Editor's Week 2006

December 29 - 2006
The wonderful circus scene in Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942) exists in a considerably longer version in the script dated October 30, 1941. From what I've heard, probably many of the key lines in this scene are Dorothy Parker's, though the script as a whole is attributed to Peter Viertel and Joan Harrison. My guess is that the scene was cut for reasons of running-time. A pity. Some of its substance and irony have gone missing. For example, a couple of the members of the circus troupe - and its most humane members - have every reason to dislike the police. 'Bones', aka the Thin Man, apparently got the idea for his present job after he went on a hunger strike at Alcatraz! And Lily, aka the Fat Lady, apparently had both a sister and a brother who 'went wrong' and who got into trouble with the police at an early age. (So she is instinctively sympathetic to the plight of the fugitives Barry and Pat.) Also, although the Thin Man's memorable line about 'normal' people being 'normally cold-hearted' is, of course, in the film, originally it was even more forceful: 'It's shocking to find how egocentric the world really is. How little it cares for the other fellow's troubles. Even freaks are normal in that respect.' 'Bones' is here trying to raise sympathy for Barry and Pat, but is almost defeated by the hostility of The Midget (ironically called 'Major') and by the opposing views (on everything, it seems!) of the Siamese Twins. Even the tender-hearted Esmeralda, aka the Bearded Lady, who appears to be the Thin Man's partner, has trouble making up her mind. But the Thin Man's summing up was always this: 'In this situation I find a parallel for the present world predicament. We stand defeated at the outset. You, Esmeralda, have sympathy, yet you are willing to remain passive and let the inevitable happen. I have a belief, yet I am tempted to let myself be overridden by force. The rest of you - with the exception of this malignant jerk here [The Midget], are ignorant of the facts and, therefore, confused. ...' At least two things typify Hitchcock about this moment. Obviously, the representative cross-section of humanity is one of them: cf similar 'cross-sections' in Lifeboat, Rear Window, Torn Curtain (the bus scene), etc. (I shan't attempt to include the 'cross-section' of history represented by the felled Sequoia in Vertigo, though it's tempting to do so.) But another matter, not quite as obvious, is how Hitchcock has managed to get away with a less than 'politically correct' slant in this scene - namely, his making fun of freaks, especially The Midget - precisely by using the world's political situation as an 'excuse'. 'Bones' labels The Midget 'Fascist', and quickly bundles him out of sight as the police turn up looking for Barry and Pat. 'Bones' justifies himself thus: 'In an emergency the minority must suffer - an historical precedent. Grab him, Esmeralda!' (That's in the script dated October 30, 1941.) A possible inspiration for this scene may the moment in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) when several brave men from one of the roadside labour camps take it on themselves to dish out peremptory 'justice' on a group of hired trouble-makers. In both scenes, the entire emotive weight is with the non-pc people, which perhaps only goes to show that both Ford and Hitchcock knew a thing or two, beyond what the textbooks might say, about how to make democracy work. Finally, here are a couple of things not in the script dated October 30, 1941, but in the scene as filmed. (Presumably, they represent late amendments by Dorothy Parker.) First, when a suspicious policeman shines a torch on Pat and asks who she is, in the original script it is Esmeralda who yawns nearby and thus distracts the police, who feel guilty at waking everybody up. (Cf in Torn Curtain the distraction of someone lighting a cigarette as the military police approach the back of the bus where Michael and Sarah are trying not to be spotted.) Calling Pat a snake charmer is not in the early script. Second, Pat's remark in the film about why she elects to stay with Barry - 'It's a free country, isn't it?' - appears to represent another late addition. At least two cheers for Mr Hitchcock's (and his scriptwriters') take on democracy, then!

December 16 - 2006
(revised) I'm saying that in Vertigo, all around, on every side, is a vastness, associated with mystery and with the Oedipal aspect of the voyage of life. (Not for nothing is the bookshop in Vertigo called 'The Argosy', which may suggest just a merchant ship of that type but is also redolent of Jason's legendary ship 'Argo' in which he and his 'Argonauts' searched for the Golden Fleece; and also of the mythical giant Argus, said to have a hundred eyes! So: a vastness associated with looking and questing, with ships and the sea.) Associated, too - the Oedipal aspect - with an endless male-female search for wholeness, not always a peaceful search (hence the perennial 'battle of the sexes'). And, speaking of 'on every side', there are also literal ups and downs (heights and depths), associated, respectively, with life and hope and with death and annihilation. Again there are male-versus-female associations. If Camille Paglia is right, Western culture has traditionally been Apollonian and sky-oriented and male-dominated, whereas the neglected (by the West) realm of 'the chthonian' is associated with 'subterranean force' and 'murk' and ooze' - female attributes! (Cf Julia Kristeva's notion of 'the abject'.) True, Goethe's realm of 'the Mothers' isn't located underground, exactly, but rather 'beyond space and time'. Nonetheless, it is incontrovertible that Paglia wrote (as I quoted last time): 'The Mothers appear in Faust when the hero tries to materialize the spirit of Helen [Goethe's Eternal Feminine figure]. Adult love is overshadowed by maternal claims to priority. The male struggles through his sexual stages, returning to the mother even when he thinks himself most free of her.' To me, this could be describing what happens in Vertigo. I'll come to the end of that film - where the sinister-seeming nun, or mother-superior, surely represents what Paglia calls the Great Mother - in a moment. But first, a note on what psychologists, mystics, etc., call the 'oceanic feeling'. This was famously evoked in correspondence between Freud and the French writer Romain Rolland to refer to the feeling of being at one with the universe, a feeling which causes (in Rolland's words) 'a sensation of "eternity", a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded - as it were, "oceanic"'. Sadly, Freud said that he could find no trace of such a feeling in himself and attributed it to 'a regression to an earlier state: that of the infant at the breast'. He wasn't impressed with Rolland's claim that the oceanic feeling is the source of religious sentiments. Perhaps missing the point, he claimed that man's need for religion originated with the infant's sense of helplessness, saying, 'I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.' Certainly, Anthony Storr, in his book 'The School of Genius' (1988), takes issue with Freud's position, calling it 'less than satisfactory'. He points out that those who have experienced the states of mind recorded by, for example, Admiral Byrd and William James, 'record them as ... being the profoundest moments of their existence. This is true both of those who have felt the sense of unity with the universe and of those who have felt the sense of unity with a beloved person.' (p. 38) Triggers for these experiences can be of many kinds: for example, nature, art, religion, sexual love, certain forms of exercise, solitude, silence. (p. 188) Enough said. I think that the oceanic feeling is powerfully evoked in Vertigo, and is part of the film's Lost Paradise imagery, associated with the wounded, even impotent, Scottie's quest to overcome his 'weakness'. The 'motherly' Midge calls him 'a big boy now' and watches concernedly as he attempts to assert his masculinity, to emulate the father (even God). In this, he differs only in degree from, say, Guy in Strangers on a Train who at one point pauses beneath those printed lines from Kipling: 'If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/ .../You'll be a man, my son.' Sadly, then, in trying to 'materialize' Madeleine, his Helen of Troy, in Judy, Scottie is only emulating Faust in Goethe's drama - and fated to the same disappointment. (Whether God will intervene to save him from damnation is, of course, left up in the air, so to speak.) I do see the 'mother-superior' who rises up so terrifyingly at the end that she causes Judy/Madeleine to elude Scottie's grasp and fall to her death, as the Great Mother. A comic precedent had been the spectre of Mrs Stevens coming to live with daughter and son-in-law (Francie and John) at the end of To Catch a Thief; a sombre echo of the mother-principle defeating the son-figure is, of course, the end of Psycho.

December 15 - 2006
Speaking of netherworlds (see December 8, above), let's come back to Vertigo. How to convey what the Sequoia forest scene, with its sombre greens and blacks but also russets and late-afternoon sunlight, stands for? Apart, that is, from just the life/death 'force' that is the very subject of Vertigo, and which I call Will (after Schopenhauer)? The scene is based on a passing reference in Chapter Four of the Boileau and Narcejac novel. One of its antecedents/analogues in Hitchcock is the deserted mill in The Manxman (1928); another is the deserted art gallery in Torn Curtain (1966) - and there are several others (including the Tunnel of Love, with its water-wheel, in Strangers on a Train, as seen above). So, to repeat, what does the scene represent? For a start, it feels like the literal heart of the film (the latter conceived as a body flowing with life), yet something which people hardly give a thought to as they perform their daily business. (Note: in Torn Curtain the art gallery, which is likewise almost empty, invokes nothing less than the whole Graeco-Roman heritage of Western civilisation.) But equally, the scene is a womb-image, like the red-walled Ernie's Restaurant scene analysed here already (e.g., on December 1, above). At the end of the forest scene, Scottie and 'Madeleine' will emerge into the sunlight - one of the film's many moments of 're-birthing'. It is followed immediately by a scene that begins by featuring a different kind of tree, i.e., not a Sequoia, but a single wind-blasted Monterey pine on a clifftop, a scene in which 'Madeleine' appears to think of commiting suicide - all of which alludes to the 1944 'ghost' film The Uninvited, in which the Gail Russell character seems set on committing suicide as her mother had done before her. The image of the sea here isn't fortuitous: the film is full of such imagery, invoking what Freud called the 'oceanic feeling' of mystical significance (though he himself could make little of it). Beyond that again, the sea provides another life/death image: in The Uninvited, there is actually a line, 'The sea is a place of life and death and eternity, too.' And with its literal fluidity, the sea, too, is a womb-image to match the others. Now a further word about 'Madeleine'. She represents what Goethe and then Jung called the Eternal Feminine and, as such, is rather more an unattainable mother-ideal than she is a lover-figure. Significantly, Scottie never makes love to 'Madeleine' but only to Judy whom, though, he attempts (successfully) to make over into 'Madeleine' - and then promptly loses. It is said that many - all? - men seek a partner who resembles their mother. (Something of this is in Hitchcock's early film The Lodger where, though, the dead mother's image is also the dead sister's, and the Ivor Novello character is arguably incapable of consumating love for the blonde look-alikes of his mother/sister and so has to kill them instead: another anticipation of Psycho, the ultimate Hitchcock film about the all-powerful, all-forbidding Mother - or Great Mother in Camille Paglia's archetype. Read on.) Now, I've little space left in which to invoke Camille Paglia's notion of 'the chthonian' (or 'the chthonic'), but which the forest scene in Vertigo seems to me to approach in its evocative power. So I'll just note this. Western culture, writes Paglia in her book 'Sexual Personae' (1990), has always been pre-occupied with the Apollonian, with the intellect, with 'sky-culture', at the expense of attending to 'the chthonian, which means "of the earth" - but earth's bowels, not its surface'. Paglia continues: 'Jane Harrison uses the term for pre-Olympian Greek religion, and I adopt it as a substitute for Dionysian, which has become contaminated with vulgar pleasantries. The Dionysian is no picnic. It is the chthonian realities which Apollo evades, the blind grinding of subterranean force, the long slow suck, the murk and ooze.' Paglia calls it 'the west's dirty secret'. (I'm reminded by all of this of Psycho's 'faecal' swamp ...) Later, in a chapter called "Goethe to Gothic", she appears to associate it, if not with the womb, at any rate with the realm of 'the Mothers' in 'Faust', Part Two. In that place, in 'an eerie netherworld beyond space and time' - constituting 'the omphalos [navel] of the universe, a female heart of darkness' - reside the play's 'most imposing androgynes', i.e., 'the Mothers'. These 'blind goddesses ... are Greek Fates combined with Plato's eternal forms'. And Paglia notes: 'The Mothers appear in Faust when the hero tries to materialize the spirit of Helen [Goethe's Eternal Feminine figure]. Adult love is overshadowed by maternal claims to priority. The male struggles through his sexual stages, returning to the mother even when he thinks himself most free of her.' It was these last three sentences that I applied to the final scene of Vertigo in my book on Hitchcock. Next time: I'll spell out the implications.

December 8 - 2006
I was going to immediately add one more entry on Vertigo, but shall defer it. I was going to talk about the 'chthonic', i.e., netherworld, apect of the film, linked to the pernicious effect of 'mothers' on male ambition, with acknowledgement to Camille Paglia's brilliant book 'Sexual Personae'. But during the week I corresponded with Michael Walker about Strangers on a Train - which, incidentally, is another of Hitchcock's films with 'chthonic' references (see frame-capture below) - and the sexual symbolism of the first funfair scene. All that water, for one thing! It was surely in Hitchcock's mind when, nearly twenty years later, he was planning another film about a psychopathic murderer, Kaleidoscope, which would have had its character living beside a harbour and strangling a woman near a waterfall. Also, I suggested to Michael that the 'Magic Isle' in Strangers (where Bruno strangles Miriam) is a 'Lost Paradise' symbol, one of whose extensions of sexual association is the bedroom. Accordingly, when the murder is seen reflected in a lens of Miriam's glasses (discussed here last week), it looks as if Bruno is finally giving the flirtateous young woman her wish, i.e., gently putting her to bed. (The image is also suitably watery-looking and dark, suggesting drowning or the grave.) I then checked in the novel by Patricia Highsmith (Chapter 12) and found that an incredible amount of the funfair sequence has its origin there (though not, directly, the Tunnel of Love episode). Here are some quotes from the novel, with brief comments. (1) 'Now, on the train to Metcalf, he [Charley Bruno] had direction. He had not felt so alive, so real and like other people since he had gone to ... Quebec, full of castles [as a child with his mother and father] ... because his paternal grandmother had been dying ...' That's from the end of Chapter 11. Brilliant, isn't it? Also, was it what clinched Hitchcock's decision to set his next film, I Confess, in Quebec? (2) '... He was taking it easy, not getting excited. The merry-go-round played "Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde ..." Grinning, he turned to Miriam's red hair, and their eyes met ...' Ah! That's the significance of the tune heard in the film! (3) 'Miriam and her friends entered a big lighted section where the bottom of the ferris wheel was and a lot of concessions and sideshows. ... There was a clang and a roar as someone sent the red arrow all the way to the top with a sledge-hammer. He wouldn't mind killing Miriam with a sledge-hammer, he thought. ...' Hmm, the ferociously set mind of the psychopath! (Cf the scene in the film where Bruno intently watches Guy play tennis.) The sexual symbolism of the red arrow shooting upwards isn't in the film, but the general idea comes across all right. And there is other phallic imagery (e.g., Miriam's ice-cream cone). (4) '... Under the bright lights, he saw that Miriam was covered with freckles. She looked increasingly loathsome, so he began not to want to put his hands on her soft sticky-warm flesh. Well, he still had the knife. A clean instrument.' Prolepses of Psycho here (I shan't spell them out) and a definite hint that Bruno is gay. (5) 'They were taking a rowboat. The prospect of a cool row was delightful to Bruno. He engaged a boat, too. The lake looked big and black ...' Bruno is indeed a cool customer, and all the more charming for having these inner resources of his (an ability to enjoy himself; his knowledge of rowing - like Melanie's in The Birds!). Blackness is being emphasised - Bruno's colour in the film - for Miriam's death is fast approaching. (6) 'He waited until they had paddled past, then followed leisurely. A black mass drew closer, pricked here and there with the spark of a match. The island. It looked like a neckers' paradise. Maybe Miriam would be at it again tonight, Bruno thought, giggling. ...' There you are - the island as (an ironic) 'paradise'! And trust Bruno to giggle - though that's not something Robert Walker's non-effeminate performance allows into the film. (7) 'His hands captured her throat ..., stifling its abortive lift of surprise. He shook her. His body seemed to harden like rock, and he heard his teeth crack. ... With a leg behind her, he wrenched her backward, and they fell to the ground together with no sound but of a brush of leaves. ...' And so to bed! Aroused, but in silence, and softly! Now, Hitchcock's film certainly took a lot from Highsmith's novel. But it wasn't all a one-way thing. I noticed, for example, the following. In Chapter 1, Bruno plunges out his cigarette in a pat of butter (harking back to Mrs Van Hopper and her jar of cold cream in Rebecca). In Chapter 2, Bruno asks Guy to choose a story: 'Which do you want, the busted light socket in the bathroom or the carbon monoxide garage?' (No prizes for knowing which Hitchcock film that latter is citing!)

December 1 - 2006
I suggested last time that the red walls of Ernie's Restaurant imply both life and death, harking back to the opening scene on a rooftop. Of course, the action of falling off a roof is an ambiguous act in itself - an image of death, obviously, but also, in terms of dream imagery, of birth. Scottie was already a 'failure' when, in one reading, he fell from the rooftop at the start of the film. (He had hoped to become Chief of Police but somehow significant promotion had eluded him.) Not surprisingly, then, the film has several moments of 're-birthing', all of them connected with Scottie's 'dream woman', Madeleine. The first is the very image we discussed last time, in which 'Madeleine' emerges from the dining room at Ernie's and pauses beside an image of a baby and a newly-blooming rose. Her emerald wrap - the colour of the ocean - is apt. Another image of 're-birthing' will occur when Scottie rescues 'Madeleine' from San Francisco Bay. Another will be when the made-over (by Scottie) Judy emerges, as Madeleine, from her bathroom at the Empire Hotel into the same emerald-green light, now redolent of mist and ghosts. So, coming back to Ernie's Restaurant, there's a sense that its red walls are womb-like. But Hitchcock is not finished. The sequence effectively began in long-shot as the camera panned from Scottie to discover 'Madeleine' dining with Gavin; it will climax with 'Madeleine' alone in close-up (see frame-capture below), then end on a dying fall as 'Madeleine' and Gavin exit past a full-length mirror that emphasises Scottie's sense of already losing this mysterious, beautiful woman. (The pay-off to this moment, and several echoes of it, will be Scottie's line later, 'I do have you now, don't I?') How artful this whole sequence is, and the close-up profile-shot of 'Madeleine' in particular! In Strangers on a Train (1951), in the initial funfair sequence, Hitchcock had employed a succession of small climaxes (e.g., a woman screaming in a river-cave) to ready the audience for the eventual big climax, the strangling of Miriam, seen reflected in a lens of her glasses that had been knocked to the ground. That sequence was essentially a suspense sequence. The climactic moment was lent additional impact by the exaggeration of the effect, by the sense that the inner meaning of the moment called for just this distortion from an everyday way-of-seeing. (Cf, say, the initial kiss in Rear Window, an effect achieved with a form of step-printing.) But the sequence in Vertigo is, rather, a more purely aesthetic one, though the technique has scarcely changed. The first climax had occurred when the camera in long-shot discovered the bare-backed 'Madeleine' dining with Gavin. The second occurs when 'Madeleine' pauses by the picture and the rose, and we can briefly savour her fine bosom and all of the beauty surrounding it - not least the rose which emblemises that beauty (as Madeleine herself emblemises beauty and 'life'). But the moment is fleeting. The final climax is our, and Scottie's, tantalising reward. In this glorious profile-shot 'Madeleine' is now seemingly only inches away from us, and her lips are poised, waiting. The music climaxes. Hitchcock daringly brings up the light on the red wall - a deliberate exaggeration that is perfectly right - and it is as if the rose we had just seen is now blooming at its very height. (What a pity second-unit director Herbert Coleman used the wrong lens for the supposedly matching shot that follows, after the cut-away to Scottie. There is a momentary jarring. I suspect that Hitchcock never fully forgave 'Herbie' for that!)

November 24 - 2006
We discussed the moment from Vertigo shown below, in which 'Madeleine Elster' pauses in the lobby of Ernie's Restaurant, on our Yahoo group recently. Beside her is a trompe l'oeil painting showing a child - but which, from a slightly different angle, shows the child grown into a woman, and, from a different angle again, the child become an aged, wizened crone! (This information was provided by group member 'Charley' - whom I thank.) Let's notice a few other things about the moment. It is essentially a subjective shot from inside Scottie's consciousness, as he watches (is aware of) Madeleine from the Ernie's bar. The image is full of upright, vertical objects, including the door jambs in the foreground and background, the painting in its frame, and, below it, a single slender rose in a tall vase. Not entirely accidental is the fact that the door jambs are made of wood - redwood, which will figure in several other key scenes - nor the fact that the walls themselves are a rich red, almost a blood red, thus doubly signifying 'life' (which is part of the very subject of Vertigo, where, however, it is never separable from 'death', something I'll come back to). Now notice the scene's several pendant objects: the emerald below Madeleine's neck, the crystal chandelier, the picture. Pendant objects are something else that recur throughout the film, and, like the vertical objects, each time subliminally remind us of the film's title and the moment at the start when Scottie hung suspended from a rooftop (while we, the audience watched in a suspense of our own ...). The actual colour-scheme of the moment shown here has its further subtleties, not least the general artificiality of it: remove Madeleine from the shot and the effect is stark and unpleasant! Madeleine's emerald wrap (echoing the colour of her pendant) is complemented (set off) by the pink rose; the latter, in turn, is complemented (set off) by both the deep red of the wall and by the rose's green leaves. The whole frame is an art-work, itself full of works of art or lovingly crafted objects. (Not for nothing will Scottie refer to how Gavin made Judy over, into the false Madeleine ...) So what is going on here? If you will, we are being given the entire film in miniature! I'll do my best in the space remaining to indicate how that is. Take the emphasis on art, artificiality, and, above all, trompe l'oeil. That is the nature of Vertigo, with its related emphasis on appearance-versus-reality. In the original novel, the theme of 'art' is related especially to the Scottie character (there is no Midge character), someone who is 'never quite the artist', though he would like to have been (cf Brandon in Hitchcock's Rope). That theme is being echoed here, in Scottie's yearning consciousness. Again, the trompe l'oeil painting on the wall speaks of ephemerality (and of the difference time and space make to our perception ...), and this is related visually (i.e., in the film's frame) to both the pristine rose and to the exquisite 'Madeleine' herself. In their all-too-fleeting beauty, they are momentarily equated. Yet of course humans seek constantly to overcome, or transcend, the ephemeral, to find, or create, truth and beauty that endure. For a time (!), 'Madeleine'/Judy will become Scottie's art-object whom he tries desperately to 'make' and 'possess' and to 'keep', especially as she herself seems to possess (the secret or 'key' to) 'life' itself, to be the Eternal Feminine incarnated (cf the title-character of Hitchcock's never-made Mary Rose). How vertiginous! Now notice again that rose, Madeleine's flower (cf the nosegay from Podesta's flower shop). Madeleine is like Scottie's 'Rosebud' ? la Citizen Kane but also like the actual rosebud in the vase, which is 'perfect' for a time (!) and then wil be replaced by another, which in turn will be replaced, and so on. The rose's tall stem, with its dark green leaves, may remind us of the tall Sequoias ('always green, ever-living') in the forest scene, though, paradoxically, that scene is very dark and 'chthonic', and altogether the inverse of the Ernie's scene. Significantly, 'Madeleine' (or rather Carlotta speaking through her) is associated with the felled Sequoia ('Here I was born and here I died') - whose cross-section with its rings is itself an echo of the rose at Ernie's and all the other 'concentric circles' imagery (the nosegay, for example). But also, in the same scene, she leans back against one of the massive trunks of the growing trees, appealing to Scottie's, and her own, yearning to transcend, to be 'free'. In turn, that whole scene, and the one at Ernie's (where Scottie first sees 'Madeleine'), relate to Scottie's moment on the rooftop, looking down - virtually at his own death. So the blood-red of the walls at Ernie's may be a subliminal reminder of that 'death', yet the Ernie's scene itself is all about 'life'. My conclusion (with some indebtedness to Charles Barr): Scottie perched at the bar may really be still back on the rooftop, or already falling off it, seeing in a flash what 'life' is - namely, 'colour, excitement, power, freedom', and somehow beyond, yet incorporating, all those things, 'Madeleine' - but also that he must now die. And perhaps, next moment, after clinging to the roof, he had indeed fallen, and the film itself represents an illusion, a simulacrum, of perpetual 'life', imagined in exquisite slow-motion but really in a flash, inside Scottie's head, as he plummets into pain and blood and darkness ...

November 17 - 2006
Nathalie Morris, of the University of East Anglia, has very kindly sent me details of her paper on Alma Reville (who in 1926 married Alfred Hitchcock), delivered last weekend at a forum in London. The topic of the forum was "Women and Silent Britain", invoking the early days of British cinema. In 1916 (or late 1915) Alma started work as a 'rewind girl' in the editing room of the London Film Company at Twickenham Studios. Already she was 'film mad'. Her keenness was soon noticed by director Maurice Elvey who gave her further work on the studio floor. In 1918 she actually co-starred (with Norman Page and Ernest Thesiger) in Elvey's The Life Story of David Lloyd George, about the wartime Prime Minister. And it seems that thereafter Elvey kept a benign eye on Alma. Accordingly, Nathalie Morris would refer to the 'Maurice Elvey connection'. For example, Morris suspects that Elvey helped Alma obtain temporary work as an editor at Stoll Picture Productions, circa 1922, after the American company Famous Players-Lasky shut down its UK operation at Islington Studios. (Alfred Hitchcock, meanwhile, had found work directing a film, never completed, called Number Thirteen.) Morris notes that Charlotte Chandler's biography of Hitchcock quotes Hitch thus: 'About 1923, before we worked together, young Miss Alma Reville asked me if I would mind shooting some inserts for a picture she was editing. Since it was lunchtime, I walked on the stage and just as I was looking through the viewfinder of a camera, a voice behind me said, "That's my job. You stick to what's in front of it". It was Jack Cox who later became my cameraman on Blackmail and a lot of other pictures'. Cox is known to have been Elvey's personal cameraman at Stoll between 1922 and 1923. His first film for Hitchcock would be The Ring at British International Pictures (1927). Meanwhile, Alma and Hitch had finally come together at a re-vivified Islington as crew members on Woman to Woman (1923), produced by Michael Balcon and Victor Saville. That picture was directed by Graham Cutts assisted by Hitchcock who also helped write the script and did the sets, and Alma was responsible for both continuity and editing. The rest is, well, history. Nonetheless, as Morris has found, there are plenty of by-ways still to be explored. She writes: 'During the course of my research I became aware of [an] astounding number of connections between Reville's separate work and Hitchcock's films. Reville [as we've seen] was an editor at the London Film Company, the studio that made an early version of The Manxman in 1916; she collaborated with [Hitchcock's friend] Angus MacPhail on scenarios for films such as The Constant Nymph and A South Sea Bubble in 1928; Madeleine Carroll's first film role was in The First Born [also 1928], a film that Reville had co-written with Miles Mander, the star of [Hitchcock's] The Pleasure Garden [1925]. The list could go on (and on).' Thanks so much for sharing that, Nathalie. Here are just a few thoughts. Your mention of Alma's contribution to the 1928 The Constant Nymph reminds me that soon after Hitch went to America, Hal Wallis sought him to film that very work (Margaret Kennedy's tale of a married composer's doomed infatuation for a young woman, his 'constant nymph' - with pre-echoes of Vertigo). It would have starred Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. As for the Hitch-Elvey connection, I've thought about it a bit. For example, I've been struck by the fact that Elvey directed a 1917 version of John Galsworthy's play 'Justice', scripted by Eliot Stannard (who would later write for Hitch) and starring Gerald du Maurier. I find this interesting because I've always thought that Galsworthy's play may have been the seed for The Wrong Man. (There are some pre-echoes of the 1957 Hitchcock film in the play.) Finally, I'm sure that Hitchcock would have seen Elvey's sound film In a Monastery Garden (1932), and again I wonder if there aren't significant elements of Hitchcock in it. Unfortunately I haven't been able to view it. But here's my reasoning. Composer Bernard Herrmann once said, with a touch of hyperbole, that if Hitch were left to himself, he'd score all his films with 'In a Monastery Garden' - presumably meaning the much-loved (in its day) piece of music by English composer Albert Ketelbey (1875-1959). (My Dad had a 78rpm gramophone record of it.) Also, Elvey's film starred John Stuart who the same year would make Number 17 for Hitch (and who had already appeared in The Pleasure Garden). The film is a melodrama about two brothers, one of them a gifted composer, and among the films it pre-echoes is certainly I Confess (1953). But, as I say, I haven't been able to see it, nor to find out if Elvey used Ketelbey's music in it. That's for further research! Meanwhile, to hear the music, click here: In a Monastery Garden.

November 10 - 2006
Tonight a basically light-hearted entry. Bill Krohn ( 'Hitchcock at Work') has suggested, and I have echoed him, that Hitchcock's famous dinner of all-blue food served to his invited guests one evening was 'inspired' by Hitchcock's having read Joris Huysmans's 'decadent' novel, 'A Rebours'/'Against the Grain' (1884). There, black-skinned negresses serve a dinner of all-black food, on black plates, to the host's guests. For my part, I have suggested that this 'funery' joke (the host was mocking his temporary impotence!) reflects the sort of humour that Hitchcock brought to, say, the 'funery' dinner in Rope (1948), itself based on Patrick Hamilton's 1929 play. (For more on this, see my profile of Hitchcock: Great Directors.) But now I find that Huysmans - and very possibly Hitchcock - actually got the idea from elsewhere, namely, from a 'decadent' of another sort, and another era, the Roman emperor Domitian (AD 51-96). As I read Lesley Brill's book, 'Crowds, Power, and Transformation in Cinema' (2006) recently, I came across an entry based on Elias Canetti's notion that 'The moment of survival is the moment of power'. It referred to the Emperor Domitian thus: 'The terror [Domitian] inflicted on his noble subjects at his famous "Funeral Banquet" exemplifies the absolute power in which the paranoiac ruler glorifies. At night in a pitch-black room, Domitian's noble guests found place markers shaped like gravestones, naked servants painted black, and funereal accoutrements. After hours of expecting execution, the guests were returned to their homes and sent valuable gifts.' And Brill comments further: 'Mercy, the fact that the autocrat may allow his subjects to live, only multiplies his sense of power. [According to Canetti] "He is able, as it were, to despatch them from life to death and then to bring them back to life again".' This, I would argue, is almost an allegory of Hitchcockian suspense and the relation of Hitchcock to his audience! But I shan't spell it out tonight. I'll simply note that when Hitchcock held a press conference to launch Family Plot (1976), the various journalists were themselves given markers shaped like gravestones! And now, again from my recent reading, here's more about Hitchcock's famous blue-food dinner. Gary Giblin knows exactly where it was held. In his book 'Hitchcock's London' (2006), he has an entry on 'Lyons Corner House' in Soho, the scene of a memorable moment in Blackmail (1929) in which Alice and Frank quarrel over whether to see a new film called Fingerprints. (In fact, as Giblin notes, 'Alice is awaiting the arrival of a secret admirer, for whom she plans to ditch Frank.') Giblin then adds a footnote: 'Behind the Corner House, at the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Great Windmill Street, Lyons operated another famous restaurant, the Trocadero, which opened in 1896. Here, Hitchcock, a friend of the owner's son, staged one of his most famous practical jokes: a dinner party in which every item on the menu was blue! Among his guests was an old friend and fellow practical joker, Sir Gerald du Maurier. ... The restaurant closed in 1965 but the building still stands, a repository for trendy (i.e., touristy) shops and restaurants.'

November 4 - 2006
This topic of 'subjectivity' is of course a huge one. (Incidentally, I've slightly revised the last entry. Hope it's a little clearer. Be aware, for example, how I'm saying that Norman Bates's 'pessimism' is a product of who he is, and we don't necessarily have to accept his generalisation that 'we're all in our private traps and ... never budge an inch'! On the other hand, from a philosophical perspective, it's difficult to deny a fundamental, Kantian truth in what he says. Paradox!) Now, I have said elsewhere that Hitchcock's films combine the pessimism of Oscar Wilde and the anti-pessimism of G.K. Chesterton - and that we won't understand what Hitchcock is doing unless we grasp this and can live with it! For ultimately those films are about us, the audience, and our individual subjectivities. They may initially imply various reasons why it's impossible, or near-impossible, to be 'free' - that's an implication, I take it, of those converging lines in the North by Northwest credits - but at the end of the day, or the end of the story, the films discharge us to our particular responsibilities, which are potentially life-affirming. This accords with the tenor of a recent article by sociologist Frank Furedi, called "Putting the human back into humanism". Citing 'the prevailing sense of diminished subjectivity', he writes: 'Social commentators regularly declare that we live in an era of the "death of the subject", "the death of the author", "the decentred subject", "the end of history" or "the end of politics". Such pessimistic accounts of the human potential inform both intellectual and cultural life in the West, providing a cultural legitimation for the downsizing of human ambition.' Furedi, though, thinks it's high time we resisted such depowering of subjectivity. (To read his article, click here: Frank Furedi.) For what it's worth, a strikingly similar conclusion seems to have been reached by legendary French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984). In works like 'Discipline and Punish' and 'The History of Sexuality' he had stood a standard Enlightenment tenet on its head: knowledge, which we traditionally thought would set us free, merely enmeshes us more efficiently in 'biopower' (modern society's capacity to regulate us all via statistics, normative sexual expectations, supervisory procedures, et al.). Talk about a (hapless) man/individual who knows too much! Talk about those imprisoning lines in North by Northwest! A consequence was that individual subjectivity was belittled (in two senses). But now a new book by Eric Paras, 'Foucault 2.0: Beyond Power and Knowledge', indicates that near the end of Foucault's short life, he changed position. In a late interview he reportedly said: 'I think it is characteristic of our society nowadays, that subjectivity has the right to assert itself, and to say ... "that I cannot accept," "that I don't want", or "that I desire."' He took to espousing Baudelaire's and Nietzsche's notions of 'the dandy' - the individual who makes his whole persona into a veritable work of art. Which may bring us back to Hitchcock. For Hitchcock, influenced by Oscar Wilde, certainly cultivated just such a persona as the dandy's. (Hitchcock's regulation dark suits, as Thomas Elsaesser points out, were his particular dandy's 'uniform'!) And from Wilde's (and Walter Pater's) notion of 'art for art's sake' - an inherent part of Wilde's dandyism - Hitchcock evolved his notion of 'pure film'. He now, I think, saw several things. Film is neither (just) 'objective' nor (just) 'subjective', but nor is it (just) 'nothing'. Rather, like the very Will of the world, it is a 'force' that is both 'objective' and 'subjective' at the same time. It has an objective reality of sorts - but what that 'reality' consists we can only know subjectively. It has to be interpreted, or even 'invented', and each time in a particular context that involves the audience (or individuals) interacting with the film. Just like the artist himself during the film's conception and making. But whether we can live up to the particular freedom that Hitchcock's own dandyism surely gave him - a freedom reflected in the films where, if not 'anything goes', at least we can 'expect the unexpected' - is an open question. I absolutely concur with Slavoj Zizek's point near the start of A Pervert's Guide to the Cinema (2006) about how, if we infer of Hitchcock's The Birds that the bird attacks reflect, say, the mother's jealousy of Melanie (or symbolise the Bomb, or ...), that inference/interpretation is only a convenience. As far as I am concerned, the birds are a reflection of us, the audience, and of our ever-so-protean Will. (Zizek, of course, would prefer to say 'of our Desire'.)

October 27 - 2006
Today some more thoughts on how Hitchcock's films are 'subjective' (cf above, October 20), this time apropos Psycho (and The Birds). Someone has kindly sent me the URL of an essay he once wrote on Psycho. Its argument is that psychoanalytic readings of that film typically pigeon-hole it with particular theories that prove too simplistic. For example, Dr Barbara Creed attributes to Norman 'the passive elements of the film' but then proceeds to note the shot of Norman spying on Marion: '"Now Norman controls the look."' (He also ups and kills her, let's not forget!) To me, this criticism of a reading like Creed's is itself simplistic - or, anyway, inadequate. It fails to tell us what Hitchcock is actually doing. Again and again here, I have suggested how Hitchcock must be read, namely, as an ironist according to Friedrich Schlegel's definition: irony involves 'recognition of the fact that the world in its essence is paradoxical and that an ambivalent attitude alone can grasp its contradictory totality'. This is in keeping, most importantly, with the fundamental nature of the world's blind, amoral Will as described by Schopenhauer. The credits-sequence of Psycho is all about Will (though it may be based on the credits of Tod Browning's 1928 The Big City). A 'force' is at work here. And the concluding moments of the sequence are particularly strong in suggesting a city of tall buildings and their inverted reflection, in turn implying 'schizophrenia'. Accordingly, if Psycho is 'subjective', it is so, first, apropos its collective audience, the crowd or mass, as well as the individuals who comprise it. (Let's never forget this, for it's very important, too, apropos The Birds, where the birds are both Will and the mass audience, reflected.) Second, I think Psycho is 'subjective' apropos the 'divided' characters in it. (Two such characters are Lowery, who keeps a bottle hidden in his desk, and his client, Cassidy, who has a part of his life - not just his money - that he doesn't 'declare'.) Just before Norman tells Marion that he minds being in his 'private trap', i.e., his particular subjectivity, 'but I say I don't' (!), he makes his remarkable observation about this whole matter: 'People never run away from anything. ... I think that we're all in our private traps, clamped in them. And none of us can ever get out. We scratch and claw [like birds and animals] but only at the air, only at each other. And for all of it, we never budge an inch.' This is, of course, both poetic and pessimistic. For formulating his theory of Will - to which everyone and everything is subject (cf Hitchcock's famous remark, 'Everything's perverted in a different way') - Schopenhauer is traditionally labelled a philosophical pessimist. But clearly, I think, Schopenhauer's and Hitchcock's understanding of 'how the world goes' is essentially the same. On the other hand, precisely by reason of the fact that Psycho is so obviously a 'thesis' film (about its characters, and the nature of the masses), its 'subjective vision' (call this the film's style) provides an 'out'. Norman is something of a representative Everyman (like, say, Scottie in Vertigo) but at the same time an extreme instance of what he represents (Will?). So this 'subjective' style of the film implies a contract entered into by the filmmakers, comparable to the traditional role of a court jester: the film, like the jester, can always plead, 'I was only joking', and is allowed by us considerable licence as a result. Licence, that is, to tell the truth in all its essential paradox! Finally, I recently read Angelo Restivo's essay called "The Silence of The Birds". After noting the film's underlying 'electronic hum' - which I would say represents Will! - Restivo observes that the media invoked by the film (notably, the radio broadcasts) are 'radically incommensurate to the task that The Birds has set out for us.' The use of the word 'incommensurate' seems very apt here. It brings us right back to Kant's unknowable Thing-in-itself (see September 30 and October 6, above) which Schopenhauer equated with Will. And what is the task that the film has set out for us? Restivo's answer: '[it is] nothing less than the imperative to re-think the human, once we have moved "beyond subjectivity."' Bravo! Restivo is I think quoting Slavoj Zizek here - someone else who constantly refers back to Kant. Of course, Kant insisted that to break out of 'subjectivity' is impossible! On the other hand, Schopenhauer believed that precisely art (and mysticism) could point the way. Another paradox! But it's that paradox that may indeed be at the heart of Hitchcock' films - which were, I keep noting, influenced by the Symbolist movement for which Schopenhauer was the philosophical figurehead.

October 21 - 2006
A News item here about a year ago noted that a play based on Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935) had recently opened at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. (Scroll down to UK stage production of The 39 Steps below to read the item.) Now Danny Nissim in London has emailed us to say that the production has moved there, and that he went to see it the other night with his wife and a couple of friends, 'all of whom know the film well ... and we all found it huge fun'. Here's Danny's report: 'I am writing to let you know that the other night I had a very enjoyable evening seeing the stage production of The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, London (the theatre is appropriately a few minutes' walk from the London Palladium). This is the same production adapted by Patrick Barlow that your correspondent noted when it was on in Leeds. It now has a new director, Maria Aitken, and stars Charles Edwards as a wonderfully unperturbable Hannay with all (yes all) the other parts played by Catherine McCormack, Rupert Degas, and Simon Gregor. Although billed as "John Buchan's 'The 39 Steps'", this is 100% based on Hitchcock's film, with a little extra dialogue and business added here and there. Let me say right away that you would have to be a rather churlish purist (of either film or theatre) not to find this witty and affectionate version of the film hugely appealing. I cannot but agree with leading London magazine Time Out's reviewer who says "Wholly irreverant yet entirely affectionate, it manages to both conjure the spirit of the original and make comedic hay from the theatre's unsuitability for the task." The fact that four actors take all the parts, with instant scene and costume changes only adds to the sense of frantic pace and surreal juxtaposition which are so characteristic of the film, and to be fair to Buchan, the flavour, if not the detail of which goes back to the book. I particularly liked the witty references to specific visual and aural moments in the film - we even get the classic cut with overlaid sound from the cleaning lady's scream to the train whistle, a moment of "pure cinema" you would have thought impossible to duplicate on stage, and all the more enjoyable when they carry it off. As your earlier correspondent notes, it's all here: the handcuffs, the stockings, Mr Memory (wonderfully played by Simon Gregor), the milkman, and of course Annabella Schmidt/Smith and Pamela (both very nicely judged by Catherine McCormack). Suffice to say that Rupert Degas shows his missing little finger to great effect, and I've given the entire cast due credit.' Thanks a lot, Danny. By the way, Piccadilly Circus itself appears fleetingly in Hitchcock's The 39 Steps although, as Gary Giblin's 'Hitchcock's London' (Midnight Marquee, 2006) notes, probably it's only a 'stock shot' (as the film's shooting script in fact calls it), showing the well-known lit-up signs. Finally, I'm going to pose to our readers one of the 'Ask Mr Memory' questions from Gary's book. The question is actually about Sabotage (1936). 'What does Vladimir - Verloc's paymaster - recall having seen on a sign in Piccadilly Circus?' And the answer is ... that it was 'the centre of the world'. (Gary's excellent and painstaking book will be reviewed on our New Publications page in the next few days.)

October 20 - 2006
Today's entry is adapted with few changes from something I've just posted on our Yahoo Group. There, I mentioned how the credits-sequence of Marnie (1964) provides a further instance of the sort of 'force' I discussed here last week operating in the Torn Curtain credits-sequence (see October 13, above). The look of the Marnie credits is 'old-fashioned' and sedate: decoratively-bordered pages turning of themselves, one after the other, a device at least as old as many 1930s literary adaptations by Irving Thalberg or David Selznick. But the sedateness is counterpointed by the rearing and plunging Bernard Herrmann score and an almost palpable 'cry' (as it were, in the night) - the sounds of a literal offscreen nightmare. The sense of an invisible 'force' at work (turning those pages, producing that nightmare) is counterpointed in turn with the noticeable near-silence of the opening scene - in which a shapely brunette, carrying a round yellow handbag under one arm and a suitcase in the other hand, walks away from us along an otherwise deserted railway platform. Another element of counterpoint is the sleek, modern look of the platform, especially the wing-like station canopy. The scene might almost have come from an Antonioni movie (could that be Monica Vitti walking away from us?!): indeed the nearby railway carriages look like they might have been deliberately painted grey for the film in order to match the generally steely appearance of the setting, including the gasometer in the background. The camera tracking the brunette tries in vain to keep up with her as she walks along a safety-line painted on the platform, which implies a lot about her determination to follow the (illicit) course she has set herself. For this is Marnie, seen now from behind in long-shot, but soon, in a pay-off shot, from in front, washing the black dye from her hair and emerging to our startled, but gratified, eyes as a blonde. (An irony of this 'full frontal' close-up shot is that Marnie isn't preparing to meet some boyfriend to have sex but - in the next sequence - to ride her beloved black stallion Forio. For Marnie isn't exactly your typical young office-girl ...) On our Yahoo Group someone reported that he had just seen Marnie for the first time and that it had 'blown his mind'! He would put the film, he said, up there with the other great films like Bergman's Persona, Resnais's Hiroshima, Mon Amour, and Welles's Citizen Kane (another Bernard Herrmann-scored work, of course). And I, for one, would agree with him. As I said on the Group, I have always been staggered by the people who think Marnie is just another pseudo-psychoanalysis story, full of 'crude' effects. I've pointed out here several times that the alleged 'crudeness' is obviously deliberate when you examine the film (but of course you should also be responding to the film at a visceral level, feeling Marnie's underlying hurt and anguish - the reason for which emerges at the end - and her brief moments of literal escape and fleeting happiness, notably when she is riding Forio). That is, the film is intentionally 'crude' and in-your-face and abrupt, in its music and cutting and use of red suffusions, for example - not to mention its dialogue. (We know that Mark Rutland will eventually 'tame' the wild, jaguarundi-like Marnie, not least because he is prepared when necessary to talk to her in language that isn't 'decent' or decorous - like those opening credits showing pages turning - but rather along the lines of his blunt instruction to her: 'Now let's back up and turn that Mount Everest of manure into a few facts.' By 'Mount Everest of manure' he means, of course, 'heap of horse shit' - which is certainly speaking to Marnie in terms she understands. Mark is an astute psychologist as well as zoologist.) In Marnie, Hitchcock took his use of 'subjective' style to its logical extreme, given that Marnie herself isn't some idealised anima-figure like 'Madeleine' in Vertigo - where everything is smooth and flowing and beautiful - but, on the contrary, someone who is herself constantly on edge, tormented, and subject to nightmares. In its 'expressionist', deeply-felt way Marnie is the equal of some of the plays of Strindberg ('Miss Julie', 'A Dream Play'), and in its absolute conviction, as 'perfect' a film as Vertigo. Its surface 'crudeness' belies its true quality. Tomorrow: the play of The 39 Steps has reached London ...

October 13 - 2006
As I've said here before, one of my favourite sequences in Hitchcock is the credits-sequence of Torn Curtain (1966). (And I think the film itself is kilometres under-rated. Let's see what Michael Walker has to say about it in the forthcoming 'Hitchcock Annual'!) John Addison's lurching main theme will be reprised during the bus sequence later, and that's fitting because both sequences are life-death ones. During the credits a flame burns fiercely on the left of screen, suggesting the sun and/or the life-force. On the right of screen - in apposition, so to speak, to the burning flame - appear a succession of faces, the watchers and the watched, impassive or agonised (after an initial brief happy moment of love-making by Michael and Sarah). At the end, Sarah's face will plummet away from us. The sequence is, at one level, about Sarah's 'awakening' to the harsh reality, and the suffering, of life - thus anticipating the film itself. But it is also more. It is another of Hitchcock's 'Symbolist' sequences, of which there are many in later Hitchcock. (Arguably, whole films, like Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds, are 'Symbolist' works.) At its most basic level, the Torn Curtain credits-sequence emblemises the creation of the world. The burning flame, evoking, as I say, the sun, initially emerges out of a swirling grey mist. Camille Paglia has described such a moment at the start of a chapter in 'Sexual Personae' (Penguin Books, 1991), a chapter called "The Birth of the Western Eye": 'Mythology begins with cosmogony, the creation of the world. Somehow out of the chaos of matter comes order. The plenum, a soupy fullness, divides itself into objects and beings.' But even more apt to Torn Curtain is a related passage from Schopenhauer (the favourite philosopher of the original Symbolists), in his remarkable essay "On the Suffering of the World": 'In Buddhism the world arises as a consequence of an inexplicable clouding of the heavenly clarity of the blessed state of Nirvana after a long period of quietude. Its origin is thus a kind of fatality which is fundamentally to be understood in a moral sense, notwithstanding the case has an exact analogy in the physical world in the origin of the sun in an inexplicable primeval streak of mist.' And another thing. Like so many Hitchcock credits-sequences, the one for Torn Curtain is all about a force - or forces. (The fact that Sarah is seen plummeting away from us at the end of the sequence suggests that one such force is gravity, thus linking the film to Vertigo. Of course, gravity in Vertigo is a metaphor for other entities or forces, most notably death and mortality.) Now I'd like to quote from an essay on the Symbolists by Shehira Doss-Davezac (whom I've quoted here previously - see September 30, above). In this passage, she herself quotes first from Poe, then from Schopenhauer (both of whom were seen by the Symbolists as virtual father-figures of the movement): 'In On the Natural Wickedness of Man [...] Poe had written: "This mysterious force [of] which modern philosophy refuses to take account ... this primitive, irresistable force is man's natural perversity which makes him forever and at once both homicide and suicide, murderer and hangman." Schopenhauer's philosophy had indeed taken account of it, presenting men, we are reminded, as "divided into tortured souls and torturing devils."' (Note: the Schopenhauer phrase is once again from "On the Suffering of the World". The world is Hell, he says there - anticipating another resonant moment in Torn Curtain where the image of the sun and the flames of Hell threaten to merge. Schopenhauer would indentify Poe's 'mysterious force' as the Will in man.) I want to suggest in passing that this force is almost the very subject of Hitchcock's films - informing many of their credits-sequences, for example - but I'll conclude with another aspect of this matter of 'force'. I suggest that it is connected to Hitchcock's creative genius. With his training in electrical engineering and draughtsmanship, Hitchcock, like many engineers, probably thought of the world in terms of 'force' quite naturally. It has been said of Leonardo da Vinci: he 'realized that the mechanical forces at work in the basic laws of mechanics operate everywhere in the organic and inorganic world. They determine animate and inanimate nature alike as well as man. ... So, finally, "force" became the key concept for Leonardo; as virt? spirituale ('spiritual property'), it shaped and ruled the cosmos. ... Leonardo's science offered a unified picture of the world ...' ('Encyclopedia Britannica', 2001 edition, on CD-ROM.) Hitchcock's extraordinary productivity and conceptualising power - not to mention his vision of the world itself and its people - may stem from a similar unified understanding as Leonardo's (or Schopenhauer's), I suggest.

October 7 - 2006
A useful book is 'A Pocket Guide to 20th Century Drama' (2001) by Stephen Unwin with theatre journalist Carole Woddis. Unwin is (was?) Artistic Director of English Touring Theatre, and the book contains essays on fifty key plays, from Arthur Schnitzler's 'La Ronde' (famously filmed by Max Ophüls in 1950) to Michael Frayn's 'Copenhagen' (which Howard Davies made for TV in 2002, about the meeting of Werner Heisenberg - see yesterday's entry, above - with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in 1941). One of the essays is on Sean O'Casey's 'Juno and the Paycock' (1924), and it set me thinking about how Hitchcock's stodgy 1930 film version of the play - although a failure - relates to the director's later films. The play was the second of O'Casey's so-called Dublin Trilogy (after 'The Shadow of a Gunman' and before 'The Plough and the Stars') and all three plays are 'rooted in the popular traditions of music-hall and melodrama' - so Hitchcock should have felt quite at home (besides which, his mother was Irish). (But he later admitted that he felt defeated by the play's very tightness, so that, one imagines, he could neither open it out nor - by cutting away to 'things' - create what Siegfried Kracauer would call 'psycho-physical correspondences'.) At the heart of the play, we're told, 'is the great, and some would say eternal, struggle between men and women. The play presents the world of male folly, arrogance and war and sees it as disastrous and charming, destructive and seductive in equal measure.' (Some of that, I noted in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story', would carry over into Hitchcock's Sabotage [1936], though - the subject being anarchism - without the charm or seductiveness.) Both 'Captain' Boyle, the strutting 'paycock' of the title, and his equally feckless drinking partner Joxer, 'resemble a music-hall double act'. But 'Boyle's wife Juno is cut from a very different cloth. She is struggling to survive and keep her family and dignity together ... but she is also at times a working-class snob ... she is as limited in her down-to-earth attitude as Boyle is in his flights of fantasy. Despite all this, her struggle is presented as an heroic one.' That's true. The trouble is, I think, that Hitchcock's film, despite a fine performance by Sara Allgood, falls into the trap of sentimentalising Juno. The spectator is scarcely made aware of her personal limitations. In 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' I suggested that Hitchcock afterwards sensed where he had gone wrong: 'For example, Juno represents both the first and the last of his films' positive "Great Mother" figures. Thereafter he would strive to give his films more psychology, even paranoia, with a result being the eventual emergence of the negative Great Mother figures in films like Rebecca, Notorious and ultimately Psycho. Much more interesting!' (Probably, of course, in all these cases Hitchcock was remembering the formidable Mrs Whittaker from Easy Virtue.) The authors of 'A Pocket Guide to 20th Century Drama' extend their observation to the other characters. All are flawed. For example, when, at the end, the socialist Jerry Devine returns and declares his love to Mary Boyle (who had thrown him over as suitor for the fortune-hunting Charlie Bentham), 'he soon reveals that his socialist concern for others is not universal when he discovers she is pregnant by Bentham.' (Above, on September 16, I wrote of Hitchcock's avowed God-like role: 'Almost inevitably, ... such a director will find himself portraying human subjectivity, even "hypocrisy". Hitchcock may well have been comparing himself silently to Sean O'Casey.) Now a related observation: 'For all O'Casey's [own] socialism and basic sympathy with the [Irish] nationalist cause, it is the expression of atheistic pacifism which is the most striking political statement in the play. When a tailor rebukes Juno for not having enough respect for the dead, her answer is direct: "Maybe, needle Nugent, it's nearly time we had a little less respect for the dead, an' a little more regard for the livin'."' I don't know about you, reader, but I find that remark as boldly apt as Thornhill's in North by Northwest to The Professor: 'If you fellows can't lick the Vandamms of this world without asking girls like [Eve Kendall] to bed down with them and ... probably never come back, perhaps you ought to start learning how to lose a few cold wars.' Now, Juno in Juno and the Paycock (both the play and the film) has another memorable speech, which ends: 'Sacred Heart o' Jesus, take away our hearts o' stone, and give us hearts o' flesh! Take away this murdherin' hate, an' give us Thine own eternal love!' I don't doubt that Hitchcock felt the power of that thought - however obliquely, it informed key moments in his films (I would even include the despised Torn Curtain). The authors of 'A Pocket Guide to 20th Century Drama' have their own comment on Juno's words: 'At the start of the twenty-first century, it is shocking just how resonant this still sounds.'

October 6 - 2006
One or two entries here a week just won't do! (But I'm afraid they may have to!) I was hoping to discuss some thoughts I've had recently on all of the following: Juno and the Paycock, Torn Curtain, Vertigo, and The Birds. (The latter is my particular preoccupation at present, being the subject of a long article 'in preparation'.) And then there's Lesley Brill's book already cited above and reviewed elsewhere on our site. And there's the outpourings of Slavoj Zizek ... But tonight, it's going to be none of those topics but rather a catching-up with some information sent by readers. Firstly, I'm grateful to Dr HH in Missouri who suggests a further significance of Gavin Elster's surname in Vertigo, which, as already noted (on September 3, above), means 'magpie' in German. 'In much of Europe', writes Dr H, 'magpies were birds of evil omen. One way of possibly warding off the bad luck that meeting a single magpie supposedly foretold was to greet it: "Hello, Mr Magpie, how is your wife?" Scottie's meeting with Elster is the beginning of his bad luck, and his growing interest in Elster's "wife" (Judy) will lead to two deaths.' Hmm, interesting! Just today, GD in Berlin has emailed me with something that significantly adds to this whole matter of German associations. The German word for 'vertigo' is 'Schwindel' - which also means 'swindle'! Scottie would certainly agree about that aspect of his 'bad luck'! (GD has also sent me details of the 'Kino im Kopf' [Psychological Cinema?] film season currently running in Berlin, which opened with Amie Siegel's Empathy [2004] and includes several Hitchcock films.) Next, I thank regular correspondent DF in Heidelberg, Germany, for his response to last week's topic here, which (readers will remember - or can check above) concerned tolerance. 'The problem of the Ding-an-sich, what is known in German as an "erkennntnistheoretisches [theory of perception?] Problem", is, as it happens, also reflected in hard science. This was pointed out very effectively by Jacob Bronowski years ago in one of the episodes of his excellent "Ascent of Man" series from the BBC. He was talking about Werner Heisenberg, and the Principle of Tolerance (better known, but not better named, as the Principle of Uncertainty) - that principle dealing with the behaviour of subatomic particles. Bronowski finally connects this with the hubris of people who think they know it all ...' I remember the 'Ascent of Man' series with particular pleasure, DF, and am happy that you have mentioned it in this connection! Finally, I thank AM in Melbourne (I think it's now Dr AM, by the way) for his kind words about what I said last time on alternative paths - the 'up' and the 'down' - to ultimate wisdom! My observations reminded him 'of something I read the other day about two contemporary philosophers, Deleuze (you've heard of him!) and the less well-known Alain Badiou, who was just in Australia (he's 70, but an incredibly powerful public speaker). Now, Badiou is a man of maths, science, physics ... but also with a great love for the arts, and what he calls the "search for wisdom", which again cannot privilege the high or low road! Badiou tells a story of how, one day, he tried to convince Deleuze of "his way" to the truth through mathematical logic, etc. Deleuze could not agree: to him, Badiou's line was finally all facts, figures, abstract imponderables, whereas he (Deleuze) sought a freer, more poetic and imaginative way to truth. But - this is the best part - Deleuze ended their exchange by paying this compliment to Badiou: "You sing your song well, and it resonates". And Badiou repaid the compliment by writing "Deleuze: The Clamour of Being" in which he, too, tries to let the theories of his "opposite number" resonate. This is, to me, a little like the wise relationship you posit between "open" and "closed" cinema ...' Thanks again, AM! (I was on Amazon.com a little earlier, buying Slavoj Zizek's 'Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences', and noticed the Badiou book there.) Tomorrow: I'm not sure - Juno and the Paycock, perhaps!

September 30 - 2006
As I wrote yesterday, human nature is blinkered. In all sorts of ways. Immanuel Kant effected a 'Copernican revolution' in philosophy by his insistence - which still gives philosophers a headache - on the unknowability of the Ding an sich, the Thing-in-itself. (Which means that we are all excluded from Total Knowledge.) In Psychology, I was taught about the Johari Window which refers to the fact that every human being has a 'blind spot' about himself. And of course there is human prejudice (political, racial, aesthetic, religious, et al.). When I mentioned to a friend (GD from Melbourne, but currently in Berlin) Prof. Ray Carney's 'set' against Hitchcock, he made a comment that I can scarcely better: 'Cinema is a broad church, as they say, and I do not belong to a single denomination. I think possibly Ray Carney is a fundamentalist - in more ways than one.' But, in this connection, I'd like now to take up the matter of introverts and extraverts - Platonists and Aristotelians - that I raised here yesterday. I have no doubt that Hitchcock was fundamentally an introvert and, yes, a Platonist. Immediately that would have set him apart, so to speak, from approximately 50% of the rest of the world, whose orientation was the opposite. (Prof. Ray Carney for one, perhaps?) As a filmmaker, though, he soon sensed that he wanted to overcome that barrier and to make films that spoke to everyone. In effect, he had set himself the same project of 'individuation' - self-overcoming - that Jung nominated as the life-project of humans everywhere; but in Hitchcock's case it was a project on a scale that few of us can undertake. That is, Hitchcock wanted to put himself in touch with the entire global audience, and so he set his goals accordingly. Now let me backtrack for a moment. In one way, Hitchcock's introversion is obvious enough: he was, by his own admission, always shy, and he always felt most secure when exercising his inner creativity at his desk or on a closed soundstage. But that's by no means the full situation. For Hitchcock was also a self-professed Symbolist ('for a while I even had Symbolist dreams', he told Charlotte Chandler), and a film like Vertigo is nothing if not a Symbolist work. So who were the Symbolists? They were members of a movement in the arts, especially in Europe, towards the end of the 19th century, and I can't do better than to quote from an essay about that movement by Shehira Doss-Davezac. She writes: 'Despite their differences and the diversity of their styles, [Symbolist] writers and painters had a bond in common - a certain mood: a disillusionment with politics, a dissatisfaction with materialism and a search for meaning, not in the natural world, but in the realm of Platonic Ideas of which the self, they believed, had intimations. As a group they had a global view of the world and of life on the one hand, and aesthetic concerns on the other. ... [R]epulsed by ...the Positivist ideals of Realism in painting and of Naturalism in literature, they turned their backs on traditional, academic modes of expression .... Positivism, they felt, called only upon parts of the total man, ignoring his spiritual needs, neglecting intuition whose intellectual resonances they argued, went far beyond the limited and limiting boundaries of reason.' (Quoted in Dale Jacquette, ed., 'Schopenhauer, philosophy, and the arts', 1996, pp. 253-54.) Okay. The above in a nutshell is the direction I see Hitchcock coming from. (Incidentally, I'm grateful to Bill Krohn, of 'Cahiers du Cinéma', who recently reminded me of how Hitchcock's under-rated I Confess [1953] is based on a 1910 play by an 'honourary Symbolist', Paul Anthelme.) But there's still much to be added. For one thing, I must insist that Hitchcock was aware of the potential criticism of his work by someone like Prof. Ray Carney: he had himself been subtly critiquing 'the masses' and their passive, 'half-alive' consumption of 'popular' culture and 'popular' mores virtually ever since he began making movies for those very people in the 1920s, and certainly ever since his portrayal of the two representative middle-class English tourists, Fred and Em, in Rich and Strange (1932). That is, Hitchcock made his movies about 'the English' from the inside - they were effectively 'love-hate' movies - exactly as the great Dickens had written his 'popular' novel 'Bleak House' - a Symbolist novel ahead of its time - back in the 1850s, critiquing the moribund condition of many English institutions, and people, of the day. (For some more observations re 'Bleak House', see "Editor's Day", September 16, above.) Now, Rich and Strange is a clear predecessor of Hitchcock's masterly North by Northwest (1959) of which I have recently declared that it is simultaneously a 'critiquing and acknowledging of an "admass" society'. You won't grasp the nature of Hitchcock's best work unless you see how he consistently did contradictory, or paradoxical, things. But he did - and Robin Wood's astute observation, 'Hitchcock was often too sophisticated for the sophisticates', applies. A final thought. Hitchcock is constantly let down by both the critics and scholars - even those who profess to admire his films - and by his fans. (Both camps can be very blinkered!) But such is the natural misfortune, and the privilege, of genius. So perhaps now turn to my review of Lesley Brill's 'Crowds, Power, and Transformation in Cinema' (2006) on our New Publications page: here.

September 29 - 2006
Two weeks ago (September 16, above), I responded to the critic and teacher, Luc Sante, who had reproved Hitchcock for lacking the 'depth' of Henri-Georges Clouzot. The latter's films, said Sante, make 'even Hitchcock's more somber efforts appear as light entertainment by comparison'. Well, I've spent half a lifetime hearing such accusations, in all sorts of contexts and against many different artists, filmmakers, thinkers, etc. (I'll explain this further below.) Accordingly, I simply said: let's not try to compare apples and pears. And now another such accusation against Hitchcock has been levelled, this time by Prof. Ray Carney, author of books on Cassavetes, Mike Leigh, and Carl Dreyer. And my response would be similar. After reading Richard Allen's essay on "Camera Movement in Vertigo" on this website recently, Carney wrote: 'I'm not big on crossword puzzles and rebuses and acrostics. [Critics] are so delighted with what [they] can do to and with Hitchcock that [they] never get to the more important question of what Hitchcock can do to you and for you (beyond giving you the sensation of having solved a puzzle or a math equation I mean).' Citing some Charles Higham-like accusations against Hitchcock - his alleged cynicism, cold-heartedness, brutality (or sadism), and 'the life-denying formal chilliness of Hitchcock's cleverness' - Carney concluded: 'I truly believe that Hitchcock's work is trivial and unimportant in the final analysis. He is just not good enough.' (To read the rest of Carney's piece, click here: Carney Mailbag.) What is the correct response to such charges? Well, firstly, I must repeat something I've said here before. I have always taught and believed that there are two types of film, which I call for convenience 'open' and 'closed'. The former may be represented by, say, the films of Jean Renoir or, yes, of John Cassavetes. The other type of film is Hitchcock's, or the work of the German Expressionists. Allowing that the distinction is seldom absolute, what is important to grasp is that both types of film are 'valid'. Or so I truly believe. I once pondered this in my very heart and soul. A longtime student of Shri Vijayadev Yogendra, who taught me yoga and much wisdom - 'Veejay', as his students called him, had been a personal friend and advisor to Pandit Nehru, Prime Minister of India - I reached a point where I had to decide: would I continue my study of the 'closed' Hitchcock or would I henceforth give my preference to 'open' filmmakers like Renoir and the later Rossellini? (Both the latter had made films in India, which may not be insignificant.) My decision was finally not too difficult. I simply remembered the words of Heraclitus (c. 544-483 BC), namely, that 'the way up and the way down are one and the same'. Taking this to mean that, over time, all paths to wisdom are ultimately one, I did not abandon Hitchcock! Indeed, my very 'openness' (as a yoga student) helped me to keep things in perspective. I could see where the English-born Hitchcock was coming from, all right, and I respected it; equally I repected the work of a filmmaker like Renoir. Both had made masterpieces (notably Vertigo and La règle du jeu) and that was good enough for me. It still is. Which isn't to say (1) that I wasn't also influenced by some other things I'd read or observed, and (2) that I don't better understand Hitchcock now, and would still defend him (and the choice I took to remain an 'Hitchcockian'). Apropos (1), consider this. As my regular readers know, I have always loved the novels of the Englishman Charles Dickens. Unfortunately, as far as some academics are concerned, Dickens was a 'popular' writer whose plots were based in melodrama. So even while I was studying Dickens for my Honours thesis at Monash University, Melbourne, I was aware that several members of the English Department held a decidedly snooty attitude towards him! This, despite the fact that Dickens is generally held to be the greatest English writer after Shakespeare! I thought then that those academics were being unfair and I still think that. And in time I realised that human nature itself is blinkered. In particular, gentle reader, I think that the great psychologist Carl Jung's division of human types into introvert and extravert is as profound an insight as you'll ever get. In his famous essay "Psychological Types" (which I commend to Prof. Ray Carney), Jung wrote: 'When we reflect upon human history, we see how the destinies of one individual are conditioned more by the objects of his interest, while in another they are conditioned more by his own inner self, by his subject.' And Jung prefaced his essay with a quite marvellous quote from the German poet and occasional playwright Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), whom, incidentally, Hitchcock had read. That passage begins: 'Plato and Aristotle! These are not merely two systems: they are also types of two distinct human natures, which from time immemorial, under every sort of cloak, stand more or less inimically opposed.' In short, I'll be suggesting tomorrow that Prof. Carney is simply not catholic (small 'c') enough, and that the greatness of Hitchcock - which has nothing to do with puzzles or rebuses or acrostics - has passed Carney by.

September 22 - 2006
More about 'God-like' directors. Gary Giblin's 'Hitchcock's London' notes of Frenzy (1972) that Hitchcock once commented on the high-angle shot showing Rusk (Barry Foster) pushing a trolley at night through a deserted Covent Garden, a view of London behind him. The latter was in fact a matte-painting by artist Albert Whitlock. The reason Hitchcock gave to Peter Bogdanovich for using a matte-shot here was that 'to light that area would have been impossible' (while keeping details of the background visible, presumably). But his explanation implies how keen he was to include the London skyline in the shot and thus make an expressionist 'statement'. (In just this manner, German Expressionist cinema typically located a protagonist within a social environment, often implying a two-way 'battle'. Significantly, an influence on the German screenwriters was the English novelist Dickens - another was the Swedish dramatist Strindberg, and another the Norwegian painter Munch - and Dickens even wrote a story called 'The Battle of Life'. At one point in Frenzy Rusk is shown alongside his cheery Mum from 'the garden of England', i.e., Kent, and an implication is that ever since his childhood something about the wider world has failed to measure up for him. [He's therefore still 'a mother's boy'.] Something has also failed to measure up for the film's Dick Blaney [Jon Finch], of course, but the deeper Lost Paradise connotations are with Rusk. Whether we like it or not, he may represent a feeling that we all have.) Hitchcock further told Bogdanovich that the 'beauty' of such shots 'is that you can become God'. (Quoted in Giblin, pp. 62-63.) Well, the word 'beauty' is ambiguous here, but not Hitchcock's obvious satisfaction with his God-like role. Now let's come back to the French director Clouzot for a moment. Without ever quite being as schematic or broadly symbolic about it as Hitchcock in Frenzy, Clouzot, too, caught something of the world's sadness in several of his films. Of the ageing Detective Lieutenant Antoine (Louis Jouvet) in Quai des Orfèvres, Luc Sante (see above, September 16) notes that he 'is a Sunday photographer whose repertory of subjects sounds uncannily like the career of Eugène Atget (old houses, shop fronts, deserted streets)'. But isn't a lot of filmmaking, including Clouzot's own, like that? He is often at his moody best when showing such scenes in his films. And indeed Siegfried Kracauer's 'Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality' (1960) has this to say about Eugène Atget (1857-1927): that his Paris street scenes 'are impregnated with the "melancholy that a good photograph can so powerfully evoke" ... Film makers have often exploited this intimate relationship between melancholy and the photographic approach ...' In turn, Walter Benjamin's famous essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1935) specifically likens Atget's 'deserted streets' to 'scenes of crime. The scene of a crime, too, is deserted; it is photographed for the purpose of establishing evidence.' Okay. So it may seem that both Clouzot's and Hitchcock's films display a 'natural' affinity for their photographic medium, not least because they deal in crime which represents one way of coping - or not coping - with 'the battle of life'. (On location at Covent Garden for Frenzy, Hitchcock gestured all around him and proudly told a reporter that his film was 'full of life'.) The highly-visual novelist Dickens, too, created stories - or 'panoramas' - in which crime was a recurring subject, and in which the various social classes contended with each other and with 'life'. But that's not the whole of the matter. To speak of 'panoramas' may remind us that Dickens was definitely influenced in his story-telling method by current innovations such as the magic lantern and the diorama, whose parents were the original camera obscuras invented in the thirteenth century. Charting the entire history of such optical devices and visual entertainments, in his book 'The Great Art of Light and Shadow: archeology of the cinema' (2000), Laurent Mannoni writes: 'there was one overriding godlike desire: to recreate life, to see a human alter ego, either hand-painted or chronophotographed, living and breathing on the screen'. Such a dream Mannoni sees as being finally fulfilled in 1895, with the first public screenings of cinema ...

September 16 - 2006
I recently (August 26, above) wrote of how I've always felt that Hitchcock's films are told as if from the mind of an all-seeing God, and I quoted Hitchcock himself on how the director of a fiction film must create 'life'. Almost inevitably, I added, such a director will find himself portraying human subjectivity, even 'hypocrisy'. Another such director was the Frenchman Henri-Georges Clouzot whose masterly 'policier' Quai des Orfèvres (1947) I have on DVD. Notes on that film were written for the DVD by author and teacher Luc Sante. After observing that Clouzot could be tyrannical towards his actors, and that 'he meticulously sketched out every shot in advance of production', Sante writes this: 'But in [Clouzot's] work there is a depth, not to mention a profound darkness, that makes even Hitchcock's more somber efforts appear as light entertainment by comparison. And whereas Hitchcock's pictures tend to be set, for good or ill, in the world of archetypes, Clouzot always seems bent on recreating life itself with all its contradictions. He represents the supreme manifestation of that well-known pathological profile: the filmmaker as God.' How to respond to that? First, I don't want to end up comparing apples and pears, so I had better say at the outset that I doubt that it's exactly the case that Hitchcock sets his films 'in the world of archetypes'. Rather, like the novelist Charles Dickens, whose works Hitchcock knew well, he creates a strong central consciousness (say Pip's in 'Great Expectations' or Marnie's in Marnie, though the latter is not without mystery, it's true) and then gives other characters degrees of shading as needed. Peripheral characters may be quickly established with a brush stroke or two, that is, given some striking characteristic (say Miss Havisham's wheelchair and her room closed against the world, or Marnie's mother with her walking stick), but the overall effect is subjective: we're seeing Pip's or Marnie's 'world'. But, beyond that, there's a sense of the 'omniscient author' (or, in Pip's case, a sense that he's narrating from a position of both immediate engagement with the events he's remembering and mature hindsight - a technical feat by Dickens). The point is, that Dickens and Hitchcock both set up 'worlds within worlds' whose limitations are always implicit; the immured 'peripheral characters' are themselves reflections of the metaphysical immurement of the main character. I repeat: the overall effect is subjective, but with a sense of 'a key' (even if this may itself prove illusory, and the 'omniscient author' not really so - we're in Vertigo territory and I'll come back to this). Now, Dickens came from journalism, and Hitchcock compared himself to a journalist (see "Why I Make Melodramas" on this website). On at least one occasion, each created a work of immediate 'reportage' that was also 'metaphysical', that attempted an 'overview' of the highest order. I'm thinking of 'Bleak House' and The Wrong Man respectively. In the former, Dickens shows that nobody fully grasps how things are, that all are subject to the System symbolised by the central lawsuit in the Court of Chancery (as it was called). Dickens locates this situation in both time and space, and then provides a further marvellous symbol in Miss Flite's collection of caged birds. She keeps a number of linnets and larks in cages with the intention of restoring them to liberty when the lawsuit is finally resolved. 'They die in prison, though. Their lives, poor silly things, are so short in comparison with Chancery proceedings, that, one by one, the whole collection has died over and over again.' In The Wrong Man (itself influenced by 'Bleak House' I have no doubt), there is similar symbolism, beginning with the 'little lecture on evolution' that Rose's dentist had given her. (I have analysed this film at length in 'The MacGuffin'.) Which is God-like enough of Dickens and of Hitchcock. But in Hitchcock's Vertigo - which could hardly have been made without The Wrong Man as its predecessor - we are given further levels again. That will have to do, for today. The concluding question, then, is this: how does Clouzot measure up in comparison? I will simply answer: quite well. Quai des Orfèvres does indeed show a slice of life from immediate post-War Paris, and gives us its own 'worlds within worlds', not least the representative world of the Paris music-hall. And the same director's masterpiece, Le Salaire de la peur/Wages of Fear (1953), does show him at his most God-like. But apples and pears are not the same, and thus not really comparable, and I refuse to be drawn further - for today!

September 15 - 2006
An Italian influence on Hitchcock (besides, possibly, from early 'giallo' films)? Most definitely! It all goes back to the 1920s when Hitchcock shot sequences for his first feature, The Pleasure Garden (1925), on location at Lake Como in Northern Italy and was undoubtedly captivated, like so many other people, by the region's beautiful mountain scenery. It serves in the film as the setting for the honeymoon of Patsy [Virginia Valli] and Levet [Miles Mander] and as the film's principal Lost Paradise symbol. Hitch and Alma married the following year and had their own Lake Como honeymoon at the Villa d'Este; afterwards, they often returned there for holidays. Throughout his life, too, Hitchcock kept an eye on the Italian cinema, citing Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948) as one of his favourite 'chase' films. He enjoyed the Italian 'caper' comedy, Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), and soon afterwards met with its writers, Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli (billed as 'Age and Scarpelli'), in Rome. Later, he put them to work on his project called R.R.R.R.R., about a big hotel in New York run by an immigrant Italian with a dominating grandmother, but which is soon full of crooks, many of them the man's relatives. Apart from the comedy aspect, Hitchcock hoped to show behind-the-scenes workings of the hotel. (The whole idea was at least as old as Arnold Bennett's 1902 potboiler, 'The Grand Babylon Hotel'.) At about this time (the 1960s), too, Hitchcock watched several films by Visconti and Antonioni, and was greatly impressed. One Italian painter who certainly influenced Hitchcock was Giorgio di Chirico (1888-1978), the founder of Metaphysical painting, with its use of enigmatic imagery and dreamlike settings; but there were undoubtedly many others, perhaps going back at least as far as Masaccio (1401-28), the Florentine artist whose 'Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise' is an early Lost Paradise masterpiece (and which film scholar Michael Walker would invoke apropos the ending of Hitchcock's 1929 The Manxman). But another Italian who probably had a particularly strong influence on Hitchcock, I've always felt, was Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936). I have written elsewhere: 'I doubt that the great Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello, celebrated for his understanding of the relation between "theatricality" and madness, could have written an ending of more psychological acuity than Psycho's.' (But if anyone could, he could, and with vast understanding and compassion.) I added: 'I once noted the likely influence of Pirandello's "Right You Are (If You Think So)" on the ending of the sound version of Hitchcock's Blackmail. And a remark by Hitchcock in an interview apropos Psycho strikes exactly the Pirandellian note: "Reality is something that none of us can stand, at any time."' The fact is, that Pirandello was very much 'in the air' in the 1920s, including on the London stage (the above-named play opened there on 17 September, 1925, when it starred Claude Rains), but also literally on the airwaves themselves. It's quite likely, given Hitchcock's work on Elstree Calling (with its references to the public transmissions of primitive 30-line television at this time), that he caught the first live television drama, Pirandello's play 'The Man With a Flower in His Mouth', by the BBC on 14 July, 1930. The play was chosen primarily for its short length of half an hour, and its small cast - just two main characters - but also, no doubt, because, as I say, Pirandello was highly regarded in Britain by sophisticated playgoers and intellectuals (such as those who attended, and helped found, the Film Society, of which Hitchcock was a member). (Two other figures 'fashionable' with British intellectuals at the time were the great German thinker Nietzsche and the celebrated French philosopher Bergson - whose respective ideas can be detected informing Hitchcock films from Rich and Strange to Vertigo.) So that's my thought for today. Pirandello's sensitive studies in fiction, and in his plays, of ideas about reality and the line between normality and madness, and the need for compassion, can be detected in the films of such Italian greats as Fellini (8½) and Antonioni (Blowup), but also at moments in the work of Hitchcock (Blackmail, Vertigo, Psycho, et al.).

September 9 - 2006
I finally got to watch Paolo Cavara's 1971 'giallo' called The Black Belly of the Tarantula (see August 11, above), and it isn't bad at all. Sure, it's pitched at the same shrill level of shock and outlandishness as other gialli I've seen, whose main drawback is that there's little room to modulate into more reflective or humorous or 'real' passages. (Italian Neo-Realism is out the window, very probably by design.) Its inventively languid score is by Ennio Morricone. And the director, Paolo Cavara, it turns out, began in movies as one of the directors of Mondo Cane (1962), which I saw at a young age and which helped make me cynical towards the human race ever afterwards! Actually, the scene in Tarantula in which a scientist in a white lab-jacket explains about the spider whose deadliest foe is a wasp that lays its eggs in its paralysed host for the larvae to feast on, could almost have come from Mondo Cane (given how Tarantula is drawing a facetious parallel with its killer's use of an acapuncture needle ...) Further, I was struck by how Tarantula came out the same year as Dario Argento's giallo called Cat o' Nine Tails (which, incidentally, once or twice borrows from Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief) and often resembles the Argento film, not least visually: 'mod' design, strong colour, emphasis on architecture. Both are about investigations, one (Nine Tails) into what happens behind the scenes at a private research institute, the other at an exclusive 'salon' for rich ladies. In both films, several scenes take place at night. Both contain blind (or seemingly blind) characters. Both include falls from high places. Also, of course, both include multiple murders of young women ... The question is, did Hitchcock see Tarantula before he made his serial-killer film Frenzy (1972), as Gary Giblin has suggested? The police inspector in Tarantula (Giancarlo Giannini) does look a bit like his counterpart (Alec McCowan) in Frenzy, and both policemen have agreeably homely wives who practise culinary arts to please their respective tired spouses in the evening. But it's impossible to be definite about this. I'd settle for saying that I wouldn't be surprised if Hitch had seen some giallo films - after all, we know his interest in Italian cinema at this time, especially the work of Antonioni. And his project called Kaleidoscope, which he'd recently worked on and then had to abandon, does rather sound like a mix of Antonioni and giallo elements. (Note: uncredited scripter on Tarantula was Antonioni's legendary screenwriter Tonino Guerra.)

• Additional information. My thanks to correspondent GC in Rome, Italy, for some of the following. First, some facts about director Dario Argento (Cat o' Nine Tails, Suspiria, Tenebrae), one of the leading giallo exponents. Argento was hailed by critics in the 1970s as the Italian Hitchcock because his early films contained Hitchcock references and ingredients. Nonetheless, Argento played down that title, explaining that as Hitchcock was a Catholic and he, Argento, wasn't, their cinematic approach was quite different, and that he owed much more to Sergio Leone for whom he had been a scriptwriter and assistant in the 1960s. Nonetheless, Argento has kept 'quoting' Hitchcock throughout his career, even using Hitchcockian actors in (mainly) minor roles: Karl Malden, Alida Valli (twice), Martin Balsam. His most recent film, made for TV, is in fact called Ti piace Hitchcock?/Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005). (Yes, and I was intrigued by something I recently learned about Argento's first giallo, L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo/The Bird With the Crystal Plumage [1970]. Uncredited, it was based on a novel, 'The Screaming Mimi', by the respected pulp writer Frederic Brown, about an alcoholic reporter's quest to find a Jack-the-Ripper-like killer roaming Chicago. So you've a Hitchcockian ambience right there: cf The Lodger [1926]. Also, I've just been reminded, by Prof. Tony Williams [whom I thank], that Argento's film contains a 'cameo' by Reggie Nalder, who played the marksman in Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much [1956]. Brown's novel had already been filmed in 1958, by Gerd Oswald, when it starred Anita Ekberg. Finally, gentle reader, did you know that Hitchcock had been going to film another Frederic Brown novel, 'The Mind Thing'? It had been his project immediately before he turned instead to The Birds [1963], which has a similar premise: wild creatures attacking humans.)

September 8 - 2006
As I've just written on our updated Links page, what is often fascinating - and instructive - is to compare a film's locations with how those places appear in the film itself. Some of the appeal of Gary Giblin's 'Hitchcock's London' (Midnight Marquee, 2006) is the opportunity it gives to study its location photographs. The same appeal informs the excellent handbook by Tony Reeves, 'The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations' (Titan Books, 2001), which I understand is now in a Second Edition. From A bout de souffle to Zulu (not to mention a dozen Hitchcock films), Reeves includes precise addresses, and even telephone numbers of hotels and guest houses, wherever possible. [Actual insights into the filmmaking process are few but not altogether absent. For example, we learn that the park seen in Antonioni's Blowup is Maryon Park, south of Woolwich Road, SE7. Reeves then adds: 'Antonioni notoriously manipulated reality to achieve his visual effects, painting paths black and grass green. The bushes, where the "body" was hidden, were added, and houses overlooking the park were false fronts. The tennis court, where students mimed the surreal tennis match in the park, is still there, unchanged. The antique shop (it was a grocery store) was in Clevely Close, at the park's northeast corner.'] I would speculate that an intrinsic interest of such photographs, and such information, is the way they can re-vivify the original film for us, whose initial effect on us had been lost, even forgotten. (I think of how the Surrealists would visit little-known parts of cities as a way, they claimed, of skinning their eyes and sharpening their senses. Antonioni himself, when in Melbourne years ago, asked to be taken to just such places; on one occasion, a film student of mine showed him around the old inner suburb, Richmond, where she was living.) Certain websites offer a particularly good way of re-visiting the locations used by one's favourite films. On our Links page, I have specified three of them. John and Brian Tunstill's 'Reel Streets' (here) is dedicated at present to just British films and requires an annual subscription of £10 if you want to access its full contents - which include material on Hitchcock's The 39 Steps and Frenzy, with The Man Who Knew Too Much coming. It could be money well spent. A virtue of Reel Streets is how its photographers have made efforts to match as exactly as they can shots of the present-day locations to actual frames of the films. The same observation applies to the absolutely splendid, and dedicated, site called 'Vertigo - Then and Now' (WayBack Machine). Last but not least, we now have Nándor Bokor and Alain Kerzoncuf's exciting, and stimulating, 'Locations from Hitchcock's films' (here), which is still under construction [Now Finished - AF] but is already capable of enlarging your appreciation of such films as To Catch a Thief, The Wrong Man, and North by Northwest. (One photo of the present-day Oak Bar of the Plaza Hotel shows that the painting seen behind Thornhill and his cronies in North by Northwest was likely a simplified studio reconstruction, no doubt reducing the risk of the audience's being distracted from what was essential.) Visit these websites soon. To end on, today, here's a location-shot of our own (actually cribbed a few months ago from the Web!). It shows the art gallery seen in Torn Curtain, identified by our current 'man in Berlin', GD, as the Old National Gallery. In the film, the building is first seen in a tourist pamphlet and then Armstrong (Paul Newman), viewed from above, is hurrying inside the building itself. None of the distracting clutter of the street and trees nearby!

[On checking the links on this post I found a video of Vertigo Filming Locations - 1957 and 2019. YouTube link here). - AF]

September 3 - 2006
Last week I was delighted to hear from GD, an old colleague - we both once worked for a Melbourne repertory cinema - who suddenly emailed me from Berlin. Gordon, an amateur theatre director for many years, has lately been catching up on movies, mainly at the Arsenal Kino of the Deutsches Film Museum. 'And of course I still love Hitchcock', he added. He asked me a question about Vertigo. Did I know that Gavin Elster's surname means 'magpie' in German, and was that significant? Hmm. The fact is, I had long ago learned that 'elster' = 'magpie', but had never attributed 'great significance' (Hitchcock's phrase in the Psycho trailer!) to it. But probably I'd never really thought about it, either. So now I wondered about the pied plumage of such a bird. To Gordon I emailed back: 'together with the "els(e)" of Elster's name, are we being given subliminal hints that the duplicitous Elster has another side or colour to him than the one we see?' I also thanked Gordon for a further piece of Hitchcock-related information he'd shared. He had recently visited the 'amazing' Natural History Museum in Austria, which was featuring 'a one-off exhibition on the history and culture of tattooing'. Gordon had been struck by a photo of a Hitchcock fan(atic) whose back was a tribute to the director - 'images from Psycho, North by Northwest, and The Birds ... and of course Hitchcock's iconic silhouette'. I responded by saying that I'm always being freshly surprised by such evidence of how Hitchcock 'spoke to' his many obsessive fans in ways that by-passed just entertainment or just art. (From what I hear, he quite literally spoke to many people - including, say, his barber - when he was planning a film, and listened to their feedback attentively.) But I was particularly pleased by something else Gordon sent along. This was the lyrics he'd written for a song called "Vertigo in Mind", designed to be sung to the tune of Michel Legrand's "The Windmills of Your Mind". I shan't print it all here, but let me share the opening and closing passages. (Gordon modestly included a note: 'I don't make any kind of claims for it. It is meant affectionately and I'm sure I can improve upon it in time and with repeated viewings.' It's dated July 10, 2006, 'after seeing Vertigo at Zeughaus Kino'.) Note the cheeky - but perceptive - allusion to the film's use of Mozart:

Vertigo in Mind

It’s like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel,
It’s never-ending, still beginning, on an ever-spinning reel.
It is a hairstyle in a painting or a track combined with zoom,
Or Kim Novak’s profile turning in a hazy restaurant-room.

Or like a staircase which is sweeping past the panic on a face,
When the world is like Eve’s apple whirling violently in space.
This is the vertigo you find there in the spirals of his mind.

. . .

There’s a ruby in a locket. There’s a dangling in his head.
Why did Maddy go so quickly? Is Carlotta really dead?
See phantoms walk along the street and leave their thumbprints on a tree,
And to the sound of Bernard Herrmann - her man - Mozart sounds quite twee.

Yes, on a staircase which is sweeping past the panic on his face,
All the world is like Eve’s apple whirling violently in space.
This is the vertigo you find there in the spirals of his mind.

September 2 - 2006
The climax of Henry James's 'The Aspern Papers' resembles something from Psycho (with pre-echoes of the cleaning-lady scene from Marnie, plus a touch of the climax of To Catch a Thief!). The narrator, his patience to obtain the precious papers exhausted, sees his chance to examine them when the old lady, Juliana Bordereau, who owns them (but won't release them), is said to be ill and confined to bed. Assuring himself that the spinster niece, Miss Tina, is not nearby, late one night he stealthily enters the darkened room that contains the writing desk where the papers are almost certainly kept. The suspense is palpable. Especially so, as at first the narrator won't admit to himself, or the reader, his larcenous intent: 'The door to Miss Bordereau's room was open and I could see beyond it the faintness of a taper [night-lamp]. There was no sound - my footstep caused no one to stir. I came further into the room; I lingered there lamp in hand. I wanted to give Miss Tina a chance to come to me if, as I couldn't doubt, she were still with her aunt. I made no noise to call her; I only waited to see if she wouldn't notice my light. [...] I had no definite purpose, no bad intention, but felt myself held to the spot by an acute, though absurd, sense of opportunity. Opportunity for what I couldn't have said, inasmuch as it wasn't in my mind that I might proceed to thievery.' Notice how James draws out, and turns to his purpose, every last thread from the at-first indefinite situation, in which the narrator shows himself torn between abandoning any nefarious design and proceeding with it. Such, I think, is often the mindset of an audience at the beginning of a Hitchcock suspense sequence. Donald Spoto has written: 'Unconcerned with "intellectual substance," [Hitchcock] allowed themes to emerge naturally from the seriousness of the storytelling method, an ethos of art espoused by none other than Henry James, to mention only one twentieth-century artist.' (Spoto, 1983, p. 187.) The narrator of 'The Aspern Papers' is a publisher who hopes to make a name for himself by aquiring the letters that the long-dead Jeffrey Aspern had sent to his beloved. He senses that Miss Tina may be sympathetic to his purpose, and now he rationalises that she may even have deliberately left the writing desk unlocked. He describes how he had reached out to it: 'and as I did so - it is embarrassing for me to relate it - I looked over my shoulder. It was a chance, an instinct, for I had really heard nothing. I almost let my luminary [lamp] drop and certainly I stepped back, straightening myself up at what I saw. Juliana [the supposedly bed-ridden old lady] stood there in her night-dress, by the doorway of her room, watching me; her hands were raised, she had lifted the everlasting curtain that covered half her face, and for the first, the last, the only time I beheld her extraordinary eyes.' This is Psycho stuff, and the narrator is caught horribly vulnerable, like Marion (Janet Leigh) in the shower; not to say shocked, as he finally sees the old lady's face, as Lila (Vera Miles) in the fruit cellar recoils from her encounter with 'Mrs Bates'. But James isn't finished yet. Of Juliana's eyes the narrator says: 'They glared at me; they were like the sudden drench, for a caught burglar, of a flood of gaslight; they made me horribly ashamed.' Shades of To Catch a Thief! And especially note that phrase, 'horribly ashamed'. As Prof. Anthony Curtis writes in his Introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of 'The Aspern Papers', this is no conventional crime story: 'Conventional burglars do not feel "horribly ashamed" when they are caught. There is a moral argument at the core of James's matter which underlies his assured arousal of our curiosity and manipulation of mystery. The narrator will perform any duplicity to serve his "god".' Yes indeed ('god' here seems to mean the narrator's 'mystic' quest, discussed yesterday), though I see no need to unduly elevate the moral element involved. As both James and Hitchcock imply, it all goes back to childhood (and adolescence: cf August 26, above). Before describing how he stammered an excuse and fled the household, the narrator recalls his last sight of Juliana: 'I shall never forget her strange little bent white tottering figure, with its lifted head, her attitude, her expression; neither shall I forget the tone in which as I turned, looking at her, she hissed out passionately, furiously: "Ah you publishing scoundrel!"' Looks as if this little old lady is another forbidding 'mother-figure' like those who have 'the last word' in such Hitchcock movies as Psycho and Vertigo (with its mother-superior).

September 1 - 2006
Asked by reader MP whether Hitchcock read Henry James, I could only refer her to the ambiguous indications in Donald Spoto's 'The Life of Alfred Hitchcock' (1983). Spoto never says outright that Hitchcock read James. But he does indicate that Hitch and Alma saw William Archibald's stage version of 'The Turn of the Screw' in 1950 and implies that's why the director approached Archibald to write the screenplay of I Confess. Also, and importantly, Spoto has a powerful passage beginning: 'Hitchcock's temperament was very like that of [...] James, who also partook of Victorian puritanism [...].' (Spoto, p. 399, British edition.) The passage continues: 'As Leon Edel wrote of Henry James, so it was with Alfred Hitchcock: a "spiritual transvestism" [...] protected a sense of masculine integrity. [...] For this was the androgynous nature of the creator and the drama of his [art]: innocence and worldliness, the paradisical America and the cruel and corrupt Europe."' (pp. 399-400) Today I want to raise some further Hitchcockian aspects of James's 'The Aspern Papers' (cf August 25 and 26, above). The story is set in Venice, which I've called the quintessential Lost Paradise city. That's partly because the city is architecturally splendid yet thereby patently 'artificial' - while being subject to periodic and disastrous flooding. There's a parallel with the San Francisco of Hitchcock's Vertigo which remains threatened by earthquake. Both of these intrepid cities have something rare and at times 'mystical' about them. In other words, they are both worldly and other-worldly. (I have added to the entry for August 25 a remark made to James's narrator, who is visiting Venice in quest of some rumoured papers of the American poet Jeffrey Aspern: 'One would think you expected ... the answer to the riddle of the universe.') But James also wrote, in a prefatory note to some memoirs by Mrs Arthur Bronson of the poet Browning in Italy: 'The deposed, the defeated, the disenchanted, the wounded, or even only the bored, have seemed to find [in Venice] something that no other place could give.' That does seem to round out the 'meaning' of Venice. (Interestingly, in Hitchcock's The Paradine Case - which, like Vertigo, is very much a Lost Paradise film - Tony and Gay keep talking about resuscitating their marriage by going back to Venice, where they had briefly spent their honeymoon.) Now, I have already noted in 'The Aspern Papers' an example of a 'powerful situation' such as Hitchcock liked to have in each of his films. Venice is part of it: James wrote with typical precision of that city's 'palpable, imaginable, visitable past [...] a world we may reach over to as by making a long arm we grasp an object at the other end of our own table'. An obvious parallel is again the San Francisco of Vertigo, and especially the scenes set in graveyards and art galleries (and the business of Carlotta's necklace). Also, the narrator's quest animates the story's setting while serving as a rich MacGuffin. In seeking Aspern's lost papers, the narrator feels 'a part of the general romance and the general glory - I felt even a mystic companionship, a moral fraternity with all those who in the past had been in the service of art.' Echoing James's own thoughts just quoted, the narrator says that being in proximity to the papers 'made my life continuous, in a fashion, with the illustrious life they had touched at the other end'. He speaks of the old lady who holds the papers as representing 'esoteric knowledge; and this was the idea with which my critical heart used to thrill'. Then he adds: 'Meanwhile the real summer days arrived and began to pass, and as I look back upon them they seem to me almost the happiest of my life.' Nonetheless, his life seems constricted, like those of his contemporary Americans. 'When Americans went abroad in 1820 [i.e., when Jeffrey Aspern was alive] there was something romantic, almost heroic in it, as compared with the perpetual ferryings of the present hour, the hour at which photography and other conveniences have annihilated surprise.' (James wrote this nearly half a century before Walter Benjamin's famous 1935 essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"!) By contrast, the narrator thinks that Aspern 'had found means to live and write like one of the first; to be free and general and not at all afraid; to feel, understand and express everything'. I shan't further emphasise the Vertigo parallels, which are obvious enough. But 'The Aspern Papers' climaxes with a scene that is pure Hitchcockian suspense, and shock, and I'll discuss that tomorrow.

August 26 - 2006
[Continued from yesterday.] Yes, I've always felt that Hitchcock's films are told as if from the mind of an all-seeing God - Hitchcock commented to Truffaut that in the fiction film the director is indeed God because there are many different feelings, forms of expression, and viewpoints that must be juxtaposed. Such a director 'create[s] life'. Moreover, as I contended yesterday, for such a director the compossible (see yesterday's entry) is almost routine, given human subjectivity, even 'hypocrisy'. These matters are the very stuff of some Hitchcock films, like Psycho, but I shan't explore them today. (However, the reader may care to look up what I wrote about 'the poetic character' on our Hitchcock and Dickens page, in the entry dated September 21, 1998. For a comic version of a similar idea, the recent movie Thank You For Smoking could be pertinent!) I'll only say this. In Marnie, we hear Marnie tell her mother, 'I am decent.' Nonetheless I strongly suspect that Hitchcock had fun directing the character, and the film, as if Marnie had a past that was rather more aberrant than she remembers - just because she was capable of having so erred. Psychologically, we all are! That is, if Marnie is herself a bit of a tease (Hitchcock used such a term to describe her in at least one interview), then he saw fit to tease us, too. Hence the mysterious character from Marnie's past who turns up at the racetrack. (Note. Theodore Price would contend that Marnie is a prostitute-figure, at least in the mind of Hitchcock, because the legend of Jack the Ripper, who preyed on such women, was deeply ingrained in Hitchcock's psyche. Price sometimes blurs this idea, but I do think that it has a lot of truth, telling us something important about the director with his essentially Edwardian upbringing.) Talking of 'powerful situations', then, as we were yesterday, it may well seem that Hitchcock was 'naturally' predisposed to create them, especially those of an intriguing kind. Today I'd like to cite a few more examples of 'powerful situations' supplied by readers in response to my inquiry on a couple of websites, and in correspondence, last week. Author Gary Giblin ('Hitchcock's London') thought that Hitchcock's recurrent use of the idea of 'the gifted amateur taking over from the police' (as, arguably, in Murder!,The 39 Steps, and Dial M for Murder) ranked highly. It's 'a conceit perhaps most famously worked out in the Sherlock Holmes stories, which, in turn, owe a debt to the C. Auguste Dupin stories of Edgar Allan Poe', noted Gary. To the extent that I agree with Gary on this one, I'd say that it appealed to Hitchcock because it allowed a good deal of audience identification with the amateur sleuthing process. (However, Hitchcock's amateurs, on examination, typically prove to be bumbling and fortunate by turns - which may only facilitate our identification with them as they engage with the crafty and better-organised villains. Equally, the police, or the CIA, typically reveal brains, and organisation, that we'd not have suspected from their performance earlier in the case.) Gary also nominated situations involving 'the literal upsetting of public order', something which 'decorates everything from Pink Panther comedies to the Bond series to any number of Hitchcock movies'. Yes indeed. But - lastly now - I particularly liked a post from VE on our 'Hitchcock Enthusiasts and Scholars' group that referred to how 'Hitchcock exploits our simplest fears' such as social embarrassment or irrational guilt. VE gave several examples. Here's just one: 'Alice White at the breakfast table [in Blackmail] when she's especially sensitive to the word "knife"'. It reminds VE of when he was 'a teenager drinking under age and facing a similar situation [to Alice's] the next morning at breakfast. I honestly don't think anyone [at home] knew I had been drinking but the topic kept coming up. Even a neighbour visited and complained about her husband's binge drinking the night before.' Sympathies to VE! Hitchcock may not have built a whole film on such everyday concerns and fears, but they are perhaps more numerous in his work than we think. For some reason, I recall Hitchcock's citing of the Eleventh Commandment: 'Thou shalt not be found out.'

August 25 - 2006
On a couple of subscriber sites this week, including our own Yahoo 'Hitchcock Enthusiasts and Scholars' group, I raised the matter of how certain successful films and works of art take their impetus from a powerful original conception or situation. Such 'powerful situations' aren't a prerequisite to a work's success - or, on occasion, greatness - but they can help. I mentioned here last week that I was reading Henry James's 'The Aspern Papers' (1888, 1908), and how it hinged on the narrator's quest to access the papers of a famous poet, long dead. The narrator's visit to an evocative Venice - the quintessential Lost Paradise city, as I see it - and his near-fanatical attempt to ingratiate himself into the household of the centenarian lady who had been the poet's beloved, is both the story's springboard and MacGuffin. As a conception, it has something profound about it - as well as being a shameless ploy to keep the reader in suspense! The idea of meeting someone still living who had been an intimate of the Great Man, and the prospect of having hands-on access to personal letters he'd written, excites the narrator, and we accede. Roughly, such a situation corresponds to what drives so many admirers of Hitchcock's Vertigo to San Francisco to see at first-hand the film's locations. In turn, it's hard to separate such an urge from the film's own motif of breaking down time's barriers and finding 'the key'. (In 'The Aspern Papers' the narrator is told: 'One would think you expected ... the answer to the riddle of the universe.') Another Hitchcock film whose success can't be separated from a 'powerful situation' overall - no matter how many local excellences it boasts (and it boasts many) - is Notorious. Hitchcock was understandably intrigued by a 'Saturday Evening Post' story by J. Taintor Foote in which an attractive woman feels sorry for her country's young servicemen facing possible death in the Great War, and decides to comfort and inspire many of them as best she can - then redeems her sullied reputation by extending her efforts to 'sleeping with the enemy', in order to gain military secrets from 'pillow talk'! Hitchcock wastes not one nuance of this situation in transposing it, with help from the adroit Ben Hecht, to Notorious, and the result is a film both sexy and subversive. (Notorious is an object-lesson in Hitchcock's technique, whose apotheosis, arguably, is Marnie, of telling two films in one, in which one story contradicts the other. Alicia in Notorious is both 'wicked', a prostitute figure, and enormously sympathetic, thanks to Hitchcock's direction and Bergman's performance; similarly, as Theodore Price has shown, the character Marnie is another prostitute-figure, and possible lesbian, but Hitchcock is careful to tell a story in which she appears something else, and certainly ready for 'redemption': sexually frustrated, even frigid, she seems to Mark Rutland to be a sexy number just waiting to be 'tamed' into marriage - and we largely go along with him, thanks to Hitchcock's direction and Tippi Hedren's performance ... More on this another time.) I asked around this week for examples of other 'powerful situations' underpinning the success of certain films, and received some interesting responses. A reader on the 'Film-Philosophy' site, HS, nominated the two 'Brady Bunch' films from the 1990s. He chose this example to show that popular culture itself, and not just the great auteurs, may come up with a formula for a film's, or a series', success. Here's how Maltin's 'Movie and Video Guide' describes The Brady Bunch Movie (1995): 'Dead-on parody of the enduringly popular early '70s TV sitcom about America's favorite white-bread family. The premise here is that they're all trapped in a kind of time warp, unaware that values and mores have changed all around them.' As HS puts it, the Brady Bunch films thus present 'the compossibility of worlds' ('compossibility' being the philosopher Leibniz's term for a situation in which contradictory worlds coexist - are compossible - within the mind of God), and convey 'a sense of displacement and alienation'. In turn, HS is reminded of Alain Resnais's La Vie est un roman (1983) - which rather brings us back to the realm of auteurs, doesn't it? In any case, I've tried today to suggest that Hitchcock was capable of a bit of 'compossibility' himself. His craning camera (as in Notorious and Marnie) could indeed sometimes seem to emanate from 'within the mind of God', and I'm sure that was appropriate. Continued tomorrow.

August 19 - 2006
Today I want to talk about the necklace motif in Vertigo as a whole, not just as it figures in the scene at Judy's dressing-table late in the film when Scottie realises that he has been duped. But let me emphasise that the dressing-table mirror isn't just a symbolic instance of 'mediated reality' that I referred to yesterday. That is, the mirror doesn't just serve a metaphysical function in the film. As nearly always in Hitchcock, the moment is one of practical psychology - audience psychology. We are being set up to share Scottie's moment of shock. There's a precedent in Foreign Correspondent (1940) when Hitchcock wants to finally tell us that Fisher (Herbert Marshall) is a German agent, not the nice gentleman that we have taken him for. But instead of simply cutting to Fisher conferring with the thuggish Krug (Eduardo Cianelli), Hitchcock first shows their shadows on the wall, then pans to the two men themselves. This conspiratorial 'huddle' is thereby characterised as somehow, quite literally, a shady business, even while we are being given time to fully register the information. (As I once pointed out in 'The MacGuffin', David Lean uses a similar technique in Great Expectations [1946] when he wants to tell us that the boy Pip has become a strapping youth: Lean cuts from a shadow of young Pip in Joe the blacksmith's forge to another such shadow on the forge wall, but Pip's shadow is now markedly taller - and a camera movement confirms the change in Pip, who is henceforth played by John Mills.) Any attempt to read an analogue with the shadows of Plato's cave is unnecessary; nonetheless, in the case of Vertigo it is allowable because the themes of the film invite it. (So does the imagery of the original novel, which gives Flavières childhood memories of underground caves.) Now, a note of clarification: the dressing-table scene shows Scottie reacting to what he sees in the mirror, whereupon the camera leaves his face and moves down to the reflected necklace, then abruptly cuts to a matching shot of the necklace in 'Portrait of Carlotta'; finally, the camera pulls right back from the portrait to show 'Madeleine' in the art gallery as Scottie had seen her on the first day. It's a bravura moment, whose impact is punched home by Herrmann's score. Something else that impresses me is the care with which Hitchcock has set up this moment from the beginning. For example, we never do see 'Madeleine' wearing the necklace, but her liking for such jewellery is established at the outset: in Ernie's Restaurant, she wears a single emerald set in silver. The first time we see the actual necklace, consisting of one large ruby and three smaller ones pendant from it, is in the art gallery, in the painting. Hitchcock doesn't give us a close-up of the necklace at this stage - the dressing-table scene is still a good hour away. But he knows that we must not be allowed to entirely forget the necklace either. So he brings it back, though still not in close-up, a couple of times: when Scottie in his car looks at the portrait in the art gallery catalogue, and when Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) paints her parody of the portrait (in which Carlotta's face has been replaced by Midge's bespectacled one). Only in Scottie's nightmare, just before he meets Judy, do we get to see the necklace in extreme close-up: it is this shot, as much as our original view of the portrait in the art gallery, that is being referenced by the close-up of the necklace in the dressing-table scene. Without the close-up in the nightmare, the dressing-table scene might seem forced or exaggerated. Note, by the way, the hint by the film that Scottie's nightmare has given him an inkling of the deception that has been worked on him, but that he hasn't yet become conscious of such a possibility - I think Robin Wood long ago noted this aspect of the nightmare in his 'Hitchcock's Films' (1965). And one last point. It's typical of Hitchcock how integrated all of the film's imagery is - like the meanings that can be drawn from it. The necklace is one of the film's many pendant objects, like, for example, the chandeliers and hanging lamps that figure throughout. We are never allowed to forget the importance in this film of the very act of suspension, including. perhaps, the fact that we are all suspended between this world and the next, or anyway between life and death, not to mention between knowledge and ignorance, love and solitude, happiness and unhappiness.

August 18 - 2006
Not exactly a guest item this time, but a response to a regular correspondent, the Vertigo-obsessed Minas A in Greece. (Minas isn't alone in being obsessed by Vertigo, of course, but he's most definitely a stand-out case!) More than once lately, Minas has asked me to comment on the scene in which Scottie sees in Judy's dressing-table mirror the necklace from 'Portrait of Carlotta' and so realises that he has been tricked. Putting two and two together, Scottie guesses that the necklace must have come down to Gavin Elster, and that Judy must have been given it by Gavin after he killed his wife. Pretty quick reasoning by Scottie! But Hitchcock uses the power of film to convince us that Scottie would soon figure out what had happened: of course, the audience have been let into the secret several scenes earlier, by Judy's flashback, which told us of the conspiracy against Scottie in which he unwittingly served as a 'made-to-order witness' of a crime. There is no exact equivalent of the mirror scene in the fine Boileau and Narcejac novel, 'D'Entre les Morts' (1955). However, the scene arguably combines two moments from the novel (as well as drawing on Hitchcock's knowledge of the Crippen wife-murder case, in which Crippen had been caught after someone recognised a piece of jewellery being worn by Crippen's mistress that had belonged to the wife - a similar detail trips up the wife-murderer in Rear Window!). First, there is the startling moment when the Scottie character (named Flavières) sees the supposedly dead Madeleine, or an uncanny look-alike, not in a mirror but on a cinema screen, in a newsreel showing a crowd in Marseilles. Second, there's this, describing Scottie's make-over of the Judy character (named Renée): 'Was that really the reflection of a woman that he was staring at in the glass? Or was it some subjective vision like the things seen in a crystal? He crept round the chair to face her. No, he hadn't deceived himself. It was Madeleine as he had known her.' (Notice the phrase 'he crept round the chair to face her', which may be the germ of the famous 360°tracking shot in the film, marking Scottie's reclamation of Madeleine-in-Judy.) Tomorrow I'll talk about how the necklace figures in the film itself, i.e., how Hitchcock directs our understanding of its significance in a cinematic way. Today, though, here are some thoughts about the dressing-table mirror scene. I asked myself two questions. First, just why did Judy choose to accept the necklace from Gavin, a 'souvenir of a killing' as Scottie calls it (adding that she shouldn't have been so 'sentimental'), and, second, what is the significance of the mirror? As Gavin had 'ditched' Judy after she had served his murderous purpose, clearly she had no immediate reason to be grateful to him. Nor, I think, are we expected to suppose that Judy set great store on the necklace's sheer monetary value - which must have been considerable. Nonetheless, it was a necklace fit for royalty - someone once pointed out to me its resemblance to a necklace worn by Mary Queen of Scots (see illustration below) - and represents a lifestyle that the shopgirl Judy could never realistically aspire to, but only dream about. As if to emphasise the disparity, Hitchcock shows on Judy's dressing-table the photos of her folksy parents outside their hardware store in Salina, Kansas, that we had seen earlier. Altogether, I feel that the true significance of the necklace to Judy - and to us, the audience - is that it represents a concrete link to the past, specifically to the 'gay old Bohemian days' of San Francisco. This is its 'Lost Paradise' significance. The subject of Vertigo is precisely the elusiveness of past glories, and of time itself, and the necklace serves a role corresponding to that of the marked tree rings of the felled Sequoia that we saw in Muir Woods (or was it Big Basin State Park?): some sort of tangible, immediate contact with history that seems almost to stop the flow of time and to exist outside of it. (I'm currently reading Henry James's 'The Aspern Papers', set in Venice, and the papers of the long-dead poet serve a similar iconic function in its narrative.) Now consider the scene's mirror. Like the two passages in the Boileau and Narcejac novel I cited, the mirror implies something about the Scottie character: his constant sense that all 'reality' is mediated, or subjective, and therefore not to be trusted. Precisely in seeking to rise above or transcend the world - even as he is falling in love with the other-worldly Madeleine! - and conquer his symbolic fear of heights, Scottie is like the rest of us, dimly aware that we're all trapped in Plato's cave (or the condition which Schopenhauer called 'Representation'). Tomorrow: more about the necklace.

August 12 - 2006
From one guest to another. Yesterday, we featured author Gary Giblin's observations about Italian 'giallo' films and their connection to Hitchcock. Today, film director Richard Franklin (Psycho II), who lives here in Melbourne, reflects on composer Bernard Herrmann's score for Torn Curtain that Hitchcock replaced with a score by John Addison. Curiously, for the film's memorable murder scene in an East German farmhouse, Hitchcock decided against using any music. The general view over the years has been that this was the right decision. As someone wrote to me in 2001: '[The scene with Herrmann's music included on the Torn Curtain DVD is] not as powerful as the no-music version that appeared in the actual movie.' But Richard Franklin wants a re-consideration. His piece that follows is called "The Hitch with Benny".

Hitchcock’s collaboration with composer Bernard Herrmann seemed so blessed, their parting of the ways on Torn Curtain is now somewhat forgotten. As I understand it, Universal (a subsidiary of MCA - Music Corp of America) were keen to sell records via movies and vice versa. They urged Hitchcock to use a more 'commercial' composer and rather than make a change, Hitch asked Herrmann with whom he had done eight films in a row if he could accommodate them.

Never a melodist of the ilk of say Miklos Rozsa or Dimitri Tiomkin, Herrmann agreed but I infer thought he knew better than either Universal or Hitchcock what this Iron Curtain spy story (horribly skewed by the casting of Julie Andrews) needed. Hitchcock visited the scoring stage half way through the first session, heard only a couple of minutes of the clanging (iron like) percussion and dissonant horns and fired Herrmann (it is little known however, he paid him out of his own pocket). They would never work together again – collaborations, like marriages, are like that.

When I asked Hitch a year later why, he simply said 'Benny Herrmann was repeating himself'. With the naivete only a fan could muster, I asked the composer why his thriller scores were so alike. I fully intended to follow up with the Hitchcock quote, but saw the error of my ways when he challenged me for an example. Herrmann preferred short motifs to fully developed melodic lines and I quoted such a figure from The Bride Wore Black by comparison to one in Marnie. Herrmann smiled benignly and said 'when you steal from yourself it’s called style'.

British composer John Addison was hired, wrote a lacklustre score which was released on an album and the picture did quite well, but disappointed most of Hitchcock’s fans (particularly from an aural point of view – Hitchcock’s best films were always almost as exciting from this standpoint as his visual approach).

Some years later Herrmann’s Torn Curtain score was fully recorded by Elmer Bernstein and recently some of it surfaced on the extras of the Universal DVD of the picture. While it’s still hard to tell if it would have fixed the tone of the film overall (which felt wrong in an era of darker spy stories), this week I had an interesting experience apropos the scoring of the murder of the German bodyguard Gromek.

I was convinced for many years Hitch had been right and the scene was better with just sound effects until I showed it both ways to a class. Admittedly a 3rd year directing class is hardly a representative audience, but with Herrmann’s music, nervous laughter at the outrageousness of the scene disappears and the poignance of the death of a minor but likeable character who simply has the misfortune to get in the way comes into full relief. I wish it were possible to restore the entire film with the score Hitch never really got to hear. Indeed I'd like to hear Hitchcock’s last three films with scores by his favourite composer who lived just long enough to have done it.

• Herrmann however did some quite remarkable work in the perceived wilderness after his rupture with Hitchcock – a sublime score for Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 and a good one for the Hitchcockian The Bride Wore Black. He surpassed even the energy of his Psycho main title for Brian De Palma’s Sisters and did his best for ersatz Hitchcock (the irony must have been painful to him) with his Vertigo homage Obsession. He also supplied Hitchcock-style scores for all but forgotten thrillers like Twisted Nerve, The Night Digger and It's Alive. He died on Christmas eve of 1975 at the Universal Sheraton Hotel, overlooking the lot where Hitchcock was completing his last film Family Plot. Earlier that day he had completed his first and only score for Martin Scorsese, the assaulting Taxi Driver. It is a poignant but fitting end to this picture and to perhaps the greatest director-composer collaboration, that as the DeNiro character drives away from his killing spree in a New York brothel, Bernard Herrmann comments on his last very unHitchcockian scene, with the same distinctive three-note figure he used for the end of Psycho. Buffs may argue about Scorsese’s intent, but clearly his composer thought Travis Bickle and Norman Bates had much in common.

August 11 - 2006
Something different today. I guess most of my readers know about the Italian shock films known as 'gialli' (the plural of 'giallo'). The word means 'yellow' and originally referred to crime and whodunnit books published in yellow covers (and to pulp novels that used a similar colour on their covers). I think of the British publisher Hodder and Stoughton who were highly successful with such a line of books as early as the 1920s. (I have an omnibus edition of four 'Bulldog Drummond' novels in such a cover, though it dates from the 1950s.) In Italy, the Mondadori publishing house started publishing crime books with yellow covers in 1929. Many of these were in fact English books in translation. Then, from the 1960s, a distinctive Italian film genre, whose principal directors were Dario Argento and Mario Bava (and others such as Lucio Fulci and Paolo Cavara), emerged. The title of Bava's ground-breaking La ragazza che sapeva troppo/The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) knowingly referred to Hitchcock. Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) had Hitchcockian elements in it (as I remember a Melbourne film reviewer, Colin Bennett, pointing out at the time). Now, apropos a Hitchcock connection, consider the following, sent to me recently by author Gary Giblin. 'A serial killer with a distinctive MO prowls the streets of a major European city leaving a trail of nude victims, one of whom is stuffed in a sack. His onscreen murder of a blonde woman includes a sexual component as her breasts are revealed. A friend of the murdered woman fingers the blonde's estranged husband, who, indeed, acts mighty suspicious. Trying to clear himself, the widowed husband pursues the real killer, but the story focus shifts from him to the inspector in charge of the case. The inspector is a dedicated man who wants a simple home life, but his wife insists on replacing a traditional domestic staple with something new and far out. Oh, yes, the innocent man wrongly accused is betrayed by someone he trusts and the story includes a successful businesswoman who is eventually killed by the serial murderer. And did I mention that the killer, whose job allows him free and easy access to women, is impotent and gets off on the killing itself?' Gary Giblin is being a tease, of course. We're supposed to say: 'Oh yes, that Hitchcock's Frenzy [1972], isn't it?' But in fact, Gary is describing Paolo Cavara's The Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971), starring Giancarlo Giannini (whom I best remember from Visconti's wonderful final film, L'Innocente, made five years later). Playing fair, Gary proceeds to ask: 'Are there differences [from Frenzy]?' His answer: 'You bet. The innocent man dies while pursuing a baddy and the murdered businesswoman was actually blackmailing her clients (a red herring, it turns out). There is also a virtual absence of humor and the music is so overdone and omnipresent that it frequently overwhelms what's going on onscreen. Still, it's hard not to miss the AH inspiration, not to mention the obvious similarities to the later AH film.' Hmm. I've ordered a DVD of Cavara's film and can't wait to check it out! Meanwhile, something else I'm impatient to see is Gary's new book, which I understand was published this week in the US by Midnight Marquee:

August 6 - 2006
(late) Accounts of Lifeboat seldom talk about how well a sense of being marooned at sea, of feeling exhaustion and hunger, monotony and hopelesness, is conveyed by the filmmakers in authentic details. Several of those details seem to me to be adapted from Elizabeth Fowler's account of the ten days she spent in a lifeboat with 33 men and an eight-year-old boy in 1942, after their ship had been torpedoed in the Caribbean. For example, she writes of the first morning: 'When the first gray began to filter through the darkness, it revealed how filthy we were. The whites of the men's eyes were startling in their whiteness. How haggard we looked! Our faces might have been frozen into the expressions they had assumed when the first torpedo struck.' Make-up in films is not always of the glamorous variety, and the actors in Lifeboat had to submit to being de-glamourised for much of the time. (The shot of Bankhead's hair - framed by a coil of rope - discussed here yesterday is an exception, suitably placed at an intimate moment shared by Constance and Kovak.) Equally, the filmmakers seem to have found telling dramatic incidents in Fowler's account (published as 'Standing Room Only') that could be adapted to the requirements of their screenplay. Hitchcock's analysis of the film to Truffaut emphasised how Constance is gradually stripped of all her worldly possessions during the journey, starting with her typewriter and culminating in the loss of her Cartier bracelet that serves as fish bait. (It's almost the only kind of stripping the film permits, though Kovac does bare his tattooed chest at one point: the equivalent of the shot of Constance's let-down hair. And of course nearly all of the characters reach some sort of reckoning during the film, even if it's only with the 'cosmic indifference' to which Drew Casper refers in his DVD commentary. Rittenhouse, the film's industrialist, played by Henry Hull, touches on this matter when he reminds his fellow passengers - and perhaps the film audience - that 'We're all in a mighty small boat on a mighty big ocean'.) Well, Elizabeth Fowler underwent her own kind of chastening in a striking anticipation of what befalls Constance. She writes of losing all of her possessions after the parent ship sank: 'Everything I owned had gone down with the ship. ... I watched them slipping one by one into the briny.' But later, in the lifeboat, somebody produces an object that Elizabeth Fowler recognises. 'My little pet glass!' In an almost aggressive voice she calls out, 'That's mine!' Ironically, no sooner has she reclaimed it than she loses it again. She reluctantly allows it to be passed down the boat to one of the other passengers for a moment. 'I watched it go fearfully, as though it were my child. It was a symbol of all my possessions.' But on its journey back to her, someone thoughtlessly tosses it overboard. Elizabeth is incensed. '"My pet. My little, pet glass," I mourned. Then, I let fly. I was angry! I just blazed.' Another of the passengers tries to console her, grinning at her from the bilge. 'He spat expertly over the gunwale. "Aw, fergit it." His [Irish] voice was sociable. "It's another I'll be buying you when we hit Brooklyn."' I quite like Drew Casper's commentary on the film. He sensibly refers to how Hitchcock's knowledge of people, and his sympathy for them, is basic to the creation of suspense. Cleverly, he draws a comparison with The Lady Vanishes (1938). A real 'vanishing lady' in that film, he suggests, is England herself. Like the characters in both that film and in Lifeboat, she goes from uncommitment to commitment by the end of the film.

August 5 - 2006
Speaking of Tallulah Bankhead's hair - as I did here yesterday - should remind us of the extraordinary shot in Lifeboat showing Constance (Bankhead) relaxing for a moment alongside Kovac (John Hodiak): literally letting her hair down. Most definitely the shot was 'planted' by Hitchcock because he felt obliged to show off Bankhead's hair. In other words, employing his own windmills-and-tulips-in-Holland logic (cf. Foreign Correspondent), he recognised that Bankhead's mere presence in Lifeboat demanded that he feature her hair. Of course, there needed to be a story-reason for such a moment. So it's interesting that a note in the script refers to how untying a woman's hair is a Freudian symbol: the note refers to the growing mutual affection of Stanley (Hume Cronyn) and Alice (Mary Anderson). In this way, the film implies a parallel between the two couples. Drew Casper feels that the 'glamorous' shot of Bankhead's hair was included at producer David Selznick's instigation, but clearly there's more to be said. Indeed, the shot reminds me of one from Rich and Strange (1932), about another shipwrecked couple. There, the shot comes near the end, just when (if I remember aright) Emily and husband Fred are becoming almost euphoric and feeling romantic towards each other in anticipation of their safe return to England. (There's also a shot of the moon here. I'm not sure, but perhaps at this moment Fred makes love to his wife, and hence the reference to a pram, i.e., an expected baby, when they return home. Whereupon, they start squabbling about money, just as they did before they embarked on their sea voyage. Which may bring us back to Lifeboat ...) It's fitting that Lifeboat centres on Constance because, though it's little-known, Hitchcock and his scriptwriters evidently took inspiration from a remarkable true account by an American woman of having found herself adrift in a lifeboat with 34 males after their ship was torpedoed in the Caribbean. That account appeared in the same year as Hitchcock's film, as a book called 'Standing Room Only'. Drew Casper doesn't mention it, though he does note the frequent newspaper accounts of people who had been torpedoed. But Elizabeth Fowler's account is particularly detailed. For example, she mentions how she had spent much of the voyage, which lasted ten days before the lifeboat's occupants were rescued by a British naval ship off Barbados, sharing a blanket with a seaman named Mac. Mac's arms were covered in tattoos. 'He had a wonderful picture gallery there and had evidently given the artist carte-blanche.' Moreover, 'Mac was a rebel, hard and tough.' In several ways, then, he seems the prototype for the Communist stoker Kovac in Lifeboat. Also on board is a real 'Sparks' (radio-operator), like Stanley in Lifeboat, and he too might be the model for his film counterpart. 'Sparks, who always wore a slightly bashful expression, as though deprecating his rosy cheeks and ever-ready grin ... had been preparing to go on watch when the torpedo struck and had raced for his station in the wireless room, just as he was in his underpants and vest. ... Adversity bounced off him. We loved him for it.' A comparable character in some ways is Vincent, the negro cook. (The film's negro is Joe, the steward.) He 'had been taking a shower at the time of the explosion. He hadn't wasted any time worrying about clothes, but had run as he was for the lifeboat. ... He was a fine guy - none better.' Unlike Joe in the film, though, he is an incessant talker, and enjoys being the centre of attention. (Perhaps the filmmakers deliberately inverted this trait of Vincent's in Joe.) Of course, in the film the character who is literally caught with his pants down when the torpedo hits is Kovac. More on Lifeboat tomorrow.

August 4 - 2006
Professor Drew Casper, in his commentary included on the Lifeboat DVD, says that Hitchcock's characters are guilty for not being whole. I take that idea to be the same one I expressed above when, apropos the Lost Paradise, I spoke of how the characters in I Confess are shown to be 'crippled' in some way. We all see only 'through a glass, darkly'. I was going to talk about Lifeboat anyway (before my recent computer mishaps that stopped this page appearing for several weeks), so I'll do so below. But before I come to the film itself, I'd like to comment on something else that Prof. Casper mentions on the DVD: how Hitchcock first saw the star of Lifeboat, Tallulah Bankhead, on the London stage in 1923 in a production of 'The Dancers'. That was new information to me - thank you, Prof. Casper - and it prompted me to consult my copy of 'Miss Tallulah Bankhead' (1972) by Lee Israel. The chapter called "England" (about the young Tallulah's arrival there from the US) contains some fascinating information for Hitchcockians. For example, 'The Dancers', a four-act melodrama, was written by Sir Gerald du Maurier in conjunction with Viola Tree for him to both produce and star in at the Wyndham Theatre, where he was actor-manager. Currently appearing in 'Bulldog Drummond' (which we know that Hitchcock also saw), 'at fifty years old, Sir Gerald was the most popular leading man in England'. After auditioning for Sir Gerald, Tallulah left, to be called by him on the telephone next day. Both he and his daughter, Daphne, must have been impressed. He offered Tallulah a salary of £30 per week to play the part of Maxine, one of two women whom Sir Gerald romances in the play. As for Daphne (who would later write 'Rebecca' and 'The Birds'), she was struck, like everyone else, by Tallulah's long hair. She told her father that Tallulah was the most beautiful girl she had ever seen. Someone else who worked with Tallulah in England not long afterwards was actress Cathleen Nesbitt (Family Plot). She later observed: '[Tallulah] had the egocentricity of a child and all the same sort of lovable qualities.' Meanwhile, Daphne du Maurier, who clearly had conservative tastes, was observing the life of the Bright Young Things in the society around her that had emerged after the War, and was not impressed. This was the very subject of 'The Dancers'. These young people would each night devour cocktails, rollick in cars, accept and practise bisexuality, and question the existence of God. Also, their language was gushing, full of such words as 'marvellous', 'divine', and 'daaarling!' Lastly, they were given to playing practical jokes. The irony of this, of course, is that Daphne's father was himself 'an almost pathological practical joker. When the mood was right, the stage turned into a virtual minefield of surprises for the actor. Forks and other props bent unexpectedly in the middle. Dinner rolls were stuffed with cotton. Chairs moved just as the sitters were about to sit on them. Sofa cushions made loud and unmistakable noises. After one of his stunts was succesfully completed, Sir Gerald retired to his dressing room, where [he] ... collapsed in paroxysms of solitary laughter.' And another comment of Lee Israel's is this: 'Tallulah was obviously in the right place at the right time.' In fact, apart from the other things listed above (one of them, 'Daaarling!', would became Tallulah's signature), practical joking was something that she and her co-actress in 'The Dancers', Audry Carten, were soon regularly indulging. Once they awakened Sir Gerald in the middle of the night by serenading him from his garden. Another time they called a crematorium and left instructions for the pickup and disposal of several members of 'The Dancers', who were, of course, very much alive. Well, 'The Dancers' opened on February 15, 1923, and the audience included both royalty (Prince George, the future King) and other notables (such as Gladys Cooper). By the end of the evening, both the play and the cast, not least Tallulah, were a hit. Tomorrow: Lifeboat.

June 16 - 2006
Let me be clear. Michael Walker (see yesterday's entry) contacted me to okay the use in his next book of my work on the Lost Paradise that I have often cited both here and in 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story' as well as in various LP courses I have given. Michael will present his own take on the motif in his forthcoming book, and The Manxman will be only one of many films he cites: Michael agreed with me that such films as Visconti's Death in Venice (1971) and Welles's Citizen Kane(1941) must certainly be included. For what it's worth, here's the basic idea, from an email I sent Michael: 'The permutations are endless, but the key is the notion of the original earthly paradise being a walled garden or perhaps an island, and perhaps with a pleasure dome or pleasure palace in the centre. Variants on that basic image include castles, towers, cities, parks, snowfields, deserts, the restless sea itself (or 'enchaf'd flood', as in the title of poet W.H. Auden's book), prisons, sanitoriums, a solitary room. ('Krapp's Last Tape'? [ Psycho?])' So John Orr's discussion of 'bisexuality' in 'Hitchcock and 20th Century Cinema' (2005) lacks a framing context that a knowledge of Hitchcock's use of the LP motif would have provided. Certainly, in I Confess Ruth and Logan, Alma and her husband Keller, perhaps Ruth and her husband Grandfort, all constitute couples where at least one partner may be bisexual or even homosexual (as Theodore Price was probably the first to point out). But the film uses Quebec City as an archetypal LP setting (the glorious Château Frontenac is an emblem), and, moreover, the film's mise-en-scène suggests that every human being is 'crippled' in some way. In turn, one may think of a famous remark of Hitchcock's to the editors of 'Movie': 'Everything's perverted in a different way, isn't it?' (My emphasis.) 'Everything's perverted in a different way.' To me, that suggests both the lesson of The Manxman (see yesterday's entry on the significance of the triskele symbol: none of the film's characters sees the whole truth) and a basic tenet of the philospher Schopenhauer, a tenet that I've long insisted applies to Hitchcock's films: the cosmic Will is in everything but never, as it were, completely. We all see only 'through a glass, darkly'. (That's a lesson of Psycho, to which I'm coming ...) Note: Schopenhauer became a figurehead for the French (and Belgian) Symbolists, who in turn influenced Hitchcock. 'For a time,' the director told Charlotte Chandler, 'I even had Symbolist dreams.' Now, a passage I like in Orr's book is this one apropos Psycho, contesting the superficial Freudian readings that have been given to that film: '[Hitchcock] has ... pre-emptively inverted the formula of his Freudian critics [or exegetists]. If they want to read through his cinema the fate of Western modernity as that of a psychoanalytic Unconscious, his cinematic vision suggests the opposite. In his view of things, the "unconscious" is but a modern coding of Destiny, which still remains an enigma to be resolved or, conversely, an enigma that can never be resolved at all.' (p. 79) Quite so. I've several times on this website drawn attention to the Will pulsing through Psycho (and countless other Hitchcock films) from the credits-sequence onwards, and Will is precisely the 'solution' Schopenhauer offered to what used to be called the World Riddle. Orr's reference to 'Destiny' is an evocation of Fritz Lang's 1921 film of that title, which Hitchcock admired, and certainly there are German Expressionist elements in Psycho. (In my book, though, I preferred to cite Georg Kaiser's famous 1916 German Expressionist play, 'From Morn till Midnight', as a Psycho predecessor, since it clearly exerted an influence on the German films that followed, and was itself filmed; moreover, it comes very close at times to Psycho in its sense of fatefulness and its symbolism, including allusions to the 'worthlessness' of money.) In a sense, if Schopenhauer was the figurehead of the Symbolist movement, he was also in the minds of some of the German Expressionist filmmakers: the image of Dr Caligari in the 1919 film was modelled on a photo of Schopenhauer in his old age! My point: simply that Orr hasn't brought everything together, as in his discussion of 'bisexuality' in the films, and thus his book is indeed 'half-baked' as I said yesterday. Moreover, to be reminded again - don't just take my word for it - of the amazing acuity of Schopenhauer's notion of Will, which I believe Hitchcock intuitively understood, read Prof. Julian Young's fine book 'Schopenhauer' (Routledge, 2005).

June 15 - 2006
John Orr's interesting book 'Hitchcock and 20th Century Cinema' is no more than half-baked, and that's a pity. (Nonetheless, some hyperbolic blurbs appear on the book's back cover from people like William Rothman and Charles Barr. No comment!) Repeatedly, Orr duplicates material that has appeared elsewhere, and a glance at his book's Bibliography shows that he's probably unaware of the texts in question. (So, too, presumably are Messrs Rothman, Barr, et al.!) I do regret the prejudice against a book like Theodore Price's 'Hitchcock and Homosexuality' (1992), presumably because of two things: (1) it wasn't published by a major academic press; (2) it is written in a rhetorical, even bombastic, manner. Also, speaking approximately, it anticipated much of the Queer Criticism of the 1990s, i.e., it appeared before Queerness became academically respectable. When I recommended Price's out-of-print book to Prof. Richard Allen at NYU a few years ago, he found that his own university didn't have it in their library; it took a lot of searching before Richard was able to obtain the book through inter-library loan. Okay, that's by way of preamble. Orr has things to say about the 'bisexuality' of Hitchcock's films or, rather, what he describes quite accurately as 'a grey area in Hitchcock's vision that goes beyond heterosexual romance. It is not strictly homosexual but rather a template for a triangulation of desire or love-triangle that works uneasily, or not at all, within [a] heterosexual format. The term "bisexual" barely does justice to it. Its first explicit appearance is in [Hitchcock's] last silent film The Manxman [1929].' (p. 15) That's a nice passage, and there's more of it, leading to remarks about hints of lesbianism in The Birds and Marnie (practically identical to remarks by one of our gay readers, GS, which I reported here last January: apropos Marnie, I suggested that there's a 'shadow plot' operating behind the main plot). Actually, although Orr covers himself by referring to the 'first explicit appearance' of the pattern in The Manxman, I'm not sure that it hadn't already appeared, obliquely, in Downhill (1927), where Roddy's expulsion from his public school (ostensibly for getting a girl into trouble) is rather like an expulsion from Paradise. I thought of this when recently I read the memoirs of bisexual author Frank Baker, 'I Follow But Myself' (1968), recalling his own expulsion from an English boys' school because the headmaster had taken offence at young Frank's close friendship with another boy. Recall that the original script/treatment for Downhill was co-authored by the gay Ivor Novello - and that The Manxman was likewise based on an 1894 novel by the gay Hall Caine. Orr, you understand, sees the triangle in The Manxman as essentially a love one between the fisherman Pete, the lawyer Phil (Pete's friend since boyhood), and the girl Kate. In turn, he sees parallels with 'triangles' in The Paradine Case (1947) and I Confess (1952), largely because in all three films a woman is heard to say to her preferred lover, 'At last we're free!' (Perhaps conveniently, Orr neglects to mention that a similar line is given to Nicole in Topaz [1969] where she's speaking to her lover Jacques.) But most of this had already been noted by Theodore Price (e.g., Price, pp. 255-57)! Worse, Orr is quite oblivious, I would say, to how such material occurs within a wider conceptual framework of Hitchcock's, namely, the director's ubiquitous 'Lost Paradise' motif, detectable in his very first film, The Pleasure Garden (1925). Such a motif is found in much Western (and Eastern) art, as Orson Welles once pointed out. But Hitchcock was alert to the countless nuances of the motif; and its knowing inclusion in his films explains much of their peculiar poignance and, yes, compassion, that is too seldom noted. The Lake Como sequence in The Pleasure Garden; the playing fields images in Downhill; the image of the dappled glen (and the symbolic Isle of Man itself) in The Manxman; the Cumberland interlude in The Paradine Case; the Quebec countryside in I Confess - these are only a few such significant images in Hitchcock's work. (To see how I relate the motif to innate bisexuality and much more - not least the depredations of cosmic Will - read my 'Senses of Cinema' profile of Hitchcock, where I put especial emphasis, finally, on The Trouble With Harry [1955], which is a film Orr's book never mentions: Great Directors.) As Orr clearly hasn't read my own book on Hitchcock, either, forgive me if I today conclude by quoting from it, apropos the significance of the Isle of Man's three-way symbol. 'Three men, runs a well-known Hindu parable, were asked to describe an elephant in the dark. One, touching its trunk, said, "this animal is like a water pipe"; another, touching its ear, said, "this animal is like a fan"; a third, touching its legs, described the animal as a pillar. The Manxman opens with a shot of the triskele (three-legged) symbol of the Isle of Man, and proceeds to tell a story that perfectly illustrates how none of its three main characters sees - at least until too late - the whole truth. The gaze of each has been clouded by worldly ambition.' (Mogg, UK edition, 1999, p. 22) Incidentally, Michael Walker ('Hitchcock's Motifs', 2005) tells me that his latest book will include The Manxman in its discussion of Lost Paradise films: 'The characters are caught at the moment of expulsion [from Paradise], as in the great Masaccio painting.' More tomorrow.

June 14 - 2006
I was grateful when I read recently in John Orr's 'Hitchcock and 20th Century Cinema' of a likely indebtedness of Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972) to the 1947 Cavalcanti film They Made Me a Fugitive, starring Trevor Howard. Orr calls Cavalcanti's film 'the gangster-flight film of post-war England' (p. 95). That leaves two or three other films of the same year as also-rans: Carol Reed's Odd Man Out, Robert Hamer's It Always Rains on Sunday, and John Boulting's Brighton Rock (from the Graham Greene novel). Pursuing the Hitchcock angle, Orr proceeds to note that It Always Rains on Sunday is based on a novel by Arthur La Bern, author of the novel on which Frenzy is based, and that its screenplay was co-written by Hitchcock's collaborator (and friend) Angus MacPhail. Most of this (and rather more - to which I'm coming) has been noted previously in 'The MacGuffin', but I had never seen They Made Me a Fugitive. So two weeks ago I contacted my friend Tony Williams, author of the perceptive 'Structures of Desire: British Cinema, 1939-1955' (2000), and asked if he might let me have a copy of the film. Tony obliged and I have now watched it. What follows should fill out the picture sketched by Orr. First, it has long been evident - again 'The MacGuffin' has often pointed this out - that Hitchcock kept an eye on English films all of his life, and not just when he was working in England before he moved to Hollywood. The entry on this website about Lawrence Huntingdon's Wanted for Murder (1946) gives some of the evidence, including a couple of ties of that film to Frenzy. And the very titles sequence of Frenzy clearly takes its inspiration from the titles-sequence of Sidney Gilliat's London Belongs to Me (1948). (Gilliat was one of the directors sounded out by Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein at that time, i.e., circa 1948, to make films for their new company, Transatlantic Pictures.) But there are some deeper-running reasons to suppose that Hitchcock (as well as Arthur La Bern) would indeed have watched They Made Me a Fugitive, very probably when it first came out. As Orr notes, it is one of several gangster-flight or convict-flight films of the period: what he might have added is how a prototype of the convict-flight genre was John Galsworthy's play 'Escape' (1926) - for which Hitchcock had long ago expressed a liking and a hope that he might film it. Probably Hitchcock saw the play on its original run, at the Ambassadors Theatre, London, when it was produced by Leon M. Lion who would later produce other plays by Galsworthy and star in Hitchcock's Number Seventeen (1932). But in fact Hitchcock was beaten to film 'Escape' by director Basil Dean, who in 1930 made it with such actors as Gerald du Maurier, Edna Best, Madeleine Carroll, Gordon Harker, and Ian Hunter. (Anthony Asquith's silent film of the previous year, Cottage on Dartmoor, starring Nora Baring, was another early convict-flight film.) In other words, a film like They Made Me a Fugitive would have interested Hitchcock for more than just the reason that man-on-the-run films in general were a speciality of his. But there's more. Orr notes that the Trevor Howard character in that film plays 'a demobbed RAF officer at a loose end on civvie street' (p. 95), thus anticipating the Jon Finch character in Frenzy. Something that Orr doesn't note, though, is that there were both fictional and real-life antecedents for such a character. I would mention, first, Bulldog Drummond, the character created by the novelist 'Sapper' (H.C. McNeile) and played on the London stage by Gerald du Maurier: bored by civilian life after the First World War, in which he'd served as an Army officer and 'sapper' (de-fuser of enemy mines, amongst other dangerous tasks), Drummond takes to opposing arch-criminal Carl Peterson and the latter's brutal henchman Henry Lakington, and in the process repeatedly puts himself on the wrong side of the law, technically at least. Hitchcock was familiar with the Bulldog Drummond novels; indeed there's something of Carl Peterson and Henry Lakington in the villains Fisher and Krug in Foreign Correspondent (1940). In addition, several characters played by Humphrey Bogart, et al., in American movies of the inter-war years were of the ex-Army type who turns to crime. But more to the point is this. As Tony Williams has reminded me: 'There were many bored de-mobilized ex-servicemen as well as a high number of deserters in England after the Second World War. Several low budget British film noirs [e.g., another Lawrence Huntingdon film, Man on the Run (1949)] dealt with this situation.' Notoriously, the sex-murderer Neville Heath was such a man. This ex-Borstal boy, and ex-RAF officer (dismissed from the service in December 1945 for conduct prejudicial to good order and for unlawfully wearing military decorations), was sentenced to death on 26 September, 1946, for the murder of a Mrs Gardner. Almost straight away, several characters clearly based on Heath turned up in plays and films; years afterwards, Hitchcock hoped to tell something of the Heath story in his Kaleidoscope project - and, in fact, elements of that aborted project found their way into Frenzy. Now, if some of this suggests that Hitchcock may not have specifically looked at They Made Me a Fugitive after all, I can offer the following as a small rebuttal. I strongly suggest that Frenzy's screenwriter, Anthony Shaffer, at least, watched the Cavalcanti film. Shaffer gives Babs (Anna Massey) a line she speaks to Blaney (Jon Finch): 'I believe you, thousands wouldn't.' Tony Williams tells me that it's a remark that is common currency in English culture. Nonetheless, I'm almost certain that I've never heard it used in any other film - except They Made Me a Fugitive, where it's heard twice!

June 13 - 2006
Just a brief catching-up entry tonight. While we've been gone, some interesting correspondence has arrived. Special thanks to Minas in Greece who regularly provides us with quality information on his favourite Hitchcock film, Vertigo, and related matters. It was Minas who tipped us off about a forthcoming French film on Hitchcock's childhood: see News item below. Also, I thank CPC (Carsten) who appreciated our recent item on Michael Haneke's Hidden/Caché. Carsten writes: 'Caché was one of my favourite films of 2005. It confirmed my belief that Haneke's French years are his supreme period. I particularly love Code inconnu/Code Unknown [2000] and La Pianiste/The Piano Player [2001]. The latter has some interesting links to Hitchcock's Marnie. Also, Haneke included Psycho in his all-time top ten. Therefore, there's quite a clear connection between these two filmmakers.' Lastly, two correspondents (whom we likewise thank) mentioned that they've heard of, or spotted, allusions in recent films to Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Lindsay in New Zealand (he of the formidable moviexpress website) notes that Paul McGuigan's Lucky Number Slevin has a mistaken-identity plot; Lindsay has heard that the film 'acknowledges its debt to North by Northwest'. And our friend Pierre Poirier in Canada has lately seen Wim Wenders's Don't Come Knocking in which Eva Marie Saint 'harbours her fugitive son and lies to an investigator', all of which Pierre finds suggestive 'of her role in North by Northwest'. Okay, more tomorrow. I want to talk soon about Lifeboat, but also say some more about John Orr's book 'Hitchcock and 20th Century Cinema' which is reviewed on our New Publications page.

May 19 - 2006
Watching the Michael Haneke film Hidden/Caché (2005) this week, I was reminded of how much Haneke has in common with Hitchcock. I'm referring to his films' essential content and meaning, though their methodology may also at times be Hitchcockian. (On the DVD of Haneke's The Piano Player [2001], the director refers to the close-up of a knife in the Isabelle Hupert character's handbag, at the start of the final sequence, as being 'the Hitchcock shot'.) For those who haven't seen it, I'll just say that Hidden is about a comfortable, cultured Paris family who are being sent anonymously a series of intimidating videotapes showing the family's house and activities. Husband Georges (Daniel Auteuil) is host of a literary review program on television; wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) works in publishing. Gradually it emerges that an incident in Georges's childhood involving an orphaned Algerian boy, Majid, may be the key to the mystery. For one thing, Majid's parents had both died on the infamous night of October 17, 1961, when French police gunned down more than a hundred Algerian immigrants protesting a government curfew. So the particular incident with Majid - to which I'm coming - has reverberations to a wider guilt than Georges's alone. Majid's parents had worked on Georges's family's farm. After their deaths, Majid had been allowed to stay on, to be brought up by Georges's parents. But, apparently jealous, the 6-year-old Georges tricked Majid into killing the family rooster and got him sent away, 'robbing the boy of his chance in life' (as critic Michael Wilmington notes). The episode with the rooster is crucial. After Majid beheads it with an axe, he advances on a cowering Georges. So there's ambiguity here: both boys behave aggressively. (Similarly, an incident in a street, in which Georges in the present is nearly run down by a black cyclist, and berates him, is ambiguous: both men are partly to blame. Strangely, I haven't seen any critic note these or other ambiguities which figure in the film - yet to a Hitchcockian they are an essential part of Haneke's style and methodology.) Meanwhile, the beheaded rooster flaps around on the gravel with a thudding, swishing sound: a similar sound is heard later when officials come to take Majid to an orphanage and he struggles with them on the same patch of gravel. Thus Wilmington's point about 'robbing the boy of ... life' is made literal by Haneke's association of it with the death of the rooster. In turn - and this is very Hitchcockian - the rooster's bloody death (which has a voyeuristic fascination to most viewers, I don't doubt) reverberates with something inside all of us. Haneke has said of his films: 'Art must confront what's in society, the injustices and the conflicts. It's not sadistic to portray suffering - it's everywhere in the world.' Indeed it is - as Schopenhauer insisted long ago, linking it to something which is in everyone, the ubiquitous cosmic Will (akin to a life/death force). In a literal sense, this is a melodramatic view of how things are, but I'm not thereby denigrating that view. On the contrary, I'm prepared to say that melodrama does have a cosmic validity. The 'backstory' in Hidden reminds me of the 'backstory' in the Charles Dickens novel 'A Tale of Two Cities' (1859): there, the French ex-nobleman called Charles Darnay, who has long ago renounced the despised aristocratic family into which he was born, hopes for a peaceful married life in England to Lucy Manette but finds that an incident from his (family's) past, covered up at the time, threatens his would-be happiness and respectability. And Dickens's featuring of the French Revolution in the central scenes of his novel works like a metaphor implying how social injustice may lead to violence not unlike Haneke's frequent showing of televised violence from global trouble-spots. Georges and Anne's relationship to each other, and to their friends and colleagues, soon appears as less stable than it had initially seemed. The lesson that Haneke repeatedly gives us (and I think it's an Hitchcockian one, though found also in, for example, the films of David Lynch) has been summed up by Karin Badt. Of The Piano Player she writes: 'The film shows that in a stale bourgeois hierarchical power-ridden society, where all is "hidden," the only way out is sadomasochism.' Prof. Badt's interview with Michael Haneke is here: Family Is Hell and So Is the World Readers may like to compare some of the ideas expressed in that interview with my thoughts on the 'sadomasochism' underlying Hitchcock's films, here: Great Directors.

May 12 - 2006
Here's a follow-up to our piece on March 24 about the film Without Warning (Arnold Laven, 1952), starring Adam Wiliams and Ed Binns. In effect, today's entry is a "Guest Editor's Day" by our friend Stephen Rebello, author of the justly-praised book 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho' (1990). Taking time off from his several duties in Hollywood and Los Angeles, Stephen this week emailed us as follows: 'I had a fine old time watching Without Warning last night and thank you again for bringing it to my attention. The Hitchcock associations (and reverberations) make it especially interesting and I share your opinion that Hitchcock probably took a look at it. It would be interesting to know whether, in considering Adam Williams to play "Valerian" in North by Northwest, Hitchcock was sent scenes from Without Warning but then decided to watch the whole thing. I can certainly see why he might. There is The Lodger association with the killer's fixation on blondes and the choice of a particular murder weapon that is relevant to both the psychopath's occupation and to his compulsion (a one-off on Hitchcock's when-in-Amsterdam-use-windmills theory). There are also a few nice directorial flourishes, such as the motel room victim's head backwards on the bed staring out at the audience, the longish sequence of Williams tired and strangely deflated post-murder (not all that far removed from the world and malaise of Uncle Charlie in the opening of Shadow of a Doubt). The whole milieu is especially well-detailed, in part because the limited budget required some real location[s]. But those seedy and evocative bar-restaurants, motels, the killer's dwelling, and the grimy, primal, beaten-down air of post-war downtown L.A. [are] all very powerful. I really loved the thrilling shots grabbed on the fly, obviously, of Williams trodding past theaters on Broadway (I suspect), and those filmed at Chavez Ravine, Union Station, City Hall, and more. They help make the movie a tiny treasure trove for historic L.A.-philes. It's fascinating to speculate how such a movie might have fed in to Hitchcock's thinking and feeling not only about Psycho but also the unrealized Frenzy/Kaleidoscope project. There is even the idea of decoy women sent to trap the murderer, an idea exploited in every script draft I've read of Frenzy/Kaleidoscope. Of course, the Hitchcock associations play out endlessly here. After all, Williams was in the cast of Fear Strikes Out [Robert Mulligan, 1957] with Anthony Perkins, one movie that directly led to Perkins' casting in Psycho, and he also did "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" - script by and story by Robert Bloch - done on [TV's] 'Thriller' in 1961. I enjoyed Without Warning very much. Off to be guest lecturer today at a Santa Monica College class on Alfred Hitchcock. Type-cast yet again.' And after a follow-up email discussion we had with Stephen about on-location, urban-set movies, he added this comment: 'Something that strikes me about certain lower budget, non-star name films is that, at their best, their raw, unvarnished quality can make them enormously impactful and direct. Without the "burden" and the interference of big stars, big budgets and higher expectations, there can be in these movies a go-for-broke quality that can be most exciting and even unnerving. Certainly [in Without Warning] the sexuality of the bar/restaurant pickup scene and the subsequent racy banter in the blonde's car would appeal to Hitchcock for its frankness and suggestiveness. [By the way, did you know that in my work] I haunt many, many areas and establishments downtown and in Hollywood - such as Clifton's Cafeteria, the Pantry, Phillippe's, Union Station, [the] Musso & Frank Grille, the Pig and Whistle, among others - chasing the ghosts of noir heroes and heroines and sometimes finding latter-day equivalents?!'

• We thank Stephen Rebello for his fine insights above. Also, we thank Gary Giblin who first drew Without Warning to our attention, and whose book 'Hitchcock's London' is due out next month. Arnold Laven's film is available on DVD from Dark Sky Films.

May 5 - 2006
My thanks to Minas in Greece for his kind remarks about recent items in "Editor's Week" discussing his favourite film, Vertigo. And although Minas was grateful at the time for the so-called 'restored' print of Vertigo that appeared in the 1990s, he would now say (no doubt echoing the feelings of most Hitchcockians): 'Surely Vertigo is such a work of art - like a great painting - that every removal of The Master's "touches" is a criminal act. So I insist that Universal should release the best possible print of the original Vertigo in widescreen format. I don't want to see a bastardised version of Hitchcock's masterpiece any more than I want to see the "ghost" of what was once Vertigo.' Hear, hear, Minas, and I'll try to see that Universal receive your message. Now, the reason that "Editor's Week" is late this time is partly due to the fact that I was adding a couple of paragraphs to - and otherwise revising - our page on Hitchcock and Charles Dickens. (To visit that page, click here: Hitchcock and Dickens.) Also, I've been dipping further into the book by Norrie Epstein, 'The Friendly Dickens' (1998), which you may see I praise to the skies on the afore-mentioned page. It was Epstein's book that drew my attention to a passage in 'Nicholas Nickleby' (1839) which I think throws light on a recurring aspect of Hitchcock's films: the characteristic way Hitchcock set up love scenes as over-the-shoulder shots. It had never occurred to me before, and I've never seen any Hitchcock commentator refer to it, but apparently that was always the way such moments were done on stage! Here's the 'Nickleby' passage: 'In fact, Mr Crummles, who could never lose any opportunity for professional display, had turned out for the express purpose of taking a public farewell of Nicholas; and to render it the more imposing, he was now, to that young gentleman's most profound annoyance, inflicting upon him a rapid succesion of stage embraces, which, as everybody knows, are performed by the embracer's laying his or her chin on the shoulder of the object of affection, and looking over it. This Mr Crummles did in the highest style of melodrama ...' (Chapter 30). Here, of course, Dickens is poking fun at the propensity of Mr Vincent Crummles to over-dramatise everything, onstage and off. (For another reference to how a Hitchcock film, namely, Murder! [1930], apparently borrowed an amusing moment from 'Nicholas Nickleby', see the Hitchcock and Dickens page on this website.) Both Dickens and Hitchcock were regular theatre-goers - Dickens for a time even performed in a theatrical troupe of his own, and with friend Wilkie Collins wrote the play 'The Frozen Deep' (1857) in which he took a starring role - so it's understandable that Hitchcock should have retained in his films the 'theatrical' way of doing love scenes. Thinking about it, one may thus attribute to Hitchcock's affection for the stage (and music-hall) such diverse moments as the famous ear-nibbling love scene between Alicia and Devlin in Notorious (1946), the dramatic moment when Louis Bernard whispers his dying words in the ear of Dr Ben McKenna in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and the troubled look on Eve Kendall's face as she embraces Thornhill on the train in North by Northwest (1959) before sending her duplicitous message to Vandamm, 'What shall I do with him in the morning?'

April 29 - 2006
Speaking of Borges's short story "The Circular Ruins", apropos Vertigo (see yesterday's item) ... It does in fact include this sentence: 'Not to be a man, to be the projection of another man's dream, what a feeling of humiliation, of vertigo!' This comes just before the dreamer, who has wanted to dream another human and 'insert him into reality' (much as Scottie in Vertigo has wanted to rescue Madeleine from her apparent 'wandering' in time and space), suddenly learns that all along he himelf has been 'a mere appearance dreamt by another' (as Scottie finally learns of how he had been set up in a diabolic script of the power-hungry Gavin Elster). It's worth recalling that Borges loved some of the same English writers - notably H.G. Wells and G.K. Chesterton - that Hitchcock had done; and that perennial themes of Borges included those of the Endless Recurrence, i.e., cyclical time; the dream within a dream; and the hallucinatory nature of the world. And as the great André Maurois wrote of them: '[W]hy wander in these labyrinths [of Borges]? Once more, for aesthetic reasons; because this present infinity, these "vertiginous symmetries", have their tragic beauty.' Think of that next time you watch Vertigo and such scenes as the ones where Scottie and 'Madeleine' go driving, at first separately, later together! (She: 'Only one person is a wanderer, two are always going somewhere.' He: 'No, I don't think that's necessarily true.') I also mentioned yesterday the Schopenhauer parallels (in both Hitchcock and Borges). Watching Vertigo last week, I remembered again how the very shock that climaxes Scottie's pursuit of happiness embodied in Judy/'Madeleine' - that it isn't destined to happen, that he's been tricked, that his 'possession' of her will be short-lived - teaches one of Schopenhauer's essential lessons: the transitory nature of most happiness, driven as we are by a Will that renders us dissatisfied at almost the very moment a particular goal we have set ourselves is attained. Now here are some other things I noted after watching Vertigo last week. At the McKittrick Hotel, there is no chandelier upstairs - only a suspended structure where a chandelier had probably once been. It's a nice touch, perhaps suggesting impermanence (like a cut-down tree in a forest). And 'Madeleine' wears not a humming-bird broach (as I was once told by someone) but a dragonfly broach, which of course is a well-known symbol of the ephemeral, since dragonflies supposedly complete their life-cycle in a matter of just a day or so. Finally, a point I owe to Richard Franklin who introduced the screening last week to a group of students by talking about the virtues of Technicolor. A scene like the one showing the inquest where the coroner (Henry Jones) speaks sarcastically of Scottie's inability to have saved 'Madeleine' because of his acrophobia, is notable for the truly sombre blacks in the clothing of many of the people present. As Richard said, referring to some of the film's re-release prints of recent times, 'You couldn't do that in Eastmancolour!'

April 28 - 2006
As I see it, my home city of Melbourne was privileged many years ago to become the unofficial repository of an original 35mm Technicolor print of Hitchcock's masterpiece Vertigo (1958). A private collector, who has since died, defied the law and rescued the print from imminent destruction at the end of its original commercial release. In the dark days when all official prints of Vertigo had been withdrawn world-wide at Hitchcock's own behest - he was in fact planning a re-release of both Vertigo and three other of his top films in the unspecified future - this particular print had its regular 'underground' screenings, several of them organised by yours truly. And after many years, I watched it again last week. Here's a report. First, I was confirmed in something I've said here before. Apart from the abominable 'restoration' of the film's Foley (effects) soundtrack by Messrs Harris and Katz in 1996 - at which time they added 'improvements' of their own, and only succeeded in showing how tasteful had been the original Foley track that Hitchcock and his technicians laid down - subsequent releases of the film on both celluloid and DVD have been guilty of removing deliberate visual 'touches' built into the film itself. In particular, I'm thinking of the moment in Midge's apartment when Scottie looks down from the footstool and is literally shocked to find himself staring into the chasm outside her window - reminding both him and us of his earlier 'vertigo' on a San Francisco rooftop. At this precise moment, in showing Scottie fainting in terror into Midge's arms, Hitchcock deliberately blanched the image, to register in the most direct way Scottie's shock. The moment represents a fine instance of Hitchcock's 'subjective' technique: we see not just what Scotie sees but viscerally feel the sense of 'faintness'. But what have the clever modern technicians done? They have re-graded the colour so that the colour in the scene remains uniform - completely removing the effect that Hitchcock put there! An opposite type of abomination was pointed out to me by friend Richard Franklin (Psycho II). At the film's final climax, when the nun suddenly appears at the top of the bell tower, Hitchcock's soundtrack inserted no sound of footfalls but just the 'shimmery' musical effect he and composer Bernard Herrmann had also used in - notably - the scene where Scottie trails 'Madeleine' through the graveyard of the Mission Dolores. The implication is that the nun could almost be the 'ghostly' Carlotta Valdes come back 'from the dead'! However, Messrs Harris and Katz must have been oblivious to this particular connotation, as they decided to insert the sound of the nun's shoes on the stonework of the tower steps - again totally undoing a subtle Hitchcock 'effect'! Now here's a different matter I noticed when watching the film last week. I've never been so aware of the sheer number of vertical lines, and especially columns, in the film. I sort-of knew they were there, of course, but not so many! For example, almost inexplicably, there's a thick black vertical line on the wall of Midge's apartment - nearby, Scottie leans against the wall with his walking-stick at one point. (Cleverly, too, the film puts paintings with vertical objects in them on Midge's walls: one I had taken to be a Tanguy, but now I'm not so sure.) And classical columns are everywhere - including both outside and inside the art gallery of the Palace of the Legion of Honour, as well as in at least one of the very tapestries hanging on the gallery walls. Suitably, that tapestry reminds us of the fondness of Romantic artists and poets for old ruins, conducive to thoughts of impermanence and 'the sublime'. (See, for example, this interesting illustrated short note on "The Sublime Ruin": The Sublime Ruin.) Which in turn reminds me: did you know, good reader, that Jorge Luis Borges's famous short story "The Circular Ruins" (in 'Labyrinths', 1964) is about someone whose specific purpose is to 'dream a man' and 'insert him into reality'? Falling asleep in the circular ruins of the title, he accomplishes his purpose - only to discover that he himself is but the result of someone else's imagination. Doesn't that sound to you eerily close to the central situation of Vertigo in which Scottie finally learns that all along he had been enacting a pre-written script of Gavin Elster's? Borges's story ends: 'With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he too was a mere appearance, dreamt by another.' That's a very Schopenhauerian view of how things are - Borges was indeed an admirer of Schopenhauer's thought - confirming once again how close Hitchcock in his Symbolist vein came to echoing the great German philosopher! I'll devote one more "Editor's Week" item to Vertigo next time, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

April 21 - 2006
In the final week of our Hitchcock class last Tuesday (cf. above), we watched a couple of Hitchcock-directed episodes of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', including "The Crystal Trench", plus an excerpt from the 1956 remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much (we had watched the original version earlier). Here I want to concentrate on "The Crystal Trench". It was adapted from a short story by A.E.W. Mason ('The Four Feathers', 'At the Villa Rose') that originally appeared in 'The Strand' magazine, December 1915. Hitchcock probably leapt at the chance to direct it, as, like Vertigo, it's a tale of love and obsession. Like Vertigo, too, it designedly spans both space and time: the slow movement of a glacier becomes a metaphor for the slow progress - or lack of it - of an ill-fated relationship. You may remember the plot. While staying at a resort in the Alps, Mark Cavendish (James Donald) learns that a young climber named Michael Ballister has died while climbing the Schwarzhorn. When Michael's body falls into a glacier, his widow Stella (Patricia Owens) vows to wait for his body to emerge. Mark, who is in love with Stella, accompanies her when she returns to the Alps 40 years later, but they are horrified to discover that the locket Michael was wearing when he died contains a picture of another woman. So the moral may be: carpe diem. On first learning the news of her husband's death, Stella (who has been introduced by a profile-shot, à la Vertigo), exclaims, 'We've hardly begun [to live].' Significantly, she has been dancing with Mark at the time, having spontaneously asked him to dance when he introduced himself. As she had said: 'In London it would seem quite improper for me to ask you, but here it seems alright.' Note the implied theme of freedom versus constraint, with just the hint of Stella as a flighty/liberated woman, the equivalent of her husband (as we finally learn him to have been). But next minute she is vowing to remain true to his memory, to wait for his body to emerge from the glacier where it will have been preserved as it was on the day he died (while meanwhile both Stella and Mark have grown old and grey). This brings us into 'Mary Rose' territory, i.e., that of Hitchcock's pet project to film J.M. Barrie's 1920 'ghost' play about a young woman prone to disappearing for long spells and then reappearing unchanged while her family and friends have continued to age. (Hitchcock said of the play that it was about the problem of what to do with someone who returns from the dead.) Michael Ballister's face, when we finally see it through a window of ice, is indeed that of a young man - that of the inexperienced climber, a mere 'boy', he was described as being at the time of his reported death. Something else of interest about this episode is the degree of drama and significance Hitchcock is able to invest a scene of a telescope (cf. Secret Agent and also the episode of 'AHH' called "Beyond the Sea of Death", which our class watched three weeks ago). Essentially, the scene implies the limitations of our knowledge: we are cut off from the truth, there is something hidden from us, which we sense and must wait to be revealed or must actively seek. In "Beyond the Sea of Death" the two scenes of a telescope had summed up the 'mystery' of San Francisco to Grace Renford, who was in love and who identified the possibilities of her impending marriage with the view of the city seen through the telescope's lens. (The telescope is on a hill overlooking the city: cf. the two hillock scenes in Hitchcock's Suspicion, and what they come to mean to love-stricken Lina in that film.) In "The Crystal Trench" the telescope is trained on the Schwarzhorn, and the mountain itself comes to stand for a fate which is seemingly indifferent and unknowable - like the world's Will - except in retrospect. But somewhere, surely, is the possibility for human intervention to change the course of events: cf. the 'meaning' of the song "Che sera, sera" heard in the 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much versus the scenes in the Albert Hall and the foreign embassy where it really does seem that fate has been thwarted ...

April 14 - 2006
Last Tuesday the topic of our Hitchcock class was "Suspense and fright", and we watched the classic 'AHH' episode called "An Unlocked Window" (original air date: 15 February, 1965), directed by Joseph Newman, plus excerpts from Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). "An Unlocked Window" knowingly uses the actual Psycho house to tell its creepy tale originally written as the novel 'Some Must Watch' (1933) by Ethel Lina White, who also wrote the novel 'The Wheel Spins'/'The Lady Vanishes' (1936) successfully filmed (1938) by Hitchcock. But I shan't say a lot about "An Unlocked Window" here, as extensive details about it are given on the FAQs page of this site. But here's something we noted about Hitchcock's hosting of his weekly shows. In a rhetorical way, it works beautifully to reinforce the conviction, the 'reality', of each show. Half way through "An Unlocked Window", with tension climbing, Hitch appears in evening dress to briefly introduce the obligatory commercial-break. 'At this point', he announces, 'we ask your local station to "take it away".' He says it almost sneeringly! The effect is to undercut media 'reality', the customary authority of sponsors and station hosts, the better to imply the authority and veracity of the show itself! Mind you, the show's makers knew their job, and were prepared at times to 'cheat' for maximum effect. As we watch "An Unlocked Window", everything hinges on our not guessing the truth about the plump Nurse Ames (T.C. Jones), that 'she' is really a man! (The parallels with 'transvestite' Norman Bates in Psycho are obvious.) The fact that a serial-killer of nurses is on the prowl in the area had been established at the start with the death in a lonely street of a young nurse hurrying home from a late-night assignment. 'You've such a pretty neck!', a man's voice had almost purred, before he had strangled her. And momentarily we had glimpsed the shadowy form of the killer - that of a normally-built, even thin, man! Accordingly, inside the show's 'old dark house' where two nurses and an alcoholic housekeeper (Louise Latham, no less, from Marnie), are watching over an invalid, semi-comatose male patient (John Kerr), we have little reason to suspect that the threat is already within the walls! The house's unlocked window, down in the cellar, is a complete red-herring, a MacGuffin! And pretty Nurse Stella (Dana Wynter) will be taken unawares - as shall we - when the companionable Nurse Ames declares his murderous intentions in the show's final scene. Of course, Psycho itself is so much more than this. (Watching its opening moments, we noted the elaborate characterisation of Sam and Marion to establish a mood of sadness, of being trapped, of yearning to be free: such things as Sam's slumped head when Marion leaves him to go back to the office, and the 'gallery' of vistas on the office's walls that Marion must pass, both when she enters and - most emphatically - when she leaves, on the latter occasion carrying the $40,000 with which she'll make her literally mad bid for freedom: cf. the characterisation of Fred and Emily at the start of Hitchcock's Rich and Strange [1932], including the painting of Thomas Summerscales's 'Off Valpairoso' on their sitting-room wall, and Fred's exclamation, 'I want more life, more life I tell you!') And yet, the essence of Psycho is indeed in "An Unlocked Window", fittingly perhaps the best-credentialled of all the Hitchcock TV shows. Director Joseph Newman (This Island Earth), screenwriter James Bridges (later to make The China Syndrome, etc.), composer Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, Psycho), and cinematographer Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Ambersons, Night of the Hunter) ... What a roll-call!

April 7 - 2006
Another good discussion with my Tuesday Hitchcock class this week, this time of the original The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). Something we noted was another instance of a hard metallic object seen against a blurry background (cf. the opening post-credits shot of Vertigo, discussed here last week). I mean, of course, the shot of the muzzle of Ramon's gun in the Albert Hall that suddenly appears - coldly, brutally - where a moment ago there was just a blur when Jill had come near to fainting, as she had indeed fainted earlier in the film. But whereas the Vertigo shot is 'metaphysical ' - saying something about our longing for certainty, about our wanting something solid we can grasp - the shot in The Man Who Knew Too Much is essentially 'psychological', corresponding to Jill's (and our) sudden iron-clad realisation of Ramon's intention to kill the man named Ropa, in a box across the auditorium. The fact that, nonetheless, the two shots are so similar only goes to illustrate what Hitchcock meant by 'pure cinema'. And, indeed, much of The Man Who Knew Too Much does look like a stylised and jokey piece of 'pure cinema', while serving to tell a story about two decent people - Jill (Edna Best) and Bob (Leslie Banks) - who must suddenly face the fact that the world isn't a joke at all, and that their beloved daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam) has been kidnapped. In other words, Hitchcock adopted a style that may seem almost flippant, the better to impress us with an underlying seriousness. (Why do I think of the philosopher Schopenhauer's distinction between the world as mere appearance, Representation, and the world as it essentially is, Will? The latter was characterised by Schopenhauer as blind and uncaring, the cause of suffering but hardly joy - joy may have another source but that source is subjective rather than objective, not fundamental, therefore fragile ...) In turn, the perennial Hitchcock theme of the need to 'grow up' runs strongly through The Man Who Knew Too Much. Representative is the monacled Uncle Clive (Hugh Wakefield), a bachelor (we gather), who had once given Betty a train set for her birthday: a thoughtless, 'narcissistic' gift, more suitable for a boy, which Clive had ended up playing with by himself! Fittingly, Clive is the butt of several of the film's cruellest jokes. The implication is that, he, too, has to 'suffer', the better to learn the film's lesson. (His monacle may remind us of his hitherto one-eyed view of the world.) Of course, most interesting of the film's characters is its villain, the anarchist leader Abbot (Peter Lorre). Throughout the film he remains a strange, ambivalent figure, repellant one minute and almost likeable the next. He looks and acts rather like a precocious child who is also a despot - though now preferring to leave any dirty-work to others unless it's absolutely unavoidable. (I say 'now' because the scar on his forehead suggests a violent encounter or two in his past - that is, his share of the world's suffering.) Thus he doesn't join in the free-for-all in the tabernacle, and later expresses his disapproval at the folly of what has occurred ('I never ordered the first policeman shot'). But he fights bravely at the climax. Another point: upstairs in the gang's hide-out, Abbot, wearing a moleskin jacket, issues orders from his chair as if it were a lofty throne, and shows a mordant wit. You seriously wonder how much of himself the sometimes lordly Hitchcock put into Abbot. (For Hitchcock was always a man-boy.) Finally, here are a couple of the film's jokey 'touches'. Told by Abbot that the room where he's being held prisoner is sound-proofed (so that he or Betty needn't think of shouting for help), Bob takes the opportunity to munch loudly several times on a stick of celery! And: at a lull in the shoot-out with the anarchists, one of the police officials finds himself taking cover in a sweet shop; unthinkingly, the boy in him (?!) helps himself to some of the stock.

March 31 - 2006
Discussing Vertigo with a group of intelligent adults last Tuesday was enjoyable! The occasion was the first of four classes in a 'taster' course on Hitch. On Tuesday we watched just a couple of excerpts from Vertigo - which of course is readily available on DVD - plus the complete episode of 'AHH' called "Beyond the Sea of Death" which is perhaps the very best 'gloss' on Vertigo I know. Well, that, and the novel on which Vertigo is based, Boileau and Narcejac's 'D'Entre les Morts' (1954) - plus the Belgian Symbolist novel that clearly underlies the Vertigo story, Georges Rodenbach's 'Bruges-la-Morte' (1892). The emphasis on Tuesday was on Hitchcock's own Symbolist outlook: as he once told biographer Charlotte Chandler, there was a time when he even had Symbolist dreams! "Beyond the Sea of Death" (air date: 24 January, 1964) closes the circle by taking its title from a poem by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) whose work influenced the Symbolists (e.g., the Belgian artist Fernand Khnopff, who provided a frontispiece illustration to the first edition of 'Bruges-la-Morte'). Like Vertigo, "Beyond the Sea of Death" is set in San Francisco and is based on a story by local San Francisco writer Miriam Allen de Ford. Instead of a man being the dupe in her story, as Scottie (James Stewart), is in Vertigo, the victim this time is a woman, wealthy young socialite Grace Renford (Diana Hyland), tricked like Scottie into wanting to make contact with someone dead. The class on Tuesday was quick to spot the resemblance of Grace to some of Hitchcock's traditional blonde heroines: Grace even does her hair in a bun much as Madeleine (Kim Novak) does in Vertigo. The episode also appears to make several allusions to Hitchcock's Marnie, starring Tippi Hedren, which of course came out later that year. Indeed, Bruce Dern, who plays the murdered sailor in Marnie, reportedly appears in the episode: I think he must be the postal official who delivers a fateful telegram to Grace's house, though he's unrecognisable. In typical Hitchcock fashion, as a manservant bears the telegram on a tray up the Renford staircase, the camera accompanies it while stock music by Bernard Herrmann resembling music from Marnie swirls portentously. A key point I tried to make on Tuesday was how so much of Hitchcock's work is distinguished by its 'dignity of significance' (including work for television that he only produced, and put his name to, but didn't actually direct - including, indeed, "Beyond the Sea of Death", which is very capably directed by Swedish actor/director Alf Kjellin). Typically, at the end of a Hitchcock movie, there isn't a feeling of 'So what?' but rather one of 'Ah, yes!' or 'Now it all makes sense!' or perhaps 'Oh, how sad!' In other words, our curiosity has been sparked, and we have felt involved, implicated. Ostensibly, the movies (or TV shows) are character-driven but invariably they contain pointed and broadly suspenseful stories or situations. Such a situation is the one underlying Vertigo and also the similar one - involving an appeal to something beyond the everyday, and the terms on which knowledge of it may be given - underlying "Beyond the Sea of Death". I referred the class on Tuesday to an excellent article on the Symbolist movement that is on the Wikipedia website: Symbolism (arts). We noted of the very first shot of Vertigo, after the Saul Bass credits, that it shows a solid object against a blurry void, and a hand reaching to grasp it, which could stand for Scottie's own grasping search (and that of everyone else) throughout the film. Like Poe's character Hans Pfall, Scottie would like to ascend, to pull himself up above the everyday world.

March 24 - 2006
My thanks to Gary Giblin for drawing my attention to the film noir called Without Warning (1952), in which Adam Williams plays a serial killer of blondes and Ed Binns features as the police lieutenant on the case. It's an excellent B-movie, much of it shot on atmospheric Los Angeles locations: the night-view behind the opening credits, of distant traffic on a freeway, sets the alienated (but intense) mood, promptly reinforced by a cut to a neon motel sign. Inside one of the motel's cabins, Carl Martin (Wiliams) has just despatched another victim using his usual instrument: a pair of garden shears, plunged into the victim's back. Beyond doubt, Alfred Hitchcock saw and admired this movie. As I say, it's well-made, and film-buff Hitchcock may have heard of it when it was first released. If for no other reason, the fact that it's about a killer of blondes - like his own The Lodger (1926) - would have sparked his interest. At the time, it's unlikely that he'd have known of the film's director, Arnold Laven (born 1922), for in fact Without Warning was Laven's first feature: he'd previously made training films during the War and then worked as a script supervisor. But a good sign that Hitchcock afterwards kept an eye on Laven's work is the fact that Laven was invited to direct one of the very first episodes of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', namely, "Decoy" (air date: 10 June, 1956), which is included on the DVD of the First Season of 'AHP'. As for Adam Williams (born 1922), Without Warning was only his fourth movie - though he was soon cast in some other memorable 'heavy' parts, notably in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953) where he plants the car-bomb that kills Glenn Ford's wife. But of course, apropos Hitchcock, what is especially notable about Without Warning is the witty way that Hitchcock refers to it in North by Northwest (1959) where he makes Williams a gardener (as in Laven's film) and gives him a particularly murderous pair of garden shears, or hedge clippers, to wield! The same scene has additional piquancy because we've just seen Ed Binns playing the police officer assigned to investigate Cary Grant's complaint that he was abducted and nearly murdered the night before - one of his abductors being Adam Wiliams. (The other two 'heavies' are Martin Landau and Robert Ellenstein. Famously, Hitchcock remarked that he gave the villain James Mason these three henchmen to represent brains, brawn, and brutality respectively: '... the third man - Adam Williams - he was the brutality.') Without Warning is available on DVD. For more information, click here: DVD review.

March 3 - 2006
As an extension of the exercise I have set myself lately, mentioned here last week, of reading literary 'precedents' for Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), I am currently re-visiting Albert Camus's 'La Peste'/'The Plague' (1947). James Vest's book 'Hitchcock and France' (2003) convinces me that the Francophile Hitchcock very probably read Camus' novel at some stage. (Whether he also read a 1951 novel by Jean Giono, 'Le Hussard sur le Toit'/'The Horseman on the Roof', set in the midst of a 19th-century cholera epidemic, I can't say - but the author and/or publishers of that particular work are known to have threatened to sue Hitchcock for plagiarism when The Birds came out!) However, I don't want to specifically discuss The Birds in this entry, but rather to note how 'La Peste' doesn't just evoke the recent Occupation but also seeks to give, in Camus' words, an 'interprétation à la notion d'existence en général' (quoted in Donald Haggis, 'Albert Camus: "La Peste"', 1962, p. 21) - and how so much of what Camus describes in 'La Peste' suggests things Hitchcock assumed about his audiences. (In other words, gentle reader, I see 'La Peste' as a crystallisation of life in general, as indeed I see Schopenhauer's philosophic writings, discussed here previously, as similar - and suggest that both Camus and Schopenhauer can give us valuable insights into Hitchcock's films.) After the plague-stricken North African town of Oran is sealed off from the outside world, Camus's narrator writes: 'Under other circumstances our townsfolk would probably have found an outlook in increased activity, a more sociable life. But the plague forced inactivity on them, limiting their movements to the same dull round inside the town ...' (Part Two, Chapter I) Here I'm reminded of Hitchcock's description, in the 1930s, of his audiences as 'sluggish and jellified'. Furthermore, Camus, the Nobel Prize-winning 'existentialist' writer, implies that the sealing-off of Oran acts like a kind of scientific 'experiment' performed to isolate underlying human attitudes that would otherwise pass undetected or unremarked. Within a single page, his narrator comments on 'that sensation of a void within which never left us', on 'our prison-house', and on how the townspeople 'forced themselves ... always to keep, so to speak, their eyes fixed on the ground at their feet'. (Part Two, Chapter I) That last passage suggests to me Hitchcock's film The Wrong Man (1957), about which the director told Truffaut that in one prison sequence he had indeed instructed Henry Fonda, playing the Everyman-figure called 'Manny', to shuffle along with his eyes fixed on the feet of the prisoner in front of him. (Very possibly, both Camus and Hitchcock were thinking here of a famous line in T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land': 'And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.') But I mustn't neglect to mention that neither Camus nor Hitchcock were out-and-out pessimists. Far from it. Donald Haggis suggests two things that Camus overridingly wanted to convey to his readers: 'Firstly, his own zest for living, and a view of life that he derived from his early experiences of it. Camus's writings are full of images of light. [...] Secondly, "La Peste" in particular suggests that he aimed to share with others a conviction that it was possible to live in our age and to preserve both one's lucidity and a sober optimism concerning human nature.' (Haggis, pp. 8-9) If The Wrong Man, for its part, doesn't exactly succeed in buoying a viewer with optimism, let's remember Hitchcock's own criticism of his very bleak film: it lacked a sense of humour ...

February 24 - 2006
As our keen readers know, I reviewed Tom Cohen's two-volume 'Hitchcock's Cryptonymies' on our New Publications page recently. The review was unenthusiastic, not necessarily because I'm unintelligent or closed to new ways of seeing, thank you kindly (and I'm gratified by the sympathetic correspondence I received about the review from at least two professors of film studies), but because the work in question conforms to a syndrome that has always plagued Hitchcock studies: woolly, theory-pushing, flagrantly intellectual thought and use of language, often seemingly for its own sake or just to hide the woolliness. Cohen strikes me as a thoroughly dishonest chap or, at the least, a practitioner of the academic 'lunacy' that Patrick McGillligan talks of (in his Hitchcock biography). I've now read a couple of other reviews of Cohen's work: one of them, by Dr Polona Petek of Melbourne, Australia, is on the Web (go here: Secret Agents by Tom Cohen); the other is by Professor Christopher Morris and appeared in 'Film Criticism', Fall 2005, pp. 72-78. Morris finds Cohen's work to be nothing less than 'an intellectual event of the first order for film studies, critical theory, and philosophy' (p. 72), but of course Morris is himself of the woolly, theory-pushing, flagrantly intellectual' type I have just defined: see my review of his Hitchcock book, 'The Hanging Figure', which is also on our New Publications page. However, I shan't be deterred by this apparent 'self-fulfilling prophecy' of mine whereby I might have told you that Morris would like Cohen! I'll look at Morris's review in a minute for evidence that he has proved his case. Meanwhile, let me quote from Polona Petak's review: 'From its opening pages right through to the end, Secret Agents [Volume 1 of Cohen's work, the only volume Petak discusses] is consistently, yet mainly rhetorically rather than argumentatively, produced ... [an] ambitious attempt to propose a fundamentally different historicisation of Hitchcock. [...] Yet Secret Agents leaves the reader ... utterly frustrated. Cohen fails to initiate his readership into his theoretical framework ... Furthermore, his pronounced flair for awkward neologisms ... interspersed with rather obtuse bombastic phrases ... hardly alleviates the confusion.' That will have to do. Now to Morris's review. It is full of assertion of how good the work is (citing for comparison everyone from Eisenstein to Derrida), and tells us: 'Obviously, the stakes Cohen sets for himself are very high'. Fine. So what is Cohen on about? 'Cohen believes that his approach can be emancipatory in establishing a "post post-humanist" project of disinscription - of exposing the anteriorities that give rise to various oppressive referential systems.' (p. 73) Soon we're reading this: 'This subversion might take the form of Verloc's anarchism, in Sabotage, or literal poisons, like the toxins of Notorious, but also any number of what Cohen calls "secret agents" - repeated visual patterns, sounds, disjunctures of voice and face, puns, numbers, letters, foreign languages, Hitchcock's cameos, and so on.' (p. 74) Again fine - but notice that there is not one piece of evidence given for a successful (or even unsuccessful) attempt to demonstrate such subversion at work. Moreover, reader, I have read Cohen's work (well, chunks of it), and I tell you that I never arrived at a convincing demonstration or argument in its pages (e.g., that the skeet-shoot in the original TMWKTM represents an eclipse of the sun and Hitchcock's intention to eclipse all of our suns, whatever exactly they might be - something Morris passes over by speaking again of what Cohen, rather than Hitchcock, intends: 'the image of "the black sun," by which Cohen understands details in the films that negate not only the Platonic or Kantian source of all knowledge but also nature itself' - p. 75). Cohen constantly cheats outrageously, often using his own dubious word-play to make bridges in his argument, and then attributing them to Hitchcock. But here is something like an example Morris gives of Cohen showing Hitchcock's subversion at work: 'The culminating assault on [the] hermeneutic home is the unmotivated bird attacks in The Birds. Thus Hitchcock's films themselves serve as bombs or terrorist weapons by depicting home or state as always vulnerable to the undoing of their logocentric foundations.' (p. 74) Again, assertion, not proof. Moreover, I've just finished reviewing some of the literary precedents for The Birds, including Daphne du Maurier's short tale (1952), Arthur Machen's 'The Terror' (1917), and Frederic Brown's 'The Mind Thing' (1961) - and all of them climax with a home under seige. My question to Morris and Cohen is therefore: is there something mystical in Hitchcock's direction that perhaps only he can draw Cohen-type 'subversive' meanings from a situation depicted by several artists of the written word since the start of the 19th century? Otherwise, Cohen's and Morris's theory-pushing here, as elsewhere, is over-done - or over-particularised to Hitchcock alone.

February 17 - 2006
Had occasion this week to look again at Strangers on a Train (1951). Now I want to talk about the moment when psychopath Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) helps a blind man cross the road outside the fairground. Bruno has just strangled Miriam Haines (Laura Elliot) on an island in the middle of the fairground's lake - her noiseless murder reflected in her glasses which have fallen on the ground - and has used a paddleboat to make his getaway. The crossing of the road continues the momentum of the getaway: first the crossing of the lake, then of the road - the camera all the time ahead of Bruno as if calling out to him, 'Hurry up, Bruno, or you'll be caught!' At this stage, we want him to escape, if only to see whether he'll go through with the rest of his wild plan, which is to have Guy Haines (Farley Granger) reciprocate Miriam's murder (Miriam had been refusing to divorce Guy) by killing Bruno's father (whom Bruno, almost certainly gay, or anyway bisexual, hates). Note the dissolve from the edge of the lake, where a fairground employee (who looks a bit like Ernest Borgnine) is peering away from the camera towards the island - where cries of alarm can now be heard - to Bruno exiting the fairground: the dissolve effectively facilitates Bruno's escape! We are further gratified, you could say, by the amusing irony of Bruno's gesture in helping the blind man. It shows his panache! Of course, the murder victim, Miriam, had been established as mean-spirited and a bit of a tramp. In other words, just as in Psycho (1960) after the murder of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) Hitchcock uses various means to keep us sympathetic to the psychopath Norman Bates (Tony Perkins) who has killed her - though at that stage we don't know that he's the one - so in Strangers on a Train Hitchcock must perform a similar task. Interestingly, in the Patricia Highsmith novel, straight after the murder Bruno feels the need to visit a prostitute (Chapter 12) - he's not exclusively gay, notice. The incident with the blind man isn't in the novel. Something else about that incident is how the blind man's dark glasses echo the glasses of Miriam that fell on the ground and reflected - as in a glass, darkly - her strangling; her own eyes are now sightless, we may tell ourselves. Glasses will also be worn in the film by the professor from Delaware Tech on the train and by Guy's prospective sister-in-law, Barbara Morton (Patricia Hitchcock): a parallel case is the one in Saboteur (1942) where, after the hero's best friend is killed in a fire, the rest of the film keeps reminding us of what happened (e.g., by showing a fire extinguisher in a truck and later the torch of the Statue of Liberty). Equally, the conceit of the dark glasses will be taken up again in Psycho where a whole theme of 'blinding' and 'blindness' runs through the film, and where the police patrolman's dark glasses prefigure the sightless eye sockets of the dead Mrs Bates whom we encounter in the fruit-cellar climax. Also, the lenses of the glasses in Strangers on a Train are one of the film's many circular objects, culminating in that film's spectacular merry-go-round climax. As Bruno and the blind man cross the road, notice the posters advertising the fairground's attractions: all of them feature circular designs. And a moment later, Bruno looks at (the circular face of) his watch. Other such objects in the film include a myriad of globular lights: Robert Burks's black-and-white images positively glisten with lights, lit-up objects, and reflective surfaces. The 'expressionist' (small-e) look of the film owes much to Murnau's Sunrise (1927), I suspect.

February 10 - 2006
I know I said that I would try to include some hard analysis of a Hitchcock film this time, but bear with me because this week I've been trying to solve a mystery concerning prints of Hitchcock's The Lodger (1926) prepared in association with Britain's National Film and Television Archive. After years of painstaking effort, a restored print of The Lodger was completed by the NFTA in Hitchcock's Centenary year, 1999. But then suddenly two different versions of the film appeared, and both of them credited the NFTA! One version had a new score by Ashley Irwin, commissioned by ZDF/ARTE (Germany). The print itself was tinted - though conservatively (mainly just blue tinting for exterior scenes at night). Almost simultaneously, a second version appeared, this time with a score by Joby Talbot and with tinting of a more adventurous nature (e.g., orange tinting for scenes involving the media). The print itself, released by the BFI, was '[d]igitally mastered from the National Film and Television Archive's newly restored print' and a review by Geoff Brown in 'The Times' claimed that the print 'attempts to match the original's colour tinting'. Here, then, are my conclusions. The German version of the film, though it made use of the newly restored NFTA print, does not have the more authentic tinting of the BFI version. Presumably, the German version (as I'm calling it, though with a Rank emblem up front it gets shown from time to time on Australian television) was done from a black-and-white print, and a modest attempt at tinting was carried out. But the BFI version's tinting was made as authentic as possible, being based on available nitrate prints of the original film (cf Charles Barr, 'English Hitchcock', p. 219). Okay. Now I want to turn to a quite different matter. I have suggested of The Lodger (e.g., in an article printed in the 'Hitchcock Annual') that the flashback symbolically invokes brother-sister incest. Several 'literary' examples of such a motif are given by Albert Mordell in his 'The Erotic Motive in Literature' (originally published in 1919) and its chapter "The Oedipus Complex and the Brother and Sister Complex". For example, he refers to the theologian and historian Ernest Renan (whose 'Life of Jesus' he calls 'really a life of Renan'!) and to the poet William Wordsworth: 'The extreme attachment of Renan to his sister Henrietta and of Wordsworth to his sister Dorothy had much to do with the nature of the literary work of these men. The attachment explained [psychoanalytically] amounts to this: the affection which each man has for his mother is transferred to his sister who is the nearest resemblance to the mother. This new fixation may remain too long and the man hence for a time loves no other woman. The affection is usually at its height in youth before the man marries another, in case he does marry.' Mordell also refers in similar terms to the poets Byron and Shelley and their intense affection for their respective sisters (in Byron's case, his half-sister Mrs Augusta Leigh); and in a footnote he mentions the writer Edgar Saltus - who has been described as an American equivalent of such European Decadent authors as Huysmans and Wilde - as someone whose novels occasionally touched on brother-sister incest (e.g., 'The Monster', 1912). My own limited research on this topic has turned up the tragedy 'Die Ahnfrau'/'The Ancestress' (1817) by Austrian dramatist Franz Grillparzer, a work known to Sigmund Freud and described in a footnote to Freud's letters to Wilhelm Fliess as concerning brother-sister incest and parricide. In the last act, as the wind howls outside the house, the family ghost (die Ahnfrau) rises from the grave to receive a dying family member, and the effect of this was typically heightened in performance by an orchestral tremelo. I'm reminded of Hitchcock's description of a memorable moment in the stage performance he attended in 1920 of J.M. Barrie's ghost play 'Mary Rose'! More to the point, I would say that all of these writers are ones whose work Hitchcock either knew or may well have known. Whatever the valiant Patricia Hitchcock may claim ('My father was strictly an entertainer'), Hitchcock could plumb some very dark depths indeed.

February 5 - 2006
Some loosely connected thoughts this week emerging from correspondence. (I'll try to include hard analysis of a Hitchcock film next time!) I thank both HT and GS for their recent emails. HT contacted me to speculate about the red mail box outside Annie Hayworth's house in The Birds. He summed up its significance by suggesting it stands for Blood, certainly, but also Hope and/or Waiting. All of these elements are ambiguous. For example, as HT noted, Annie has been waiting in hope for Mitch to accept her back into his life - despite opposition from Mitch's widowed mother, Lydia, who fears being abandoned - but with the arrival of Melanie in town, Annie knows that the game is probably up. Annie is thus a somewhat pitiful figure. As I've remarked to GS lately, she is like both Midge in Vertigo ('You know there's only one man in the world for me, Johnny-o') and the Mark-centred Lil in Marnie - who both sense the game is up with the arrival, respectively, of Judy/Madeleine and of Marnie. (In turn, all three of these 'waiting women' - to use the title of a 1952 Ingmar Bergman film that Hitchcock may have seen - have an Hitchcockian predecessor in the crofter's wife in The 39 Steps. Cut off from 'life', as the world understands that term, they can only 'stand and wait' - significantly, a theme, too, of Psycho, where again it's treated ambiguously.) Apropos the red mail box, part of my response about it to HT was that, in a way, it's 'like a child's Christmas stocking hung out for Santa - except that Annie's signal to "Santa" is more of desperation than simple faith and expectation. Most people (everywhere - but in Bodega Bay specifically, as Hitchcock privately noted of the town's real-life inhabitants, alleged by him to be typically boozing behind closed doors!) "lead lives of quiet desperation". Annie is their [and our] "representative" in that respect.' The colour red of the mail box is also ambiguous. Red in Hitchcock is a 'life' colour (often also a 'marker'), as in the term 'life-blood', and Annie (like Midge and Lil) is vivacious even in her relative seclusion. But of course it's also a 'death' colour when blood is spilt, which is the case with Annie before the end. Within sight of the mail box, she is pecked to death. (Green in Hitchcock can be equally ambiguous, as Vertigo shows: the sequoias are 'always green, ever-living', but they form a dark and deserted forest whose structural counterparts, I've previously noted, include the deathly prairie in North by Northwest and the funerary swamp in Psycho - also the murmuring sea in The Birds and the strangely listless race track in Marnie.) 'Of course,' I added in an email to HT, 'Annie has performed good work/s in her schoolteaching and, no doubt, in other ways. So hope in a general sense remains, and life goes on. All of which Hitchcock shows.'

January 27 - 2006
Have this week learned a few more details about the genesis of Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), partly through correspondence, including with Dr GH in the UK, and partly as the result of a fascinating advertisement that appeared in the motor vehicles section of the eBay US website. (I think the advertisement has been removed, but it had the item number 4607128666.) This latter item advertised for sale a two-tone blue Mercedes, 200-Series, that was owned by Hitchcock and kept by him at his summer house in Scotts Valley near Santa Cruz, California. Hitchcock acquired the car, the present seller noted, after a trip to Germany. Additional information was provided. Such a car was going to be driven by Madeleine (Kim Novak) in Vertigo (1958) until a Jaguar was substituted - apparently the studio's research had shown anti-German feeling was still running high in the US following the Second World War. Apropos The Birds, Hitchcock's Mercedes has two connections to that film. It makes a cameo appearance there: I haven't checked, but my guess is that it's one of the cars that go by as Melanie (Tippi Hedren) first arrives in Bodega Bay. (Melanie herself drives an Aston-Martin DB 2/4.) The other connection is indirect. It's well-known that an inspiration for The Birds was an actual incident reported in the 'Santa Cruz Sentinal' of August 18, 1961, involving migrating gulls that early one morning apparently lost direction and crashed into local cars and buildings. Now it emerges that Hitchcock himself experienced a similar incident in the same area that year. One Sunday, approaching Santa Cruz on his way home to Scotts Valley, he was in his car when a seagull crashed into its windshield. The resultant 'beak or peck mark' is still visible on the glass. Hitchcock thought little of the incident until - the same evening, it's said by the eBay advertiser - he read in the 'Santa Cruz Sentinal' of similar local incidents. (Note. The area of Santa Cruz that Hitchcock's car had been passing through contains agricultural farms which at the time had been using a DDT spray. It's thought that the birds may have ingested the spray residue and that their nervous systems had been affected. All of this information about Hitchcock and his car was obtained because the director eventually gave the car to his friend Samuel Morse, founder and owner of Del Monte Properties, Pebble Beach, California. The eBay advertiser is Morse's grandson.) Okay. For several years Hitchcock had held an option on Daphne du Maurier's short story "The Birds" but doubted that it 'could be developed into a full-scale movie' (as Camille Paglia's BFI monograph on The Birds reports). First published in 1952, the story was included in one of the Hitchcock anthologies, 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: My Favourites in Suspense', in 1960. Something I've only just found out, though, from Dr GH in the UK, is that another short story about birds attacking humans, Philip MacDonald's "Our Feathered Friends", first published in 1931, appeared in the Hitchcock anthology 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories for Late at Night' - published in 1961. (The stories for this anthology were 'once again' chosen by Hitchcock himself, reports Martin Grams Jr in my book 'The Alfred Hitchcock Story'.) Given the timing of the latter story's publication by Hitchcock, it's not hard to guess where the director's thoughts were tending ... (That will have to do for now. I was going to talk about some related matters, including correspondence I've had recently with HT concerning Annie Hayworth's character in The Birds. Some other time.)

January 20 - 2006
Dr Theodore Price's contentious article on Marnie that is on this website - one of our ACADEMIC HITCHCOCK pieces - and indeed the whole central thesis of his book 'Hitchcock and Homosexuality' (1992) from which the Marnie article comes, has certainly caused people to look into just how much 'gay' or 'illicit' interpretation a Hitchcock film will bear. It's certainly possible that Marnie (Tippi Hedren), at some level, is a lesbian; but Price also suggests that she has been a prostitute. This seems contradicted by the film itself, for Marnie says near the end, 'I am decent'. However, she also says, 'When I think of the things I've done ...', which seems to evoke endless possibilities - a bit like Leonard's wistful remark in North by Northwest as he waits for the getaway plane to arrive: 'Ceiling and possibilities unlimited!' (That remark in turn echoes the initial mood on the clipper plane in Foreign Correspondent ...) In other words, Hitchcock often sets up situations that may be felt to evoke rather more than they will logically bear, and this is something that goes to the core of his method for making us emote. I think it's perfectly possible that he directed certain scenes in Marnie - the racetrack scene, for example - as if Marnie had a background more mysterious and nefarious than the plot itself, aimed at average audiences, indicates. (In other words, there's a 'shadow plot' also operating.) I found myself discussing a similar matter recently apropos a question whether Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief plays a man who would prefer to be gay but is virtually pestered into marriage by the Grace Kelly character! I concluded that we can't really say that's the case, but added: 'Fundamentally, here's what I think. Hitchcock believed that audiences are polymorphous-perverse, and are attracted to experiencing vicariously - via film - the fullest possible expression of "life". Bear in mind that To Catch a Thief begins with a travel poster: "If you love life, you'll love France."' And in its Riviera playground, anything is possible, including some pretty kinky things, like the way Francie (Kelly) is attracted to Robie (Grant) because he's a thief - and not just any brand of thief but specifically a cat-burglar who dresses in black and robs rich women of their jewels. Anything is posssible - which may bring us back to Marnie whose heroine, too, at one point dresses 'up like a cat-burglar' as if that were the official uniform of nefariousness and 'shadows'. A correspondent who tells me he is gay has this week suggested to me that Lil (Diane Baker) in that film might also be gay, just as Marnie herself might be. In Winston Graham's original novel, he points out, Lil's equivalent is a gay male, Terry. And he notes: 'Lil appears to be jealous of Marnie because of her relationship with Mark [Sean Connery]. To Lil, Mark represents safety and security, but is she truly interested in him sexually or is it just what he represents that attracts her?' (At this point I suggested that Lil's line, 'I'm queer for liars!', which passes as a joke with 'straight' viewers, might actually be close to the truth, a real Freudian slip!) I especially liked this further comment by my correspondent about the Lil-Marnie rivalry: 'Ken, you'd just have to be gay to understand how gay men love it when two women go after each other like that. Cat fight! This is one of the reasons why a show like "Dynasty" was so popular among gay men, and why the producers had Joan Collins and Linda Evans get into one of their knock-down drag-outs from time to time.' Hmm. If the producers of 'Dynasty' were so aware of their audience, and what might appeal to sections of it, mightn't Hitch, too, have sometimes directed 'against the grain' of his literal or ostensible plot and put elements into his film that he knew might appeal to gay viewers while appearing humorous or entertainingly kinky to everyone else?

January 13 - 2006
Philosopher Stanley Cavell coined the term 'comedy of re-marriage' after studying some of Shakespeare's plays (including, no doubt, the ingenious 'All's Well That Ends Well' and the lovely 'The Winter's Tale'), then applied it to film - notably to some of the best of the screwball comedies such as The Awful Truth (1937) and His Girl Friday (1940). Hitchcock's Mr and Mrs Smith (1941), starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery, is just such a screwball comedy - as Lesley Brill notes in his often wise book 'The Hitchcock Romance' (1988). As of yesterday, we've included Brill's analysis of Mr and Mrs Smith in our EXCERPTS feature on this website. Stimulated by re-reading that piece, I'd like to set down here some thoughts of my own. Curiously enough, Hitchcock had been making films about 're-marriage' since the 1920s, but of two types. More-or-less literal 'comedies of re-marriage' by Hitch include The Farmer's Wife (1928), in which after Farmer Sweetland's first wife dies, he goes in search of another; Rich and Strange (1932), showing how, during a world cruise, English couple Fred and Emily quarrel and separate but are eventually reconciled (in effect, 're-married'); and Mr and Mrs Smith itself, about a New York couple whose marriage, after three years, is shown to be invalid on a technicality, causing both partners much tribulation before the end. But Hitchcock also made at least three films, none of them quite comedies, in which a man and a woman virtually live as a couple in a 'trial marriage', then later get married in earnest: namely, The Mountain Eagle (1925), Secret Agent (1936), and Spellbound (1945). (Under Capricorn [1949] might almost be included in this latter category; and The 39 Steps [1935] has Hannay and Pamela posing as 'a runaway couple' during the film before finally deciding to stay together.) In short, 'marriage' was a perennial Hitchcock topic, and one about which the director was perhaps even wiser - and more honest - than he has been given credit for (though Brill is particularly astute about such matters). Something I like about Mr and Mrs Smith is how it admits the erotic component of a good marriage, and even 'the imp of the perverse'. (Contrariwise, it takes its inspiration from Algernon's line in 'The Importance of Being Earnest': 'The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If I ever get married, I'll certainly try to forget the fact.') On learning that he's not legally married, David Smith takes delight in how he'll be able to romance his wife over again - or else 'keep' her as his mistress. In his diary, he enters their dinner engagement for that evening: '6.30. Mistress Krausheimer.' It's the sexual conquest and surrender (after resistance!) that seem to excite both David and Ann , so that their reconciliation at the film's end is built around just such a situation. David 'traps' a protesting Ann in a pair of skis, up-ends her (recalling a famous - and erotic - moment in an earlier Carole Lombard comedy, Twentieth Century), slowly removes his tie, then prepares to make love to her - but not before we've both seen Ann surreptitiously put a foot back in one of the skis from which it had escaped and David see what she is doing! This represents the customary Hitchcock moment of total audience satisfaction: 'sadism' plus 'masochism' or having-your-cake-and-eating-it! (The fact that David sees what Ann is doing and nods agreeably minimises the connotation of rape, plus it allows the film to end on a 'civilised' note that nonetheless leaves open the question: but won't the relationship soon deteriorate again? Cf the end of Rich and Strange ...) Concerning a related matter: I'd note that the film has traversed a host of psychological situations and insights into society before arriving at this point, so there is hope that the Smiths - or the audience - will have learnt a lesson or two. I can almost imagine David, like Michael at the end of Bresson's Pickpocket, telling his wife, 'What a path I had to take to reach you!' Lesley Brill notes how the Smiths had earlier seemed trapped by rules and legality in a 'kind of mindless rigidity' and 'mechanical slavery' - a paradigm-situation in much of Hitchcock, as I've shown elsewhere apropos a film like The 39 Steps (whose representative victim of his own rigidity is Mr Memory, who knows only 'facts'). So Mr and Mrs Smith implies the need, and perhaps the possibility, of a wise 'transcendence' - in marriage as in life!

January 16 - 2006
I'll put a proper "Editor's Week" entry here soon. Meanwhile is there anyone out there who can answer the following (from an inquirer in Bahrain)? 'I am trying to identify the car that Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) drove in Rebecca. It's a four-door tourer, around 1935. The other car is the car driven by Alicia Huberman in Notorious (c. 1940/45 two-door convertible).' CONTINUED: Okay, we have our answer, courtesy of Currell in our Yahoo Group. Briefly, Currell's answer is this: 'Both are stunning cars. The Notorious car is a 1941 Cadillac Convertible, 62 Series. The Rebecca car is a rare one ... a late Thirties four-door MG touring car. Rare because MG open cars are almost always two doors. The model type is either WA or SA.' And Currell adds: 'Many, many cars that featured in Hitchcock movies are interesting.' As a bonus, he asks: 'Name Francie's (Grace Kelly's) convertible in To Catch a Thief.' Well, I sort of knew the answer to that one - a Sunbeam. But a quick check on the Web yielded the precise answer: it's a 1955 Sunbeam Alpine Roadster, Sapphire Blue. (How apt each of those elements is to the film! The film itself was only released in 1955, so rich, spoilt Francie's car was right up-to-date. 'Sunbeam' obviously suits the sunny Riviera setting. 'Alpine Roadster' goes with those steep and/or sharply-curved roads on the Corniche. And of course 'Sapphire Blue' is particularly apt in a film about a jewel thief! Trust old Hitch to get everything just right!) By the way, there are good photos of some of these cars on the Web. For example, the MG Owners' Club has a magnificent photo of an MG WA Tickford from 1938. Okay, I've been thinking a bit about To Catch a Thief this week, so here are just one or two points. Did you know that the author of the novel, David Dodge, took his title from one of the popular (and often-filmed) 'Raffles' stories by E.W. Hornung (1866-1921)? Not only that, but the same short story (just over 20 pages) is about someone imitating the famous - and supposedly now dead - 'gentleman cracksman', forcing Raffles to come out of his convenient 'retirement'. The story begins by referring to an audacious robbery of the Duke and Duchess of Dorchester on the very night of their Graces' lavish costume ball; and it ends at night, as Raffles and his imitator confront each other on a rooftop, a climax which results in the imitator falling to his death. Hitchcock's film makes at least one literary reference of its own. Francie's demand to John (Cary Grant) the morning after he has visited her hotel room to watch a fireworks display - 'Give me back mother's jewels!' - is lifted straight from Wilkie Collins's famous sensation-novel about a diamond, 'The Moonstone' (1868) - a two-part radio adaptation of which, in November 1953, had featured Pat Hitchcock in a small role. Here's Anthea Trodd on the novel: it 'owes its career in the psychoanalytical journals to the fact that its central episode takes place at midnight in the heroine's bedroom where her tacit acquiescence in the theft of her valuable becomes hysterical reaction by morning'. (My thanks to Stephen Rebello and Charlie Kimball for some information used in the first part of this entry. KM)