intercutting shots of watcher and watched. The whole movie, it seems to me, including its flux of day and night scenes, is a metaphor for a life/death 'force' that the unspooling film both represents and is part of. In turn, the consciousness evoked is that of the cinema spectator, individually and collectively. Also significant, no doubt, is the total amount of lighting the various apartments seen in the film required. According to studio publicity at the time, it took every last inch of electric cable on the Paramount lot

June 4 - 2001
Anyone who has read Alain Kerzoncuf's article, on this website, concerning Hitchcock remakes, and/or our review of Thomas Leitch's "101 Ways to Tell Hitchcock's Psycho from Gus Van Sant's" (on our New Publications page), May like to also look at a theoretical article called "On the Remake. A cinematic phenomenon" published on the 'keyframe.org' website (see link following). Author Jan Speckenbach (is he Dutch?) sufficiently overcomes difficulties with the English language to make several cogent observations. Among them: 'The moral indignation we often encounter in the reactions towards a new remake has its roots in the violation of the originality-principle. There is something of a sacrilege in the act of remaking. Alain Masson for instance [in 'Positif', May 1999 and June 1999] criticises Gus Van Sant's Psycho' - including its cut-ins of cows grazing in a meadow, during the killing of Arbogast, which, says Speckenbach, 'I personally find very imaginative'. He feels that Masson 'lays claim to a Psycho that in the end would be nothing but the Hitchcock film itself'. Later in the article, Speckenbach suggests that watching Van Sant's film May make us feel that we are being victimised - deceived - by 'a new film that appears at the same time to be an old one', and that this impression May account for 'the strong indignation the film has caused'. It is as if Van Sant 'has broken a taboo'. Reviewer Chris Bolton went so far as to say, 'the "recreation" of Psycho is the worst, most offensive idea in the history of film'. He thought the remake sacreligious 'because "The Master's" Psycho had already reached "visual perfection"'. (Not so, argues Speckenbach: the original film, seen today, 'is [in places] awfully funny: the close-up on Marion in her car, driving under the rain with the famous music off; the [insistent] panning on the envelope with the money; the static mise-èn-scene [- all] can be found in bad television [shows] of today'. Which May be true in a technical sense, but perhaps Speckenbach misses just how astute was Hitchcock's resort to 'rhetoric' and/or his judgment of how little 'technique' some scenes needed: a 'minimalism' that goes back to, say, Shakespeare's use of 'mere' soliloquy in his plays.) There is an irony in the hostile reception accorded Van Sant's film. Says Speckenbach: 'The remake seems to be the post-modern artwork par excellence. It refers to a previous source, it refuses originality, and its interest lies in the intertextual discussion. It is not surprising therefore that ... post-modern theories lend themselves to an analysis of the remake.' Fodder for thought, if nothing else, the article (part one) can be found here: On the Remake. Part On.

May 31 - 2001
(additional) In the just-mentioned article by Mark Osteen on Sabotage, he includes this interesting footnote. '5. Although [James] Goodwin overstates in claiming that Hitchcock identifies criminals and police [with each other] as thoroughly as does Conrad [in his novel], most critics have recognized that the characters in Sabotage are morally compromised ... Lesley Brill [in 'The Hitchcock Romance', 1988], though acknowledging the equivocal nature of [the detective] Ted's affection for the married Mrs Verloc, suggests that his generosity is clearly differentiated from Verloc's "cold venality". [Donald] Spoto ... notes the pervasive ambiguities in the film, and points out that Mrs Verloc is "both guilty and innocent of [her husband's] death".' As I was reading that, I thought of Jeffrey Tucker's comment about the Catholic-sympathising Oscar Wilde (see May 29, above): 'Wilde claimed to do art only for art's sake, but in practice, he drew stark lines between good and evil, even as he showed how the complexities of sin and redemption evade easy social categorization.' I also thought of how in Hitchcock's film the pet-shop proprietor who is also an anarchist (and explosives expert) says of his daughter, an unmarried mother: 'We all have our crosses to bear. She has hers and she must bear it.' No-one is without flaw in Hitchcock. But on the whole, the men are the active instigators of evil, while the women are those who must endure men's sins and folly - and are the ones who try to atone or compensate for that folly (a motif that Hitchcock May have got from Sean O'Casey). Amusingly (though not only that), as the film's climax approaches, it is the pet-shop owner's daughter who insists that her father go to Verloc's cinema and recover the bird-cage that could incriminate him. 'How could you be so stupid?' So she is implicated, and guilty after the fact - an approximate parallel with Winnie Verloc. As for Ted, yes, his attitude to Winnie and Stevie is compassionate and sympathetic - and technically reprehensible because Winnie is married to another man. But an audience naturally sides with him. In a large degree, he is like the painter in Easy Virtue (1927), who shows pity towards the husband-abused Mrs Filton. When she is later accused of adultery, an ungenerous woman on the jury writes a note, 'Pity is akin to love' - and votes for a 'guilty' verdict. But we know where Hitchcock is telling us our sympathies should be, don't we?

May 30 - 2001
I have put another review, of an article by Mark Osteen on Sabotage (1936), on our New Publications page. Wing your way there now, flighted reader, then check back here later where I'll be citing that film in relation to the above entry on Oscar Wilde's Catholicism

May 29 - 2001
Donald Spoto's 'The Life of Alfred Hitchcock' (1983) reported that Hitchcock in his younger days read Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' several times. Recently I came across on the Web a fascinating article by Jeffrey A. Tucker called "Oscar Wilde, Roman Catholic". I think I understand Hitchcock the better now. Tucker says that 'Wilde's work can be fully appreciated and celebrated as springing from the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition' (Wilde was sympathetic to Catholicism for much of his life, though he only converted to the faith on his deathbed); I fancy that a similar observation applies to Hitchcock's body of work. Consider this passage (which I've had to cut) from 'Dorian Gray' quoted by Tucker: 'It was rumored of him once that he was about to join the Roman Catholic communion, and certainly the Roman ritual had always a great attraction for him. The daily sacrifice, more awful really than all the sacrifices of the antique world, stirred him as much by its superb rejection of the evidence of the senses as by the primitive simplicity of its elements and the eternal pathos of the human tragedy that it sought to symbolize ... As he passed out, he used to look with wonder at the black confessionals and long to sit in the dim shadow of one of them and listen to men and women whispering through the worn grating the true story of their lives. But he never fell into the error of arresting his intellectual development by any formal acceptance of creed or system, or of mistaking, for a house in which to live, an inn that is but suitable for the sojourn of a night, or for a few hours of a night in which there are no stars and the moon is in travail.' You May easily glimpse here why Hitchcock so inclined to the formal comprehensiveness of German Expressionism and to the almost mystical leap inherent in being a Surrealist artist; and why he always felt that 'logic is dull'; but also why Nietzschean elements, only partly reined-in, prevailed in some of his work, and why he told interviewers that he felt that he had been only an indifferent Catholic. (In sum, Hitchcock was what I call a 'Schopenhauerian' thinker and artist.) One among several observations by Tucker that I found particularly pertinent to Hitchcock's sensibility and insights was this: 'Wilde claimed to do art only for art's sake, but in practice, he drew stark lines between good and evil, even as he showed how the complexities of sin and redemption evade easy social categorization. We find in his work many people who stumble into small sins that grow larger through their unwillingness to face them. We find pietistic Victorians who come to understand that suppressing vice requires more than the right social companions and rigid standards of social etiquette. We find characters reversing severe moral judgments on others in the light of their own experiences, and other characters praising free living only to discover the truth and utility of traditional standards of right and wrong.' (I'd love to apply those observations to an analysis of such Hitchcock films as Under Capricorn [1949] or Psycho [1960]!) Incidentally, Alfred and Alma Hitchcock were married in Brompton Oratory (on 2 December, 1926), which is the very church where, 49 years earlier, Oscar Wilde had nearly converted to Catholicism in his younger days. To read Jeffrey Tucker's article, click here: Oscar Wilde, Roman Catholic.

May 28 - 2001
I have slightly amended the last-named entry on our New Publications page - and have added two more entries (on "Hitchcock's Terrible Mothers" and on The Birds). Speed you there, ever-inquiring reader.

May 24 - 2001
Honourable reader. For a review of an essay called "The Lodger", by Sarah Street, advance apace to our New Publications page.

May 23 - 2001
I have just put on our New Publications page a review of Paul Jensen's 'Hitchcock Becomes "Hitchcock": The British Years'. Proceed there with alacrity, fair-minded reader.

May 22 - 2001
Work has resumed on our New Publications page - not before time, I seem to hear voices saying! Go there now, good reader, to see a brief review of a new article by Joseph McBride called "Alfred Hitchcock's Mary Rose: An Old Master's Unheard Cri de Coeur".

May 16 - 2001
I'll leave for later a follow-up item to yesterday's entry, which needs (and can take) considerable expansion. Today, our correspondents are again to the fore. Sarah Nichols, in Connecticut, takes up the topic of works of art 'quoted' in Hitchcock films. She writes: 'At the end of [Vertigo] when Scottie and Judy return to the mission, the color of the sky, and the landscape, as seen from the bell tower, remind me of the El Greco painting "View of Toledo". There is a menacing, black-grey sky; a "city on a hill" (not unlike San Francisco!), and a cathedral tower prominent in the landscape. You can see it at the Metropolitian Museum of Art website: View of Toledo.' [Editor's note. The possible influence of El Greco's painting on the Vertigo dénouement was mentioned more than thirty years ago in 'Film Culture'. I do think it probable that Hitchcock had the painting in mind when making his film.] And Sarah continues, turning to Frenzy: 'I watched [the film] the other night on television, noticing, for the first time, a sign on the entrance to Bob Rusk's apartment house: "Duckworth and Co. Publishers". George and Gerald Duckworth were stepbrothers to Virginia Woolf. I forget which one ran the publishing business. They published her first novel, "The Voyage Out" [1915]. It has been alleged, and there is quite a bit of proof, that both brothers sexually abused Virginia and her sister, Vanessa. (There is an excellent book on this subject: "Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work" [1989], by Louise DeSalvo. Interestingly, this woman has also written a memoir in which seeing Vertigo made a significant impact upon her. It is called "Vertigo").' Fascinating! Thank you, Sarah. Given a central theme of Frenzy whereby women fall victim to men, the Duckworth citation seems most pertinent. Another allusion it makes, we once noted here, is to how lesbian writer Winifred Ashton, known as 'Clemence Dane', lived in this same street (Henrietta Street) above a publisher's (Duckworth's?) when Hitchcock first met her in about 1929, prior to adapting a novel she co-authored with Helen Simpson, 'Enter Sir John', as Murder! (1930). That also seems relevant to Frenzy, I think! Now some observations on Psycho (1960) sent in by Denise Noe. (Hi, Denise. Thanks for these. How is your writing going?) 'It is only on a second viewing,' she notes, 'after we know the secret of Norman's mother, that so much of the movie becomes a black comedy. "Mother's not herself today." "That has a kind of creepy smell." "I'd go crazy out here." "I think that would be a rather extreme reaction." Seeing the movie more than once also allows you to see many of the connections Hitchcock has made. For example, both bathroom and madhouses are similarly unmentionable, with Norman referring to the first as "in there" and Marion calling the second "someplace."' Denise adds: 'I'm terribly disappointed by Psycho "sequels". I didn't see Psycho II in its entirety but I saw part of it, including the end. By contrast with the original, it seemed ham-handed and obvious.' [Editor's note. I think that director Richard Franklin felt that he had to do it that way, given the impossibility, or presumption, or folly, of trying to merely 'imitate' Hitchcock. Many have tried, very few have succeeded. I think Richard's approach works on its own terms.]

May 15 - 2001
When Hitchcock arrived in America in 1939, a change came over his work (though the seeds had been planted long before, in a film like The Lodger [1926]). I'd characterise it as the depiction of extreme situations with deliberate understatement, and use of the 'slow burn' principle whereby the inherent shockingness of the situation is only gradually revealed and finally demonstrated. Almost invariably, the climax is explosive, if not literally (e.g., the razing of 'Manderley' in Rebecca [1940]) then figuratively (e.g., the opening of the chest containing the body of a murdered youth, in Rope [1948]). Of course, some or all of the films have their set pieces along the way, which serve to disguise the underlying 'slow burn'. But it is there nonetheless. Now, consider what I mean by 'extreme situations'. In Rebecca, just to speak of Maxim, he has inherited a magnificent estate and the patriarchal line of his illustrious, rich forebears; and he has married a wife with 'beauty, brains, and breeding'. He should by rights be one of the happiest of men. Instead, we learn that his wife died in an 'accident' (and we've only Maxim's word that he didn't kill her, which is what he did do in Daphne du Maurier's novel). By the end of the film he has lost nearly everything, certainly all of his 'great expectations', and exists in a childless marriage to a rather plain second wife (who, a suppressed postscript of the novel reveals, still hasn't borne him heirs several years later; the couple are now living in a succession of second-rate Mediterranean hotels, a far cry from their days at 'Manderley', which had stood so proudly above the open Atlantic). In short, Maxim has been reduced to near-total abjection. Now consider Frenzy (1972). Nothing has changed. Critic Tania Modleski, who has written some astute analysis of Hitchcock's attitudes in his films to women, avers that the films are ambivalent towards women (and the media have been happy to more than endorse such an opinion). But Modleski's thesis won't do. Hitchcock's ambivalence is towards people. Hitchcock is like that most objective of philosophers, Schopenhauer, who saw in the sheer will-to-live, manifesting itself in egoism, self-assertion, hatred and conflict (which men are particularly good at) the source of evil. Schopenhauer wrote: 'There really resides in the heart of each of us a wild beast which only waits the opportunity to rage and rave and injure others, and which, if they do not prevent it, would like to destroy them.' (Quoted by Frederic Copleston S.J., 'A History of Philosophy', Vol. VII, Chapter XIV) There is something of that in the ill-tempered and murderous Maxim in Rebecca, and again something of it in ex-squadron leader Blaney (Jon Finch), another ill-tempered man, in Frenzy. But such is Hitchcock's sleight-of-hand that the film's nominal villains (Rebecca herself, Mrs Danvers, Favell; Rusk) take most of the rap, as far as the films' audiences are concerned. But here's my main point. Tania Modleski says that there are two images of women in Hitchcock: victimised and abject, and autonomous and independent. But that is exactly the same of the men. Just to cite the case of Blaney, another abject figure: he is a forgotten war hero whose buddy from wartime days is Johnny Porter (whose name recalls 'Jimmie Porter', the hero of John Osborne's archetypal play from the Fifties, 'Look Back in Anger'; the two former wartime buddies are also like Jeff and Doyle in Rear Window [1954], of course), now coping as best he can with a hand-to-mouth existence, and down on his luck - something whose apotheosis is his loss by violent murder of the two women in his life, then his being suspected of killing them. An 'extreme situation' indeed!

May 14 - 2001
Miscellany (mainly from our readers, to whom hearty thanks). First, a couple of quotations. The first was sent by Pierre Poirier, and concerns stage and film actor Edmund Gwenn (1877-1959), who made four pictures for Hitchcock. Pierre found this in 'Bartlett's Anecdotes'. On his deathbed Gwenn was visited by fellow-actor Jack Lemmon, who asked him frankly how hard it was to be facing death. 'Oh, it's hard,' Gwenn said in the whispery voice that was left of him, 'very hard indeed. But not as hard as doing comedy.' And Sarah Nichols sent this from André Breton's 'Surrealist Manifesto' (1924): '... uncovering the strange symbolic life of the most ordinary and clearly defined objects'. Actually, I have a difficulty with applying this idea directly to Hitchcock's films because they don't allow the viewer sufficient detachment to discover the intrinsic 'symbolic life' of objects (even, say, the very 'clearly defined' washbasin and shaving mug in Spellbound [1945], or the lovebirds and the telephone booth in The Birds [1963]). While there is no doubt at all that Hitchcock took inspiration from the Surrealists, I prefer to think of his films as incipiently Surrealist. They can be 'made' Surrealist by selecting individual stills from the films (e.g., of the shattered glass canopy containing mounted stuffed birds, in Dan Fawcett's bedroom in The Birds, an object which suggests, especially seen in its shattered state, a 'memory-box' created by Joseph Cornell; or the moment when the false Madeleine arrives at the top of the belltower in Vertigo [1958] to find there the sinister Gavin Elster awaiting her with the real Madeleine dead in his arms - an image that looks like pure Magritte), but this is not really how those images affect us as we view the films. Which is not to say that the films themselves, juxtaposed to the 'life' that awaits us again outside the cinema, are not surreal works. They May well be that, in their own, very sophisticated way. Now, speaking of The Birds, I was interested to read a recent post to the SCREEN-L Film and TV Studies Discussion List. It noted 'an interesting negotiation [and negation!] of the 180 degree rule [which requires the camera not to arbitrarily cross an imaginary horizontal line in front of the camera] ... [This occurs in] the scene in the bar/restaurant right before things begin to blow up. The shots start on one side of the "line" and then sort of dance along it for a while before ending up on the other side. An efficient way to cross the line without violating the rule ...' A prize to the sender of the best suggestion on why Hitchcock did it this way. Finally, Hitchcock author Dan Auiler has sent a note saying, 'I've always been curious about the statue in The 39 Steps [1935] in Hannay's apartment - any idea who the artist was?' My guess is that it was someone fashionable at the time, like the artist, Tretchikoff, responsible for those twin paintings of dark-skinned ladies in Rusk's apartment in Frenzy (1972). Can anyone inform us?

May 9 - 2001
Victor Hugo's 'Les Misérables' (1862) and Charles Dickens's 'Our Mutual Friend' (1865) are two Romantically-conceived novels in which a 'chase' and/or a need to be vindicated are central to the hero's fortunes. A related need, to come in from the cold, so to speak, May also be detected in these novels (and others like them). In the Dickens novel there's this memorable passage: 'It is a sensation not experienced by many mortals ... to be looking into a churchyard on a wild windy night, and to feel that I no more hold a place among the living than these dead do.' A similar Romanticism informs Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), based on a novel called 'D'entre les morts'/'Among the Dead'. Scottie in that film is the alienated, 'made-to-order victim' who was 'set up', whose weakness is his ambitiousness: he wants more 'life' (both now, i.e., more 'colour, excitement, power, freedom', and forever, i.e., immortality). He is a both an Everyman- and a Faust-figure. But a specifically 'wrong man' motif in Hitchcock May be less Romantic yet equally effective with audiences, to judge from the popularity of overt chase films like The 39 Steps (1935) and North by Northwest (1959). Here, the immediate progenitor is John Buchan's 'shocker', 'The Thirty-Nine Steps' (1915) itself. After an acquaintance, named Scudder, of Buchan's hero, Richard Hannay, is knifed in Hannay's London flat, Hannay must go on the run. As he says: 'I reckoned that two sets of people would be looking for me - Scudder's enemies to put me out of existence, and the police, who would want me for Scudder's murder.' So Hannay is the victim here, and the chase formula is both simple and effective. Actually, it involves a double chase. Two sets of people are chasing Hannay, and he himself is chasing one of them - Scudder's enemies, the spies. Now, not only does this plot bear an affinity to the one previously described, in which the alienated hero must vindicate himself (one way or another - in Scottie's case by solving the mystery of Madeleine and with it the 'world riddle'), but in Buchan's case his plot's own progenitors include the classic 'The Pilgrim's Progress' (1678; 1684) by John Bunyan, and such popular adventure yarns as 'King Solomon's Mines' (1885) by H. Rider Haggard, and 'Kim' (1901) by Rudyard Kipling. In all of these, the reader or the audience must feel that something vitally important is at stake, though it May be just a Kipling-esque 'MacGuffin' (e.g., what the spies are after). The chase thrillers are often 'picaresque', with something more than a little 'crazy' about their itinerant hero (shades of Cervantes' Don Quixote!). All very cinematic, as Hitchcock saw. Their more introverted equivalent is a novel like Kafka's 'The Trial' (1925), itself influenced by Dickens. Which May tell us that at base the 'wrong man' motif is about original sin. And now, as correspondent CP (aka 'Toff') has informed me, a recent film like Alex Proyas's Dark City (1998) carries on the motif. In Toff's words, the film's hero, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell), 'is the "innocent man wrongfully accused". Or perhaps he is an innocent man rightfully accused; all the evidence, including people's memories, points to him. In a way, he was set up.' Plus ça change ...

May 8 - 2001
My friend Freda Freiberg recently watched again Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street (1945) and noted to me that the 'wrong man' goes to the electric chair at the end. What literary or other precedents are there, Freda wondered, for the type of plot in which an innocent man is hounded and is wrongfully arrested, even executed, or else must go on the run? Both Lang and Hitchcock had successfully used several variants on that plot, Freda observed. She added that Lang favoured the grim type of ending exemplified by Scarlet Street, but that Hitchcock probably preferred to 'soften' things a bit (a note exists from Hitchcock to playwright/screenwriter Maxwell Anderson indicating that [contra a claim of Donald Spoto's] he liked the ending we have of The Wrong Man [1957], in which 'Manny' [Henry Fonda] is finally exonerated of armed robbery, and his wife Rose [Vera Miles] comes out of the sanatorium where she'd been sent after suffering a breakdown). Nonetheless, the ending of Scarlet Street reminded me of the ending Hitchcock is said to have wanted for I Confess (1953), where Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) would have been executed for the murder committed by Keller, the sacristan (O.E. Hasse). Now to answer Freda's question: first, there are real-life precedents for the 'wrong man' motif, as in the Adolf Beck case early last century in England, where a man was twice arrested and gaoled for crimes committed by another, a look-alike. Hitchcock would have been fully aware of this case. But equally, in America, similar things have happened. A correspondent to the eGroups/Yahoo 'Hitchcock' group noted the other day that a rather unpleasant former neighbour of hers was once arrested on a charge of first degree murder. 'Several witnesses had stepped forward to identify him absolutely.' But '[t]he case never went to trial because my neighbour was in a jail in New York City at the time the murder was committed', having been arrested for vagrancy. The same correspondent also recalled how in 1948 the novelist Erle Stanley Gardner founded The Court of Last Resort, a private organisation dedicated to helping people believed to have been unjustly convicted. Afterwards, Gardner 'wrote a book [1952] offering details from several of the cases taken by that esteemed group. So many [people had] been wrongly convicted.' Next, there are indeed literary precedents for the 'wrong man' idea. I thought of Victor Hugo's 'Les Misérables' (1862), though there Valjean is technically guilty (his initial crime had been to steal a loaf of bread to feed his sister's starving children). Also technically guilty is the protagonist of Geoffrey Household's thriller 'Rogue Male' (1939), filmed by Lang as Man Hunt (1941), about an assassination attempt on an unnamed head-of-state (Hitler in the film version) and the ensuing animal-like hunt for the would-be assassin. There are elements of the 'wrong man' motif in Dickens. For example, young Oliver Twist is kidnapped by Fagin's gang while on his way to buy books for his patron, Mr Brownlow, thus seeming to vindicate the suspicion of a friend of Brownlow's that the boy is 'no good'; more generally, the orphaned Oliver is one of several Dickens heroes who manage to prove their worth but only after enduring being 'cuffed and buffeted through the world - despised by all, and pitied by none'. But this is very broad. I'll be more specific tomorrow.

May 7 - 2001
My memory is only so-so (as this item will show), but I like to think that's because it's selective. Recently, I apologised here because after claiming that Hitchcock had once said that if he hadn't married Alma he might have 'gone gay', and adding that my source was Hitch's biographer John Russell Taylor, I couldn't find any such reference in Taylor's 'Hitch: The Life and Work of Alfred Hitchcock' (1978). Well, I was half-right. The quote is indeed from Taylor, but it was included in the excellent E! channel documentary called 'True Hollywood Stories: Alfred Hitchcock' (1999), in which biographer/ film critic Taylor appears. (I had first heard, or read, the quote years ago, and cited it in 'MacGuffin' #12, February-May 1994, but I still don't remember where I came across it.) Furthermore, it appears that Hitchcock made the remark to screenwriter Rodney Ackland (Number Seventeen [1932]), himself openly gay, who later passed it on to Taylor. By Taylor's account, this is what Hitchcock said: 'You know, if I hadn't met Alma at the right time, I could have become a poof.' The remark doesn't surprise me. It is consistent with what Hitch reportedly often claimed, that it is necessary for a good actor (and, by extension, a good film director) to have a bit of both sexes in his/her make-up. In turn, it's a psychoanalytic commonplace that there is no hard-and-fast division of the individual psyche between male and female but rather a tendency to fluctuate (up to a point) between the two polarities. I see this as part of Hitchcock's secret: compare what I said above about how his films often seem to take one direction emotionally (and emotion is typically thought of as a 'female' trait) yet to mean something quite different when analysed. I have previously likened this capacity of Hitchcock's, to enter fully into a situation or character, to what the poet Keats called 'negative capability'. Watching part of Rebecca again the other day, I was struck by Hitchcock's considerable empathy with 'I' (Joan Fontaine) who is so dominated first by Mrs Van Hopper (Florence Bates) and then later by Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson) and even husband Maxim (Laurence Olivier). But equally, of course, it's apparent that Hitchcock has a very clear-eyed view of what is going on; he even seems to take a certain sadistic relish in the way 'I' is made so uncomfortable. Significantly, there is something 'mannish' about the oppressive Mrs Danvers, in particular, though both she and Mrs Van Hopper retain some 'femaleness'. (In the dried-up and bossy Mrs Van Hopper's case, it admittedly takes an effort on her part, and is 'artificial' and 'cosmetic': there is much eloquence in the shot of her cigarette stubbed out in a jar of cold-cream, combining male and female symbols! Hitchcock would use variants on that cigarette when depicting the widowed Madame Sebastian in Notorious [1946] and the widowed Mrs Stevens in To Catch a Thief [1955].)

May 2 - 2001
In the last two entries, sparked by correspondent Denise Noe asking me whether I was aware of a reading of the novel 'Rebecca' (1938) in which Maxim is the villain and Rebecca the true heroine, I have been saying two things. First, that the novel and film employ sleight-of-hand to make us feel one thing emotionally and to insinuate a quite different subtext intellectually. (This, by way of agreeing with the idea of contrary readings being possible.) Second, I have been saying that the novel and film show a wealth of contemporary allusions. (For instance, Maxim is like Edward VIII, briefly a ruler but then 'dispossessed', who ends up living in exile with his commoner wife, while his 'kingdom' faces an uncertain future.) There are other possible contemporary allusions that I could have mentioned. For instance, the burning of 'Manderley' at the end, so spectacular in Hitchcock's film, May have been prompted by, and evoke, the fiery end of the airship 'The Hindenburg' in 1937, which also lit up the night sky and marked the end of a proud era (for Germany's zeppelin industry). Of course, for the producer of Rebecca (1940), David Selznick, the burning of 'Manderley' must have reminded him of his Gone With the Wind (1939), whose climax is the burning of the city of Atlanta. And Hitchcock May have remembered a couple of other film precedents: burning houses in films by John Ford and Fritz Lang. Likewise, as mentioned here in February, Daphne du Maurier's feminist and lesbian sympathies were probably fueled by feminist writings of the period, such as Charlotte Gilman's 1915 fiction, 'Herland: A Lost Feminist Utopian Novel' (the name 'Manderley' seems in deliberate opposition). As for how a story or film May seem to be one thing emotionally and quite another when analysed, that observation is one that Hitchcock himself seems to have taken to heart. Think of a couple of his James Stewart vehicles: Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). In both of these, the Stewart character is played, like Maxim in Rebecca, as basically a sympathetic figure, yet his actions strike one as, well, confused and even perverse. Come to think of it, that is also true of the Gregory Peck character in The Paradine Case (1947). So, to conclude today's entry, let me note a couple of things in relation to the item on that film for April 24, above. First, Bill Krohn confirms that it is indeed Horfield in the front of the car with Judy Flaquer in the opening scene - but the soundtrack has Judy's father saying, 'Think it over, Keane', as the car starts to drive off. Second, the montage of shots of the Old Bailey interior that Bill mentioned does not seem to have been intended as a pre-credits sequence but would have immediately preceded the start of Mrs Paradine's trial.

May 1 - 2001
Here's what I'm saying about Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca' and (by and large) Hitchcock's film of it. The novel was published in 1938. It can be read as something of an allegory about the woes of civilisation (cast in the form of a so-called women's story). At the same time, notwithstanding that Rebecca as described by Maxim sounds to have been a beautiful, evil monster, the novel captures well the sort of subversive questioning that was quite commonplace in England between the wars. W.B. Yeats's "The Second Coming", published in 1921, with its lines claiming 'the best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity', might be describing the situation at 'Manderley' after Maxim brings his new bride back there: he himself, and the other males on the estate, seem to lack 'all conviction', whereas the 'matriarchy' represented by Mrs Danvers, companion to the late Rebecca, rules with a sinister 'passionate intensity'. She is a fascist-figure who threatens, in Rebecca's name and memory, to take over 'Manderley' (a symbol of England itself) and even to destroy it. Maxim's attempt to restore '[t]he ceremony of innocence' by marrying the naïve companion of the gargoyle-like Mrs Van Hopper (herself a sort of parody of matriarchy) is bound to fail. 'Manderley' is under a spell, or has been poisoned (perhaps it's worth remembering that the ruling families of England and Germany were related). Maxim is no politician - he seems to feel himself 'above' such a sphere - but rather another naïve individual, like a prince who briefly inherits a kingdom but must then renounce it. Hence the parallel I drew yesterday with Edward VIII, who was told he could not marry a commoner and remain king, so was forced to abdicate - he didn't have the power he thought he had. Maxim, as I see him, is a predecessor of the naïve Scottie in Vertigo (1958) - another unwitting colluder with a more powerful, and destructive, patriarchal 'system'. Further, as previously suggested here, if Maxim is like Edward VIII, his new bride is like Snow White in the fairy tale (filmed by Disney as an animated feature in 1937), and Rebecca and Mrs Danvers both seem to owe something to the wicked Queen in the same tale. In sum, the whole emotional thrust of the novel and film of 'Rebecca' is one to which reader and viewer readily subscribe (just as the general public were greatly sympathetic to Edward VIII/the Duke of Windsor and his bride, Mrs Simpson), seeing Maxim and his bride as hero and heroine. Yet this is all a sort of sleight-of-hand on the storytellers' part. Because, really, Daphne du Maurier has her cake and eats it too. She speaks in her novel to the prevailing popular zeitgeist but subtly subverts it. As a lesbian or bisexual herself (like Rebecca), clearly she must have sided to some extent with Rebecca. But not altogether. What seems posited is the eventual return of a fairer, more equitable system that May have once existed, but is neither 'matriarchy' nor 'patriarchy'. (In the novel, in particular, one detects some evocation of a glorious Arthurian heyday before a 'dolorous stroke' cast its devastation on the land.) Again we May be reminded of Yeats's "The Second Coming". His poem prophesies the coming of a new destructive god and the reversal of Christian values. This fits with the 'Neitzschean' values of English intellectuals between the wars (vide 'The Intellectuals and the Masses' [1992] by John Carey), a group to which Daphne du Maurier certainly belonged. More tomorrow.

April 30 - 2001
Once again I find myself thanking correspondent Denise Noe who has re-focussed my attention on Rebecca (1940) - subject of entries here about a month ago - with a question concerning whether I was aware that there's a reading of the novel in which Rebecca is the true heroine and Maxim and the second Mrs de Winter the villains. The gist of such a reading (in Denise's words) goes like this: 'Rebecca can be seen as a kind of rebel against patriarchal authority who ultimately subverts its vanity for her own ends. Max, after all, is a man so egotistical that he would rather commit murder than share his goods with an innocent child that was not biologically his. Our nameless heroine eagerly conspires to cover up a murder. Thus, they are the villains; the deceased Rebecca the true heroine.' Such a reading, I responded, helps us to see the brilliant sleight-of-hand with which the story is told, particularly in Hitchcock's (and writer Robert Sherwood's) film. Recapping my own view, I agree that Maxim appears to be in nearly everything a conservative (who, significantly, praises a painter who would portray the one subject over and over), and that Rebecca's 'vision' is more embracing than Maxim's will ever be. I would liken Rebecca to Camille Paglia's ambi-sexual Great Mother, destined to have the last word before the world stops spinning (and Maybe well before then). But, now, who's to say that the Great Mother isn't evil? After all, there's tremendous conviction in the way Maxim (in the film anyway - it's a long time since I read the novel) denounces Rebecca as the epitome of evil. This, after Maxim's manager and accountant Frank Crawley has called her 'the most beautiful woman I've ever seen' and Maxim has conceded that she had 'beauty, brains, and breeding'. Also, Mrs Danvers, Rebecca's companion and confidante when she was alive, seems living evidence of something fierce and sinister about Rebecca. In short, in emotional terms, the situation in the present seems roughly the equivalent of that evoked in W.B.Yeats's "The Second Coming" which Sir Kenneth Clark (concluding his TV series, 'Civilisation') said 'was certainly true between the wars': ... everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. Maxim, I suggested to Denise, is like a prince with great expectations who briefly became king but whose prospects of a long and happy rule were soon dashed (and whose very 'palace' is eventually razed), one whose marriage to 'Cinderella' (as Hitchcock called the second Mrs de Winter) can't restore him to his rightful place. There's a striking parallel here with the fate of King Edward VIII who ruled for 325 days in 1936 but whose impending marriage to a commoner forced him to abdicate, then to live abroad. More tomorrow.

April 25 - 2001
From the start, Hitchcock intended that his TV series 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' would adapt mainly English short stories, and especially ones with a twist ending. Selecting the stories was initially the job of the show's associate producer, Hitchcock's long-time assistant, Joan Harrison, who had come with the Hitchcocks from England in 1939 (and who later married the writer Eric Ambler). She and her boss combed all of the great anthologies as well as all of the current mystery magazines. (However, as Martin Grams Jr has reminded me, the 'Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine' did not produce its first issue until December 1956, nearly a year and a half after 'AHP' started.) Later they were joined by a young Gordon Hessler, born in Germany but educated in England. 'I guess [I was chosen] because I had an English accent', Hessler has said. His job as story reader and later associate producer for Hitchcock stood him in good stead when he afterwards directed fantasy and thriller movies in England and the US. Someone else who helped in story selection was Joan Harrison's associate, and later himself a director and executive producer for the series, actor Norman Lloyd (Saboteur, Spellbound, etc.), who has pointed out that Hitchcock preferred stories previously published, rather than originals. 'It wasn't a rigid policy', Lloyd is quoted as saying (in McCarty & Kelleher, 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', 1985), 'but rather a pragmatic one. He ... always felt that if a story had been published, you had something to begin with. He was not one for developing stories, as is mostly done today.' A further preference was for stories that dealt with ordinary people (rather than gangsters, though even they weren't ruled out if they could be given a human touch), who find themselves in an extraordinary situation (typically murder). In addition, of course, Hitchcock would bookend each episode as its droll host, politely disdainful of its sponsors. About these appearances, Martin Grams Jr's forthcoming 'The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion' reveals the following. They were actually filmed in variant versions. Notably, there were no fewer than four closing narrations for each episode. The first consisted of the ever-familiar jokes about the sponsors. The second was relatively brief, and without the jokes about the sponsors. (If I'm not mistaken, these brief conclusions were consistently used for the remake series in the 1980s.) The third was done in French and the fourth in German! Hitchock was fluent in both these languages, and thus able to heighten the show's universal appeal.

April 24 - 2001
More from Bill Krohn about The Paradine Case. Besides the art gallery scene, it appears that there was another major scene that was shot and then deleted. This was another trial scene early in the film, set in the country, where Keane defends a man accused of killing his wife. The judge is Judge Horfield, and so we get a foretaste of the later Keane-Horfield clash at the trial of Mrs Paradine (accused of killing her husband, a nice piece of symmetry with the earlier scene). Bill Krohn writes: '[Leonard] Leff says [in 'Hitchcock and Selznick' (1988)] that Selznick ordered Hitchcock to cut Keane's first trial scene from the script, but I think it was filmed. It's in the shooting script; allusions are made to it in other dialogue, which are cut out of the release version, and the shot of Keane coming home in the very beginning is exactly as described in the script - Judy and her father are visible in the front seat, having driven Keane and Horfield back from the country court where Keane just did his Johnny Cochran number.' An Editor's Note at this point. I beg to differ with Bill about that last shot. In the copy of the shooting script that I have (marked FINAL SHOOTING SCRIPT, December 10, 1946) it says that, 'We see only Judy and Horfield [not her father] in the front of the car.' But now back to Bill. He continues: 'I think that first court scene did quite a bit more than "demonstrate Keane's histrionic abilities," as Leff says. First of all, Keane's habit of getting emotionally involved in his defenses - for which Horfield chides him in [a later] scene (cut) - is what gets him in trouble with Maddalena. More important, what do we see in the first trial scene? He saves a man who murdered his wife from the gallows by arguing that she drove him to it with her tyrannical behavior, an appeal that's not lost on the male members of the jury (Strindbergians to a man [i.e., anti-feminist]), although cutaways to the defendant show him to be, in fact, a rather hard bird. The only defendant we hear about Horfield hanging was a servant girl who killed her lover (cut - along with the hint that Horfield "got the horn" from condemning her and tried to use it on Lady Horfield), and of course at the end Mrs Paradine is going to swing for very much the same crime Keane's first (male) client got 9 years for.' On the matter of misogyny in the English criminal justice system (see also yesterday's entry), Bill writes in a separate message: 'By the way, the jury in the missing opening trial scene was 10 men, 2 women. In the last one, 11 to 1 (old).' Something else that never appeared in the film's release print, with its plain titles, was what sounds like a pre-credits sequence. Bill Krohn writes: 'Selznick also cut a "before the curtain goes up" montage Hitchcock probably filmed of the interior of the Old Bailey getting ready for the trial: "a little official in a gown totters about like an automatic doll ... BIG HEAD of Official with a heavily lined face and a dead eye, gazing into vacancy ... Horfield is being helped on with his robes by an attendant - a parched and withered man like most of the rest of them ... BIG HEAD of Horfield studying a pimple on the side of his nose. He touches it gently with his finger" etc.' Ah, what might have been ...

April 23 - 2001
Anyone attending next Thursday night's panel discussion and screening of The Paradine Case (1947) at the El Capitan in Hollywood May be given good reason to wonder if that film hasn't been unfairly slighted all these years, due to excessive cutting of the original print by producer David Selznick. Bill Krohn, a panelist on Thursday, together with Patricia Hitchcock and Buena Vista's Scott McQueen, has been sending me fascinating reports about missing footage (lacking its sound, unfortunately) that has been unearthed. In particular, Bill mentions 'a cut scene with [Judge] Horfield's obviously unbalanced wife [Ethel Barrymore] and Keane [Gregory Peck] meeting in an art gallery, in which she begs him to save Maddalena [Alida Valli] from her husband [Charles Laughton], whom she wavers between describing as a man doing his duty and as a monster - there's a subtle reference to the fact that when he has condemned [a woman] to death, he comes home and immediately wants sex, which [his wife] is usually too demoralized to supply. Horfield finds them talking; she's terrified, and as Horfield walks off with [an artist] he is overheard [saying] how he dreads the prospect of putting his wife in an asylum.' In a follow-up message, Bill elaborates: 'eyes darting in all directions behind her veil, [Lady Horfield has] obviously been driven mad by [her husband's] treatment of her, and the scene could have been eerie as hell. As a suspense ploy, it would have really upped the ante in the courtroom scenes, and I'm surprised it wasn't left in for that reason. As a portrait of what Gay [Ann Todd] and Keane May be in 30 years, it's plausible, too.' I observed to Bill about the novel by Robert Hichens: '[It] hints at the deep mystery, or tragedy, of life. It evokes Schopenhauer (Chapter XL). It has something of O'Casey in its pointing the finger at the 'stupidity o' men' (as in 'Juno and the Paycock'). Maddalena Paradine is the good-bad woman, mother and whore ... But she is another victim as much as she is 'evil' (as Latour [Louis Jourdan] accuses her of being). Latour has resisted the life-force; she has succumbed to it. Who is better/worse/more human/less human? You can hardly accuse the novel or film of misogyny. Both see beyond such simple labeling.' And Bill responded: '[I feel] that the main misogynist in the film wasn't going to be Latour, but the English criminal justice system, as embodied both by the idealistic Keane and the ogre Horfield. Not a realistic indictment - I have no idea if such prejudices existed - but a nightmarish one, which casts a more tender light on all the female victims of what is obviously a "man's world": Gay, Judy ("men are such beasts"), Lady Horfield and Maddalena.' On the matter of the English criminal justice system, I'm reminded of Lindsay Anderson's portrayal of it (clearly influenced by Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange [1971]) in the satirical O Lucky Man! (1973). In particular, there's the scene in which the sado-masochistic Judge (Anthony Nicholls) goes straight from Court to his chambers where a Lady Usher (Mona Washbourne) administers him a nice whipping - which he relishes!

April 18 - 2001
I contend that Hitchcock's films are about the life-force, which is also a death-force. An interesting characteristic of many of his villains is that they are anti-life, sterile, yet full of a malevolent or desperate energy which makes them peculiarly alive, or anyway driven, in themselves. Some, but not all, are homosexual. I suspect that Hitchcock's depiction of them was influenced by one of his favourite writers, E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822), who also influenced Poe. Hoffmann's most famous tale, 'The Sandman', depicts the evil Dr Coppelius who has created a woman companion, Olympia, who proves to be just an automaton or 'living doll' - with whom the misguided young man, Nathanael, ignoring his regular girlfriend, Klara, falls in love when he glimpses her through a distant window opposite his own. (More than coincidentally, there's a prolepsis here of both Rear Window [1954] and Vertigo [1958]. In addition, Dr Coppelius and Olympia prefigure Dr Caligari and his somnambulist Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari [1919], not to mention Dr Frankenstein and his protégé, the creature, in the tale by Mary Shelley [1818].) An early prototype of the Hitchcock villain is the Squire, Sir Humphrey Pengallan, secret commander of a gang of wreckers and cutthroats, in Jamaica Inn [1939], who lives in isolation on the Cornish coast and is slowly going mad. Looking around him, he declares that one of his china figurines is more alive than half the people slumbering at his table. Before the end, he has kidnapped the heroine (Maureen O'Hara) and made off with her in a crazy dash for 'freedom'. To play Sir Humphrey, Hitchcock chose the gay actor Charles Laughton. (The film itself was produced by Erich Pommer, producer of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.) Another Hitchcock villain is the ageing Dr Murchison (Leo G. Carroll) in Spellbound (1945), who, like Dr Caligari, heads a mental institution (here ironically called 'Green Manors'). Already half mad himself, he has secretly murdered the man who was going to succeed him, Dr Edwardes. A reluctance to yield to 'the flow of life' is a motif of several key Hitchcock films. The dandified villains of The Lodger (1926) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943) are psychopaths who clearly would prefer to 'keep it all in the family' and are prepared to kill to try and satisfy, or avenge, their incestuous longings. Related (incestuously?!) to such figures is the transvestite Norman Bates, another psychopath, in Psycho (1960). He in turn resembles the gay psychopath Bruno in Strangers on a Train (1951). Not only is Bruno one of the driven figures I mentioned at the start, but his hare-brained projects include one to 'harness the life-force'. And reading the original novel (by Robert Bloch) on which Psycho was based, I noticed exactly the same concern in Norman Bates. To Sam Loomis, Norman says: 'Magic - that's just a label, you know. Completely meaningless. It wasn't so very long ago that people were saying that electricity was magic. Actually, it's a force which can be harnessed if you know the secret. Life is a force, too, a vital force. And like electricity, you can turn it off and on, off and on. I'd turned it off and I knew how to turn it on again.' QED.

April 17 - 2001
Heidi K. teaches an introduction to film course in Memphis, Tennessee, and was asked by a student what the MacGuffin in Vertigo (1958) is. Heidi writes: 'I could only blather something about Scottie's problem with heights, his "vertigo", but that doesn't seem quite right.' I think it's pretty close, actually. The audience think that Scottie's problem is simply his vertigo, or acrophobia, but in fact the film is about something else again (for convenience, I call it by the old-fashioned term, 'the world riddle') embodied in the mystery of the 'eternal-feminine' figure, Madeleine. Of course, as I've often said, a film May have several (or no) MacGuffins. North by Northwest (1959) is about trading 'government secrets' (Hitchcock's own definition of its MacGuffin) but it also appears to be about all kinds of emptinesses and nothings and hollow interiors - from the microfilm hidden inside the pre-Columbian statuette to the significance of Thornhill's initials ('R.O.T.') to the seemingly empty but deathly prairie to the very hollowness and absurdity of modern life itself. Some of these, at least, serve as additional MacGuffins. Finally, in the very last scene, Eve says, 'Oh, Roger, this is silly!' 'I know,' he replies, 'but I'm sentimental!' That about sums up the film's point! So the MacGuffins have had an emblematic significance, after all. And it's a bit like that in Vertigo, too. Like North by Northwest, the film ends on a note of 'sentimentality' (which clearly Hitchcock doesn't entirely condemn) when Scottie upbraids Judy - 'You shouldn't have kept souvenirs of a killing. You shouldn't have been that sentimental' - and the swelling music cues us to how Scottie hasn't exactly been free of sentimentality (towards Madeleine) and even 'killing' (of poor Midge), himself. Accordingly, Scottie's literal fear of heights is a MacGuffin, diverting the audience's attention from the fact that his vertigo is also of a psychological and spiritual and even metaphysical kind. In other words, Scottie's literal vertigo (associated with key moments like his climbing Midge's kitchen-stool or his watching helplessly as Madeleine falls from the belltower) functions as one of the film's MacGuffins. But there are others. Madeleine's necklace is a MacGuffin, roughly the equivalent of the microfilm in the hollow statuette in North by Northwest. It has a plot function - it is what betrays Judy finally - but it is also emblematic. It is a pendant-type necklace and thus one of the film's many pendular objects, or suspended objects, or vertical objects (all of them, literally or symbolically, death-defying): the chandelier in the McKittrick Hotel, hung with crystal pendants, is another. These all keep the vertigo and suspension motifs going, visually, until the stunning climax back at the belltower.

April 16 - 2001
Here's something else I found in 'The Gay Book of Days' (mentioned in our April 9 entry, above). It concerns a much-publicised homesexual 'scandal' in 1942 (though not as well-publicised, no doubt, as the 'scandal' of the blowing up of the US ship, the 'Normandie', by saboteurs at about this time - an incident that viewers of Hitchcock's Saboteur [1942] May feel is not entirely unrelated, and which Hitchcock May in fact have intended viewers to feel that way about ...). In that year, the US government raided what it called 'a male brothel' (the writer suggests it was a bathhouse) located near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Arrested was the manager, Gustave Beekman, who was told that he could expect a lighter sentence if he co-operated with the government by naming clients, especially foreign agents, who were suspected of blackmailing gay Navy men in an attempt to gain military secrets. Several foreign agents were in fact arrested. Also named as a regular patron of the 'house on Pacific Street' was Senator David Walsh, chairman of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee. His 'name was plastered across the tabloids for weeks'! (The writer reports that the Senator was eventually 'cleared by his colleagues in the Senate', but that Beekman, not so lucky, 'was sentenced to twenty years in prison, every day of which was served'.) Given the publicity, it's likely that none of this would have escaped Hitchcock's notice. And the link to Saboteur's villain, the probably gay Fry (Norman Lloyd), who attempts to blow up a ship in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, seems clear. Fry of course is the predecessor of the gay Leonard (Martin Landau) in North by Northwest (1959) - just as Leonard's boss in that film, Van Damm (James Mason), has his predecesor in the possibly bisexual Sebastian in Notorious (1946) as well as the respectable, above-suspicion bosses in The 39 Steps (1935) and Saboteur. [Readers: watch for three new pages on this website. I'll be preparing them today, and with luck they could be up by tonight. One of them consists of an extract from the as-yet unpublished autobiography of Charles Bennett (1899-1995), the screenwriter of such Hitchcock classics as The 39 Steps and Foreign Correspondent (1940). Also: there have been two or three additions lately to items in the 'News and Comment' section below - the additions are the lines in colour.]

April 11 - 2001
Gratitude to reader Joel Gunz for this item which concerns Psycho (1960) and why Hitchcock chose to set Marion's abode and workplace in Phoenix, Arizona (none of which is specified, let alone detailed, in Robert Bloch's novel). An article in the April issue of 'Harper's Magazine', entitled "Star of Justice", profiles the celebrated - and notorious - sheriff Joe Arpaio (b. 1932). According to the article: 'To understand Joe Arpaio, you have to understand Phoenix ... Phoenix has always been a hustle, a scam, a get-rich-quick scheme ... Everybody is from someplace else, and nobody plans to stay. Everybody wants to make some money and move on ... Everything here is so stark, so obvious; everyone is on the make, everything is a hustle ... This is true of every place, but in Phoenix it's undisguised. The city lacks the sophistication even to attempt to conceal its hungers and lusts.' At this point the article refers specifically to the opening scenes of Psycho. The film, it notes, 'begins with a bird's eye view of Phoenix. The city was instantly recognizable ... (a)nd it's still instantly recognizable.' Also noted is how in 1960 Phoenix was experiencing a real estate boom. Its population that year reached 439,170, having mushroomed from 65,414 in 1940. (I don't have the city's current population; the most recent figure I could find was 983,403 in 1990 - which is a lot of get-rich-quickers. And clearly the boom has continued.) Now, recall that Marion in Psycho works in a real-estate office. She is very much part of the general 'hustle'! Even more blatantly so, of course, is the customer Lowery, who is happy to throw his money around, especially if it means asserting his power over some woman or other, his 'baby' daughter included. (Hitchcock could empathise with that. He appears briefly, wearing a hat like Cassidy's, outside the real-estate office; inside, his own 'baby' daughter, Pat, who had recently 'married away from' him, plays the part of Susan, Marion's fellow secretary. Reportedly, Hitchcock was very controlling of Pat, right up to her wedding, whose details he insisted - no doubt benignly - on 'directing'.) Repelled by Cassidy, but attracted to his money (enough to pay off her boyfriend Sam's alimony), Marion succumbs to the idea of making out and moving on - she steals Cassidy's $40,000 and heads for California where Sam lives. Noting these things, Joel Gunz comments: 'I see Phoenix as a sort of anti-Santa Rosa [seen in Shadow of a Doubt]. If Santa Rosa is the archetypal, idyllic American city, Phoenix is its evil doppleganger - and if the current incidence of alcoholism, drug abuse and teen pregnancy often reported in US small towns is anything to go by, more representative of the real thing.' (As I noted to Joel, these details about Phoenix reminded me a little of the town called Bundanyabba, in the Australian film Wake In Fright [or Outback in overseas prints, where the town is apparently called Yago] made in 1970 by Canadian director Ted Kotcheff. Bundanyabba is based on the real Australian outback town of Broken Hill [population 24,500]. A French film critic described the film's subject as 'a season in Hell'.)

April 10 - 2001
Recent correspondence, etc. First, a couple of 'we were wrong (sort of)' items. Directly relevant to yesterday's "Editor's Day" entry is how the quote I've seen attributed (in a reputable source) to Hitchcock himself, that if he hadn't married Alma Reville he might have 'gone gay' - and which I have claimed here previously was made to Hitchcock's official biographer John Russell Taylor - doesn't appear to be in Taylor's book 'Hitch' (1978) which is where I remembered seeing it. My deep apologies to readers for that error. BUT be assured that the quote does exist! I remember citing the source, after having stumbled on it again, two or three years ago, on the Usenet site. Unfortunately, the archives for Usenet groups are temporarily unavailable until Google (who inherited the archives from Deja.com) make them accessible once more, as they have promised to do. (Earlier, I used the citation about Hitchcock 'going gay' in 'MacGuffin' #12, February-May 1994, p. 4, but without sourcing it - which was remiss of me but it seemed an irrelevant claim, not worth dwelling on, at the time.) MEANWHILE, UNTIL GOOGLE BRING BACK THE USENET ARCHIVES, PERHAPS ONE OF OUR READERS MAY KNOW THE SOURCE, AND WILL GET IN TOUCH. Now another apology - if it is needed. I wrote here on March 26 that Charles Barr had 'reported' how Hitchcock and his wife met with the author Dale Collins and his wife before Collins wrote his novel 'Rich and Strange' (1930) which became the basis of Hitchcock's film of the same name (1932). But Barr has sent me an email saying he didn't exactly report that such a meeting took place at that time: 'the Collins autobiography [maddeningly] gives no hints about the date(s) of their socialising'. To say that the meeting took place then is '[m]ore like (possible accurate) speculation'. BY THE WAY, IT SEEMS LIKELY THAT THE AUSTRALIAN-BORN COLLINS (1897-1956), WHO FOR A WHILE WAS A JOURNALIST WITH THE MELBOURNE 'HERALD', HAD A SON OR DAUGHTER. HITCHCOCK BIOGRAPHER PATRICK MCGILLIGAN IS KEEN TO CONTACT ANY SUCH DESCENDANT OF COLLINS. CAN ANYONE HELP? Finally, speaking of our helpful readers, we recently asked here on behalf of a student at Cornell University whether anyone knew details of the rather languid music heard in Vertigo (1958) when Scottie and Judy go dancing. Well, our thanks to reader Joe Wehry who very helpfully provided the following: '[Professor] Royal Brown, author of "Overtones and Undertones: Reading Film Music" [1994], gave a brief lecture and introduction to Vertigo during a showing at the American Museum of the Moving Image in NY. He said that the song being played [when Scottie and Judy dance] was a popular song during that period. The song is called "Pookie" (sp?).' Unfortunately Joe doesn't remember the composer's name (and Internet search-engines don't appear to know it either). SO NOW ALL WE NEED IS FOR A READER TO TELL US WHO THE COMPOSER OF 'POOKIE' WAS!

April 9 - 2001
Tonight I'm resolved to spell out all the many films of Hitchcock that were based on works by gay or lesbian authors or playwrights. It is a surprisingly large number, and I invite speculation or comment as to why. (Also, if anyone knows of any omissions from the list, please let me know.) Much of my background information comes from the wonderfully informative 'The Gay Book of Days' (1982) by Martin Greif - note that someone else who has made use of Greif's book in discussing Hitchcock's films is Dr Theodore Price, whose stimulating and provocative 'Hitchcock and Homosexuality: His 50-Year Obsession with Jack the Ripper and the Superbitch Prostitute - A Psychoanalytic View' (1992) stops just short of suggesting that Hitch himself was gay. Actually, the author of a forthcoming book on the director, who interviewed many people who met him, tells me that he encountered several who thought Hitch was gay because of some of his mannerisms. Here's the list of films, in chronological order.
(1) Downhill (1927), from the play by the gay actor, playwright and song-writer, Ivor Novello (co-author with the actress Constance Collier).
(2) Easy Virtue (1927), from the play by Noël Coward.
(3) The Manxman (1929), based on the novel by Sir Hall Caine, at one time secretary to the Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (whose sister Christina, incidentally, is thought to have been lesbian).
(4) Murder! (1930), adapted from the novel 'Enter Sir John' by the lesbian 'Clemence Dane' (Winifred Ashton) (co-author with Helen Simpson).
(5) Secret Agent (1936), from five of the 'Ashenden' stories by W. Somerset Maugham.
(6) Jamaica Inn (1939), from the novel by the married lesbian (or bisexual) author, Daphne Du Maurier.
(7) Rebecca (1940), from the novel by Daphne Du Maurier.
(8) The Paradine Case (1947), from the novel by Robert Hichens, an associate of Oscar Wilde and later Somerset Maugham.
(9) Rope (1948), based on the play by Patrick Hamilton - who May not have been gay himself but whose play is about the real-life gay killers, Leopold and Loeb.
(10) Under Capricorn (1949), from the novel by Helen Simpson - again someone who May not have been gay/lesbian herself but who once worked with the flamboyant lesbian writer and identity, 'Clemence Dane' (see entry for Murder!, above).
(11) Strangers on a Train (1951), from the novel by Patricia Highsmith.
(12) Rear Window (1954), from the short story by Cornell Woolrich.
(13) The Birds (1963), from the short story by Daphne Du Maurier. In addition, several Hitchcock films were worked on by gay writers. Those who come to mind are actor and author Emlyn Williams (additional dialogue for The Man Who Knew Too Much [1934], and an actor in Jamaica Inn), notable playwright Thornton Wilder (who wrote the screenplay for Shadow of a Doubt [1943]), playwright Arthur Laurents (screenplay for Rope), and Whitfield Cook (adapted Selwyn Jepson's novel 'Man Running' as Stage Fright [1950]).

April 4 - 2001
Author Gary Giblin is back at his computer in the US, zealously typing, after returning from England where he has been researching his book 'Hitchcock's London'. With luck, the book will be out by Christmas. Clearly, Hitchcock aficionados are going to revel in Gary's detective-work and his book's detailed documentation of the sites where Hitchcock filmed, worked, and lived for half of his life (before moving to the US in 1939). Here's Gary's latest report. 'The bad news first - the alley where the Frenzy Matrimonial Agency was located has been obliterated by an office block. What a shock it was to discover that! But the delights - oh, the delights ... First, a few small ones: discovering Brenda's mews flat from Frenzy [1972], and Cooper's mews flat and Mrs Gill's Georgian home from Stage Fright [1950]. Time has literally stood still for these London gems. Then there were the four buildings/sites that doubled as the embassy in The Man Who Knew Too Much ('56). Before the trip, I had spoken with [production designer] Henry Bumstead and asked if he recalled exactly where the exterior was shot. Only that it was near Albert Hall, he told me, something that the daily continuity sheets suggested, but, oddly, did not specify. Well, by sheer dumb luck, I turned into the right street on my first attempt. Sadly, the building itself is gone, but the stucco terrace across the street, again, has scarcely changed since the day Hitchcock committed it to film. Perhaps the greatest joys came at the Albert Hall and the Savoy. Both [establishments] extended me the utmost in courtesy and time, allowing me to prowl all over their respective floors, upper, lower and in between, to identify the spots that Hitchcock had filmed (or replicated). In the former, we were able to identify the precise spot where the embassy staff gathered in "the corridor" [in other words, a part of the Albert Hall doubled for part of the embassy - Ed.]; in the latter, we were able to match the view out the McKennas' third floor room to a T, even though the hotel scenes were, of course, shot in Hollywood. I also took some time to go outside London, to the Elstree Studio complex, where a plaque honoring Hitchcock is scheduled to go up very soon, and to the estate that appeared as "Moat House" in Easy Virtue [1927]. I hope fans will forgive me for including these and a few other non-London locations in the book! I also included visits to English Heritage and the Westminster Archive Centre, to view records, directories and other documents pertinent to a search for old locations; and to the BFI, to screen copies of The Pleasure Garden [1925] and Downhill [1927], and to review scripts and pressbooks. As expected, the scripts revealed a number of items that never made it to the finished films, including the actual London address of the dentist in the first Man Who Knew Too Much, missing dialogue from the opening of Rich and Strange [1932], and the original scene of Brodie's meeting with R in Secret Agent [1936] - set on a steamer! For literary buffs, I included visits to places like Greenwich Observatory and the old Russian Embassy, both from Conrad's "The Secret Agent".'

April 3 - 2001
Today a miscellany. First, speaking of Hitchcock influences and 'borrowings' (a perennial concern of this scholars' site), here's one that someone noted on the Usenet site the other day. In Rich and Strange (1932), the naïve English couple, Fred and Em, visit the Folies Bergere, where Em is embarrassed by the topless chorus. According to the Usenet correspondent, both the Folies Bergere footage and some other 'stock' footage in the same film came from Moulin Rouge (1928) directed by E.A. Dupont for British International Pictures, who produced both Rich and Strange and several earlier Hitchcock films. Such borrowing is in keeping with Hitch's admiration for Dupont's work. The German director's Variete/Variety (1925) was much imitated, not least by The Ring (1928), whose screenplay - by director Hitchcock - took its triangle storyline and its 'showbiz' (circus, etc.) atmosphere from Dupont's film. Likewise, the trapeze climax of Hitchcock's Murder! (1930) was clearly inspired by the Berlin Wintergarten scenes in Variete. (Another person who borrowed extensively from Variete was Dupont himself. According to David Shipman, the film's huge success prompted Dupont to make several variations on its theme over several years. Among these was Moulin Rouge.) Now some news concerning forthcoming events on this site. I have finished reading Paul M. Jensen's 'Hitchcock Becomes "Hitchcock": The British Years', and shall review it soon on our New Publications page. It's a solid book which impressively points to a couple of key turning-points in Hitchcock's career, and accordingly analyses the films from a 'biographical' perspective. I now also have time to put up two or three new essays or extracts on the site. They are: (1) an excerpt from the as-yet unpublished autobiography of Charles Bennett, the screenwriter of The 39 Steps (1935) and other Hitchcock classics; (2) a comprehensive survey by Dr Alain Kerzoncuf of 'remakes' of Hitchcock films; and (3) a piece by Bill Krohn (author of 'Hitchcock at Work') on the funeral scene in Family Plot (1976), reprinted from 'MacGuffin' #27. Also coming are further book reviews, including of Peter Conrad's 'The Hitchcock Murders' (Faber) and of 'Hitchcock and Art: Fatal Coincidences' (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) edited by Dominique Païni and Guy Cogeval. So, gentle reader, stay tuned and don't go far away!

April 2 - 2001
I think it's fair to say that 'The MacGuffin' pioneered a mode of analysing Hitchcock's films that seeks to trace the influences on each film of its 'sources' (e.g., scenes from other films, from literature and drama, from paintings, and from real-life - whether Hitchcock's own experiences or historical events or just true crime, the latter something that always fascinated the director). Thus the paper I prepared for the Melbourne Film Festival in 1988, called "Out of Hitchcock's Filing Cabinet", led me to write a follow-up article called "The 'sources' of Vertigo", a version of which appears on this website, and to the use of a similar approach in analysing other Hitchcock films. (For instance, the current 'MacGuffin', #27, refers to how the music for Torn Curtain [1966], as well as a whole visual motif in the early part of that film, seem indebted to a long-running J. Arthur Rank series of featurettes called "This Colourful World", narrated, as I recall, by the legendary commentator E.V.H. Emmett.) Mind you, Hitchcock himself had indicated a certain eclecticism in his filmmaking when he gave his famous interview to François Truffaut. (He even mentioned how his seeing from a train a youth urinating against a wall, watched by his girlfriend who never stopped clinging to him, provided the inspiration for the protracted kissing scene in Notorious [1946].) I think reading that interview helped alert me to just how extensive Hitchcock's 'borrowings' might be. All the more reason, then, why I now feel gratified that my adducing of 'influences' in a concerted way to illuminate Hitchcock's creativity seems to have 'caught on' - as demonstrated not least by the currently-running Hitchcock exhibition in Montreal. As mentioned here previously, what the exhibition basically seeks to do is show links between Hitchcock's knowledge of art and paintings, some of which he owned himself, and the visual design and content of his films. But it also makes mention of other filmmakers, such as the great Luis Buñuel, to whom Hitchcock paid generous tribute in 1972. I was struck by one alleged influence of Buñuel on Hitchcock. This was the suggestion that the bell-tower scenes in Vertigo (1958) were influenced by similar scenes in Buñuel's El (1952), where an obsessed man threatens to throw a woman, his wife, off a church tower. (There is even a website that makes this same suggestion. The following link was sent to me by Pierre Poirier: Obsessive Love.) I reserve judgement on how convincing the alleged influence May be. But I shan't deny that I had once made mention myself of a 'Hitchcockian' quality in El. Analysing Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941) in 'MacGuffin' #7 (May-August 1992), I suggested that its 'surreal account of a marriage ... pre-dates Buñuel's El by more than a decade'. In a footnote, I added: 'Amongst several approximate parallels of Suspicion with El, consider how in both films a house becomes oppressive. In the Buñuel film, a psychotic husband brings his wife to live in a house designed long ago by his architect father; in Suspicion, Lina's new house both needs paying for and rapidly acquires ambiguous trappings of the past - her father's gift of two ugly old chairs, his accusing World War I portrait ...'

March 28 - 2001
Speaking of fairy tales, there's another Hitchcock film (among several) that has such elements, namely Spellbound (1945). Denise Noe had noticed this when she emailed me to ask: 'have [scholars] written about how Hitchcock both supports and reverses gender stereotypes and archetypes in Spellbound? At the most obvious level, Ingrid Bergman's character is [initially] the cold career woman whose sexuality is awakened by the prince ... [Gregory] Peck's character has such a magical effect [on her] that she sounds sensuous ... [even] when saying "liverwurst". On the other hand, Peck's character often seems to be the one under a spell. He is often in a swoon like the princess in a fairy tale. He also seems helpless, and Bergman's character chases [after] him ... to rescue him. At the end, she shows great physical courage (usually considered a masculine virtue) in facing off the real murderer.' A perceptive analysis, Denise. In this context, the importance of Dr Brulov (Michael Chekhov), mentor and (good) father-figure to Constance (Bergman), should be noted. When I wrote about Spellbound in 'MacGuffin' #15, I compared Brulov to what Camille Paglia calls the male-mother, a male who is capable of empathic 'feminine' qualities but is not unmanned by them. The business with a glass of milk (a feminine symbol) is representative, and revealing. Brulov, threatened by his 'rebellious-son-figure', Ballyntine (Peck), wielding a cut-throat razor (a masculine symbol), uses the milk to 'disarm' Ballyntine - it proves to be laced with bromides, 'enough to knock out three horses'! So the film plays on notions of male and female, active and passive, and in doing so seems to posit an 'ideal' balance, or 'golden mean', to which the film points when it gives Brulov such lines as, 'Any husband of Constance is a husband of mine, so to speak'. That is, it points to a form of bisexuality (which also provides a subtext of Rebecca). All of the main characters in Spellbound make psychological progress during the course of the film: e.g., Constance becomes more 'feminine' (as she herself observes) though also - as you note, Denise - more capable of integrating it with her 'masculine' side, as seen in the final confrontation with Dr Murchison (the 'bad' father-figure). (Why is Dr Murchison 'bad'? Not just because he is a murderer, but because, precisely, he has become unbalanced, wilfully one-sided.) Likewise, even the at-times irascible Brulov, who earlier in the film had been leading an incomplete, bachelor-type life with a can-opener and just an elderly housekeeper for company, mellows after the (masquerading, and future) 'honeymooners', Constance and Ballyntine, come calling. In helping them, and in catching some of the youthful Constance's radiance, Brulov helps himself. The film's last line, already quoted - 'Any husband of Constance is a husband of mine ...' - is one of the great last lines in movies

March 27 - 2001
Recent correspondence. My emphatic thanks to various people who have been in touch lately, with information or insights. For instance, Pierre Poirier, whose websites include the Henry Slesar Tribute (dedicated to the writer who wrote more stories used by 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' than anyone else, and who himself adapted many of those stories for television) has just returned from his second visit to the Hitchcock & Art exhibition in Montreal. Pierre writes that he spotted in Rope (1948) a painting called "Five Women" (1941) by Fidelio Ponce de Léon, and that the book of the exhibition notes that the painting came from Hitchcock's own collection. (So that is another instance of Hitchcock's use of his own paintings in his films: similarly, Dan Auiler once noted that in Topaz (1969) a colourful abstract painting on the wall of Juanita de Cordaba's mansion in Cuba was personally owned by Hitchcock.) Someone else who has been in touch is writer Denise Noe. Denise has previously pointed out that the likely inspiration for the extensive bird imagery in Psycho (1960) was the Richard Fleischer film Compulsion (1959), based on the Leopold-Loeb case, in which the bedroom of the character Judd (Dean Stockwell) is filled with stuffed birds - by extension, this indicates that Hitchcock saw a correspondence between the boyish young killer in the Fleisher film and the boyish Norman Bates in Psycho. This time, Denise raised a couple of matters - though today I'll mention just one. Denise has researched and written an article on the 'female Dracula', the Countess Elizabeth Báthory (1560-1614), who is said to have slaughtered more than 600 (female) virgins in order to renew her youth by bathing in their blood. Denise says in her article that the Countess 'bears a striking resemblance to the Wicked Queen in [the Grimms'] "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"' - which of course was filmed as an animated feature by Walt Disney in 1937. And it occurs to me that the Wicked Queen in turn May well have been an inspiration to Daphne du Maurier when she was writing 'Rebecca' (1938), and that both (the unseen) Rebecca herself and her sidekick Mrs Danvers show such influence! Or that, anyway, there is a fairy-tale aspect to these characters, and that Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) reflects it. (For more about the progenitors of Mrs Danvers, in particular, see my book. And if you would like to read Denise's account of the life and legend of the Countess Báthory, it's on the Web: Elizabeth Bathory: The Blood Countess by Denise Noe.)

March 26 - 2001
Hitchcock, then, was unwilling to make 'archetypal' generalisations and retell myths - he wanted to know all the 'little details' that the irrate father in the anecdote above can't be bothered with! (The villainous Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt [1943] likewise speaks of the importance of attending to 'all the little details' - to that extent, at least, he probably had Hitchcock's sympathy!) Reportedly, during the shooting of I Confess (1953), Hitchcock told actor Gilles Pelletier that 'suspense is made of details'. And talking about Marion Crane's car-journey to the Bates Motel in Psycho (1960), Hitchcock commented to Truffaut about how the more you go into detail, the more an audience identifies with the character. (Hence the inclusion of the scene where Marion trades in her car and is followed by a suspicious cop.) The suspense genre, as practised by Hitchcock, is actually one of the most 'intelligent' of genres. Hitchcock himself came to realise this quite early. In a 1933 interview, he declared his intention to make 'popular pictures which anybody can understand. But without being high-brow, I believe in making them in such a way that they will appeal to the most intelligent people as well.' (Donald Spoto, 'The Dark Side of Genius', p. 135.) By 1948, Hitchcock had accepted the suspense thriller as ideal for his purposes. 'Within its framework,' he informed the 'Hollywood Reporter', 'I can tell any story under the sun.' Professor Paul Jensen, in his book 'Hitchcock Becomes "Hitchcock"' (Midnight Marquee Press, 2000), has an impressive explanation for where the turning-point in Hitchcock's career occurred. It was after the failure with both critics and public of the rather courageous and self-disclosing Rich and Strange (1932). (I don't think it matters to Jensen's argument that the film was based on a 1930 novel by Australian writer Dale Collins. As far as I can tell, after reading what Charles Barr reports of the Hitchcocks having met the Collinses just before the novel was written, Collins May have included certain elements in the novel at Hitchcock's suggestion.) Significantly, thinks Jensen, Hitchcock's next film, Waltzes From Vienna (1933), shows a creative conflict between the two Johann Strausses, father and son - the former relatively 'classical' in his musical tastes and committed to traditional forms, and the latter the exponent of a new popular form, the waltz, which at the film's climax (depicting the first performance of 'The Blue Danube') takes Vienna by storm. And once Hitchcock embarked on making The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), his new career as a truly popular filmmaker was determined - and virtually assured.

March 21 - 2001
Hitchcock was visiting England to publicise Topaz when he gave an interview to journalist Ken Ferguson that was published in 'Photoplay Film Monthly', February 1970. Most of it was routine, but Hitchcock's remarks about 'the mass mind' were more elaborate than usual. He observed: 'I've always had an expression which I use to myself ... [t]hat logic is dull. But on the other hand when you are dealing with a big audience, or shall we call it the "big brain" which it is collectively, they somehow demand the kind of logic which I sometimes call "moronic logic". It's [like] a little boy who says "Father, why does the thunder turn the milk sour?". And the father looks at the little boy, then shouts, "Get outta here and don't bother me!"' Hitchcock's remarks in the 1940s about 'the moron millions' have always seemed to me to show his flirting with the Nietzschean idea of The Superman. But reading the foregoing I was reminded, rather, of something written by Jungian analyst, Frieda Fordham: '[I]n any large gathering of people it is not the unique qualities of individuals that count - these only serve to differentiate, not to unite them - it is rather what is common to all - namely, the archetypes. When the same archetype is active in a number of people it draws them together as if by magnetic force, and drives them to act in an irrational way ... even a collection of highly intelligent people will act at a much lower level of intelligence than its individual members, and Jung once said bitingly that a hundred intelligent heads added up to one hydrocephalus.' (F. Fordham, 'An Introduction to Jung's Psychology', Penguin Books, Third Edition, 1966, p. 118) Of course, Hitchcock's wary attitude to crowds, mobs, and 'the mass mind' no doubt also reflects his conditioning by German Expressionist cinema (which in turn took some of its attitudes - and style - from a writer like Charles Dickens, whose criticisms of the London 'mob' still echo in a novel like Mrs Belloc Lowndes's 'The Lodger' [1913]). In turn, Hitchcock seems to have picked up a certain 'Nietzschean' snobbishness towards the masses on his return to England in the 1920s, when it was almost de rigueur amongst intellectuals (including some of the founders of the London Film Society, to which Hitchcock belonged for a while) to look down on 'the masses' (as gullible and manipulable). Hitchcock's popular cinema, then, was ambivalent towards its audience from the start. (Think of some of the shots of audiences at a London music hall in Hitchcock's first film, The Pleasure Garden [1925], or in his The 39 Steps [1935].) In a sense, it was inconceivable that Hitchcock in America would make Westerns. Ken Ferguson asked him about this. Hitch responded: 'That's not my line of country. I have to know all about my subjects. I don't know how much a loaf of bread costs in a Western. I've never seen a cowboy being measured for chaps or boots, or seen anybody go to a doctor with a sore throat in a Western, except Maybe a throat with a bullet in it. All these little details never seem to go into Westerns.'

March 20 - 2001
To recuperate yesterday's entry, what I am saying is that Secret Agent is based on a couple of the 'Ashenden' stories by gay author Somerset Maugham, and that in the film the 'forbidden' world of espionage has connotations of gayness. It represents the 'shadow' side of Ashenden (a character based on Maugham himself), including something 'immature' in his makeup - when the General (Peter Lorre) persuades Ashenden (John Gielgud) to join him on a mission to a chocolate factory, which is being used by the Germans as a base, the very locale implies 'childish things' which the hero will eventually 'put away'. (To keep the scriptural connotation: at present he sees only 'through a glass, darkly'.) Now, here, I suggest, is good circumstantial evidence for author Theodore Price's contention that Hitchcock's Torn Curtain (1966) is another film with a homosexual subtext, and that when Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) appears to defect to the East Germans, and expresses annoyance that his fiancée Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews) has followed him, it is because he was hoping to have a 'last fling' in a world that will henceforth be out-of-bounds for him (as it is already, in the film, out-of-bounds for most Westerners). A related matter concerns how the film posits a future time when everyone will be free to move around as they will, without oppression or boundaries - a quixotic notion (even if already, since 1989, part-achieved!) on a par with a theme of Rebecca (1940), discussed here recently, in which a new Camelot is posited, or a régime in which the Great Mother (all-powerful and polymorphously-perverse, like Rebecca herself) will prevail. Symbolically, then, the ruins of 'Manderley' in Rebecca correspond to the deserted art-museum (representing a forgotten heritage, or Lost Paradise) in Torn Curtain. But let's come back to Secret Agent. Certainly that film was in Hitchcock's mind when making Torn Curtain. When Sarah looks out an upstairs window of Leipzig University and sees the armed Vopos (East German military police) arriving to arrest Michael, the shot corresponds to the one in Secret Agent where someone looks out an upstairs window of the chocolate factory and sees the Swiss police - who have been tipped off - arriving to arrest Ashenden and the General. For more on the homosexual subtext of Hitchcock's films (so many of which were based on works by gay or lesbian writers!), see Theodore Price's article on Torn Curtain in the current 'MacGuffin' ...

March 19 - 2001
I can't say that Secret Agent (1936) is my favourite of Hitchcock's '30s films, but it is packed with ideas. Among them is a 'gay' subtext. Here's how I see it working. Peter Lorre plays the hero Ashenden's offsider, a professional killer. In the original story, "The Hairless Mexican", by gay author W. Somerset Maugham, the character has smooth skin like a woman's, and no eyebrows or eyelashes. Ashenden comments, 'with that frightful appearance can he really be the lady's man he pretends?' In other words, perhaps he's no lady's man at all (in the usual meaning of that term), but a homosexual like Maugham. (In Maugham's 'Of Human Bondage' [1915], the hero Philip Carey has a clubfoot, a symbol of the 'deformity' of his author, whom he represents, though Philip is not actually gay.) But in "The Hairless Mexican", there is also another Maugham-surrogate, and that's Ashenden himself (Maugham had indeed been employed as a spy during and after the War). Accordingly, it is very possible to see the 'Hairless Mexican' character (aka 'The General') as representing the 'shadow' or 'dark side' of the hero, the side that indulges in 'forbidden' or 'immature' acts. In the case of the film, Peter Lorre's performance is often called 'campy'; Ashenden is played by real-life homosexual, the actor John Gielgud. Sure, we see the Lorre character in bed with a maid, and Ashenden takes his colleague Elsa (Madeleine Carroll), to bed. But that's typical of Hitchcock, to have his cake and eat it too (cf a comment I make about Hitchcock in his own life - see entry for March 13, above). Nonetheless, the shading remains, helping, incidentally, to create the illusion of 'round(ed)' characters, as opposed to 'flat' ones, in much the same way that E.M. Forster said that Dickens's energetically-conceived characters were basically flat, though the energy might trick the reader into feeling that the characters were round! In 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', I compare the General and Ashenden to Bruno and Guy respectively in Strangers on a Train (1951) - two more 'imposters' who are mirrors, or doubles, of each other, where Bruno (the visibly 'gay' character) is the one engaging in forbidden or irresponsible acts, including murder, and Guy (whose name is almost 'gay'!) is the hero who is trying to be a 'regular guy' and to go 'straight' (just as he tries to win the climactic tennis match in 'straight' sets!). In Secret Agent, the General, I suggest, 'May be said to represent the allure that espionage [which is here effectively a symbol of homosexuality] holds for a relative innocent like Ashenden'. And I continue: 'After Ashenden has agreed to Elsa's request that he abandon the mission [to assassinate a particular foreign spy], the General arrives and tells him that the Germans are using a nearby chocolate factory in their operations. Ashenden can't resist the temptation to investigate. Elsa pleads with him not to go, but he follows the General out. At the door, the General gives Elsa a knowing smile.'

March 14 - 2001
What I meant by saying that Keane (Gregory Peck) in The Paradine Case is 'insufficiently alive' is approximately this. I'm a believer in the notion that many good authors, and also auteurs, spend their careers telling the one story over and over. Sure, they come up with new work - that's part of what makes them good - but deep down their creative interest and ability is nourished by certain unchanging preoccupations and, no doubt, prejudices. In The Paradine Case I detect Hitchcock's cherished and almost mystical belief - though I call it 'Bergsonian', after the philosopher Henri Bergson, who advanced a similar idea - that the more intensely 'alive' you are the more aware and whole you are. (You're not, unfortunately, necessarily a more good and moral person - as the case of any number of dictators going back to Roman times and beyond, May attest: there's much truth in the idea that '[too much] power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely'.) Another way of putting this is to say that the more alive you are, the more free you are (with the proviso just noted). But none of us is wholly free, and so a recurring motif of Hitchcock's is that of the corrupted garden, or Lost Paradise. It's significant that the opening scene in The Paradine Case shows some furniture whose woodwork features a carved snake (recalling the 'fall' of Adam and Eve). Another of Hitchcock's (many) Lost Paradise films is of course Vertigo (1958). There, Gavin Elster speaks yearningly of old San Francisco and its 'colour, excitement, power, freedom'. As the film reveals, he himself has attempted to recover some of that power for himself, only to be corrupted in the process. Figuratively speaking, then, all of us remain blind and imprisoned (i.e., unfree) - a theme I detect in The Birds (1963) whose eponymous creatures appear as if sent to punish humankind for its self-centred state of hubris. Now let's come back to The Paradine Case. I've said that Keane is insufficiently 'alive'. But the film-as-a-whole offers Hitchcock's healing overview and a sense that things will come right eventually (just as London was even then, in 1947, recovering from the War). Let me quote something I wrote in my analysis of the film in 'MacGuffin' #12. 'Despite the fragmented appearance of London during the film, there's a countervailing tendency at work ... On the evening of the first day after the trial, Hitchcock effectively sums up matters in three linked images. First, we see a complacent Lord Horfield [Charles Laughton] at home, puffing an after-dinner cigar and sipping brandy, watched by an obviously concerned Lady Horfield (Ethel Barrymore). Then we see a darkened cell where Mrs Paradine is lying awake, watched by a wardress; and finally, Gay's bedroom where she, too, lies awake, although she pretends to be asleep when her husband looks in at her. Now, I think there's indeed a basic unity to this triptych of images - but it consists of none of the obvious things (e.g., of people watching). It's much closer ... to that Dickensian "whole" that ... Manny (Henry Fonda) in The Wrong Man [1957] can't grasp - a purely noumenal reality.

March 13 - 2001
There are apparent paradoxes in what I said above about The Paradine Case and about Hitchcock's 'belief in a free-flowing Eros as the surest means of keeping us all human'. Hitchcock himself by this time was a married 'celibate' (as he later told Truffaut), though that hadn't stopped him from claiming that Ingrid Bergman was in love with him! In other words, he sublimated his sexual impulses in his art - and of course his domestic life - but was happy to 'flirt' with his actresses (as various reports attest). He had always done this, and would continue to do so. In this way, he could (almost) have his cake and eat it too! He was not being untrue to his belief in the ideal of a free-flowing Eros. Nor was he being insincere, exactly, in directing The Paradine Case as the story of love-gone-wrong, as about the consequences of stifled sexuality and about how an uneasy modus vivendi is shattered once someone, the childless Maddalena Paradine, succumbs to her natural impulses, including (I have suggested) motherly ones, towards the gay André Latour. She wants to help and protect him, not least because her married life is stagnating. Notice, by the way, how closely the condition of 'Hindley Hall', the Paradine mansion in Cumberland (Cumbria), matches that of 'Manderley' in Rebecca - both are blighted, and the general condition has become 'unnatural' and unfructifying. The gay Latour, holding sway over his master, Colonel Paradine, is the approximate equivalent of the lesbian Mrs Danvers, who has held sway over Rebecca and who seeks to do the same to the new mistress of Manderley now that Maxim de Winter has remarried. Notice, too, that all the couples in The Paradine Case -the Paradines, the Keanes, the Horfields - are childless, or appear to be so. (Only the widowed and elderly Sir Simon has a child, the adult Judy who is a friend of Gay Keane.) In effect the blight extends to all of London, whose war ruins become symbolic. (London is also 'blighted' in Stage Fright [1950], where war ruins are again its symbol, and in Frenzy [1972], where the 'blight' is represented by the activities of the Necktie Murderer. But in all of these films, as in The Lodger [1926], where the pattern first appears, Hitchcock shows Londoners bearing up and making the best of their situation. Perhaps he is least successful in showing the more human, less grim, side of things in The Paradine Case, and that is a reason its unalloyed 'Schopenhauerian' bleakness makes it unappealing to many audiences. (It is also 'dated' - some would say - in its melodramatic emphasis on Anthony Keane's infatuation with his client, Mrs Paradine, though this is handled subtly by Hitchcock: Keane is less aware of what is going on than the various women involved - Gay, Judy, Mrs Paradine.) Lastly, for today, let me emphasise the motherly aspect of Mrs Paradine by quoting a passage from my book that also reflects what I've just been saying about Keane's non-literal blindness. '[Mrs Paradine's] love for Latour is very real ... Her instruction to Keane in her cell - "You are not to destroy him - if you do, I shall hate you as I've never hated a man" - is fierce with protectiveness. But Keane, not understanding, blunders on.' He is insufficiently alive. To be continued.

March 12 - 2001
Scholars like to draw parallels between Hitchcock himself and characters in his films. For example, Paul Jensen points to how John Whittaker (Robin Irvine) in Easy Virtue (1927) is 'inexperienced with women and doesn't even know how to mix a drink properly', recalling that Hitchcock told Truffaut that at age 23 he 'had never been out with a girl' and had 'never had a drink' (Paul M. Jensen, 'Hitchcock Becomes "Hitchcock"', p. 50). Jensen also notes that the initial reason Larita (Isabel Jeans) is attracted to John (besides needing to get over her own recent trauma: cf the circumstances of Maxim's initial attraction to 'I' in Rebecca [1940]) is 'a semi-maternal response to his innocence and awkwardness - a form of pity'. Similarly, I suggest in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' that when in The Lodger (1926) someone says of the Ivor Novello character that 'he isn't one for the girls', Daisy (June Tripp) is only the more attracted to him - she wants to mother him! In other words, the lodger's latent homosexuality makes Daisy take pity on him. (Perhaps one might recall here that Hitchcock told his biographer John Russell Taylor that if he hadn't met and married Alma Reville, he might have 'gone gay'.) Now, such is the ambiguity at the end of The Lodger, that we don't know for sure that when Daisy marries the lodger she isn't going to meet the same fate as the other blondes who were killed by 'The Avenger' (who May, or May not, be the lodger). (Cf what happens to Lulu at the hands of Jack the Ripper in G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box [1928]!) Discussing this matter recently, I wrote: 'In Daisy's "motherly" wish to "redeem" the lodger from homosexuality, if not from the guilt of murder [Daisy doesn't -consciously - suspect the lodger of that], she May be betrayed by her own finer impulses. That's an irony that I think Hitchcock May have relished ...' And then I saw how a similar syndrome is repeated in The Paradine Case (1947), in which the childless Mrs Paradine (Alida Valli), married to her blind husband (she apparently married him to attone for her previous promiscuity!), seduces the 'queer' and apparently celibate André Latour (Louis Jordan), her husband's devoted manservant. This in turn leads to the Colonel's murder and eventually to Mrs Paradine's execution. Now, we never, in the film, learn much about the Colonel's character, but clearly he was no saint. The novel reminds us that he could be cruel. It seems that his blinding in the War May have embittered him, and even made him impotent. (I think that his blindness is symbolic of his impotence: a fairly exact parallel with Rupert Cadell's limp, the result of a war-injury, in Rope [1948].) All of which lends support to the philosopher Schopenhauer's description of life as a place of suffering, a vale of tears, and to something I noted (in my book) about Hitchcock himself, apropos Easy Virtue, etc.: his 'belief in a free-flowing Eros as the surest means of keeping us all human' - and, by implication, vice versa (stifle that free flow and suffer the consequences). It's worth noting that the original novel of The Paradine Case, by Robert Hichens, a former associate of Oscar Wilde, speaks of 'the great Schopenhauer' and is written from a perspective of pity for humankind's cruelty and suffering. More tomorrow.

March 8 - 2001
Here, now, is the full synopsis of Georges Rodenbach's novel, 'Bruges-la-morte', sent by Professor Sander Lee. '[A] man mourns the death of his young and beautiful wife. He turns his home into a memorial to her with all of her things still in place. He keeps her long blond hair (which he removed from her corpse) in a box. He projects his grief onto the city of Bruges which he identifies with death. The novel has black and white photos of Bruges scattered throughout the text. To the townspeople he is seen as a respectable widower. The only person close to him is his maid who respects his obssession with the past. One day he is out walking when he glimpses a woman who reminds him of his wife. He pursues her and eventually discovers she is an actress of low moral repute. He switches his obssession from his memories of the past to this young woman who he attempts to mold into a replica of his wife ... The townspeople lose all respect for the man and even his loyal maid comes to see him as an immoral fool. The woman herself mocks him. Eventually he brings her one of his wife's favorite dresses and begs her to wear it. He then brings the woman to his home for the first time. When she sees the pictures of the wife she makes fun of them, even finding the hair with which she begins to play. The man becomes enraged and strangles her with his wife's hair.' And Sander comments: 'While there are obvious differences in the two stories, I find a great similarity in tone between this and Vertigo. I have always thought that Gavin Elster and Scottie were doubles, two sides of the same personality. In Rodenbach's story the two are merged. Also, the use of physical locales as projections of the neuroses of the characters is very Hitchcockian ...' I agree with all that Sander says here. For example, Bruges as a city of death is replicated in both the novel on which Vertigo was based, 'D'entre les morts' ('Among the dead'), set in wartime France, and Vertigo itself, whose San Francisco is as much a place of death (e.g., people moving as if underwater; scenes set in cemeteries; etc.) as it is a place of life (symbolised by the upreaching sequoias, 'always green, ever-living', in the nearby Muir Woods - or, rather, Big Basin State Park, where the photography was actually done.) However, the various allusions, or sources, of Vertigo form an extremely complex web, as an article on this website indicates. Some thoughts, then. First, the 'deathly' aspect of San Francisco in Hitchcock's film owes as much to his own Rebecca (1940), where a pall descends on 'Manderley' after the death of Maxim's first wife, as it does to other sources. Next, to return to the 'Belgian-connection' of yesterday's entry, it seems to me likely that George Simenon's 'Lettre à mon juge', which I've suggested influenced 'D'entre les morts', itself borrowed key ideas from Rodenbach's 'Bruges-la-morte'. The strangling of a mistress is one connection; another is precisely the main character's finding himself in a city of death. In the Simenon novel, this is the barracks city of La Roche-sur-Yon, where Alavoine lives with his humdrum wife: cf the wartime Paris of 'D'entre les morts' and the reference to Old Fort Point in Vertigo. Lastly (for now), there are what I'd call 'archetypal' similarities to other novels and films: see the entries in "Vertigo and its sources" on this website referring to such works as Wilhelm Jensen's 'Gradiva' (1907) - where the city of death is Pompeii - and the films Corridor of Mirrors (1948) and Portrait of Jennie (1948). In sum, I doubt that Hitchcock himself ever read either 'Bruges-la-morte' or 'Lettre à mon juge' - rather, he got his main ideas for Vertigo from 'D'entre les morts' plus various films ...

March 7 - 2001
Tonight I want to talk about Vertigo (1958) and the 'Belgian connection'. By this, I don't so much mean the likely influence on Hitchcock and Hitchcock's films of the Belgian Surrealist painters Paul Delvaux (1897-1994) and René Magritte (1898-1967) - though in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' I do indeed suggest possible influences of Delvaux on Vertigo and Topaz (1969), and have just written a long article (Will and wilfulness: recent commentary on Hitchcock's The birds) in which I posit a Magritte-like content in Rope (1948). Rather, I am thinking of two Belgian writers, the Symbolist poet and novelist Georges Rodenbach (1855-98) and the immensely prolific crime and mystery novelist Georges Simenon (1903-89), the creator of the detective Maigret. In 'MacGuffin' #17 (November 1995), we published an account of Vertigo which showed, amongst other things, that Simenon's non-Maigret novel 'Lettre à mon juge' (1947) had almost certainly influenced the authors Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac when they were writing 'D'entre les morts' (1954), filmed by Hitchcock as Vertigo. The book is cast in the form of a long letter to the examining magistrate in a murder case. Charles Alavoine, a doctor who has strangled his mistress [cf 'D'entre les morts'], struggles to explain just why he was forced to 'kill the thing he loves', and why he can say, 'I killed her that she might live'. A highlight of the novel is the 'pilgrimage' that Alavoine and Martine, his mistress, make together back to her native city, Liège. To the reader, i.e., to the examining magistrate, Alavoine confides that he now 'felt that I had to get possession of her childhood, for I was jealous of [that] too'. We already know, from an earlier description, that Martine as a girl had attended the convent of the Daughters of the Cross, and had been a border there. Now the couple go there together and other parts of Liège. 'All that she had told me', says Alavoine, 'was like a novel for young girls, and I went there to get at the truth, which turned out to be not so very different. I saw the big house, Rue Hors-Château, which she had so often described, and its famous porch with the forged iron hand-rail.' And so on. (Our article gives another few paragraphs of Vertigo-like detail in the Simenon novel.) Well, Professor Sander Lee, of Keene State College in New Hampshire, has now sent me a message asking have I ever read, or heard of, Georges Rodenbach's only novel, 'Bruges-la-morte' (1892), a mere 100 pages or so in length, but rich in anticipations of Vertigo? For example, here's an excerpt from the synopsis that Sander provided. 'One day [a man] is out walking when he glimpses a woman who reminds him of his [dead] wife. He pursues her and eventually discovers she is an actress of low moral repute. He switches his obsession from his memories of [his wife and] the past to this young woman who he attempts to mold into a replica of his wife ...' (By the way, yes, I had heard of Rodenbach - see the News item below about the Hitchcock Exposition in Montreal.) More tomorrow.

March 6 - 2001
In Psycho (1960), when Lila is exploring Mrs Bates's bedroom, the camera suddenly zooms in on a pair of crossed hands, cast in metal, on the dressing-table. What is their significance (asks FV of Melbourne, Australia)? I would reply like this. Mother's bedroom is stuffed (sorry!), or rather over-stuffed (sorry again!), with Victorian bric-à-brac. Now, on close inspection, the crossed hands are seen to have lace cuffs and to be resting on a velvet cushion - all cast in metal. And kitschy! Next, because everything in the room has been left just as it was when Mother was alive, the effect is similar to the creepy scene in Rebecca's bedroom in Rebecca (1940). Further, the hands are not in Robert Bloch's novel. But when in the novel Lila explores Mother's bedroom, similar items are referred to: 'a room that belonged in a world of gilt ormolu clocks, Dresden figurines, sachet-scented pincushions, turkey-red carpet, tasseled draperies, frescoed vanity tops ... four-poster beds ... and overstuffed [there's that word again!] chairs covered with antimacassars.' (Bloch could write, let's note!) Yet, furthermore, we're told that '[t]he room did seem alive, as does any room that is lived in for a long time ... it was still the room of a living person.' Of course, the film's audience already knows this, inasmuch as we've seen 'Mother' emerge from the room and slash the unsuspecting Arbogast, and later we've seen Norman come and carry 'Mother' downstairs to the fruit cellar. To the extent that when Lila gets to explore the room the camera-view zooms towards those hands - and then expands again to show other details of the room like the teasing indentation on the bed - there's definitely some attempt by Hitchcock to dispel 'lifelessness' from the scene. But the shot of the hands has other, more precise functions, I think. The 'excuse' for the zoom-shot is that, momentarily, the hands look 'real', and hence the shot is subjective, from the viewpoint of the startled Lila. They might almost be the equivalent of a death-mask. But I also think of a technique that Hitchcock often used to condition his audience, and which was particularly effective in the river-caves and island-of-love fairground scene in Strangers on a Train (1951) just before the murder of Miriam. A series of false alarms, mini-climaxes, is used to set a particular atmosphere, to prepare the audience for the daring, even outrageous climax that shortly follows. It's a technique not unlike that described and explained by Freud concerning the necessity of leading up to a 'tendentious' or risqué joke, whereby the needed licence and willing participation of the listener is elicited by degrees. (Hitchcock, by the way, was described by wife Alma as the only man she knew who could tell a dirty joke without offending anyone.) So, notice that immediately after the shot of the hands, Lila (not to mention the audience) is startled even more (the topper) by catching sight of her own reflection in a combination of the dressing-table mirror and a mirror on the cupboard-door opposite, and momentarily thinks that someone is in the room with her. A few minutes later, she really does get to meet 'Mother' (and then there's a couple of toppers on top of that!) ...

March 5 - 2001
About the liveliest of all the Hitchcock groups on the Internet has to be the Yahoo newsgroup called 'PsychoHouse'. Some of its members are planning to make Psycho into a musical - or, anyway, to record an audio version of such a thing. Already they seem to be well advanced in their scripting and casting. Here, for example, is the list of musical numbers they're planning: >Mother's Lament - sung offstage by Mrs Bates >I've Got the Blues (And a Knife In My Pocket) - sung by Norman >There's Voices In My Head - sung by Marion >CarYard Follies (huge dance number) >Florrie? Can You Please Connect Us - sung by Mrs Chambers >Taxidermy Is a Boy's Best Friend - sung by Norman >The Alimony Song - sung by Sam >Lets Make It My Business, Shall We? - sung by Caroline [shouldn't this be Arbogast? - Ed.] >I'm Falling For You- sung by Arbogast >The Shower Song - sung by Marion and later joined by Mother [sounds most moving! - Ed.] >Mother Always Makes a Mess - sung by Norman >The Private Island - touching ballad by Marion and Norman >I Can Handle a Sick Old Woman - comedy song by Lila >The Fruit In the Cellar - sung by Mrs Bates >We're All Psycho - entire cast Ah yes! That finalé sounds inspired! True, when I sent the above list of items to Hitchcock author Stephen Rebello ('Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho'), he was suitably impressed but lamented, 'What, no "Mother Wouldn't Harm a Fly" number, with the entire audience joining in and waving fly-swatters?' I think that's actually planned as a surprise encore, Stephen!

February 28 - 2001
Janet R writes about the entries here of the past couple of days: 'I think your argument supports my previous idea that [in Rebecca] Manderley symbolizes Rebecca's power, not Maxim's. [Maybe both? - Ed.] Your discussion of Beatrice leads me to believe that women's power that makes men impotent is part of the "dark period" that makes the "future. . . unclear and uncertain." I suggest that Manderley symbolizes both Britain and a "unnatural" woman's power. However, I disagree that what makes Rebecca's power "unnatural" is purely her bisexual nature. I think it's also the fact that she has a predatory sexual nature towards men that renders them powerless. Even the highly sexualized Favell [George Sanders] is made impotent by the end of the film by Rebecca's manipulations from the grave. It's her secret, or the secret of woman's sexuality, that all the men want to know. (In Marnie, the woman's secret is also tied to her sexuality.) However, in Rebecca (as opposed to Marnie, in which Mark figures out his wife's secret), nature itself rights the wrongs of the "unnatural" woman and penetrates her body with an incurable and inoperable cancer.' Thanks for these additional thoughts, Janet. Good point about the woman's 'predatory sexual nature' making men feel powerless - given that a man typically considers himself the traditional sexual predator, as witness Mark's 'hunting' and 'trapping' of Marnie. But your point about Rebecca's cancer slightly troubles me, inasmuch as it sounds both arbitrary of nature to intervene like this, and too final. Nature is 'neutral' in my book, and is presumably as much on Rebecca's side as against her. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm most reminded of the end of Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' (which Hitchcock read more than once), where the 'ageless' Dorian's allegedly sinful nature finally catches up with him: he suddenly collapses on the floor, and, 'withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage', dies; meanwhile, his hitherto supernaturally-aging portrait instantly reverts to the image of the young, beautiful, and 'innocent' Dorian. (The hinted-at ambiguity here is that Dorian May have succumbed to 'society's' notions of what constitutes 'natural', i.e., moral, actions, but that there's a 'superior', if 'pagan', view on this - which fits with the ambiguous Nietschean bent in Hitchcock, and, I imagine, Wilde, which I've often noted here.) As for Manderley, i.e., Maxim's ancestral home, symbolising Rebecca's power, not Maxim's (and also symbolising England itself), the image at the end of the novel and film of the burnt-out Manderley matches Maxim's desolation, and to me that is paramount. However, it's true, as I've already indicated, that probably Daphne du Maurier herself (another Nietzschean?) looked forward to a new, more truly human régime, a new Camelot, to prevail in the distant future. And that meanwhile, Rebecca, the Great Mother, and the legitimate possessor of real power (as someone like Camille Paglia would remind us), will remain less than fully acknowledged, even denigrated, in this patriarchal and often destructive world. So, yes, the ruins of Manderley May also symbolise Rebecca's power that, like some Lost Paradise, or New Jerusalem (cf February 13, above), awaits its institution.

February 27 - 2001
'Hitchcock told Truffaut that "there was a whole school of feminine literature at the period" [when Daphne du Maurier was writing "Rebecca"], but that du Maurier's story lacked humour. Elsewhere, he criticised her work in general for being "derivative" ... , but [nonetheless] the novel captures well the sort of subversive questioning that was quite commonplace in England between the wars, at least in the circles in which Daphne du Maurier moved.' ('The Alfred Hitchcock Story', the uncut UK edition, pp. 72-73.) Charlotte Gilman (1860-1935), mentioned yesterday, was American, but very probably influenced du Maurier. Gilman's autobiography appeared in 1935. She had always been a feminist writer, with many penetrating ideas about the way patriarchal culture had deletrious effects on women and the family, and about oppressive sexual relations in modern society. Perhaps all of this bears some relation to the symbolism in 'Rebecca' (novel and film) that we've been discussing lately. Here, then, are a few more details about the historical Boadicea, and thoughts on why the filmmakers chose to have Beatrice Lacey attend the Manderley fancy-dress ball as that formidable historical figure. Before the Romans caught up with her, Boadicea led the whole of South-East England in revolt against the oppressors (who had earlier raped her daughters), even burning London and Colchester. Finally, when her capture was imminent, she took poison. (Boadicea was a revered figure and sentimental favourite of Victorian painters.) Can we see parallels in the Mrs Danvers of Daphne du Maurier's novel and Hitchcock's film? I think so, inasmuch as 'Danny' stands in for the absent Great Mother-figure, Rebecca, and is certainly formidable in her own right. She has the same 'pyromaniacal' bent (it may seem) of the historical Boadicea, and she, too, commits suicide, taking Manderley itself with her. You think of Boadicea's razing of London - and of the threat to contemporary London that Hitler was even then (in 1940) posing. So perhaps a part of Daphne du Maurier sided with Mrs Danvers, just as (I've suggested) a part of Daphne du Maurier sided with the albino parson, a secret pagan-sympathiser, in the novel 'Jamaica Inn' (which immediately preceded 'Rebecca'). My correspondent, Janet R, from the University of Colorado at Denver, has sent along further thoughts on these matters. I'll put them up here tomorrow.

February 26 - 2001
I'll stay on the topic of Rebecca (1940) tonight. When Maxim's sister Beatrice (Gladys Cooper) and her husband Major Giles Lacey (Nigel Bruce) attend the Manderley fancy-dress ball, the symbolism is daring - and telling. She masquerades as the warrior queen Boadicea (or Boudicca) who led the Britons in revolt against the Romans. She wears impregnable plated armour, befitting a woman who, from reports, was the Maggie Thatcher of her day. (Indeed, a recent report, based on new archeological evidence, printed in 'The Women's Quarterly' and published on the Web, suggests she was rather worse than that, capable of razing whole villages. I'll come back to this.) Beatrice's husband Giles accompanies her to the ball dressed in a leopard skin and carrying what proves to be an ultra-lightweight dumb-bell, or bar-bell, consisting of two large orbs joined by a rod. He is obviously meant to be a strong-man of some kind. But the show is given away when his manservant drops the bar-bell - which bounces! These two orbs, or balls, are hollow! A sham! The implication is that Giles's masculinity is itself a bit of a sham, just like that of all the other menfolk at Manderley (see entry for February 7, above). Equally, Beatrice's impregnable armour speaks volumes about her marital relations with Giles, again befitting the general condition of Manderley where an 'unnatural' woman, the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson), rules, and even the nominal master of the house is a mere 'companion' to his new bride. Manderley, then, is at present 'cursed', with a spell upon it - the legacy of Maxim's first wife Rebecca and of Maxim's inability to get along with her (despite her 'beauty, brains, and breeding') once he found out her true, bisexual nature. A new saviour is awaited to set things to rights, and for the time being (i.e., right up to the end of the film, and beyond) clearly isn't going to appear. The implication this time is that Britain itself, poised on the edge of a war with Hitler, is about to enter a new dark period, and that the future is unclear and uncertain. No doubt the author of 'Rebecca', Daphne du Maurier, a married lesbian, dreamt of an altogether new order, where women and men, with all their variations and differences, could live together harmoniously. Or perhaps she may even have had in mind the sort of matriarchal utopia described in Charlotte Gilman's 1915 fiction, 'Herland: A Lost Feminist Utopian Novel'. In the mythical Herland, according to the above-mentioned article in 'The Women's Quarterly', 'perfection means the utter absence of men, and hence "parthenogenic births producing only girl children."' More tomorrow.

February 21 - 2001
A further, related thought of Janet R's about Rebecca (see entry for yesterday, etc.) is this: '[A]nother reason why Maxim allows Mrs Danvers to stay on and keep [Manderley's] west wing the way it was before Rebecca died is that Maxim believes that household responsibilities are the woman's domain. The evidence for this exists in the scene after he asks "I" to marry him, and then immediately insists she pour the tea and remember the way he takes his tea. In addition, when Frith comes to him to discuss the broken cupid, he tells "I" that they shouldn't be coming to him with household problems, but rather to her as the mistress of the house. This evidence [also] supports the idea that Mrs Danvers has really replaced Rebecca, not only as mistress of the house, but also as Bad Mother ("I" is still the cowering child afraid of getting in trouble for breaking something). Neither Maxim nor "I" can pass through the proper developmental stages in order to claim the roles of patriarch and matriarch until the Bad Mother figure has been disposed of, thus allowing "I" to replace her. Once the Bad Mother force is gone, Maxim can [in theory] gain full inscription into the Symbolic [social] world that enables him to wield sexual, political, and economic power through language. However, ... I agree with your assertion that the ending is not [really] a happy one because the burned-down Manderley also signifies the destruction not only of Rebecca's power but also of Maxim's ability to ever wield any real power over the Bad Mother [or Great Mother] force.' To that, I would only add, tonight, a speculation of mine. It occurred to me that Rebecca might, in its early and middle sections in particular, be read as indulging a kind of male fantasy (written by a lesbian writer, Daphne du Maurier) in which a father experiences the (forbidden) delight of watching his daughter ('I' as a child) growing up to become his future 'wife' ('I' is officially already Maxim's wife, of course). But by the end of the novel/film, the forbidding Great Mother has stepped in (cf the end of Vertigo) to ensure that his interest in his daughter remains strictly 'fatherly' (thus 'I' will remain merely 'companion' to Maxim - as the novel's suppressed ending shows to be the case). If I'm not mistaken, the chapter on Rebecca in Theodore Price's book 'Hitchcock and Homosexuality' (1992) makes some suggestions along these lines.

February 20 - 2001
My thanks to Janet R for sending further thoughts about Rebecca and Notorious (see February 6 and 7, above). Quite rightly, Janet points out how my claim that in Rebecca 'I' (Joan Fontaine) functions towards Maxim (Laurence Olivier) like a Good Mother - as opposed to the Bad Mother represented by Rebecca and Mrs Danvers - needs qualifying. Initially, Maxim treats 'I' like a child (but then, doesn't everybody, e.g., Mrs Van Hopper?!), much as he himself is treated that way by Rebecca/Mrs Danvers. Thus both 'I' and Maxim will 'grow up' together. As Janet says: 'Her ability to transcend her role as child coincides with Maxim's new-found ability to "fight back" against Rebecca and her tormenting memory. By the end of the film, both Maxim and "I" are no longer children; therefore, they in some ways defy the Bad Mother by growing up against her will. Although the ending is not a happy one, I would argue that Rebecca hasn't totally won, as evidenced also by the brutal death by fire of Mrs Danvers.' Ah yes, but that last point recalls what I said previously (February 6), that the ending of a Hitchcock film often leaves us with a sense of loss as well as gain, and what is lost is effectively raw energy. Mrs Danvers's self-immolation, which coincides with the destruction of Manderley itself, is almost Wagnerian in its implications. (I think, too, of the death of the albino parson, representing an earlier form of religion that was closely tied to Nature, at the end of Daphne du Maurier's previous novel, 'Jamaica Inn': clearly, I'd say, du Maurier sides with him and his cause, deep down.) Janet R adds: 'Manderley's destruction is significant because it symbolizes the destruction of the Bad Mother. Throughout the film, "Manderley" is a word that connotates the sexual, political, and economic power of Rebecca, not Maxim.' I can't really agree with that last point. I would say (and have said) that Manderley effectively symbolises nothing less than England itself, and the (incumbent) patriarchy running it. (Du Maurier's beloved Cornwall, where Manderley is located, was legendary home of King Arthur; and both the novel and film, but especially the former, hint at how Arthur's legacy has been betrayed and still awaits the return of a 'knight in shining armour' to set things to rights.) In a way, the destruction of Manderley is a statement about the precarious state of England at the time the film was made: cf what I wrote here recently about the connotations of the 'Titanic' film that Hitchcock and producer David Selznick had been going to make before they turned to Rebecca instead. Lastly, today, I would repeat my earlier point that Rebecca is not just the Bad Mother, she is also what Camille Paglia calls the Great Mother of fertility religion (cf the allegiance of the albino parson in 'Jamaica Inn'). And as Paglia points out, time and again the male finds himself returning and succumbing to her just when he thought he was most free of her. The ambivalent ending of Rebecca, in which the (double-sexed, polymorphously-perverse, all-embracing, energetic) Great Mother exerts her supreme power yet again, prefigures the endings of Vertigo, Psycho, et al., and reminds us that even patriarchy is subject to a greater Will ...

February 19 - 2001
A local radio network asked me to record a brief observation or two about Hitchcock's depiction of murderers who have resorted to poison. I volunteered to talk about Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant) in Suspicion (1941) whose activities (murder, forgery, gambling on horses, inveterate lying, etc.) resemble those of one of the most audacious mass-poisoners in British criminal history, Dr William Palmer (1824-56) of Liverpool. (Palmer's activities suggest a cross between two infamous 20th-century British poisoners, the 'Dr Death' of recent headlines and the Graham Young who story is depicted in the 1995 film, The Young Poisoner's Handbook. It turns out that Palmer was one of Young's boyhood heroes - the other was Hitler.) Here. then, are some of the things I know about Palmer. By the way, there's no doubt that both Hitchcock and the author of the novel on which Suspicion was based, 'Francis Iles'/Anthony Berkeley Cox, were aware of the parallels between Palmer and Johnnie Aysgarth - in the film, overt reference is made to a mass-poisoner surnamed Palmer (curiously, his Christian name has been changed). First, Palmer was a wife-murderer. Both his wife, Annie, and his younger brother, Walter, died after he had insured them for large sums. Also, he was a philanderer. On the very day of Annie's death, he wrote in his diary: 'My poorest dear Annie expired at ten minutes past one'. Then he immediately hopped into bed with their servant girl, Eliza! Altogther, Palmer is known to have sired fourteen illegitimate children around the country - and at least four of them died at his hands (quite literally: they licked poisoned honey off his fingers, then went into convulsions). Another of his many victims was an uncle, Joseph 'Beau' Bentley, who perished after a brandy-drinking contest. The essential stimulus for Palmer's resort to murder seems to have been his constant betting losses. On one occasion he attended Shrewsbury Races with a man named John Cook who won his bets while Palmer lost. To celebrate his winning, Cook arranged a supper party at which he became ill. Laid up in a hotel opposite Palmer's house, he was too weak to collect the money he had won. Palmer kindly offered to do it for him, and promptly (by forging Cook's signature on a cheque) used some of it to pay his own debts. Meanwhile, Cook deteriorated and, following the good doctor's ministrations, died within a few days. All of these details appear in Hitchock's film and/or Iles's novel, in some way. That Palmer really did seem to love his wife after a fashion ('My poorest dear Annie') is reflected in Johnnie's ambiguous behaviour towards his wife Lina (Joan Fontaine). Even the mise-en-scène of the intended murder (with its famous light in the glass of milk) reflects this ambiguity: as Johnnie mounts the stairs to Lina's bedroom, carrying the milk on a tray, the soundtrack plays again the recurring love theme, but now transposed to a sinister register. The servant girl Eliza becomes in the film Ethel (Heather Angel). That Johnnie has been sleeping with her is hinted at when, one morning, as she enters the bedroom to wake him and to bring the mail, he sleepily exclaims, 'You here again?' (this, right in front of Lina!). As for Palmer's several victims, effectively they are all rolled into one character, Johnnie's dim-witted (and brandy-drinking) chum, 'Beaky' Thwaites (Nigel Bruce) - perhaps so named after 'Beau' Bentley.

February 14 - 2001
Tonight's item is contributed by Gary Giblin, whose book 'Alfred Hitchcock's London' proceeds apace. Gary writes: 'It’s no secret that while Alfred Hitchcock often undertook extensive location shoots, he preferred to stage more intimate scenes in the studio. An example is the children’s party scene in The Birds (1963), during which actors Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren climb a small hill to chat in private and in so doing actually journey from the northern California location to the Hollywood studio. These switches are sometimes rather obvious - as in The Birds - but are often virtually undetectable, a reflection, perhaps, of Hitchcock’s early days as an art director. During my research for Alfred Hitchcock’s London, I happened to discover several "studio switches" that I had never noticed before. One occurs in the Foreign Embassy sequence near the end of the second The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). The embassy ballroom in which the reception was held was an actual ballroom in a private London home. (The entrance and stairs were in yet another house!) Actors and extras were duly assembled in the ballroom for Jo’s performance and Ben’s subsequent exit. However, Doris Day actually performed the Oscar-winning Que Sera, Sera on a soundstage in Paramount’s Hollywood studio, 6,000 miles away. Hitchcock had a small section of the ballroom reproduced at the studio so that Day could concentrate on her performances (both acting and singing) without the distractions of a location shoot crammed with crew and extras. The match of the sets, editing and performances is, of course, superb. Another deception occurs in the opening of Frenzy (1972), as the crowd listens to the politician then spots the body floating in the Thames. Hitchcock staged the action on location at London’s County Hall three separate times, but the dialogue, including the comparison of the killers’ techniques and Sir George wondering if the body is wearing his Club tie, was filmed on the backlot at Pinewood Studios, alongside the Paddock tank. The actual retrieval of the woman’s body, while staged on location, was reshot inside the tank and it is that footage which appears in the film. If you watch closely, you’ll note that the two policemen run down the actual steps and then out of the frame to the right. When you next see them, they are lifting the body out of the water - 20 miles away! These and many other discoveries (to be reported in the book) continue to remind me of the depth and breadth of Hitchcock’s artistry.'

February 13 - 2001
Another article on Torn Curtain in the current 'MacGuffin' is my own "Submission, containment, liberation". One of its central points is that the film turns out, on inspection, to be a critique of how democratic ideals are corrupted or lost sight of by everyone, even by 'exemplary' Americans like Armstrong (Paul Newman) and his fiancée Sarah (Julie Andrews). Indeed, the film might almost have been inspired by a remark of famous psychologist Carl Jung a couple of years earlier: that the Communist world had one big myth, 'the time-hallowed archetypal dream of a Golden Age (or Paradise)' - but that the Western world, too, was 'in the grip of the same mythology'. (Note how Hitchcock's film shoots several of its East German scenes in a honey-coloured oblique sunlight, implying, despite the general greyness, the dream by all concerned of escaping to what the novel 'Ninteen Eighty-Four' calls 'the Golden Country'.) Related to this is how the film posits the rather quixotic notion of a general re-unitedness - of rending the curtain (or veil or screen) that stops us seeing that we're all in the same boat, and making the most of our voyage together (and democratic heritage). (Cf Saboteur, Lifeboat, and The Birds, for three.) So I was gratified to read a recent article by Australian academic Peter Holbrook, partly inspired by his viewing of the new Lars von Trier film Dancer in the Dark, in which he speaks of 'the ineradicable desire for solidarity' - precisely the democratic ideal (in the broadest sense) that Hitchcock's film invokes. Holbrook, noting that the ideal was particularly that of Communism, immediately adds: 'The now dominant neoliberal paradigm of the human being - someone wishing for nothing more than to pursue their self-interest - is incomplete.' Indeed it is, and that is what Torn Curtain is essentially about, I fancy. Holbrook continues: 'it's in such musicals [as von Trier's] that the original utopian promise of the republic (E Pluribus Unum ['one out of many']) survives - in crowded dance scenes bodying forth dreams of harmony, equality, and love.' And he concludes: 'That's the movie's radical message. For communists, as for Christians and romantics, the vision that sees only present conditions, taking them as final, is really a blindness. An accurate perception of the present takes a detour into the future - takes account of Jesus's Kingdom of God or William Blake's Jerusalem.' I don't think the Hitchcock of Torn Curtain would disagree with any of that. (For further reading, then, see the current 'MacGuffin'.)

February 12 - 2001
I've just received an enthusiastic email from 'MacGuffin' reader PF who lives near San Luis Obispo in California. He writes that, like a lot of people, he was disappointed when he first saw Torn Curtain (1966). But after reading the 'excellent and insightful articles' on that film in the latest 'MacGuffin' (#27), PF concludes, 'I know I have to see this one again'. One of those articles is, in fact, the final chapter of Dr Theodore Price's controversial, and regrettably out-of-print, book, 'Hitchcock and Homosexuality' (1992). We chose to reprint the chapter in 'The MacGuffin' because it seems to us to contain some superb insights. Here's what I recently posted about it to the "Hitchcock" forum on the 'Scarlet Street' website (Scarlet Street): 'I think [Price's] book is often brilliant in spotting homosexual implications or "analogues" in Hitch's films, even where a scene appears to be innocent of such content. Look at it this way. Hitch described Vertigo as "a strip-tease in reverse" (Scottie basically wants to dress a woman up - not undress her! - and make her over, to resemble his lost love). Who would have thought of that until Hitch pointed it out (to Truffaut)? Likewise, Armstrong's behaviour towards Sarah in Torn Curtain - repeatedly trying to get away from her - may be seen, once it's pointed out, as like that of a latently gay man who was going to marry for the sake of appearance and/or his career (like Guy in Strangers on a Train) but now wants to cross over to "the other side". Note that Guy in Strangers on a Train is pursuing Ann Morton, a Senator's daughter - and that the novelisation of Torn Curtain (based on the film's script) indicates that Sarah, likewise, is a Senator's daughter. Which strongly suggests that Hitch did have the earlier film in mind.' The more I think about this whole matter, indeed, the more I feel that it touches on the very heart of Hitchcock's storytelling method - which was to tell many stories, analogues of each other, simultaneously. He could do this because not only was he a brilliant director with an impish intelligence and wit, who wanted his stories to offer 'something for everyone', but because he saw, as he once expressed it, that 'everything's perverted in a different way'. That is, there is basically just a single life/death force and its myriad representations - and those representations are all just variants of each other. What a powerful, almost Eastern, understanding of how things are! It helps explain the degree of compassion that - beyond all the wit and suspense - is detectable in later Hitchcock films, in particular. It also relates, I think, to something that seems basic in a good storyteller, that s/he has a secret to impart. (More on this another time.) On the other hand, as I think Torn Curtain shows, it sets Hitchcock up to be disillusioned, cynical, pessimistic. More tomorrow.

February 8 - 2001
Two (and too) little-known articles on Hitchcock are by John M. Woodcock, A.C.E., assistant editor to George Tomasini on Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), and, briefly, The Trouble With Harry (1955) - the official editor on the latter film was eventually Alma Macrorie. The articles appeared in 'American Cinemeditor', Summer 1990 and Fall 1990. Woodcock first met Hitchcock at a planning meeting of several personnel which was held in Hitchcock's office shortly after the director arrived at Paramount to make Rear Window. Woodcock writes: 'After we were introduced, and Hitchcock offered me a limp handshake, my immediate attention was attracted to what seemed like cartoon panels covering three walls of the large room. It turned out to be a story board - the first I had ever seen - in which every scene in the picture was portrayed by simple sketches that indicated the camera angle and action ... It was kept up to date and changed to reflect any changes in the actual shooting and was used to great effect in Rear Window ... We even had a copy to assist in the editing.' Notice how this report confirms both the legend of Hitchcock's meticulous pre-planning and endorses Bill Krohn's point (in 'Hitchcock at Work') that nonetheless Hitchcock was capable of improvising or revising his work during the actual filming. By the same token ('We even had a copy to assist in the editing'), it rather goes against what another Hitchcock editor - Rudi Fehr, who edited I Confess (1953) and Dial M for Murder (1954) at Warner Brothers - told Dr Tag Gallagher, that he never saw a Hitchcock story board (or at least not a complete one), implying that perhaps Hitchcock's legendary use of such a resource was exaggerated. (Perhaps it was always a case of 'horses for courses' - some films, by their nature or complexity, invited detailed storyboarding, and others, for various reasons, didn't.) Woodcock confirms something else about Hitchcock - that he could be quite chilly and remote. 'I didn't like him!', he writes. 'British directors of that day seemed more aloof than their American counterparts who, more often, made buddies of the cast and crew. Not Hitch! He sat regally in his director's chair surveying the crew's activity on the set and nailed any misbehaving member with a few well-chosen words. Hitchcock could deliver those broad English "A"s ["eh"s?] with devastating and intimidating effect.'

February 7 - 2001
The originally supppressed ending of the 'Rebecca' novel, by Daphne du Maurier, has Maxim and 'I', still childless after years of marriage, trailing from one small Mediterranean hotel to another (after 'Manderley' was burnt to the ground), and the tone of the commentary by 'I' is one of trying to convince herself that they are happy. (The nearest comparison I can think of is to the tone of barely suppressed melancholy at the end of the film and novel of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' by Australian writer Joan Lindsay - a novel that bears resemblances to 'Rebecca'. There is evidence that Joan Lindsay has read the du Maurier novel.) Now, Janet R (see yesterday's entry) fired some further questions at me about Hitchcock's Rebecca. Such as: 'Why would Maxim keep Mrs Danvers on after Rebecca's death?' I answered that by saying: 'Fair question. But it's surely one of the marvellous things about the film that it is so and not otherwise! Mrs Danvers, Rebecca's stand-in, "rules" Manderley. An "unnatural" order prevails. All of the menfolk, from Maxim down, seem both literally and figuratively impotent, and incapable of changing things.' ('Barmy' Ben is representative: he's described as 'perfectly harmless'. The person who says that is the estate manager, bachelor Frank Crawley, whom Maxim calls 'as fussy as an old mother hen'. In the same vein of symbolism, even the butler Robert is having trouble with his teeth.) Another question was: 'Why would [Maxim] allow the west wing to remain the same after a year?' My reply: 'Part of the above syndrome. Also, guilt and trauma over Rebecca's death at his hands. And remember, the film works as fairy tale or myth (e.g., a castle caught in a spell; a whole region devastated by a 'dolorous stroke') as well as a realistic story.' One more question: 'We assume that Mrs Danvers was in love with Rebecca, but do we assume Rebecca would be attracted to someone as unappealing as Mrs Danvers?' I replied: 'As I say, Rebecca was polymorphous-perverse, bisexual - and promiscuous. I don't know if she and "Danny" had lesbian sex, but the situation depicted is at least as convincing, I would say, as the lesbian implications in Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954). I can believe that "Danny" worshipped her mistress, Rebecca, exactly as the "queer" (but apparently celibate, until seduced by Mrs Paradine) Latour in The Paradine Case (1947) worshipped his blind master, Colonel Paradine.'

February 6 - 2001
Have been having a good correspondence lately with Janet R, who teaches a Hitchcock course at the University of Colorado at Denver. We've been concentrating mainly on Rebecca (1940), but bringing in such other films as Strangers on a Train (1951) and Psycho (1960). The endings of all of those films are ambiguous, inasmuch as they leave us with a feeling of something lost as well as something gained - a new, if precarious, stability. At its lowest common denominator, you could say that what is lost is contact with raw energy. In each case that energy is embodied in a figure who, at some level, represents the life-force (which is also a death-force). In Strangers on a Train, Bruno actually speaks of harnessing the life-force, and of flying a jet plane at several hundred miles an hour. (Here he makes a whooshing sound and gesture.) In Rebecca and Psycho, the life/death force is embodied in the dead Great Mother figure (Rebecca, Mrs Bates) who prevails from beyond the grave. By 'Great Mother' I mean what Camille Paglia describes as the figure in art and mythology who is associated with the chthonic (dark and earthy) realm, a somewhat ghostly being, 'a figure of double-sexed primal power'. Both Rebecca and Mrs Bates have a strength or influence that suggests a man's. Rebecca, it turns out, was essentially 'polymorphous-perverse' (of all sexual propensities) and bisexual. This is what made the archly-conservative Maxim hate her, once he found out. I suggested to Janet that Maxim's original relationship to Rebecca was that of a child to a mother (this is consistent with many other husbands in Hitchcock films who marry a mother-figure), thereby prefiguring Norman in Psycho. Janet was very keen to pin down who the mother-figures are in Rebecca, and of what kind (literal, symbolic, etc.). Immediately I saw that there is a distinction between the Good Mother (the Joan Fontaine character, 'I', whom Maxim marries on the rebound, so to speak, after Rebecca's drowning) and the Bad Mother (Rebecca, whose surrogate and worshipful 'priestess' is the sinister housekeeper, Mrs Danvers) - to match the presence of a Good Father (Dr Brulov) and Bad Father (Dr Murchison) in Hitchcock's overtly Freudian Spellbound (1945). But because Rebecca is less a real mother than the supreme symbol from fertility religion, i.e., the Great Mother, who ultimately opposes the power and designs of men, it was always likely that 'Rebecca [would] win in the end', as Maxim had predicted. As I say, the ending of Rebecca is not exactly a happy one - and a glance at the original novel (especially with its suppressed ending restored) confirms this. More tomorrow.

February 2 - 2001
Clearly the number 8 was always meant to be Hitchcock's special number! After all, it seems to leave nothing out! (I'm referring to the entries here on Hitchcock and 8, as numerology sees the matter, of the past couple of days.) More now on 8 and its separate meanings of 'an intense involvement in material matters' (but also 'dramatic failure in worldly matters') and 'a new beginning'. My 'Man, Myth, & Magic' encyclopaedia concludes: 'Occultists have generally followed the Christian track, noting that 8 is the first cube number and so introduces a new dimension, and [my emphasis] that the cube is a symbol of earth and so can stand for "the solidification of matter", and [again my emphasis] bringing in the shape of the figure 8 and the Eightfold Path of Buddhism. A.E. Abbot's Encyclopaedia of Numbers says: "Esotericism sees the 8 as signifying resurrection into a higher consciousness [and a whole lot more] ..." Behind all this May lie the fact that a man's body has seven orifices but a woman's has eight, and it is through the eighth that new life comes into the world.' So there you have it, correspondent RF and gentle readers. (As Gerhard of State Security says to Armstrong in Torn Curtain, 'You should come to me for your information!') Actually I am left feeling more than a tad cynical. So I'll end by quoting part of what I emailed to RF about numerology and Hitchcock: 'My general attitude to interpreting these things is that they May be there in the films - sort of - but that they were [at best] the kind of thing Hitch added to a script at the last minute as embellishments and teasers (a bit like MacGuffins), and that they can actually distract us from the heart of the film and its issues. Also, one needs a 'control group' of numbers, situations, etc., from other films than Hitch's (or even other films of Hitch's) for comparison. One might find a surprising recurrence of 3s, 8s, 13s, etc., there too ... Lastly, just as astrology information in the newspapers is cast in such general terms that it can hardly ever be wrong ("Today is a good day to launch new projects; don't be surprised if some old friends contact you soon", etc.), so any standard meaning attaching to a number (e.g., 8) May have application to a scene in a Hitchcock film, just by the nature of the beast (broad general 'meanings' for films with lots of specific situations to be 'interpreted').

February 1 - 2001
Well, one part of Hitch was worldly enough (as most film directors need to be, clearly). He had a keen money sense, he knew how to organise and get work done, and he could be ruthless at times. That's why I implied yesterday that there was a little bit of Gavin Elster in Hitch! However, the entry on "Eight" in my 'Man, Myth, & Magic' encyclopaedia has a lot more to say. Like this: 'But the path of 8 is not at all an easy one. It is the number of great success but also of dramatic failure in worldly matters. It has ominous overtones, expressed by one authority in the statement that those whose number is 8 will like choral and organ music, especially of the gloomy and plaintive variety.' Hmm. Maybe Gavin Elster played the organ in his apartment before going upstairs and breaking his wife's neck! (Shades of Hangover Square, perhaps!) The encyclopaedia continues: 'Lying behind all this is the fact that 4 is the number of earth and material things and since 8 is 4 doubled, 8 must mean an intense involvement in material matters, money-making, industry and commerce, [etc.] ... In addition, ... [t]he shape of the number, the two circles suggesting dualism - success and failure - and the fact that 8 is twice 4, which is the unluckiest of numbers, account for the ominous undertones.' Okay. But that rather contradictory set of meanings is only the half of it! Read on! 'The popular interpretation [of 8] is also partly based on an entirely different line of symbolism, in which 8 means "a new beginning" and so "new life".' This seems relevant to both Vertigo and Marnie! And there's still more! 'As the number of a new beginning, 8 also means immortality, resurrection, life after death. The early Christians associated 8 with Sunday. They accepted that God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, but they said that the Sunday on which Christ rose from the dead was God's eighth day, on which he renewed his work and gave men the possibility of eternal life ... As the number of the Christian life after death, 8 also stands for eternity and infinity, and the mathematical symbol for infinity is an 8 lying on its side.' Reader, are you reeling?! I'll add one more entry on this topic tomorrow.

January 31 - 2001
A recent correspondent, RF, sent me an interesting message concerning possible significances of alphabetical letters, and numbers, in Hitchcock films. One of RF's points is this: 'I've come to a conclusion that Hitch used the number 8 rather conspicuously in many of his films. Any comments as to what the 8 stood for, such as, the 8th letter of the alphabet (H) for Hitch? I've seen the number 8 in Marnie: the walleyed horse rider's number is 8 and [Marnie and Mark] sit at table 8 at the track. In Vertigo, during Hitch's cameo, in the background the speed limit is [posted as] 8 MPH! In Rear Window, the room number of Thorwald, I believe, is 125, which adds up to 8.' Hmm! First, we've discussed the '8 mph' sign in Vertigo here before. That sign, as 'MacGuffin' reader Rick Ducar pointed out, had already been used in Paramount's Martin & Lewis comedy, Hollywood or Bust (Frank Tashlin, 1956). However, someone else, on another forum, suggested that there was a link to the numbers on the cranes seen through Elster's office window in the next scene - apparently those numbers are both multiples of 8 (e.g., 16 and 24 - though I haven't checked this out). So we shouldn't necessarily conclude that Hitchcock wasn't integrating the '8 mph' sign into his film! But where does that get us? Maybe he indeed had a 'thing' about the number 8 (and the thought that 8 = Hitchcock is possibly as good a guess as any). My own, tongue-in-cheek suggestion was that the two halves of 8 could represent one more variant on the film's spiral motif. On the other hand, 8 is a common enough number, as I wrote back to RF, adding that it's more common than, say, 9,428,273 - though the latter number (plucked out of the air by me) just happens, I then noticed, to sum to 8! We seem suitably caught in some sort of spiral here! So here's my final observation on this matter for today. Almost certainly, Hitchcock was aware of basic numerology and its principles (if only to avoid inadvertently giving a scene a 'meaning' he didn't intend!). With that in mind, I looked up "Eight" in my treasured 'Man, Myth, & Magic' encyclopaedia (published in weekly parts in the UK by Purnell, about 30 years ago). The slightly startling findings were these. 'In popular numerology, if your name adds up to 8 you will usually be told that you are a driving materialist, ambitious for power, influence,, status and money. It is pre-eminently the number of business executives, efficient administrators, men of great organizing ability and dominating character, busy with worldly concerns, clever, realistic, cold and ruthless ...' Hello Gavin Elster! And Maybe Hitch! (To be continued ...)

January 30 - 2001
At one point in Noel Langley's The Search for Bridey Murphy (see yesterday's entry) reference is made to the attitude of the Catholic Church towards the concept of reincarnation. A priest, taking afternoon tea on a terrace, remarks that the Church sees reincarnation as 'less an invention of the Devil' and 'more as an emotional escapism for the spiritually insecure'. Which throws light on the parameters within which Hitchcock was working in Vertigo, I guess. As I said yesterday, Hitchcock was a bit of a mystic himself - he didn't love James Barrie's mystical play 'Mary Rose' for nothing. (Often when I think of Hitchcock I think too of a good Catholic friend of mine, who has written for the Catholic press and done counselling work for the Church, but who makes no secret to his friends of his life-long interest in mysticism, including some of its Eastern variants.) Equally, though, Hitchcock had always been prepared to critique his characters (e.g., in The Pleasure Garden, Rich and Strange, Rebecca, Under Capricorn, et al.) who seek to escape something in themselves by 'running away to sea' or indulging in some other form of escapism. For both doctrinal and other reasons, then, we shouldn't be surprised that Scottie in Vertigo, after seeing in the elusive Madeleine a possible key to the world's riddle - perhaps even eternal life - but who is equally 'using' her (a bit like a MacGuffin) to divert his attention from the real issue, which here is his human 'weakness' (symbolised by his acrophobia), should end up being 'punished' for his folly. Now, a related matter. I keep drawing attention to Hitchcock's concern with a life-force (that is also a death-force: here I think of Hindu doctrine and the philosophy of Schopenhauer). In certain films (e.g., The 39 Steps, Vertigo, North by Northwest) where an intensification of 'life' seems to promise a degree of 'freedom', I think of Edgar Allan Poe (e.g., 'Ligeia') and the philosophy of Henri Bergson. And, as I mentioned yesterday, some such ideas are at least raised, if rather simplistically, in The Search for Bridey Murphy. But it now also occurs to me that there are Biblical antecedents for the idea of degrees of 'life'. For example, there's this passage from John 10:10: '"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."' Yet 'life' in the raw, so to speak, can be overwhelming and dangerous. (Hitchcock once said: 'Reality is something none of us can stand, at any time.') Which is a theme of many German Expressionist films (e.g., Die Strasse/ The Street, 1923) - and of Hitchcock. It's detectable, for instance, in The Wrong Man, which came out soon after The Search for Bridey Murphy. That raises my last point for today. Further evidence for how Hitchcock saw Noel Langley's film, and was impressed by it at some level, is this: Langley's film begins and ends with a prologue and epilogue set in a film studio, in which the film's main character, the amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein (Kenneth Tobey) puts the narrative at a certain distance while simultaneously allowing that he is at its centre - prefiguring the ambivalent in-this-world-but-not-of-it tone of Hitchcock's personal appearance, in a shadowy film studio, at the start of The Wrong Man ...

January 29 - 2001
I May get a little 'mystical' in the entries here for the next two or three days. As we were discussing Vertigo last time, I'll concentrate on that film a bit more. First, public television showed English director Noel Langley's The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956) here the other night. The film stars Teresa Wright (Shadow of a Doubt) and was photographed in black-and-white VistaVision (Paramount's widescreen process) by John F. Warren, who was also working at that time on 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' (and would later shoot Hitchcock's Torn Curtain [1966]). Based on a real-life case of hypnotism and apparent reincarnation that created quite a stir around the world when a book and film about it were released (though later the case was somewhat discredited), the issues raised therein clearly helped 'licence' Hitchcock to make Vertigo for Paramount two years later - where again there were references to possible reincarnation. (Langley's film would also have reminded Hitchcock of the superb fiction film, William Dieterle's Portrait of Jennie (1948), starring Jennifer Jones, and of the play by J.M. Barrie, 'Mary Rose', which Hitchcock saw and loved when it was first staged, in London, in 1920.) So my attention was piqued when early scenes in Langley's film referred to the celebrated US mystic Edgar Cayce (1878-1945), whose theory of a 'universal knowledge' resembles Carl Jung's idea of a 'collective unconscious'; and when hypnotism was referred to as capable of tapping 'a gigantic force ... some sort of universal energy that could be harnessed'. This comes close to the notion of a 'life-force' that is also a 'death-force' that I see invoked time and again in Hitchcock's own films from the 1920s onwards - often with apparent seriousness, though also, as with Bruno's theory in Strangers on a Train (1951) of harnessing the life-force on Mars, capable of being mocked by the director. It is not generally known that Hitchcock was indeed a mystic of sorts. Rohmer and Chabrol sensed it: see their book 'Hitchcock' (1956). There's also good prima facie evidence of Hitchcock's mystical bent in his remark to Charles Higham and Joel Greenberg ('The Celluloid Muse: Hollywood Directors Speak', 1969, p. 103) that he believed that one day we might all be able to 'be disembodied, taken apart by someone or be able to do it ourselves, and transfer ourselves that way to another place and come together there again'. More tomorrow.

January 26 - 2001
Funny how a train of thought can carry you along. After writing yesterday's entry about a 'revenge' motif in Hitchcock, surfacing most overtly in the AHP episode called "Revenge" (1955), I belatedly answered an email inquiry from correspondent Nick Needham apropos Vertigo (1958). A friend of Nick's had just seen Vertigo for the first time, and had surmised that the final scene in the bell tower constitutes a 'rape'. After all, she reasoned, Scottie is now forcing Judy to climb the tower with him (whereas previously he had left her/'Madeleine' to 'go on alone'), and in Jungian dream-analysis ascending a staircase has sexual connotations. Generally speaking, I agree with all of this. Yes, the bell tower is a sexual symbol: in Lotte Eisner's classic book on German Expressionism, 'L'ecran démoniaque'/'The Haunted Screen', she cites Otto Rank as her authority for interpeting staircases that way - and notes that they were rife in the German films of the period circa 1920. However, I must insist on what I say in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'. First, the most overt sexual symbol in Vertigo is Coit Tower (the script calls it 'that wonderful symbol'!), to which Scottie feels gratitude when it leads Madeleine back to him. (His remark, 'That's the first time I've been grateful to Coit Tower', can be interpreted as meaning that now is the first time he's been in love with a woman, as opposed to his puppy-love for Midge back in college days.) By contrast, the bell tower accrues any number of 'meanings', only one of which is sexual. By the end, it represents everything the 'Faustian' Scottie has aspired to and, in addition, might be thought of in the poet Coleridge's terms as 'the dread watchtower of the absolute self', which is what Scottie (unconsciously) seeks to overcome. Scottie has his way sexually with Judy/'Madeleine' in the hotel room in San Francisco. So to 'rape' her at the bell tower would be, in dramatic terms, anti-climactic. Accordingly, what the final scene represents is something much broader: Scottie's attempted 'revenge' on 'the way of the world' which has 'set him up' (and whose arch-representative is the devilish Gavin Elster, though even he is ultimately one more 'victim' of human limitation, subjectivity, and mortalty ...). Curiously, the play 'The Way of the World' (by Congreve), was what an early script of Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945) gave the inmates of the insane asylum 'Green Manors' to perform - it would have been one more of that film's truly expressionist touches. In the case of Vertigo, I interpret 'the way of the world' to be exactly as the philosopher Schopenhauer described it: the working of the world's Will, a life-force that is also a death-force, and which we can never fully apprehend because we all remain bound in subjectivity. If Scottie at the end of Vertigo does appear to have surmounted or transcended earthly limitations, it can only be an illusion and, besides, he has paid a terrible price for his seeming 'triumph' - not least the death of Judy.

January 25 - 2001
Congratulations to Neill Potts for his study of the Hitchcock-directed episode of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' called "Revenge" (1955), starring Ralph Meeker and Vera Miles. Neill's essay is in the latest 'Hitchcock Annual'. "Revenge" of course is the episode about the husband (Meeker - not so meek, just over-impulsive) who kills his wife's supposed rapist only to learn that the wife (Miles) May have imagined the whole episode and now sees her 'rapist' everywhere. I say 'congratulations' to Neill (an occasional dropper-in to this website) because he knows how to write a mean sentence/paragraph/page of precise description, and in the process catch the subtleties of character on which an episode is founded. It's good stuff. Here's how Neill describes an early scene in the couple's caravan (a setting showing their impoverished economic state and cramped lifestyle). 'Carl speaks the narrative's first words: "Hey worthless!" (Awakening and turning to him, Elsa makes a contented, questioning noise.) "Breakfast's ready." Judging from Carl's enunciation, this could be loving banter. [But the word "worthless"] ... carries both economic and moralistic connotations. Economically, Elsa is worthless, unemployed and too ill to work. She brings no earnings to the marriage and is not expected to perform household chores. In moral terms, "worthless" is further evidence of Carl's insecurity in his marriage. It is a degrading label, suggesting that he thinks she is cheapened by her sexuality. What seems to be lovers' teasing could have its roots deeper in the couple's relationship.' (p. 152) Well, yes, and there is enough latent motivation right here to drive the entire episode. Maybe Elsa indeed feels degraded vis-à-vis her husband, and so the (imagined?) episode with the intruder is both an attempt to revenge herself for how she feels and is a reflection of that feeling. (Cf Vera Miles's portrayal of the wife who has a breakdown in The Wrong Man [1957], where she clearly feels economic and moral guilt after her husband is wrongfully arrested for robbery.) Equally, one can imagine that Carl is driven to take the law into his own hands because he has been placed in an excessively self-sufficient frame-of-mind by his relationship with his wife, and that he, too, feels bitterness by how constricted his life has become. He, too, wants 'revenge'. (Many of Hitchcock's films, such as Rope [1948], Under Capricorn [1949], Strangers on a Train [1951], and Dial M for Murder [1954], centre on a relationship that has become stifling, and the need of at least one character to 'break free' or to make a 'gesture'.) My only criticism of Neill's essay is that he sometimes doesn't seem to see the wood for the trees - and that he hasn't yet got right the balance between elaborate description and short, sharp, pungent analysis.

January 19 - 2001
More about the latest 'Hitchcock Annual'. James Vest tries to solve the mystery of what exactly Hitchcock contibuted to the review Elstree Calling (1930). Despite Donald Spoto's report that 'no one remembered [Hitchcock] being around for the shooting more than six or seven hours', Vest keeps finding new segments that the director May have had a hand in! In effect, he concludes that practically everything that wasn't outright musical or dance number was Hitchcock-directed! Usefully, he also spots a likely Hitchcock cameo: 'An introductory sequence (a portion of which was televised on the Encore Channel's centennial documentary Dial H for Hitchcock) shows a film crew preparing massive equipment to film a staged performance in a theater auditorium. At the center of a long shot a portly man in a dark suit is seen in the director's seat next to a tracking motion-picture camera. As he rotates his head toward the right, we May briefly glimpse a now-familiar profile.' (p. 123) Murray Pomerance contributes a piece on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). His major findings are that the person in London called Val Parnell, one of Jo's friends in the film, was based on the real-life theatrical impresario of that name (he's played in the film by the excellent actor Alan Mowbray); and that the role of the assistant manager at the Albert Hall, played by Richard Wattis, is crucial in bringing the Conways into contact with the foreign Prime Minister, who declares that he'll be forever in Jo Conway's debt. Pomerance is brilliant in describing these roles. For example: 'Wattis seems exactly stuffy enough to appeal to Ben's sense of formality, which is to say, Ben's middle-American idea of what proper "British" behavior should be. But at the same time, he is exactly ingenuous and fragile enough to appeal to Jo's warmth and sense of humanity. Walking over to the Prime Minister is the right and human thing to do, his bearing says, and also it looks right; so they both do it.' (pp. 141-42) Incidentally, though Pomerance hasn't space to do more than imply this, many of the film's other roles are equally cleverly written and performed. The Prime Minister himself (played by Danish stage actor Alexi Bobrinskoy) was based on a Hungarian politician of the time (as Bill Krohn and Nandor Bokor told readers of this site recently); and the part is wonderfully precise ('Ah but it was, dear lady, it was!'). More on the 'Hitchcock Annual' next time. (Subscription details for the 'Annual' are at the foot of this page.)

January 18 - 2001
Apologies for the hiatus - effect of the flu and sheer overwork. I was describing the new 'Hitchcock Annual'. Another enjoyable piece is about Hitchcock's Titanic project that never materialised. The author of the piece, Charles Barr, asks what made such a project attractive in the late 1930s (it was to have been Hitchcock's first film for Selznick, but was replaced by Rebecca)? One answer he gives is that it contained all the potential for depicting the British class system found in such other films of the time as George Cukor's David Copperfield (1935) and Jack Conway's A Yank at Oxford (1938). I've no quarrel with this. The class aspect is apparent even in a short account of the disaster, Hanson W. Baldwin's "R.M.S. Titanic" (1933), printed in the Hitchcock anthology book, '14 Suspense Stories to Play Russian Roulette By' (Dell Publishing, 1945). For example, Hanson drily notes that soon after 1 a.m. the first of the lifeboats pushes off: 'The "Millionaires' Special" leaves the ship - boat No. 1, with a capacity of 40 people, carries only Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon and ten others." Another, related reason for the project's appeal, not mentioned by Barr, probably concerns the sheer, defiant self-contained world that a ship provides: Hitchcock loved to take his cameras behind the scenes of theatres, large hotels, and, yes, ships, as in parts of Stage Fright (1950), the Château Frontenac scenes of I Confess (1953), and the radio room scene in Torn Curtain (1966). The defiant quality of such self-contained locales represents a form of hubris, one of Hitchcock's perennial targets (seen classically in Rope [1948]). Also, here is Hitchcock's own justification of why he chose to include the 'Titanic' story in his anthology: the account shows 'man as a struggling atom against the overwhelming odds of Nature's irresistible forces ... although it is a factual account it bows to few of the imaginative works [in the anthology] in the quality of its Suspense'. Quite so, and clearly this anticipates the microcosms seen in such 'disaster' films as Lifeboat (1944) and The Birds (1963). Lastly, Barr suggests that the 'Titanic' story reflects 'the fascination with disaster manifested most spectacularly in three diverse media events [of the time]': the real-life Hindenberg disaster (1937), broadcast 'live' to the world; Orson Welles's panic-causing radio adaptation of 'The War of the Worlds' (1938); and the earlier British film adaptation of another H.G. Wells story, William Cameron Menzies's Things to Come (1936). All very true - though Barr stops short of noting the most relevant parallel of all: the feeling everywhere that the world was poised on the brink of a catastrophe more devastating even than the earlier World War, the Wall Street crash, and the Great Depression. The 1930s, in short, was an 'Age of Disaster', and both The Lady Vanishes (1938) and the Titanic project were designed to tap into that fact, with the looming Second World War as the immediate reference-point.

January 9 - 2001
More on the new 'Hitchcock Annual'. I held great expectations for an article called "Hitchcock's Hands" - about the significance of images of hands in Hitchcock - but it turned out to cite the merely obvious examples (e.g., the blood on Melanie's fingertip after the first bird attack in The Birds) and to be severely restricted by its 'feminist' commitment that reduced everything to male-versus-female notions. (When will writers on Hitchcock learn that if you're even going to begin to take his measure you must abandon notions of commitment: after all, he himself was only 'committed' to one thing, namely, the twin questions, 'Does it work?' and 'Can I get away with it?'.) The author is also concerned to relate such images to viewer sympathy or its opposite, viewer dislike, but you wonder if this is a major issue to anyone except a teacher in a classroom (as the author repeatedly tells us she is): why do my students at a certain point abandon a 'reading' of a film in favour of expressing simple liking or disliking of particular characters? The conclusion reached, after citing such theorists as Murray Smith and Torben Grodel, is that we are culturally conditioned to prefer 'human' to 'non-human', and that the former is associated with voluntary, as opposed to involuntary, volition. I couldn't wait to move on to the next article. It's a beauty. "German Hitchcock" by Joseph Garncarz is based on a thorough reading of German periodicals and film journals of the period 1924-26 to throw new light on Hitchcock's early work. Among the many finds are several reviews not previously available of Hitch's lost second film, The Mountain Eagle/Der Bergadler. For example, one review begins thus: 'The aloofness and rarely moderated dryness of the script is entirely English.' (I shan't quote the next sentence because it appears to be incoherent. Faulty editing perhaps?) Garncarz's article is essential reading for the keen Hitchcockian. More tomorrow

January 8 - 2001
My copy of the latest 'Hitchcock Annual' only arrived the day before Christmas, and I haven't properly read it yet. But it seems to be the best, most exciting issue so far. It starts with a long, informative interview with Jay Presson Allen, who wrote the Marnie (1964) screenplay. A couple of her comments: Hitchcock 'adored icy [blondes]. He was mad for icy. He was having an old man's crise de coeur over icy.' Also, when Robin Wood (who was in the audience at the interview) notes how, in the so-called 'rape' scene, Marnie seems to know 'she is being raped but Mark does not know he is raping her', Allen replies, 'You're absolutely right.' (This double-edged situation nicely illustrates the across-the-board, non-partisan sympathy that one finds in Hitchcock's later films, which I once likened to what Keats called a poet's 'negative capability'.) Speaking of poets, there are articles in this issue comparing Hitchcock to Emerson and Poe respectively. The first of these looks unexciting to me - one of those innumerable articles one finds in scholarly books and journals and written by an outsider to the Hitchcock scene that attempts to make a case for some hitherto almost unnoticed Hitchcock-connection, but usually full of special pleading and erudite references, which is finally unconvincing. But the piece on Poe merely cites, in bibliographic fashion, other writers' Hitchcock-Poe references, and so is relatively inoffensive! (But let me say, gentle reader, not for the first time, that although I know Hitchcock read Poe as a youth, and was thereby predisposed to make films of mystery and imagination - and suspense - when given the chance, I am not convinced that he was otherwise influenced by Poe in any significant way. On the other hand, I think that a writer like Charles Dickens - four of whose novels Hitchcock studied at school - offered far more stimulation to Hitchcock's developing imagination and personality, than the American Poe. [The latter was himself a reader of Dickens.] For one thing, Dickens's characteristic blending of humour and melodrama and, yes, 'suspense', points forward to Hitchcock in a way that the works of Poe don't. But American Hitchcock scholars seem to know almost nothing about Dickens - or Wilkie Collins or Conan Doyle or 'Sapper' or John Buchan - and so their understanding of Hitchcock is skewed.) More tomorrow. Meanwhile, for subscription details concerning the 'Hitchcock Annual', please go to the foot of this page.

January 3 - 2001
Also getting in touch recently has been CS, who particularly likes Hitchcock's English films, and with some kind things to say about my book. But he asks whether, apropos Murder! (1930), it is right to identify the character Handel Fane, who is called a 'half-caste' in the film, as a homosexual, i.e., that the phrase 'half-caste' really means (as we would say) 'gay'? Certainly that's the interpretation I make in my book, and I'm not alone in doing so, but I know that Charles Barr, for one, has also questioned such a reading. However, CS adds: 'Or Maybe "half-caste" has both meanings at once.' Actually, yes, that's how I see it. Here's what I wrote back to CS: 'I think that it's very feasible to regard "half-caste" as referring to "homosexual" because, firstly, the film is full of references to gender/sex "fluidity" [see my book], and so "homosexual" makes particular sense in this context. The actor who plays Handel Fane, Esme Percy, is clearly portraying him as rather camp or effeminate or even transvestite (anticipating Norman Bates) - note all those feathers he wears in his act, for one thing! Hitchcock often showed such matters in his films, going right back to the first, The Pleasure Garden [1925]. Also, the co-author of the novel on which Murder! was based, "Clemence Dane", was a known lesbian. But "half-caste" can also be taken to mean exactly what it says, given the sort of racial prejudices and emotions that existed in Britain and elsewhere at the time of the film. The film can be taken either way, depending on your own predilections, it seems to me.' Lastly, today, as we're talking of Hitchcock's English films, let me thank Danny Nissim in London for writing to say that he was 'fascinated' by my remarks on a 'suffer-in-silence' motif in Hitchcock (see December 28 above), and for adducing a couple of further instances: the anguish of Winnie Verloc (Sylvia Sidney) in Sabotage (1936) after learning of her young brother Stevie's tragic death; and the agonising of the Edna Best/Doris Day character during the 'Storm Cloud Cantata' at the Albert Hall in the respective versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934; 1956). Yes, and then there are further instances again where characters, female or male, find themselves with effectively no-one to turn to for long stretches of a particular film (e.g., Lina in Suspicion, young Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt, Norman in Psycho, Marnie in Marnie - though the latter two characters take 'compensatory' action for a lifetime's such suffering).

January 2 - 2001
Another recent correspondent is CA, who will be offering online discussions throughout the year of Hitchcock's films, which he will be viewing in chronological sequence. The discussions will be conducted via the Yahoo 'Hitchcock Hangout' website. CA invites interested persons to join him. For more information, here's a link: Hitchcock-2001. Someone else I'd like to thank for being in touch is JW (?), signing himself 'Joe'. Last month Joe received a 40th birthday present of 'The Best of Old Time Radio: Alfred Hitchcock'. Joe writes: '[The CD set] contains radio broadcasts of Lifeboat, Foreign Correspondent, The Lodger, Spellbound, The 39 Steps, Rebecca, Shadow of a Doubt, and Strangers on a Train. I have only listened to the "Strangers" CD, and there were [just] some minor adjustments for radio. Guy and Ann meet Bruno in an art gallery, the carnival scene ends at a roller coaster, not the carrousel. It was very entertaining (Patricia Hitchcock is one of the performers), including old time radio plugs for Lux soap.' A descriptive booklet comes with the set. Lastly for today, Dan Auiler has sent the disappointing word that his book with Stephen Rebello on North by Northwest won't be appearing. Just one of the sticking points has been trying to get photos from Warner Brothers (who appear to hold the rights) ...

January 1 - 2001
My thanks to several recent correspondents. Pierre Poirier (of the Henry Slesar Tribute webpage) visited the Hitchcock exposition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He makes one criticism: that some of the suggested connections 'between Hitch's vision and various works of art seemed a tad specious'. But he notes that, 'when pressed by local film critics, the architects of the exhibition did admit that some of the art [on display] is simply there to show the kind of cultural background that existed back in the 40s and 50s, ideas that Hitchcock and his entourage May have drawn upon, at least unconsciously'. (One of the two Chief Curators of the exposition, Dominique Païni, is the Director of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris. In an interview that's on the Museum's website - see link in News section below - Païni notes that 'Hitchcock was a true art lover and regularly visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington when he was preparing his films.') Of the room containing famous objects from Hitchcock's films, Pierre says that it has an undeniable ambience of questing and melancholy, underlined by music from Vertigo (1958) playing in the background. Pierre spent about five minutes gazing at Madeleine's/ Judy's/ Carlotta's necklace - finding it 'gorgeous, hypnotic' - until people started to stare at him! Most interesting to hear about was another room offering comparisons between films: one such exhibit was a clip from 'a Spanish film that has a strikingly similar scene to the bell-tower scene in Vertigo'. I wonder if the film is Buñuel's Tristana (1970) - Pierre has promised to check. Finally, Pierre reports that a conference will be held on Sunday 25 February to discuss I Confess (1953). Attending will be two French Canadian actors, Gilles Pellitier and Renée Hudon, who appeared in the film. 'There will also be discussions about the clergy in Quebec at the time, and how it reacted to Hitch's film.'