Editor's Week 2021

December 18 - 2021
Happy holidays to our readers. We'll be back in the New Year. KM

December 11 - 2021
As we all know, Hitchcock had a keen eye for cinematic devices - such as the framing of shots. He liked to use built-in frames whenever he could, to help compose a striking or emphatic image. Marnie (1964) is full of them, amounting to a whole motif emphasising Marnie's combative nature, especially when Mark blackmails her into having to marry him. Marnie is obsessed with doors - the massive doors of safes, which she repeatedly burgles until Mark catches up with her. The motif here concerns Marnie's feeling that she and her mother have been victimised by men. She is determined - irrationally - to take her revenge. Even on her honeymoon, she wilfully excludes Mark from sharing her bed - so Mark, seemingly complying, says that he will sleep on the couch, 'light-years away'. For the moment, there is a door between them (see frame-capture below), and Marnie seems to prefer matters that way. Repeatedly we have seen her shut doors in Mark's face. However, he finally rebels at this treatment, and announces: 'Marnie, tonight the door stays open.' In a little child's voice, she protests, 'No!' But Mark enters the bedroom and pointedly closes the door behind him. Near the end of the film, after the death of Marnie's beloved horse, Forio, she goes again to rob the safe at the Rutland office, the business firm which Mark has inherited. (Both Forio and money are her compensations for what she feels has been done to her and her mother. Most of the proceeds of her burglaries are passed onto her mother, whom Marnie has set up in a small but luxurious house in a Philadelphia back street - almost a slum area. Another facade, notice. At the end of the street, which verges upon a waterfront, ships tower over the houses. The symbolism here seems to imply the yearning to escape that compels Marnie's irrational behavour. Equally, though, another of the film's motifs - a universalising one - seems to be that finally it's 'all one'. Mark has a pointed quotation which he cites to his sister-in-law, Lil, who fancies him. 'Careful, Lil. "When duty whispers ...".' The full quotation is from Milton '('Paradise Lost', I think) and its gist is in the two lines that Mark leaves out: 'So nigh is grandeur to our dust,/ So nigh is God to man.' (In God's, i.e., the Creator's, eyes, all may indeed be one - another nice poetic touch of the film: script by playwright Jay Presson Allen, btw.) I don't think I'm overinterpreting the sort of feelings that Marnie brings with it for an alert viewer. I always find it extremely moving. But we were talking about natural 'frames' in Hitchcock, and notably doorways. Hitchcock could be daring, often. In Rebecca (1940), there's at least one shot where the newly-married 'I' character (played by Joan Fontaine), now installed in husband Maxim's family mansion, Manderley, finds herself dwarfed by the immense doors there. Hitchcock even includes at least one shot where the door handles seem to be at almost shoulder height! (Could he have been remembering Lewis Carrol's 'Alice in Wonderland' - or possibly 'Alice Through the Looking-Glass' - in which Alice drinks a magic potion which shrinks her to child-size?) And speaking of Rebecca ... It's a film in which windows form another motif. At one point, the evil housekeeper Mrs Danvers almost persuades 'I' to jump to her death from the window of Rebecca's bedroom. At another point, the smarmy Favell character (George Sanders) hops into a ground-floor room through a conveniently open window - he is nothing if not insouciant - lending the characterisation a suitable dramatic emphasis. Of course, Hitchcock's definitive 'windows' film is Rear Window (1954), where each wimdow frames a separate story which unfolds during the film. I'm also reminded of Stage Fright (1950), in which Hitchcock repearedly frames shots as if from the wings of a theatre - even where the action is taking place in a non-theatrical setting. Finally, I think of characters who are shown putting their head out a window to address another. Memorably, there's the mother in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) who calls out cheerfully to Uncle Charlie, a serial killer; and in Frenzy (1972) there's the red-haired mother of serial-killer Bob Rusk whom we see put her head out an upstairs window to call to her son in the London street below - something like 'Will you be home for tea?'! (Both mothers are totally unsuspecting, clearly.) In sum, Hitchcock used visual motifs cinematically and often ingeniously.

December 4 - 2021
A friend has suggested that I blog on Hitchcock and heights - so here goes. A list of titles fitting this category includes Blackmail (1929), Jamaica Inn (1939), Saboteur (1942), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960) - think of poor Arbogast pushed down the stairs by a knife-wielding Mother. Have I left any out? The frame-capture below shows the detectives in Blackmail who, having chased poor Tracy (the blackmailer) onto the roof of the British Museum, recoil from the sight of his death - he has just fallen through the Museum's distinctive dome. (The builders should have used unbreakable glass but, ah well, what is done is done! And Hitchcock needed it to happen that way!) Such a climax suited Hitchcock who once told a class of cinema students that he always tried to work in 'the realm of the visual'. (He had been asked why so many of his films feature staircases.) Now, I have called the blackmailer 'poor Tracy' because like so many of Hitch's films, this one makes us not unsympathetic to the nominal villain. Tracy, unemployed, had happened to be loitering in the street waiting to visit the artist Crewe - no doubt to put the squeeze on him for some money - when he saw Alice (Anny Ondra) exit the studio, and then upstairs found that Crewe was dead. Meanwhile, Alice in her haste had left one of her distinctive gloves behind at the scene of her crime - when Crewe had tried to rape her she had knifed him in self-defence. Aghast, she had run away. Later, her boyfriend, the rather smug detective Frank (John Longden), who happens to be assigned to the Crewe case, had found the other glove and had kept it without telling his superiors. In sum, there are several crimes committed in Blackmail and together they represent a multi-pronged travesty (or miscarriage) of justice. As so often in Hitchcock, we may be left with an uneasy feeling that, after all, this is how the world goes - which doesn't greatly lessen our unease. (I think it was Robin Wood, or someone, who wrote of the 'bitter taste' that a Hitchcock film may leave us with.) Of course, there is the bigger satisfaction of the excitement and suspense that the film has given us. And, moreover, it is 'only a film' as Hitchcock would say. Ultimately, he concerned himself with 'the realm of the visual'. Nor was he original in his idea for Blackmail's climax. It had actually been suggested to him by a young Michael Powell, who was familiar with the Britsh Museum and its glass-domed Reading Room. In turn, it's likely that Powell himself got the idea after seeing John Longden in Palais de Dance (Maurice Elvey, 1928) which had used to same locale for a similar climax of its own! And of course falls from great heights had numerous precedents in the stage melodramas of the 19th century. For Hitchcock, the effect on the audience was just about everything. True, he didn't think to underpin the effect here by a line of under-stated dialogue such as Roger Thornhill's in North by Northwest: 'This won't do, we're on top of the Monument!' But then, Tracy is a loner, whereas Thornhill is accompanied by Eve Kendall whom he says he will make Mrs Thornhill 'if we get out of this alive ... That's a proposal, sweetie!' Exploiting a film's (or a situation's) love-interest was something that Hitch was still learning to do. He still hadn't fully mastered it, perhaps, by the time of Saboteur: as he later said, the situation would have been even stronger if he had had hero and heroine both clinging from the Statue of Liberty together. On the other hand, having the villain fall to his death was something that the Effects Department could help him with very well. In a kind of 'vertigo effect', we see Saboteur's villain plummet to the ground. One refinement that Hitchcock added in North by Northwest was to have the villain, Leonard, let out the most blood-curdling of screams as he falls to his death, and to hear the scream receding in intensity as he plunges away from us. But that's enough for now ...

November 27 - 2021
Sorry. Another Hitchcock-related matter arose and had to be dealt with. [KM]

November 20 - 2021
I ended, last time, by evoking the 'baffled opponents' in Hitchcock, and suggested: 'Think of Mrs Danvers in Rebecca (1940) or of the Martin Landau character in North by Northwest.' Of course, not all of Hitchcock's villains have to meet the extreme fates of those two, i.e., the immolation of Mrs Danvers in a burning mansion, the plummet from a cliff of Leonard (with accompanying receding cry). But Hitchcock did usually provide us with a character to detest, as he liked to tap into a wide range of our emotive responses. If Stage Fright (1950) is one of his weaker films, that may have something to do with how we aren't given a clear-cut villain until the very end. Is it - surely not?! - the ambiguous Marlene Dietrich? Or else, one of those other skulking backstage types? Well, no, it turns out to be the weak Richard Todd character, who has expressed interest in the Jane Wyman heroine but who finally admits to her - threateningly - that he is the man the police are after. Rather more satisfying, I find, is another of Hitchcock's 'theatrical' films, namely, The Paradine Case (1947) - one of its conceits is that the English law courts, specifically the Old Bailey, are a place of drama, not least because of the pomp and regalia of judges, barristers, etc. Charles Laughton is almost perfect for such a role, and plays Judge Horfield who presides over the trial of Maddalena Paradine for allegedly poisoning her husband, supposedly because she had fancied Paradine's loyal manservant, André Latour. (All of which proves true!) Less grand, unfortunately, is the young Gregory Peck who play's Mrs Paradine's defence barrister, Anthony Keane. It's no surprise to learn that Hitchcock would have preferred an older actor, such as Laurence Olivier (fresh from playing Henry V and soon to embark on Hamlet, followed by Richard III) or Ronald Colman. Hitchcock well knew that 'courtroom drama' was a particularly suitable term for what he had in mind. He also knew that there were very many famous trials in English judicial history, the majority of which had been held at the 'new' Old Bailey since it was completed in 1902. Further, Hitchcock would have recognised in Robert Hichens's 1933 novel elements drawn from just such actual trials. My research suggests that there were two sensational English murder cases that had particularly influenced Hichens. The first was that of Madame Fahmy, an attractive Englishwoman who in 1923 was acquitted by a jury after she shot and killed her husband, an Egyptian prince, at London's Savoy Hotel. At the trial, it was suggested that the prince had been intimate with his male secretary (cf. the probably gay Latour in Hichens's novel). The fact that Madame Fahmy herself seems to have been a woman of 'loose morals' (a close parallel with Mrs Paradine) wasn't revealed to the jury - her famous advocate Edward Marshall Hall (cf. the film's Keane) saw to that. The other murder case was that of Florence Maybrick, a young American woman found guilty of poisoning her English husband at Liverpool in 1889. Note that Mrs Paradine's alleged murder weapon (or vehicle) was the 'fatal glass of burgundy' she had given her husband. But Mrs Maybrick's husband seems to have had a violent disposition, probably the result of his chronic hypochondria (again with parallels in The Paradine Case). It's also likely that he discovered that his wife was having an affair with a man named Brierley. Very importantly, Robert Hichens based his novel's pivotal Keane/Horfield antagonism on a real-life clash of temperaments between Edward Marshall Hall and the most feared criminal judge of his time, Mr Justice Avory. Marshall Hall was handsome, and said to be 'at his best when able to identify himself strongly with his client's cause'. Keane in The Paradine Case has lines to precisely that effect. In contrast, Mr Justice Avory had been a merciless criminal prosecutor who 'became an icy judge, one who disregarded all except purely legal considerations'. He was known as a hanging judge, something that the novel's sadistic, as well as lecherous, Lord Horfield certainly is. So too is Horfield in the film, though the character is necessarily watered down. Incidentally, I would dearly love to have seen Hitchcock's original cut of his film, which ran close to three hours, as opposed to its present running-time of less than two hours (whittled down by producer David Selznick and then further for TV). A lost Hitchcock masterpiece? Next time: more on Hitchcock's 'detestable' characters?

October 30 - 2021
A friend this week messaged me to say that she was watching and enjoying a film - although one I had not heard of. (Let's leave it nameless.) A short time later she messaged me again. This time her tone was different. She wrote: 'It was good up until the very bloody showdown. I don't know why everything American always has to end in bloodshed.' Hmm, I ventured, it probably has a connection to the 19C stage tradition - appropriated by American silent director D.W. Griffith - of a spectacular climax. Simplified, the idea has become a jokey maxim, 'Cut to the chase!' Think of Griffith's Way Down East (1920) in which Lillian Gish clings for her life to a large chunk of ice careering down a river towards a steep waterfall; Richard Barthelmess runs along the river bank, seemingly helpless to save her. (Any ideas?!) As part of Griffith's technique, which he had used from at least Birth of a Nation (1915) onwards, he keeps cutting to the danger ahead. Later, one of Griffith's biggest admirers, Russian director Sergei Eisenstein, identified the technique in his famous essay, "Dickens, Griffith, and the Film Today". Now, although my flimsily-bound, one-volume copy of Eisenstein's 'Film Form' and 'Film Sense', containing that essay, has come apart, and I haven't read it lately, I believe I recall the Dickens connection mentioned in the essay's title. For Charles Dickens (1812-70), too, had used - and indeed helped pioneer - that technique in novels like 'A Tale of Two Cities' (1859). There, the question posed at the climax is: can ne'er-do-well Sydney Carton rescue Charles Darnay, fiance of Lucie Manette, from the guillotine? (Answer: yes, he can, if he is brave enough!) Notice - even from that brief description - the complex way in which Dickens is playing with the reader's emotions. Also, note the added excitement at the end of the novel, when the rescued Darnay, acompanied again by Lucie, has successfully eluded death on the gallows, but must further escape the baffled French authorities when the latter find out that they have been tricked. ('Cut to the chase', indeed!) I'm sure that Alfred Hitchcock learnt much from Dickens - after all, he had read four Dickens novels at school and later owned a complete set of the English author's works. (My thanks to Bill Krohn who once told me about that set which he had noted when he was allowed to take inventory of Hitchcock's bookshelves after his death.) In any case, the proof is in the films. Dickens's technique is much evident in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) in which Hitchcock sees fit to follow a big climax at the Royal Albert Hall with another, in which the kidnapped boy, Hank McKenna, must be rescued from a foreign embassy in London. At this second climax, as Hank's parents combine to find their son, Hitchcock uses much cross-cutting ... Hmm. I shan't further illustrate my point by an obvious example taken from the Mount Rushmore climax of North by Northwest (1959) - hero and heroine in peril on a mountain while pursued by vengeful baddies - but will refer instead to the climax of the underrated Torn Curtain (1966). Despite vindictive opposition from an ageing ballerina, played by Lila Kedrova, Paul Newman and Julie Andrews flee East Germany and pull off a succession of last-minute escapes. Kedrova even follows them on-board their escape ship to Sweden. At the very last minute, she detects their supposed hiding-place - a costume basket being winched ashore from the ship's deck - and orders the ship's crew to fire on it (see frame-capture below). Meanwhile, hero and heroine have managed to swim ashore and set foot on safe neutral territory. The baffled opponent is as much a part of the tradition I'm evoking as the physical flight of hero and (usually) heroine to safety. Think of Mrs Danvers in Rebecca (1940) or of the Martin Landau character in North by Northwest.

October 23 - 2021
For many years, well into the 1950s, Hitchcock said that his favourite of his films was Shadow of a Doubt (1943) which, because of wartime conditions, he had chosen to film largely on location rather than in the studio. He also admitted that he had enjoyed the opportunity to work with top playwright Thornton Wilder ('Our Town') and to have him guide Hitchcock on the minutiae of small-town American life. (Hitch and family had only settled in the USA three years earlier, remember.) What many visitors to Santa Rosa see first is its railway station with its wide platform - that's how I first saw Santa Rosa myself when I visited there many years ago. In Hitchcock's film, it's also how Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) gets his first impression of the town, having decided to flee there to evade the searching police who - rightly - think that he could be the Merry Widow serial-killer. He rides the train to Santa Rosa, from which he will depart the same way near the end. By then, his astute niece, young Charlie (Teresa Wright), has stumbled on who he is - the basis of a dramatic scene in the Santa Rosa Library after closing time, when she has begged the librarian to allow her to look up a newspaper as matter of urgency ... The convincing, well-observed characters make up a large part of Shadow of a Doubt's effectiveness, the lady librarian among them. (She isn't used to matters of urgency in laid-back Santa Rosa, nor to her authority being pushed to allow concessions to her usual routine.) Young Charlie's father, Mr Newton (Henry Travers), works in a bank in the town's centre, which makes him another representative of the town. But he, too, isn't used to any disruptions from routine, and is embarrassed when Uncle Charlie deliberately makes a scene in the bank, apparently just to satisfy his own sense of importance! Gentle (not to say meek) Mr Newton is no notorious serial killer, and so Uncle Charlie considers himself entitled to take such liberties for his own fun! Something inside him prompts him to want to draw attention to himself, even at the risk of the personal danger it brings. (Compare the spectacular attempt he makes on young Charlie's life by locking her in the garage with the car's motor running - Uncle Charlie having secreted the engine key. That 'accident' would undoubtedly have made headlines and put a spotlight on the other members of the Newton family, including its visitor, Uncle Charlie.) Santa Rosa's bank has always been a landmark of the town. So has its night life, I gather, and this allows Hitchcock's film to include a scene in the Til' Two Bar where Uncle Charlie takes his niece for a serious late-night discussion of what exactly she intends. He has already taken advantage of young Charlie's reluctance - an opposite trait of his own - to make a scene. He, on the other hand, has positively revelled in the attention he has been getting in the Santa Rosa community, seeming to put it about that he is a major figure back East, possibly even a war hero. (However, the only actual reference to the War in the film is a discreet placard in Mr Newton's bank that reads, 'Buy war bonds now'.) Another likely contribution of Thornton Wilder to the film is its opportunities for scenes of gentle humour. A favourite of mine is Ann Newton's opinion of herself as already grown up. In the frame-capture below, note her disdain for the gift she (Edna May Wonacott) has been given by Uncle Charlie, a child's teddy bear (is it?), whereas her brother Roger seems thrilled by his gift. Hitchcock found both children in Santa Rosa, shortly before filming began. To be continued.

October 16 - 2021
For technical reasons, I wasn't able to make my own frame-capture this time, nor show Edmund Gwenn, a memorable character-actor in Foreign Correspondent, in the particular image I wanted. So, instead, here's a photo from off the Web of the tower of Westminster Cathedral - the tower from which Gwenn's character, Rowley, falls in a dramatic moment. (Btw, characters falling off buildings had been shown in other directors' movies previously - at least, I can think of King Kong falling from the top of the Empire State Building in the 1933 movie bearing his name. Hitchcock had already shown the panicked villain in Blackmail, 1929, plummeting to his death from the dome of the British Museum and landing inside that building's Reading Room.) All in the name of giving his films 'visual interest', no doubt! This week, I would like to pay tribute to Gwenn (1877-1959) who appeared in no fewer than four Hitchcock films: The Skin Game, Waltzes From Vienna, Foreign Correspondent, and The Trouble With Harry. Always, he was able to make his character sympathetic to audiences, even when someone like Hornblower in The Skin Game (1931) may seem not to deserve it, or at least have an unfeeling side. (In that film, Gwenn's character is decidedly ambitious, an enterprising up-and-comer who infringes on the property rights of the patrician Hillcrist. Which makes for good drama, undoubtedly. Hitchcock loved such not-easily-resolvable, or ambiguous, situations in his films.) Always, Gwenn's chirpiness helps win us over even when, in The Trouble With Harry (1955), he comes close to whining ('Oh Sammy, must we?'). He was ideally cast in George Seaton's Miracle on 34th Street (1947) where he played Kris Kringle, the Santa Claus figure employed by a department store! Now, in a film artfully filled with climaxes - without the story ever seeming overloaded - the Westminster Cathedral scene is itself extended while, all the while, suspense mounts. The cathedral is a Catholic one, not to be confused with the anglican Westminster Abbey nearby long made famous by royal occasions such as coronations. Hitchcock carefully identifies his locale, noting the requiem mass ('You know, a mass for the dead', says Rowley helpfully) which is taking place in the main chapel. Rowley uses the mass as an excuse not to go inside the chapel but to immediately escort Johnny up to the cathedral's observation deck in its tower - a tourist attraction, it seems. One of the chilling things about the seemingly amiable Rowley is his intentness to kill. That intentness is seen on his face when - the other tourists finally having gone down in the lift - he rushes at Johnny from behind, his palms outstretched for maximum pushing-power. Now Hitchcock cuts to an extreme long-shot of a body falling from the tower, then immediately to a shot of Johnny - alive - explaining to fellow-journalist Stebbins what had happened, how something had made him step aside in the tower, thus causing Rowley to go over instead. In sum, Foreign Correspondent is a film of multiple climaxes and multiple villains (Krugg, Rowley, the unflappable Fisher), and almost non-stop menace. A tour de force! Finally this time, my thanks to occasional correspondent John C. (who in the past has discussed with me Dial M for Murder and Vertigo) who this week sent me some thoughts on Foreign Correspondent. He noted the possible influence of Hitchcock's film on another 'umbrellas' scene, in Frank Capra's Meet John Doe (1941). John cites the film's script: 'As far as the camera eye can see the reflection on the wet umbrellas creates a strange and mystic light'. Astutely, he notes: 'Gary Cooper even wears a light grey overcoat like Joel McCrea', thus making their movements in the respective scenes stand out. Also, John reminded me of a movie precedent for umbrellas in rainly Amsterdam, namely in the short film by Joris Ivens aptly called Rain (1929). I saw it many years ago. At the very least, if Hitchcock saw it, it would have reinforced his association of Amsterdam with umbrellas. Also, John reminded me of the similarity of Foreign Correspondent's assassination scene (one close-up in particular) and the famous shooting on the Odessa Steps seen in Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin (1925). Thanks, John!

October 9 - 2021
'The fact is, I practise absurdity quite religiously', said Hitchcock. He was speaking in the late '50s, at about the time of North by Northwest and when the Theatre of the Absurd was peaking (Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot', etc. - maybe Hitchcock was thinking of his own crossroads scene, in his new film). Well, Hitch was right, and 'absurdity' was indeed something he had practised for a long time in his movies. Take Foreign Correspondent, about which we blogged last time. What could be more absurd, on analysis, than that film's assassination scene on the steps of Amsterdam Town Hall? Recall that it involves the shooting of Van Meer's double - posing as Van Meer himself - just as arriving dignitaries are being watched by a large crowd, many of them with umbrellas raised because rain has begun to fall. But seemingly, the rain is the least of the hazards that the elderly Van Meer must face. As he mounts the wide steps, a news photographer steps forward and asks to take his photo with a plate camera and flashgun. The photographer raises the camera - large enough to conceal a loaded pistol - and shoots Van Meer in the face at close range. Hitchcock seems to have got exactly right what the bloodied face of an assassination victim looks like. I remember once consulting a book of forensic photographs (in the Monash University Law Library) and seeing an identical image of a shot man ... So, what is 'absurd' about the scene? Answer: the fact that both participants - photographer and victim - must have been paid for their services, presumably by the head of the Universal Peace Party, Stephen Fisher, who has been looking on. Think about it. First, what could the 'victim' possibly have been told? 'We're going to pretend to shoot you in the face but don't worry, we'll use blank bullets'? (Hmm. If so, the individual must have been prepared to go to gaol for a long time.) Well, they must have paid him a whopping amount, if that were the case! And what could they possibly have told the photographer? 'Don't worry, your gun will be loaded with blanks? The onlookers will be so shocked, you'll be able to make an escape into the crowd and we'll have a car waiting for you'? If so, again the 'fee' must have been massive! No, in fact the scene is absurd - and just the sort of thing that Hitch would have relished! He was probably thinking of the triumph of pulling off such a scene, and thereby almost identifying with its two central figures! Of course, the screenplay would have needed to include some sort of 'explanation'. And it's there. When the action later moves to the windmill scene, and Johnny stumbles upon the kidnapped (real) Van Meer, the old man tells him, 'They want the world to think that I've been assassinated to conceal the fact that I am in their hands.' Interestingly, Hitchcock later professed to despise directors who don't much worry about plausibility and who say, 'We'll cover it in a line of dialogue!' Clearly, he was generalising, and making exception for when his own high-style would allow him to get away with it! Now, a couple of final observations about the Town Hall scene. I have often claimed that there is a strong element of 'Sapper' - the English novelist of 'pugilistic' popular fiction, a contemporary of the much more genteel John Buchan - in Hitchcock. In one of Sapper's novels (I once read several of them) there's again the device of elaborately staging the killing of a victim to conceal that he is really still alive. But I'm sorry, I don't remember which one. Lastly, I'm practically certain that there's a slightly earlier film than Foreign Correspondent in which there's another 'sea of umbrellas' - in which case, Hitchcock almost certainly saw it and was impressed by the visual effectiveness of it.

October 2 - 2021
There are no train scenes (see last time) in Foreign Correspondent (1940), but it gets around anyway. Someone has called it a 'treasure chest' of Hitchcock, and I agree. It is surely his busiest film. Literally all the natural elements are included, by which I mean sea, sky, wind, rain, with their appropriate modes of travel - ship, plane, car, and finally a luxury air clipper which of course crashes into the sea, because Hitchcock has been lulling us to this point. (See what was said last time about 'cosiness'.) That watery scene acts as a metaphor for the reality of war which we learn has been declared just before the plane flying Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) back to the lights of America takes off. Among the other passengers on board are Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) and her renegade father, Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall), who has used his position as head of the Universal Peace Party to secretly further the cause of war. (A typical Hitchcock reversal there.) Like a musical tone, the drone of the plane initially strikes Carol as a pleasant sound, and she expresses the wish that they might all fly on like this 'forever'. The audience sees how whimsical she is being - and very soon she sees it for herself. Once Carol's father learns that he will be arrested when the plane lands on American soil, he knows that he must reveal to her how he has 'used the tactics of the country I grew up with'. That revelation coincides with the metaphorical plummeting of the plane into the sea. Meanwhile, an elderly lady passenger simply denies the reality of what is happening to them all ('I shall report this nonsense to the British Consul when we land') - until at that very moment a stray bullet from the ship that has been shooting at them strikes the lady dead, and she sinks to the floor. Again Hitchcock is making a point here. I was reminded of the moment in The Lady Vanishes when the Cecil Parker character - a weakling who has been cheating on his wife - thinks to placate the enemy soldiers firing on the train by waving a white handkerchief towards them, only to be immediately shot dead, murmuring 'You don't understand.' In Hitchcock's estimation - it's fair to say - some facts are simply true and cannot be twisted into what they are not. A bullet is unambiguous. Yes, Foreign Correspondent is 'a propaganda film' but it deals in facts nonetheless. Once Fisher comes to his senses, he is able to tell Carol that he had made a wrong choice - and his inner strength of character surfaces when, finally, he is able to sacrifice himself to save his daughter and the man she loves, i.e., Johnny, as well the clipper's other passengers. Now, I said above that Foreign Correspondent is Hitchcock's busiest film. I meant that it is crammed with lively inventiveness, no doubt a sign of Hitchcock's reunion with the screenwriter he called his 'best constructionist' - Charles Bennett, who had been resident in Hollywood for several years. Certainly, few writers were more adept at creating strong scenes, and giving them a plausible connection, than Bennett. Take the film's celebrated scene set in a windmill in Holland which the foreign agents have made their hideaway and where they hide the kidnapped diplomat Van Meer (Albert Basserman) whose age and frailty, but also courage, are readily apparent to us. (It's a fine performance by Basserman.) The action takes place on literally several levels, and the lighting is aptly chiarascuro (aptly, not least because Holland was the country of famous painters like Rembrandt). See frame-capture below. Note that when Johnny first decides to investigate this particular mill because it seems the only possible hiding-pace for the foreign agents whose car had mysteriously vanished from an open road, he isn't at first aware that Van Meer is concealed there. Further, in a suspenseful moment, his coat becomes entangled in the mill's gears, and it seems that Johnny's arm could be torn off. Retreating further up the stairs, after he sees other agents approaching the mill - as to a rendezvous - he stumbles on Van Meer, drugged and bound. Then, realising that he will need help, he makes his provisional ecape by clambering down the outside of the mill. Note that Hitchcock and Bennett further 'explain' the mill as a signalling 'device' used by the foreign agents to a plane that circles overhead. Somehow, none of this detail seems to overload the screenplay, such is Bennett's and Hitchcock's adroitness. Rather, it all adds to our breathless appreciation! Even the car's disappearance had been cleverly managed, a piece of sleight-of-hand that seems impossible: now you see it, now you don't! It's all in the editing, of course. Typical Hitchcock! (To be continued.)

September 11 - 2021
Several times we have referred here to Hitchcock's Vague Symbolism - because its resonance is multi-valent and non-specific. Take the episode that ended the First Season of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents', called "Momentum". Below is a frame-capture of Hitchcock's intro (echoed later by his outro) to "Momentum". Note the watching eye. Hitch refers to it as all-seeing - as watching us watching him. He notes that it 'never sleeps'. In the story that immediately follows we promptly begin to sense the relevance of this. The story in a nutshell is about a man, Dick Paine (Skip Homeier), who shoots his ex-employer (needlessly as it turns out) - a man named Burroughs - in order to recover money owed. Dick refers to life as a 'rat-race', and, being unemployed, he faces the imminent possibility that he and his wife Beth (Joanne Woodward) may soon be evicted from their apartment for arrears in rent. On his way to confront Burroughs, Dick stops off at a bar. To the barman he observes, in time-honoured fashion (cf. the original title of the 19C novel, 'Little Dorrit'), that the rat-race is 'nobody's fault'. He asks the barman, a friend of his from way back, to help him out, but the barman has just lost a heap of money at the races. Arriving at Burroughs' house, Dick sees him paying money to an unseen person (the view is obscured) from out of a locked cashbox. When the unseen person leaves and Burroughs' lights go out, Dick breaks in. But Burroughs has heard him. There's a brief scuffle, and Burroughs is shot. From here on, the episode is one of rising tension and multiple climaxes. These are so representative of how a typical episode of AHP works, that I'd like to ennumerate them. Next day, when Dick is back home, there's a sharp rap on Dick and Beth's door - it proves to be the janitor wanting to show a prospective tenant the apartment. Of course, the audience wonders if the police are at the door. Dick realises that he and Beth must sneak away. But over the street he spots a man loitering, who appears to be watching their apartment. He tells Beth to go anyway, and he'll try and join her at 11 o'clock at the main bus depot. Boldly, Beth leaves, crossing the street directly in front of the loitering man who, after a moment's hesitation, follows her. But before Dick can sneak out the back way, as he had planned, there's another rap at the door - and it's the loitering man returned. He forces his way in, then proves to be only a process-server who has a debt-notice to serve. However, Dick, brandishing a gun, decides that he must lock the debt-collector in a closet, which he does - but gets wounded by a shot from his own gun. He staggers out, and whistles up a taxi - just evading the police who finally arrive to question him. Gentle reader, several more climaxes, or false climaxes, still remain! Briefly now ... As Beth waits on a seat at the bus station, a man behind her makes a pass at her - but Beth merely turns her back on him. Meanwhile, in the taxi, Dick tells the driver to stop. This prompts the driver of a passing car to slow down and ask, 'Need any help?' Dick calls out (his gun on the taxi-driver), 'No thanks!' Then he slugs the taxi-driver and leaves him in some roadside bushes. Finally, driving the taxi to the bus depot, Dick jumps out (causing a traffic snarl) and hurries inside, thinking that Beth may have had to leave for San Diego without him. But that bus is running late - and Beth spots Dick before he spots her. At that moment, Beth drops her purse, and there is plenty of money inside. We now learn that she had got to Burroughs before Dick did, and that Burroughs had handed her the overdue money without demure. (Beth had been the unseen person when Dick had peered through Burroughs's window.) Dick, finally succumbing to the shotgun wound that he had received, slumps back, saying, 'It's a rat-race. You run all day ...' (Btw, "Momentum" was directed for AHP by Robert Stevens, from a story by Cornell Woolrich.)

September 4 - 2021
I thought some of you might be interested in know that there's a new edition out of Frank Baker's excellent novel, 'The Birds' (1936, from memory). Once again, it's re-published by Valancourt Books, and includes the Introduction by yours truly. Illustration of new cover below. My thanks to Patrick Wikstrom for spotting the new edition and letting me know. I can't immediately locate my own copy of the book, so I can't quote myself (!) directly. The important thing to know is that Frank Baker was working at Daphne Du Maurier's publisher in London when he brought out his novel, and it's highly likely that she read about it at the time - although she later denied it. (Du Maurier, of course, wrote her short story "The Birds", the official source of Hitchcock's film of that title. Her story was included in a collection of her stories, published about 1952.) Also importantly, the novel bears some close correspondences to Hitchcock's film. For example, both novel and film have a scene in which birds attack a person who takes refuge in a telephone box. So it's plausible to think that Hitchcock himself, who was still working in England back then, may also have read or heard something about the Baker novel. When Hitchcock's The Birds came out in 1963, Baker actually threatened to sue Hitchcock and Universal for plagiarism. Personally, I think he had quite a good case.

August 14 - 2021
No "Editor's Week" this time. But do please read the News item from this week.

July 31 - 2021
Continuing on from last time, the boathouse scene in Rebecca may be my favourite scene of all in that fine film. Patricia White's monograph says insightful things about it. Allow me to quote some of her commenary on it. 'The pervasive presence of Rebecca, the most distinctive achievement of the novel,' she writes, 'poses a problem for a visual medium. Hitchcock's solution, which demanded multiple rewrites on [Joan] Harrison's part even as shooting was under way, was to use a present-tense camera to "narrate" Rebecca's death as Maxim details the events that transpired the night she taunted him. Choosing not to show Rebecca in flashback preserves ambiguity about Maxim's culpapility and allows her to maintain her larger-than-life status while aligning her with the power of cinema. ... When Selznick saw the rushes, he responded with uncharacteristic brevity; he found it "wonderful".' (White, p. 37) White has many interesting comments and factual matters to share. Having commented on the 'dreamlike' tension created by the boathouse scene, she later gives another example: 'Rebecca's eerie theme, distinguished by the use of an electronic instrument called a novechord, [further] conjures her pervasive presence.' (p. 48) (That same theme is repeatedly associated with the sea - where Rebecca's body ends up.) If Hitchcock didn't specifically ask composer Franz Waxman for such a cue, he (or Miklos Rozsa) certainly remembered it when he made Spellbound (1945), in which another electronic instrument, the theramin, figures prominently, evoking the amnesia or 'spell' in which Ballyntine (Gregory Peck) finds himself caught. (That's another repeated element: I've already noted the spell or 'forcefield' under which Rebecca's Manderley is seemingly cast for much of its length.) And something else I've previously commented on is a near-sterility, a seeming 'impotence', of everyone at Manderley. White mentions this: 'The [abrupt] dispersal of the company [after the ball], [and] the utter absence of smart, modern women "I's" own age ... highlights her childishness and keeps the narrative focussed on the isolated couple as they experience intrusions from the past.' (p. 88) (About 'I' herself, White comments amusingly that when she first comes to Manderley she could be mistaken for 'a member of the public, admitted to tour the home on Tuesdays' - p.70.) But finally, I want to say something about the character Jack Favell (George Sanders - later one of the stars of the Bette Davis film All About Eve, 1950). He counterpoints the subdued character of Maxim, and is Rebecca's main comic relief. Clearly a bit of a bounder, he consorts with Mrs Danvers, which is explained by their both having been close to Rebecca, and by something the novel tells us, that he had been seduced by her. I love the early moment in the film (see frame-capture below) in which Favell catches 'I' unawares and asks her almost cheekily, 'Looking for me?' He is standing at a window behind her and his voice makes her whirl around, startled. We had not been shown the window earlier in the scene, so we are startled, too. (Hitchcock often had windows placed conveniently for an effect he might want. Come to think of it, White mentions a window in 'I's' bedroom opened by Mrs Danvers, 'strangely adjacent to the bed ... [looking out] onto the foggy night' - p. 87.) Next minute, with more cheeky insouciance, he has thrown a leg over the sill and bounded into the room! In the frame-capture, notice the cross-shaped shadow across his face. It is scarcely a Christ-symbol - contrast Blackmail, 1929 - but more of an attempt to characterise him as villainous. Actually, it was also in Blackmail, I think, that Hitchcock deliberately threw a shadow on a villain's face to make him resemble the villain from stage-melodrama, preening his moustache! And Favell does return later in the film to blackmail Maxim. Jumping into Maxim's car outside the courtroom during a lunch recess, he - insouciantly - helps himself to a piece of chicken and then tosses its bones out the car window. 'What does one do with old bones? Bury them, eh what?' Earlier, he has also been given the key line reflecting directly on Maxim: 'That temper will do you in yet, Maxim.' (Maxim had punched him.) That gives us justifiable pause for reflection ...

July 24 - 2021
I recall that Penelope Houston, Editor of 'Sight & Sound', once referred to several of Hitchcock's plots as examples of 'madman's flytap'. I'm not sure where she got the term from, but this week I'll try and apply it (in a non-pejorative way ...) to Hitchcock's Rebecca. (Note. I'm not overlooking how the film's plot essentially comes from Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel, a product of what Patricia White in her recent BFI Classics monograph on Rebecca, p. 99, calls its author's 'prodigious imagination'.) Consider this. When a woman's body had been found, washed up on a lonely beach, Maxim - who may have killed Rebecca (he does so in the novel) - is able to mis-identify the body as Rebecca's. How convenient for him! Rebecca had been proficient at sailing boats, but her boat had disappeared along with Rebecca herself, and the assumption at the original inquest was that she had died at sea. Later, after marrying 'I', Maxim tells his new bride that Rebecca had stumbled in the boathouse, where Maxim had confronted her about her extra-marital affairs, and (in the film) had hit her head on a piece of ship's tackle. Maxim explains to 'I' that the body on the beach had been that of an unknown woman, 'unclaimed, belonging nowhere'. That body, then, washed up shortly after Rebecca's disappearance, was also very convenient for the book and film's plot! But later, after Maxim re-marries, Rebecca's boat is unexpectedly found at the bottom of the sea by a diver. A new inquest is called. This time, Maxim has more explaining to do. Initially, he states that he must simply have mis-identified the body on the beach. However, also called to testify at the inquest is the boatbuilder Tabbs, and he has a dramatic line: 'There's them 'oles!' He is referring to holes punched in the bottom of Rebecca's boat from the inside. However, again conveniently for Maxim, the new evidence can still be read as indicating suicide. But why would Rebecca have done that? The last section of the book/film provides a - convenient! - answer. A London doctor (Leo G. Carroll) is found who testifies that Rebecca had been suffering from an irreversible cancer. Maxim confides to 'I' that Rebecca, in the boathouse, knowing she hadn't long to live, had deliberately tried to goad him into killing her - which would have meant that his own life would be placed in jeopardy if he were found guilty of her murder! (What a lovely nature she didn't have, despite her 'beauty, brains, and beauty'!) Already, that's quite a lot of plot invented by du Maurier's 'prodigious imagination'. But, further, what about Maxim's explanation of all this to 'I'? Did Rebecca really fall and hit her head in the boathouse? It sounds an unlikely story. Although the screenplay couldn't have Rebecca murdered and then Maxim not found out - by the rigid rules of the American Legion of Decency for all films (decreeing that a culprit of a major crime must be punished) - Hitchcock was able to bring considerable ambiguity to Maxim's account of what had happened. He tells 'I' that he had buried the body at sea and then scuttled the boat, ostensibly to prevent scandal, and/or to avoid suspicion of murder falling on him. (As noted, in the novel he does kill Rebecca.) But note. In the film, we only have his word that he didn't kill Rebecca. His explanation to 'I' in the boathouse is perhaps the film's most powerful scene. A tour de force. (Patricia White, p. 90, notes that here Hitchcock opted 'for heterotopia rather than flashback', meaning that the scene works by invoking spaces that are somehow 'other' ...) But rather than just accept that Maxim had simply disposed of the body to prevent scandal, maybe we are free to infer additional details, not spoken. For example, did Maxim's feelings of guilt - after all, he had 'hated' Rebecca - cause him to panic? And maybe he is lying - he did kill Rebecca. Certainly the plot of Rebecca is ingenious, as I have claimed. Finally, as I've mentioned Patricia White's monograph, let me add a final note this time. I was struck by White's comment (p. 82) that 'Rebecca's aura seems to form a forcefield' that surrounds 'I'. That word 'forcefield' is exactly what I was trying to convey last time (July 17, above) when I referred to how our early view of Manderley through the windscreen of Maxim's car makes Manderley seem to 'have a visible spell cast over it'. (See frame-capture below.)

July 17 - 2021
These days I read the film Rebecca as a comedy in the very best sense - it feels meaningful and rings true. The comic note never feels cheap (see last time). For one thing, iit is impressively character-based. I think of how the timid 'I' is as much initially frightened of Mrs Danvers as she feels lost in Manderley's maze of corridors. However, well before the end, she has grown up - the perennial theme of so many Hitchcock movies over the years. (When Maxim attends a new inquest near the end of the film to explain the holes in Rebecca's boat, his young wife is there to give him her full support. See frame-capture below.) (I see the theme as almost inevitable, given such a masterful director.) Early on, Mrs Van Hopper (Florence Bates) is the main comic character: 'Hurry up, don't dawdle', she orders the hapless 'I' in a loud voice that tells us she is used to ordering her paid companion around and expects instant attention. In turn, 'I' squirms with embarrassment when her employer acts over-familiarly towards Maxim in the Monte Carlo hotel foyer. 'I' is probably as much embarrassed for Maxim as for herself - but Maxim soon shows that he is very capable of sizing up Mrs Van Hopper and administering a snub in double-quick time, before walking off. However, he already knows 'I' from the opening scene on a clifftop, and undoubtedly has noticed her embarrassment now - and has been taken by it. Not long afterwards, he encounters 'I' alone in the hotel foyer and invites her to join him for a drive. Now comes another subtle piece of characterisation. In his own way, the aristocratic Maxim is as much - or more - used to getting his own way without question as Mrs Van Hopper: we can infer that his late wife, Rebecca, who we hear was 'fearless', may have offended him for reasons he never admits. (At the climax, of course. he tells the startled 'I', 'I hated her!', i.e., Rebecca.) Specific incidents confirm Maxim's own arrogance. For example, in the car, he suddenly brakes and tells 'I' that if she doubts him she had better get out of the car and walk! Topping that is his proposal a bit later: 'I'm asking you to marry me, you little fool!' They get married in a registry office. He buys her some flowers. In the following scene, they are driving through the Cornish countryside towards Manderley (I don't think they've had a honeymoon), but the moment is not exactly auspicious. It begins to rain. (Echoes of the rainy wedding-day in Hitchcock's first film, The Pleasure Garden.) Stopping the car, Maxin points out to his bride the distant manor that is Manderley. Framed through the car's windscreen, it appears to have a visible spell cast over it. We see it as forbidding and apart. Now, back to the matter of Rebecca's comedy. Something that Mrs Danvers may remind us of is how Hitchcock was fond of depicting butch women for their 'entertainment' value. I think too of the novelist Isobel Sedbusk (Auriol Lee) in Suspicion (1942). Isobel is by no means disagreeable, but certainly masterful like Hitchcock himself - indeed, he sees fit to give her a knowledge of plotting, and of true-life murder cases, to rival his own. In Rebecca, there is also Beatrice Lacy (Gladys Cooper), Maxim's plain-spoken sister, who, fortunately for 'I', takes an immediate liking to the new bride. Beatrice is married to Major Giles Lacy (Nigel Bruce), seemingly a bit of a duffer, revealed in the novel to have been one of Rebecca's victims, i.e., seduced by her. Giles and Beatrice's marriage appears childless - there are no children in Rebecca. (I commented on this at the end of last week's entry, above.) More next time.

July 10 - 2021
Another change of topic, as I'm currently writing about Rebecca (1940). I have always admired it, but I'm now of the opinion that it is one of the Master's very best films. This, after producer David Selznick had taught him a thing or two. Notably, Selznick considered Hitchcock's intention to open the film with a scene of seasickness (cf Champagne, 1927) was 'cheap beyond words' and insisted that the scene be dropped - surely for the better. For a long time, the 'enfant terrible' of British filmmaking and then its top director, Hitchcock had gone virtually unrivalled in his own country. However, his admiration of Hollywood's production values was very high. His arrival to live and work in the American industry gave him exactly the extra discipline that he probably needed. Just before leaving England, he had made a limp film of Daphne du Maurier's 'Jamaica Inn'; Selznick now assured the author that he would not permit her best-selling 'Rebecca' to be mistreated that way. 'It is my intention to do Rebecca and not some botched up semi-original.' Probably its most interesting character is, of course, the sinister housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson). (See frame-capture below.) After Maxim (Laurence Olivier) brings his new bride, 'I', (Joan Fontaine) back to his ancestral estate, Manderley, she is immediately terrified by the hostility of the older woman, who clearly had, and still has, a 'thing' about Maxim's first wife, Rebecca - who supposedly drowned at sea. Note: it isn't clear how 'Mrs' Danvers acquired her title. Anyone less likely to be married (to a man, that is) is hard to picture. Presumably, the 'Mrs' is a courtesy title given to her when she came to Manderley as Rebecca's personal assistant. We're soon told that she 'simply adored' Rebecca. Mrs Danvers's probably lesbian - or 'butch' - nature is thus established from the start. So, too, is her single-minded devotion to Rebecca's memory, and 'Danny's' unrelenting hostility to the woman who has taken Rebecca's place. ('Danny' was Rebecca's name for Mrs Danvers, and Maxim unthinkingly sometimes still uses it - he is initially unaware of how 'I' is oppressed by the strange housekeeper.) At one of the film's many climaxes, Mrs Danvers tries to persuade 'I' to jump to her death from Rebecca's bedroom window ('Go on! It's easy! Why don't you?), only to be thwarted by rockets suddenly fired at sea to signal that a ship has run aground. Rebecca sustains its melodrama throughout, and that is not a criticism but rather a tribute to the story's tight plotting and countless unexpected twists. (Incidentally, speaking of wicked housekeepers, such characters were not unprecedented in fiction - I also think of the 'wicked' witches in the fiction of L. Frank Baum! I seem to recall that Hitchcock himself thought of some of his female villains as witches.) Hitchcock boasted to François Truffaut that he had tried to avoid 'humanising' Mrs Danvers by dressing her in black and seldom showing her moving. And indeed, he seems to have based the character on another, called Mrs Unthank, in the novel 'The Great Impersonation' (1920) by espionage writer E. Phillips Oppenheim. Here's how Oppenheim introduces his malevolent housekeeper: 'A woman whose advent had been unperceived, but who had evidently issued from one of the recesses in the hall, stood suddenly before them all. She was as thin as a lath, dressed in severe black.' And here, for comparison, is how du Maurier introduces Mrs Danvers: 'Someone advanced from the sea of faces, someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black ...' (Hitchcock told Truffaut that he found du Maurier 'derivative'!) Understandably, the type has continued in movies: think of the devastating housekeeper, Mrs Baylock, in The Omen (Clive Donner, 1976). Another oppressive element in Rebecca is the fact that all of Manderley's menfolk seem 'impotent' and denatured. (Even the younger Frith at the gatehouse is elderly. His father is the oldest of Manderley's house staff.) Typical is a remark made about the estate's resident eccentric, 'Barmy' Ben, that he's 'perfectly harmless'. The person who makes that remark is the estate-manager, Frank Crawley (Reginald Denny), a bachelor, whom Maxin calls 'as fussy as an old mother hen'. As for the marriage of Maxim and 'I', it soon becomes one of 'companionship', a mere extension of 'I's' previous employment with the overbearing Mrs Van Hopper. Not incidentally, a suppressed final chapter to Daphne du Maurier's novel, unpublished until 1981, reveals that the central couple are still childless several years later. To be continued.

June 26 - 2021
Hitchcock's first feature film, The Pleasure Garden (1926), which we started talking about last week, seems to have some careless things in it that can't readily be attributed to the incomplete prints that are going around on DVD. For instance, several times we are told by the intertitles that the film's second half takes place 'out East'. (And indeed this section of the original novel is set in Burma.) And yet, when the villainous Levett writes to his new wife Patsy, reporting that he is ill, the address at the top of the page is North West Africa (more precisely a town there named 'Lakar', which seems to be a fictitious name). That's scarcely 'out East', I would think! I wonder if the young Hitch even noticed the slip, if that's what it is, or whether he was rushing to make his next film The Mountain Eagle, of which no prints now seem to exist. I infer that Hitch only gradually gained the total control that he exercised - and prided himself on - later. Nonetheless, commentators have noticed that in the opening credits of The Pleasure Garden he was already signing his name with a flourish. Inference: to be a master filmmaker, you must think yourself a master filmmaker! And already Hitch's eye for the telling detail was evident, certainly. Hmm. George Orwell noted that the author Charles Dickens filled his novels with 'unnecessary detail', which became a mark of his expansive style. Hitchcock, by contrast, certainly paid attention to details (most of the time) but they were typically pared-down details. When the good-hearted Mr Sidey, Patsy's landlord, climbs on a chair to reach the topmost shelf of the kitchen sideboard, where there's an old biscuit tin containing money (which he is prepared to give Patsy so that she may rush to her husband), he breaks a few plates as he reaches up. That detail emphasises the special effort he is making. I was reminded of the telling close-up in The Birds of broken cups hanging from hooks on a sideboard, betraying that a swarm of birds have invaded the house overnight. (The house is that of Mrs Brenner's neighbour. She will shortly find him dead in his bedroom, his eyes pecked out.) Something else I would note about The Pleasure Garden is its sustained atmosphere of near-licentiousness, in keeping with the opening scenes in the Pleasure Garden Theatre. All those high-kicking chorines, for one thing! The theatre owner, Hamilton, seems to consider them his personal chattels - at one moment during a reheasal he comes onstage and handles one of the girls, and seems to think nothing of it. (Oh well, that's show business, perhaps?!) Nonetheless, as noted last time, he seems to also like (or prefer?) the attentions of his male couturier, whom we see with an arm draped around Hamilton's shoulder. Hitchcock, an entertainer as well as realist, was of course happy to show this side of things, though he would steer his film towards a happy ending in which the decent Hugh marries the good Patsy and together they return to London at the end, with marriage on the cards. 'Give 'em what they want!' was always Hitchcock's working credo, which included always giving us a happy ending (of sorts) as well as a few glimpses of forbidden behaviours and things. He was also an expert at manipulating our attitudes, of course. I think of a moment when Levett has set his intentions on marrying Patsy - primarily to have sex with her - and approaches her from behind, in the street. Just for a moment, Patsy is unaware of him. We see a shadow of Levett loom on a wall, and then, next minute, he is tapping her on the shoulder. The shadow tells us something, albeit it may be subconscious for now. I recall that Hitch would use a similar technique in Foreign Correspondent to characterise the duplicitous Fisher (Herbert Marshall) and undercut his smooth exterior. (Frame-capture from The Pleasure Garden below shows Jill on left, and Patsy.) More next time.

June 19 - 2021
Reader, we may come back to The Trouble With Harry - it deserves plenty of attention. (Note. I have written an article on it for Geoff Gardner's Film Alert 101 website. It's now up.) Meanwhile, my work has taken me back to Hitchcock's first feature film, The Pleasure Garden (1926), which has always been highly watchable. The good news is that since 2012 there has been a restored print of the film, with up to 20 minutes of extra footage, done by the British Film Institute; the bad news is that so far it hasm't been released on DVD. So my own viewing has had to be a composite of watching two different prints: the earlier restoration by the same organisation - and actually shown on Australian television a few years ago (naturally I made myself a copy) - and the so-called Rohauer print that was distributed commercially for a while by Raymond Rohauer. Each print has differences. One of the differences seems to be that the Rohauer print has more footage of the fussy male couturier who works for the Pleasure Garden Theatre's manager, Mr Hamilton. In my book I wrote: '[the] butterfly-like male couturier ... has been sitting alongside Hamilton on a sofa, with an arm around his shoulder. It's a pre-echo of Vandamm's chummy friendship with his male secretary Leonard, seen decades later in North by Northwest'. That's fair comment, I think. And now look at the frame-capture below. It shows chorus-girl Jill (Carmelita Geraghty) paying money to the same couturier; this, straight after refusing to help her friend Patsy (Virginia Valli), also a chorus girl, with her fare in order to rush to her husband, reportedly ill 'out East'. What a striking image! The fellow is positively creepy, wringing his hands in anticipation, and one leg rubbing the other - he's a regular Uriah Heep! Mind, Patsy's husband proves to be the film's real villain. He's played by top English actor of the day, Miles Mander, and his name is Levett. His principal reason for marrying Patsy appears to be that he wants to have sex with her. This seems confirmed by the novel on which the film is based (it's written by 'Oliver Sandys' - a woman) when it has him say: 'Women were put into the world for us. There's nothing in it. P'raps I've never had a conscience. Shouldn't know what to do with it if I had.' (Chapter XLVII) No sooner is he far away from Patsy, now his wife, than he begins an affair with a native girl - who pins all her hopes on him for a better life and in the end will be mercilessly drowned by him: he's been driven mad after Patsy turns up and finds him in flagrante delicto with the girl. So, yes, The Pleasure Garden is a melodrama, but one full of cleverly-written and cleverly-directed moments. One of the ambitious Jill's 'moves' is to take a fiancé, Hugh (John Stuart), principally for the convenience of the arrangement. The trouble is, in her view: he isn't rich. Early in the film, Patsy invites Jill to board with her because Jill has been robbed of her purse, and has no money. Jill gratefully accepts. We see Patsy pay off the taxi driver. Alone together, Jill shows Patsy a photo of Hugh - and promptly yawns. The moment is ambiguous. Was that yawn just a sign of tiredness? Or has Jill betrayed her true feelings - or lack of them - for Hugh? Hitchcock allows us to interpret the moment as we see fit. The two girls do quickly retire to bed together, as there is only one bed. Another ambiguity now arises. Do we detect 'sapphic overtones', as Hitchcock biographer Patrick McGilligan has called them? Frankly, I don't (in the prints I've seen) - but I must be wrong! Asked about this scene, Hitchcock said that it was inspired by a lesbian couple whom he had encountered in Berlin in 1924 when, up to that moment, he had been innocent about such matters. Believe it or not, the couple got into bed together in front of not just Hitchcock but other onlookers, including a young female student, who 'put on her glasses to make sure she wouldn't miss anything'. That bespectacled young woman strikes me as a recurrent character in Hitchcock movies - although not necessarily played by Patricia Hitchcock. More next time.

June 12 - 2021
Before we start on this week's item about The Trouble With Harry, let me just mention that my article on Rear Window - expanded from some recent thoughts here - is getting hundreds of 'likes' on Geoff Gardner's Film Alert 101 website, which is something not happening when I post here! Hmm. Immodestly perhaps, I've always believed the adage, 'Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door' - but I'm guessing that was coined before the days of FaceBook. Am I right in supposing that FaceBook is almost essential if you want to reach a large audience on the Internet these days? (For several years before FaceBook, this site drew many hundreds of weekly readers. I can't believe that a serious interest in Hitchcock, with or without a boost from academic courses on his films, has dwindled markedly in these times.) And again immodestly, I think that my detailed analyses of Hitchcock have, by and large, got more perceptive rather than less so! Any feedback that readers care to offer me will be read with interest and gratitude! Now, somewhat arbitrarily, I'll resume my observations about Harry by talking further about young Arnie (frame-capture above). Someone has suggested that most of us, in our lifetimes, move from a state of innocence to one of innocence-lost to one of innocence-regained. (They were writing about the art and poems of mystic William Blake, 1757-1827.) Arnie still dwells in his original innocence, but may have already begun to lose that innocence after his encounter with Harry, the film's MacGuffin and symbol. Arnie is just at the age where the Oedipal crisis sets in, and where the child learns that, for all the world's bountiful nature, it requires decisions that will limit (or delimit) him. You have to admire his direct answer when asked about the rabbit he has found (seemingly shot by Captain Wiles). To the well-meaning but condescending adult's question from Miss Graveley, 'What do you call it?', Arnie answers bluntly, 'Dead!' (See frame-capture below. Arnie could of course have answered with a name like 'Roger', which would have been what Ivy expected to hear.) That same bluntness is what Hitchcock's comedy is offering us, and thereby, perhaps, pointing our own consciousness towards innocence-regained. Full marks to Hitchcock the artist, who seems to have already attained that enviable state of mind and its state of awareness! William Blake does in fact figure in the English novel on which Harry is based. There, when the story's artist Sam first comes into view, he is singing the song 'Jerusalem' whose words are taken from a famous Blake poem: 'And did those feet in ancient time/ Walk upon England's mountains green ...' Those lines both establish a 'pastoral' (or Arcadian - see last time) mood and imply an allegory about Christ. On the whole, though, the allegory is played down in favour of the mood - and Hitchcock understandably follows suit. The 'look' of Harry with its autumnal russets and golds is what most people bring away from it, albeit we subliminally associate that look, and that mood, with the 'blessing' Harry's characters - and, by extension, its audience - are being given. Like a parent, Hitchcock is happy to tease us, knowing that reminders of our vulnerability will only engage us the more. The film's running gag about the yawning closet door in Jennifer's house as the conspirators hurry to dress Harry for his final burial works like that, even as it offers a refinement to the allegory: seen aright, there is literally nothing to fear. (August Strindberg's expressionist A Dream Play, 1907, contains a practically identical trope, as I recall.)

June 5 - 2021
The best theoretical lesson that I remember about comedy and the comic principle was the one I received from a lady schoolteacher in an English class. 'Comedy', she said, 'always involves something that is incongruous.' She pointed out that if you or I slip on a banana skin, it isn't particularly funny. But if a self-important gentleman in a top hat slips on a banana skin, that is funny (especially if the context permits us to laugh: for example, if we're only watching a movie anyway, without having a personal tie to the person). Alfred Hitchcock's comedy The Trouble With Harry (1955), from the short novel by Jack Trevor Story, is built on the two principles of incongruity and impersonality. We can laugh at the dead Harry's indignities of being buried and dug up multiple times just because he is only the dead body, the corpse, of a person whom we never knew (although in life he sounds to have been a real heel) and because all of this takes place in 'Arcadia', namely, rural Vermont in the Fall, with its autumnal colours (all underlined by the gloriously mellifluous and variegated music of Bernard Herrmann). Our attitude to Harry is epitomised by Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine), who had been briefly married to him, when she tells artist Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) what he can do with Harry: 'You can stuff him and put him in a glass case, for all I care ... only, I suggest frosted glass!' And Harry's unfitness to be here in Arcadia is spelt out by Sam when he talks of 'City people ... people with hats on ... little people'. Arcadia, then, is not congruous with the City! In other Hitchcock films, of course, Hitchcock shows affection for city people, such as the apartment-dwellers in Rear Window. Each film is a subjective world, neither more nor less. I was shocked to read that Thelma Ritter, who played the sharp-tongued Stella in Rear Window, actually turned down the part of Miss Gravely in Harry (ultimately given to Mildred Natwick) because she considered that film 'immoral'. Her actual words, in a letter to her husband, were: 'I must not have much vision but this one scares me. It's lewd, immoral, and for anyone without a real nasty off beat sense of humor, in very bad taste.' Nonsense, Thelma! You are confusing immorality with sheer comic amorality, which may be more honest than morality, let's face it! In a Hitchcock film, nothing is finally determinate. For example, I used to think of the absent-minded Dr Greenbow (Dwight Marfield) in Harry as just a convenient deus ex machina figure, and that his final pronouncement that Harry died of 'natural causes' was simply a convenient way of ending the film - with a collective sigh of relief. (Interestingly, the play on which Hitchcock's 1929 film Blackmail was based did end that way.) In fact, though, there is no reason to take Dr Greenbow's word as definitive. It would be typical of Hitchcock to leave the matter up in the air, posing a barely discernible question ('So what is the real truth of the matter?') hanging. That's what I call profound! All right, let's move to other aspects of Harry. I like how, as in Rear Window, it offers us a whole cross-section of people, from the youngest, four-year-old Arnie Rogers (Jerry Mathers) toting his plastic gun through the trees and meadows (see frame-capture below), to the oldest, the middle-aged Miss Gravely and Captain Wiles (Edmund Gwenn, in his fourth Hitchcock film) and the widowed Mrs Wiggs (Mildred Dunnock), mother of the local Deputy Sheriff Cavin Wiggs (Royal Dano). Calvin is an 'enforcer' figure, and his name suitably suggests both 'Silent Cal' Coolidge (thirtieth President of the United States, said to be a do-nothing President) and one of the founders of Puritanism, John Calvin. Well, Harry is certainly not pro-Puritanism, and possibly it was ahead of its time, or just more English than American, when it came out in the 1950s. Perhaps that explains Thelma Ritter's confusion. Hitchcock thought Harry embodied his own sense of humour, and was sadly disappointed when it flopped at the box-office - except in Paris (of course!) where it ran for six months. More next time.

May 29 - 2021
A beauty of Rear Window (1954) is how everything becomes part of a fluid, flowing whole, all seemingly with minimal implausability - until you think about it. And even then ... After all, Hitchcock knew that life is a bit of a jumble. And he had done his homework. So he knew that murderers have killed their nagging wives (e.g., the Major Armstrong case at Hay-on-Wye in the 1920s) and that they have cut their victims up with knife and saw and kept the remains in places like a hatbox and a biscuit tin (the Patrick Mahon case, also in the '20s). So don't despond, Hitchcock lovers! The Master knew what he was doing! Sometimes Hitchcock covers an implausibility with a line of dialogue, although he usually tried to further cover it with circumstantial detail. Detective Doyle tells Jeff that Lars Thorwald would hardly have killed his nagging, bed-ridden wife (cf frame-capture, below) in front of an open window, and then cut up the body afterwards, and now be walking calmly around the apartment, to which Jeff responds, 'That's just where he's being clever!' That line serves to fob off the 'plausibilists' in Hitchcock's audience, especially as we didn't actually see the murder - only heard a woman's brief scream and then the sound of a glass breaking. (However, we learn later that Thorwald strangled her.) Besides, Hitchcock's audiences invariably wanted 'something to happen' (and were seldom disappointed) - meaning that those audiences easily felt that they were already 'accomplices'. The bottom line is that Hitchcock didn't care excessively about making everything in his film plausible, so long as it kept the flow going. The doubting Doyle manages to track down the trunk that Thorwald had shipped out of his apartment the morning after Mrs Thorwald disappeared (Patrick Mahon also used a trunk to help him dispose of the remains of Emily Kaye ...), although this detail proves to be either a red herring or a Hitchcock joke - take your pick. Jeff and Lisa wait breathlessly to hear what Doyle had found, and Doyle answers, 'Mrs Thorwald's clothes.' Moreover, a woman calling herself 'Mrs Thorwald' had been seen arriving at the trunk's destination. So the flow of information is maintained, despite another implausibility which Hitchcock no doubt trusted that no-one would notice (or anyway quickly forget about). That trunk had been tightly tied up with rope which looks to us viewers that, if it were cut, the tampering would be obvious. I surmise that Doyle used his police badge to have the rope cut or untied - but surely the false Mrs Thorwald would have quickly conveyed such information back to Thorwald! (A near-identical implausibility occurs a couple of years later in the 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' episode called "Guilty Witness" from AHP's First Season. Incidentally, two years after that, in Vertigo, Scottie has left the police force but kept his badge - which he uses to get information from the lady at the McKittrick Hotel. Hitchcock never forgot that a plot-device often bears repeating!) Lastly, I'd like to mention a different matter in Rear Window: its 'friendly' attitude to Thorwald until he goes too far, and resorts to murder. After a fierce nagging one morning from his wife, this seemingly gentle man goes outside to prune his zinias. The script notes: 'He goes to a small patch of flowers, perhaps three foot square. They are beautiful ... He kneels down, inspects them, touches them affectionately and with some pride. His anger seems to have left him, replaced by the kind of peace that flowers bring many people. He stands up, carefully hoes the ground, then rakes it. Then he snips a few leaves of the lower parts of the plant. Finally, he waters them.' However, next minute the elderly lady with the hearing-aid, the Scuptress, leans over the fence and 'begins gesturing to him how to take care of his flowers'. You have to feel sorry for the poor man!

May 22 - 2021
Further observations on Rear Window (1954), Hitchcock's 'perfect' film. I'll start with the Scuptress and her current project, a hunk of carved stonework which she calls "Hunger" (see frame-capture above, April 24). It's hollowed-out middle is effectively an allusion by Hitchcock to the work of Henry Moore (1898-1986), the English sculptor, already internationally known by the time Rear Window came out. The title may of course represent a joke on Hitchcock's part, directed at those who always want an artwork to carry a literal 'meaning' - and if they can't find one, rank it lower! (Hitchcock himself was still often the butt of such critics, especially English ones, and of snobbish types who denigrated movies as 'mere entertainment'!) But it's worth noting that Rear Window is itself constructed around a hollow space - the courtyard. Somehow, such emptiness serves to emphasise the human stories being enacted within individual apartments, and thus people's 'liveliness'. It's a form of counterpoint (cf musical silences and switches of tempo). Hitchcock knew all about such matters. His masterly film a few years later, North by Northwest (1959), works similarly - its central scene, at Prairie Stop, features a great emptiness, out of which comes trouble for the film's hero, Roger Thornhill. Think, too, of the Gabriel Valley scene in Spellbound (1945), a vast snowfield ending at a precipice, which nearly proves the undoing of John Ballyntine and Constance Petersen when they ski down its slopes. But now, the other main topic I want to raise this time is the - basically three - 'sources' of the Lisa character in Rear Window. First, there is the model and 'cover girl', Anita Colby (1914-1992), about whom Hitchcock actually testified in a 1974 court case that she provided the principal basis of the character in his film. (How typical of Hitchcock to have had a real-life inspiration in mind for some key character or event in his narrative - he could be the least abstract of filmmakers. 'Directors who lose control are concerned with the abstract', he told François Truffaut.) According to Elise Lemire in her chapter for John Belton (ed.), 'Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window' (2000), 'Colby was still very much on the public scene in the early years of the fifties. In 1952, Prentice-Hall published Anita Colby's Beauty Book with a simultaneous publication in London. ... In 1953 and 1954, ... Colby was the TV Hostess of the Pepsi-Cola Playhouse.' (p. 73) (I can almost hear Hitchcock telling himself, 'She'll do nicely!') But a second inspiration for Lisa was definitely Rear Window screenwriter John Michael Hayes's own wife - I actually remember Hayes telling me as much! More than once in the script there's an almost gratuitous remark about Lisa, to the effect 'She is a vision of loveliness'! After Lisa emerges from Jeff's kitchen where she has donned the flimsy nightdress she brought with her in her Mark Cross case, the script notes breathlessly: 'She is an ethereal beauty, in sheer pale peach night gown, covered by a gossamer matching kimino.' (Lucky Jeff, but also lucky John Michael Hayes, I dare say!) And thirdly, it seems likely that Lisa is modelled, to some extent, on Ingrid Bergman, reputedly one of photographer Robert Capa's many 'girlfriends' - I recall reading that Hitchcock met Capa when the latter visited Bergman on the set of Spellbound. For a while, it seems that Capa had girlfriends wherever his travels as a photographer took him. (I'm reminded, too, of film director David Lean who reputedly had a girl in every major port, from Ireland to India and even New Zealand where he nearly made a version of Mutiny on the Bounty.) Note: though Capa is predominantly known for his impactful photography of the Spanish Civil War and later wars, he was also a gifted portraitist - which may explain why Jeff is characterised early on as the photographer of a girl gracing the cover of 'Life' magazine. Finally this time, I draw the reader's attention to the clever scene in Rear Window where all three main characters are twirling brandy snifters in their palms. (See frame-capture below.) So engrossed are they in pondering Jeff's suspicions that none of them takes a drink until, at the end, detective Doyle is about to exit. He tries to toss off his drink, but spills much of it on his suit. The moment epitomises our attitude to Doyle whose continued doubts have begun to annoy us! More next time.

May 15 - 2021
The opening of Rear Window - its first three-and-a-half minutes or so - is a model of concision and precision, and of explication. Take a look with me now. It begins with the Paramount logo - the familiar mountain surrounded by a circle of stars - but accompanied on the soundtrack by an urgent, jazzy rhythm (not your expected Hitchcock music perhaps). First heard is a small metallic cymbal struck several times in rapid succession, presumably by a drumstick - but this 'overture' quickly takes on board several other jazz instruments, including woodwinds. Behind the credits are three windows, each with a blind made of bamboo slats. One after another the blinds slowly rise, suggesting the presence of an invisible 'force'. Hitchcock liked that sort of effect: think, too, of the opening of North by Northwest with its slanting and intersecting lines, and of Marnie whose credits sequence, set in a rectangular frame of oak-leaf motif, begins with a musical 'cry in the night'. All very impersonal, seemingly not altogether of Hitchcock's doing! (In a way, Rear Window's 'heavy', Lars Thorwald, is the embodiment of that 'force', most strongly felt by us in the single frightening moment when he fastens his gaze on us with clearly hostile intent.) At the end of the credits, the camera moves out the window to show the full courtyard, then tilts down. Cut to a shot of a cat crossing one side of the courtyard; Hitchcock needed the cat - a moving object - to 'justify' the cut downwards. But soon the camera loses the cat and, with a tilt, begins to climb up one side of the courtyard and then back to the left. Among several notable details, we see white doves perching (on a low side roof) and fluttering about - a nice touch, reminding us that this is no 'cheapy' film. Now the moving camera continues to the left (we glimpse a side alley and a street beyond) and back inside the window where we started. By the window is the sleeping figure of Jeff (James Stewart), and his face and brow are sweating heavily. (Frame-capture below.) This is another impressive detail - how did they get such realistic-looking perspiration?! It can't have been easy. Cut to a nearby thermometer, and the reason for Jeff's sweating: the temperature is 94° Fahrenheit. When the camera pans away from the thermometer, we see that the previous angle has changed to show the apartment adjoining Jeff's on the right-hand side of the courtyard. Inside, a man is shaving and we can hear his radio and an annoying announcer asking, 'Men, when you wake in the morning do you feel tired and rundown?' The man moves to switch the station to one playing music. Hitchcock cleverly uses this moment to make a sound-cut (as well as a visual one) to a fire-escape balcony opposite, on which we can see a middle-aged man sleeping - but who, next moment, is awoken by his alarm clock ringing. Then, unexpectedly, we see that he is not alone. His wife raises her head, and she is sleeping alongside him, but in the opposite direction. (Is this symbolic of Hitchcock's seemingly cynical view of marriage?!) The camera continues off them and now tilts down to the window of the photogenic Miss Torso. Barely decent, she does her limbering-up exercises as she prepares to boil her morning beverage. Again the camera moves on, briefly taking in the side alley (we see and hear children playing in the street at the end of it) - and back inside Jeff's window, where he is still sleeping. (His face seems to have lost its sweat. Continuity error, or perhaps to avoid over-emphasis?) The moving camera continues on down the length of his sleeping form, showing it in a wheelchair and then his leg in a cast where someone has written, 'Here lie the broken bones of L.B. Jefferies'. The omniscient camera hasn't finished. It pulls back and pans left so that we see a smashed-up Speed Graphic camera, then up to photos on the wall (taken by Jeff, we infer), including one of a careening, up-ended racing car and a tyre flying towards the camera lens. After offering brief glimpses of other 'action' photos (one of them of an atomic bomb test- did Jeff cover that?), it moves downwards again and now we see another, intact camera with its flash gun (we guess it's the replacement camera ...) and, nearby, a framed negative-image of a smiling woman (very arty!). Immediately alongside it is a pile of what looks like 'Life' magazines. One of them features on its cover the same woman, but the image is positive. Fade to black. Fade-in to Jeff, awake, sitting up and running an electric shaver over his stubble. Reader, it's very tempting to summarise all of the above by saying, 'And now we know everything!' More next time.

May 1 - 2021
I like the remarks by my correspondent-friend Douglas F, in Germany, on how Rear Window is the 'most summery of films'. Yes, it is that: hence, for example, the bathing beauties on the roof sunning themselves while Jeff is talking on the phone to his editor, Gunnison. (A helicopter hovers overhead for a moment, getting an eyeful - one of innumerable references to voyeurism in this film about looking/voyeurism). Note also the emblematic iceman delivering a block of ice in the frame-capture last time. Also note the 'summer shower' that comes unexpectedly in the early morning, sending the elderly couple sleeping on their fire escape (to beat the heat) tumbling back indoors. Douglas adds that the summer setting, and the privileged access we are given to these various people's lives as they all co-habit around the same courtyard - peacefully and amicably-enough most of the time - is like a little paradise, albeit a 'faux 1950s paradise' (seeming to imply that people were a little more naive back then, which director Hitchcock delights in taking advantage of). A part of the film's built-in contrast, noted by Douglas, is supplied by the music. It's a bit like a gratis hit-parade that wafts to our ears from the various apartments, most of which seem to have their radios switched on. (The neighbours also seem to include a lady singer practising her scales, and a siffleuse - maybe the same lady.) Douglas writes: 'there is a rendition of "That's Amore" (big hit for Dean Martin in 1953, I think), played on something like a carillon. This reminds me of the Dutch barrel organ (so well used in the [1959] film Operation Amsterdam, where there is also a contrast between the cheerful peacetime melody and the nasty events taking place round about).' We also hear at one point the Nat King Cole hit "Mona Lisa" whose lyrics might almost have been written for Hitchcock's heroine, the Grace Kelly character, Lisa, and which include these lines: 'Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you/ You're so like the lady with the mystic smile/ ... Are you warm? are you real Mona Lisa?/ Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art?' (James Stewart's Jeff calls his Lisa 'perfect ... too perfect'!) Nor should we forget the film's character The Composer who is working on a melody which, by the film's end, has been released as a hit song. We hear the words 'Lisa ... with your starry eyes'. About Rear Window's use of music, Douglas comments: 'The music is very effective ... I like to think that Hitchcock may have been an influence here on filmmakers too!' (The film's composer was Franz Waxman whose arrangement of the various pieces of music was a rough equivalent of composer Bernard Herrmann's work on The Birds. There is no non-diegetic [added] music in The Birds, and very little diegetic [ambient] music either. Nonetheless, Hitchcock employed Hermann just to 'orchestrate' and 'score' the various bird sounds, composed on an instrument called the trautonium.) Finally this week I want to recall how the ever-resourceful, and mischievous, Hitchcock drew on one or two real-life murder caes for a few of the details in Rear Window. Notably, he drew on the case of English murderer Patrick Mahon (executed in 1924) who killed his mistress Emily Kaye in a lonely seaside bungalow, then disposed of her body by cutting it up and burying the parts, or else - even more gruesome - boiling them down on his kitchen stove. In Rear Window, we learn that Thorwald cut up the body of his murdered wife with a saw and a knife, the same implements Mahon had used. Mahon had kept some of Emily Kaye's remains in a hat box, a trunk, and a biscuit-tin. The hat-box, at least recalls what Thorwald had also used. Whatever it was that was originally buried in the flower-bed, Thorwald had got frightened by the 'inquisitive' little dog (which he proceeded to kill), so dug up what was buried there and put it instead in 'a hat-box in his apartment'. (The frame-capture below shows a neighbour warning off the little dog from his sniffing.) The wonder is, we don't come away from Hitchcock's film with a feeling of distaste but rather with a glowing sense of an evening well-spent! More next time.

April 24 - 2021
After one measly blog on Torn Curtain - much less than it deserves - I'm turning now to the supreme Rear Window (1954). (Btw, I also took a week's holiday. Please forgive!) Rear Window is surely one of everybody's favourite Hitchcocks, full of warm characters (including James Stewart's L.B. Jefferies, Grace Kelly's Lisa Fremont, and Thelma Ritter's Stella, who is Jeff's nurse/masseuse). Less warm, of course, is Raymond Burr's Lars Thorwald, the film's 'heavy', who bears a physical resemblance to prominent producer David Selznick, a mischievous touch on Hitchcock's part. The story is loosely based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story, "It Had to Be Murder" - but take a look, too, at another short story, "Through a Window" (1894) by a favourite author of Hitchcock's, H.G. Wells. (It's online here: Through a Window. Did Woolwich plagiarise it?!) At any rate, Rear Window goes much further, with much greater ingenuity, to tell its rich story, and develop its rich central situation. Notably, the several subsidiary characters over the way, whom Jeff watches, each dwelling in a little frame of his/her own, with its own story, aren't to be found in either the Woolrich or Wells stories. Those characters and those stories were original inventions by Hitchcock and his screenwriter, the gifted John Michael Hayes. Poor Jeff can't do much else than watch - with his leg in a plaster cast, he's a grounded man of action for another week. As he remarks, he's currently trapped in a 'swamp of boredom' (a phrase that Hayes may have adapted from the 'slough of despond' in John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress'!). Boredom, of course, is often a motivator of Hitchcock's characters as they set out on their adventures, such as Thornhill in North by Northwest and Melanie in The Birds. But Jeff is 'fortunate': he stumbles on a real-life murder mystery, which the initial scepticism of his wartime buddy, Lieutenant-Detective Doyle (Wendell Corey), only exacerbates. Quite soon, Jeff is proved right, though not before he finds his life imperilled. All very pleasing for the film's audience, of course. And there is much humour in the telling. It's often visual humour. When Jeff's leg itches beneath its plaster, what is Jeff to do? Answer: reach for one of the many souvenirs of his travels as an intinerant news photographer - a Chinese back scratcher - and delicately insert it beneath the plaster, then scratch. Oh, the relief on Jeff's face! Rear Window is one of Hitchcock's most sheerly sensuous of all his films. I would point out the palpable transitions from different times of day and night, rendered both photographically (e.g., a blazing sunset) and on the soundtrack (e.g., foghorns from the East River heard after dark). The actual sounds from around and beyond the courtyard are superbly done (e.g., the sounds of children playing in a distant street, which we are able to glimpse at the end of a side-alley. Cf frame-capture below, showing 'The Sculptress' and her cat, and the side-alley on the left.) Hitchcock's usual clever sleight-of-hand is in evidence in multiple ways. Although establishing-pans of the courtyard early in the piece show us that there are several floors opposite, once the story gets going Hitchcock's camera concentrates on the lower floors: thereafter we scarcely glimpse the couple of floors above Thorwald's apartment - which is located right next to the apartment of 'Miss Torso' and above the apartment of 'Miss Lonely Heart'. Those are characters who take our attention more than once and whose 'stories' develop during the film. (Over to the right, at eye-level with Jeff's apartment, is the apartment of 'The Composer', who will effectively save the life of a suicidal Miss Lonely Heart by the sound of his music, and during a coda will be shown in a budding relationship with her - a parallel of course with the progress of Jeff's relationship with Lisa after Jeff had wondered whether that relationship had a future, given Lisa's wish to have him quit his itinerant job and settle down.) The fact that the film takes place during a heat wave is both explanation enough for why so many of the apartment-dwellers have their windows open (cf Ted Tetzlaff's The Window, 1949) and serves as a metaphor for the tensions that surface during the film and are worked through, one way or another, not necessarily murder. To be continued.

April 10 - 2021
I watched Torn Curtain (1966) again, preparatory to writing a piece on it for the Film Alert 101 website (which already contains seven of my Hitchcock analyses). That film, from late in Hitchcock's career, leaves me, well, torn. It clearly isn't his supreme masterpiece, even though it followed Marnie (1964) which can make some claim to that accolade. Torn Curtain may best be seen as attempting to be a good old-fashioned Hitchcock thriller, but with a Cold War context which Hitchcock had touched on hitherto only in North by Northwest (1959). Actually, it was designed to reach out to younger modern audiences and to show them that the director of Psycho (1960) still had some startling surprises for them. (That, of course, was why he sacked composer Bernard Herrmann late in the day, and replaced him with John Addison: on hearing Herrmann's score, Hitchcock decided that it hadn't got the 'sound' that he had requested. Which was very sad, after nearly a decade of brilliant collaboration by the two.) As I once pointed out here, there's a rare (by now) novelisation of Torn Curtain, written by Richard Wormser and supposedly based on the film's original screenplay by novelist Brian Moore. The Torn Curtain novel was intended to help publicise the film, coming out in the same year as it, i.e., 1966. Although the claim that the novel is based on Moore's screenplay is hard to test, I value it for at least two reasons. First, it does contain the scene/chapter that Hitchcock omitted from the film supposedly for reasons of the film's length. There, Professor Armstrong (Paul Newman), on his way to Leipzig after he has had to kill his East German minder, Gromek, lunches in a workers' factory where he is startled to encounter the murdered man's double - who proves to be Gromek's twin brother. Hitchcock is said to have thought highly of this scene, and discarded it only at the last minute. Armstrong learns guiltily that Gromek was a family man, with a wife and children, and is not made to feel any more comfortable when he sees that the brother is cutting him a slice of German sausage using a knife that exactly matches the kitchen knife that had helped despatch Gromek. The other reason I particularly value the film's novelisation is that reading it helps you to see how Hitchcock likely 'softened' or 'humanised' several of the characters, both 'good' and 'bad' ones, as was so often his wont. They thus become 'nicer' and more appealing. You can't help noticing this as you read. For example, consider Mr Jacobi, the spokesperson for the underground resistance group called 'Pi', who shepherds Armstrong and Sarah (Julie Andrews) aboard the 'fake' bus on which the two Americans will try to escape their pusuers. (See frame-capture below.) Jacobi is played by actor David Opatoshu. In the novel, he is characterised as having 'the smile of a used-car salesman or of a butcher with a faulty scale' (p. 147). How different from the considerate and wise man that Opatoshu makes him! Another example is the Countess Kuchinska, so memorably played in the film by Lila Kedrova, fresh from her important role in the internationally successful Zorba the Greek (d. Mikis Theodorakis). (Notice, btw, that in the official Torn Curtain credits she is listed third, immediately after Newman and Andrews.) In the film, Hitchcock makes us feel quite sorry for her - she is exiled in East Germany from her native Poland, and is desperate to find someone to 'sponsor' her to settle in the United States. Granted, she has a nervous, twittering manner as she combines blackmail - Armstrong and Sarah need her help to locate the Friedrichstrasse Post Office - and an appeal to sympathy (not hitherto the forté of either of the two Americans, we gather). But the novel makes her almost butch and simply an annoyance. It describes her as 'a huge woman ... [wearing] a man's corduroy jacket with a matching short skirt, a man's hat and several strings of bright glass beads, as though she were embarking on a trading expedition with nineteenth-century Indians. She was about sixty, and looked as though she should have been committed to a mental institution in the 1920's.' (p. 165). To be continued.

April 3 - 2021
A scene in Under Capricorn that François Truffaut singled out as especially admirable is the one on the verandah between Adare (Michael Wilding) and Lady Hattie (Ingrid Bergman) in which he creates a 'mirror impromptu' to show her that she hasn't lost her radiant beauty. In a gallant gesture, he takes off his dark jacket and holds it behind the glass of the verandah door so that she may see her reflection. (Note. Lady Hattie has had all mirrors removed from the household, so as not to be reminded of her alcoholism.) My feeling about scenes like this one in Under Capricorn is that they are all individually excellent - but that the screenplay has assembled them without sufficient regard for the overall structure. (As Flusky - Joseph Cotten - is heard to say at one point, 'It goes on and on and on!') With that proviso, here are further excellent scenes we see in the film, all of them taken from the 1937 Helen Simpson novel. (The 'mirror impromptu' scene will be found in Book One, section x.) First, there's the amusing breakfast table scene in which Flusky's three cooks compete to please him, Lady Hattie and Adare, by serving up eggs in varying states of runniness. (See frame-capture below and cf. the novel, Book One, section xvi.) Also, there's the Governor's Ball, which lends Under Capricorn a few moments of grandness, including musically. Unfortunately, an uninvited Flusky arrives and embarrasses Lady Hattie who has been escorted there by Adare. (Cf. Book Two, section i.) Likewise, the film makes use of motifs from the novel, such as Hattie's embroidery which she resumes after abandoning it many years ago. Her returning to it is a sign that her rehabilitation has begun under Adare's tutelage. (Cf. Book One, section ix). Very effective is the tune that Adare frequently whistles as an unspoken reminder to Hattie to keep her spirits up, namely, the nursery rhyme 'Here we go gathering nuts in May'. Granted, this isn't quite the same thing as the tune in the novel which had been played by the mischievous band to farewell the unpopular previous Governor, 'Over the Hills and Far Away - and which is heard again among parts of the crowd when the new Governor arrives (Book One, section iii). Now, to conclude these short notes (including the previous two entries, above) on Under Capricorn, I'll throw in a couple or so pieces of trivia. The official Continuity Girl on this film was none other than Peggy Robertson, later to be Hitchcock's trusted personal secretary at Universal Studios. This was the first time that she worked with him. And, speaking of continuity, there are some very small lapses that anyone would be forgiven for not spotting. The ones that I'm thinking of are all in the opening scene in which the new Governor (Cecil Parker) receives his official welcome from the above-mentioned band. They involve Adare and the Manager of the Bank of New South Wales, Mr Potter, who spots Adare ( a distant cousin of the Governor, after all) in the assembled crowd and moves towards him to introduce himself. If you watch carefully, you'll see that, although we see Potter move towards Adare, in a subsequent shot he hasn't yet made his move. (This happens twice, I think - a reminder of how difficult it can be to cut together details of crowd shots.) Lastly, I've seen a suggestion that Hitchcock makes two cameo appearances in Under Capricorn. Not so, I think. There is, it's true, a rough look-alike of Hitchcock in the crowd scene. But if you note his clothing - including buff-coloured or reddish trousers, and a neck scarf - you will see that it is not what Hitchcock is wearing when we do see him, supposedly just minutes later, standing on the steps of Government House with a couple of other gentlemen.

March 27 - 2021
More on Under Capricorn. Florence Jacobowitz's sophisticated article on that film (in 'CineAction' #52) notes 'Flusky's curious domestic helplessness, his wilfully obscured vision and passive complicity', and suggests that 'he cannot see what a newcomer like Adare or the new "gentleman" servant Winter see plainly [and] straight away', namely, that Flusky's fellow-commoner, the servant Milly, is poisoning his upper-class wife, Lady Hattie, something which gives 'voice and shape to Sam's subjective fears'. Although I don't detect any precise evidence that Flusky feels that way, his hesitancy in non-business matters or situations is indeed evident, as when he tentatively suggests that Hattie might wear a ruby necklace to the Governor's Ball, to which the high-born Hon. Charles Adare will escort her - Flusky himself isn't invited! The audience sees that Flusky has indeed bought such a necklace, which he holds behind his back (see frame-capture below); but Adare scoffs and asks does Flusky want his wife to look like a Christmas tree?! Abashed, Flusky slips the necklace into his pocket. Now consider that there's a slightly different way of looking at the film's subtle emphasis on class-consciousness. If Lady Hattie needs rehabilitating from her alcoholism (see last time, above), then clearly Flusky himself must learn to retain his pride at his considerable achievement (rather more than Society knows) when socially rebuffed. The film's backstory reveals that, such was Flusky's love for Hattie, that he took the blame for her capital crime - she had shot and killed her brother Dermott when he had tried to stop her marrying Sam, a stable hand. Consequently, Sam had been deported to Australia, where the loyal and loving Hattie duly followed him and waited for him to be released from servitude. But events had taken a toll on both of them. In this situation, Adare becomes a catalyst and a hero who is unsung by an ignorant Society (which in this film mostly comes off badly). Thus he, too, is rehabilitated from the ne'er-do-well status he held when he arrived in the colony (this, despite his relation to the Governor whom he had accompanied from England as his cousin). Adare has to detach himself from the love he has come to feel for Hattie, and return to England - but now inwardly stronger and more sceptical of Society. He truly shows his nobility when, having accidentally been shot and wounded by Flusky after an argument, he refuses to press charges that would have seen Flusky hanged as 'a second offender'. The Attorney-General, Mr Corrigon, protests, saying to the Governor who has issued the pardon for Flusky, 'But Your Excellency, it isn't as simple as that!' Mercifully, the Governor won't be drawn. The villain of the piece comes across as Corrigon, the mouthpiece for the blind Law! (There are echoes of this film's position in later Hitchcock movies, such as Marnie, where Marnie herself says with contempt, 'Argh, "legal"!') Not everyone is happy with Under Capricorn's structure, however. The fact that the denouement is simply hinged on a character's (Adare's) refusal to speak out can seem anti-climactic, further confirmation - it looks like - of screenwriter/playwright James Bridie's admission in an interview that he had a reputation for writing weak Third Acts! Nonetheless, this film is very beautiful, and I am grateful to the French critics who long ago nominated it as one of the greatest movies ever made.

March 20 - 2021
Hitchcock's Under Capricorn (1949) might be described as a 'monotonous' - but not 'dreary' - costume-drama set in Australia (more accurately, the colony of New South Wales) in 1831. (I'll explain shortly.) It contains many fine things, but finally is less than a triumph for its director who hadn't sufficiently taken to heart the lesson of making Waltzes from Vienna (1933) when he had exclaimed, 'Melodrama is the only thing I can do!' (Waltzes was another costume drama, and a 'musical' besides. Note: I don't believe that there is anything wrong with film melodrama per se: the term 'melodrama' is properly only pejorative when applied to literary works which have taken the short-cut of sheer exaggerated emphasis and actions. But film melodrama regularly draws on and blends the medium's own resources, such as photography, cutting, music, and performance.) Under Capricorn retains the basic idea of Helen Simpson's 1937 novel: a story of rehabilitation in the infant convict colony destined to soon become a proud member of 'a great dominion', i.e., the British Empire. The principal character who must be rehabilitated is Lady Henrietta Flusky (Ingrid Bergman), wife of Samson Flusky (Joseph Cotten) who is himself an emancipist, i.e., a former convict who has served his time, and who has become a wealthy businessman. 'Lady Hattie' is an alcoholic. (She has her reasons - which are revealed by a backstory within the main one.) Staying with the Fluskys in their mansion called 'Minyago Yugilla'/'Why Weepest Thou?' is the newly-arrived Governor's cousin, the Hon. Charles Adare (Michael Wilding), who accompanied the Governor from England. He is young - in the novel, just 20 - and considered a bit of a ne'er-do-well having few prospects in his native country, Ireland (which happens to be Lady Hattie's native country, too). So let me explain my use of the word 'monotonous'. I don't mean 'boring', exactly. But I have come to think of the film's concept as inadequate and not fitted to Hitchcock. I still love the film, and far from just because I'm an Aussie. (Still, I have read that although it flopped on release in most parts of the world, it was well-received here. See Howard Maxford, 'The A-Z of Hitchcock', 2002, p. 271. Also, as our frame-capture from the start of the film shows - see below - its visualisation of early Australia is often beautiful.) No, to me the film is almost like a threnody (lament) for a Lost Paradise represented by Ireland, the Emarald Isle - which may explain why Adare returns to his home country at the end, saying that although Australia is a big country, it's 'not quite big enough!' In effect, Adare means not big enough for him. Perhaps he isn't sufficiently rugged although in the novel he certainly undergoes a toughening-up process when he takes part in a prolonged expedition to the colony's interior. The film contains repeated suggestions that Hell seems to haunt this harsh land 'down under' (a penal colony, remember) and that it isn't for everybody. Even the Governor calls it 'this infernal place'. Its men and animals are described as having 'a bit of the devil' in them. In contrast, Adare remembers Hattie, a fellow aristocrat, riding her horse back in Ireland 'at a fence as if it had the Kingdom of Heaven on the other side'. On the other hand, Australia's very harshness has its own beauty. Some things, Flusky will tell Hattie, 'are all in your mind'. Accordingly, the same fiery light that suggest the proximity of Hell is allowed, whenever it strikes Hattie's auburn hair (as in the wonderful verandah scene between her and Adare), to invoke a contrary condition. Several times during the film her hair is emphasised in this way - another instance, I suspect, of when Hitchcock has taken his inspiration from a brief passage in the novel (e.g., p. 217 of the Heinemann 1937 edition) and made it thoroughly cinematic. In this case, we seem invited to feel that Heaven may not be so distant after all. Didn't William Blake write of building 'a Heaven in Hell's despair'?! So what's my reservation concerning this film? Just that it seems to me too uniform in tone, too aware of its limited range which is thematically determined (so that at one point Flusky complains of events that go 'on and on and on'). It is, as I say, perhaps too much of a threnody for a Lost Paradise back in Ireland, and its self-conscious style seems set by this - and this alone. It lacks the unexpected element, with insufficient light and shadow except in the most literal sense.

March 13 - 2021
No entry here this time, but do read the News item that follows below. Back next week.

February 27 - 2021
In The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) the unfortunate menial, dumpy Mrs Sprocket (Clare Greet), finds herself employed by Abbot (Peter Lorre), the leader of the anarchists, at his hideout where the film's climactic shootout with the police occurs. The soft-spoken Lorre, who had recently fled Nazi Germany where he'd played the child-murderer in Fritz Lang's M (1931), makes Abbot at once almost likeable but repellent. (Abbot has a sense of humour but also a gentle sadism.) In an early scene, Abbot asks a fellow anarchist, Rawlings, to ensure that Mrs Sprocket attends them for the evening instead of going home to give her husband his evening meal. Rawlings orders her to remove her skirt. Abbot, seeing her in her bloomers, chuckles loudly. (This incident was drawn from an actual account of the infamous Sydney Street anarchists holed-up by the police in 1911.) Mischievously, the film adds a joke of its own. Rawlings seems to pinch Mrs Sprocket on the bottom, but then we see that he was merely reaching for some hors d'oeuvres on a plate behind her. (See frame-capture below. Note Abbot looking on and laughing as he tells Mrs Sprocket not to blush.) Now, speaking of Abbot's 'gentle sadism', I think it's scarcely too much to say that Hitchcock's films are all imbued with it - and so, perhaps, was Hitchcock himself! (Recently a scholar suggested that the thrill-killer Brandon in Rope is likewise a relative, just once removed, from Hitchcock!) Another scene in the 1934 TMWKTM is certainly built on sadism of a kind. I'm thinking of the scene with the dentist (see last time) who ends up in his own dentist's chair and is put to sleep by gas from his own anaesthesia-mask. 'Take that!', we are tempted to murmur in a satisfied tone! Also, in Hitchcock's day, anaesthesia by gas (chloroform, etc.) was probably commonplace, and a majority of Hitchcock's audience would have 'been there, done that'. I'm tempted to construct a whole theory about his films. It would go something like this. Many people end up in adulthood with some kind of sexual fantasy or fetish, whose formative mechanism entails 'revenge' for something that happened to them when they were younger and relatively powerless. It's often said that Hitchcock had a fetish for blondes! It's not hard to suppose that in his younger days he was rebuffed by a blonde! (Similarly, something like a fetish for anaesthesia masks is, or was, not rare, I believe.) Arguably, all of Hitchcock's films have a sadistic element, inasmuch their type of suspense involves the audience being subjected to a controlling influence - the director's. Accordingly, I wonder if Norman Bates in Psycho isn't a kind of scapegoat for viewers, being seemingly subject to a dominating mother from whom he is unable to detach himself. For much of the film, his plight makes him a sympathetic figure for us, even if a symptom of that plight is his voyeurism, as when he spies on Marion Crane undressing. His voyeurism, we think, is understandable rather than alienating, for it's simply his particular 'fetish'! In Hitchcock's next film, The Birds, there is little doubt that the avians themselves are out to 'revenge' themselves for the cruelty of humans over the ages. (For confirmation, see the film's trailer, containing its 'little lecture' by Hitchcock.) The avians, too, are thus scapegoat-figures. But I'll end on what I think is an upbeat note. For me, the tone of Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot (1975) shows that he was finally 'liberated' - and that he was happy to share that fact with us. The film ends with a knowing wink from the character Blanche, standing in for Hitchcock!

February 20 - 2021
As good a film as any to show off Hitchcock's mix of inventiveness and opportunism - and audacity - is the original The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). (To be honest, I think that there's also some carelessness in the mix. For example, when young Betty Lawrence, staying at St Moritz with her parents, Bob and Jill, goes to retrieve her little dog that has run into the path of a ski-jumper, the skier in question, Louis Bernard, sees her from afar and promptly covers his eyes (see frame-capture below) - rather than try to stop and/or take evasive action! Some professional! Hitchcock here gets his visual detail, which 'introduces' the character and tells us that he's a nice guy, but at some cost in believability, at least in the short term.) When little Betty is kidnapped shortly afterwards, and her parents are warned by the kidnappers not to tell the police - Bob has learned of their intention to assassinate a man named Ropa in London - all that Bob and Jill can do is return to London and try and find Betty themselves. The kidnappers guess their intention. Bob and Jill receive a phone call from a woman who tells them menacingly not to say anything to the police. Actually the woman must be psychic! Somehow she knows that the Lawrences are speaking at that very moment to a 'gentleman from the Foreign Office' who has called on them to try and make them talk. How did the woman know that?! Never mind! As Hitchcock once explained to actress Kim Novak, 'Everything doesn't have to make sense in a mystery!' The effect on the audience is what matters! (My thanks to Douglas F for pointing me to the Kim Novak interview with Simon Hattenstone in a recent 'Guardian'. For the record, Novak was remembering the uncanny moment in Vertigo when her character, Madeleine, somehow 'disappears' from her room at the McKittrick Hotel.) If Hitchcock can in any way make the kidnappers/terrorists seem even more formidable, he'll do what is needed. It helps him that he has cast Peter Lorre as Abbot, the terrorists' leader, with Abbot being abetted by the woman known as 'Nurse' Agnes, who rang the Lawrences. The woman (Cicely Oates) is tall and sinister, and Abbot's relationship with her is decidedly strange. It sometimes seems like that of mother and son; yet the possibility that they are married can't be discounted. At the climax, a shootout with the police, based on the Sydney Street siege of 1911, the terrorists barricade themselves upstairs, prepared to fight to the death. When Nurse Agnes is shot and killed, Abbot's horror and grief are marked. The film is really a constant barrage of the audience with a thousand small details designed to make an impact, however small - but each noticeable! Some of them work, others maybe not quite! But I think Hitchcock was reacting against what he (rightly?) considered a low ebb in his career, his previous film Waltzes from Vienna, a 'musical'. During its shooting he was heard to say, 'Melodrama is the only thing I can do!' The best thing about film melodrama may be that it allows the director to pull out all the stops, whether the menacing performance of Abbot in the first The Man Who Knew Too Much, say, or Doris Day belting out 'Che sera, sera' at the climax of the 1956 remake. If film allows the director to do all these things, why stint? (By analogy, symphonies are often considered the 'highest' form of classical music because they allow the composer and the orchestra to show off their fullest range and the most orchestral 'colour'.) Back to the 1934 film now. An insufficiently appreciated comic character may be 'Uncle Clive' (Hugh Wakefield) - I think he must be Jill's brother and so, yes, Betty's uncle. He 'grows up' during the film - 'growing up' was always a favourite motif of Hitchcock's - after initially being seen to still be a bit of a child himself, unmarried and prone to playing with Betty's train-set that he had given her (and apparently monopolised thereafter!). At one stage he loses a perfectly good tooth for his pains (pulled out by an evil-seeming dentist who ends up anaesthetised by his own anaesthetic gas - a most satisfying scene!) and whose departure from the film is not emphasised but is comic enough. When Clive leads the police to the terrorists' lair, a seedy 'tabernacle' of sun-worshippers, the tall lady turns the tables, for the moment, by accusing Clive of having 'disturbed the peace in a sacred edifice'. Far from entering the building to look around, the police bundle Clive away, and he isn't seen again. (Shades of 'Mrs Townsend' in North by Northwest, 1959, who, when the police visit the Townsend manor where Roger Thornhill had been held captive the night before, but escaped, she cooingly persuades the police that Roger was a guest who got rather drunk. The police apologise and leave, taking Roger with them.)

February 13 - 2021
Rope is as close to a thesis-film as Hitchcock ever entertained, which of course carried risks of seeming unsubtle and preachy. But Rope's thesis is of broad scope and indeed suited to Hitchcock's kind of cinema. It concerns the limits of human subjectivity and the dangers of overweening human ego, leading to murder. At the end, Rupert Cadell - in exposing the two murderers - must admit that his long-cherished respect for 'intellect and superior logic' has been insufficient, and that he had failed to understand the subjectivity of these so-called thrill-killers who have misinterpreted his words or, rather, 'given them a meaning [Rupert] never dreamed of'. Critic/author Dan Callahan in his recent book on Hitchcock, The Camera Lies (Oxford, 2020) - see January 20, above - calls Rope 'a queer project', noting that Hitchcock artfully cast gay actors (John Dall and Farley Granger) as Brandon and Phillip, as well as used a gay screenwriter (Arthur Laurents) to write the final script. He might also have mentioned that the musically-trained Phillip repeatedly plays gay French composer Francis Poulenc's 'Perpetual Movement No. 1' on the piano - but never right through. We may interpret this as underlining, once again, the limits of human subjectivity that allows only an incomplete grasp of the full picture. No doubt, Phillip would eventually master particular works, like Poulenc's, but he would be left with little knowledge of most other fields of knowledge. (Ironically, he and Brandon are in any case destined to soon die at the end of a rope!) Compare what I have often called Hitchcock's use of Vague Symbolism. I have also often written about his 'subjective effects' whereby the audience must participate in some parallel way with the mind processes of his characters. When the show-off Brandon drops the murderous piece of rope into a kitchen drawer, he does it with a flourish and not the slightest sign of shame or remorse. To reinforce this particular 'effect' (of which Hitchcock's films are full), the director uses a showy gesture of his own: we see what Brandon is doing in the brief moment before the kitchen swing-door closes again. (On the film's characterisations by means of actions, and specifically Brandon's, see last time.) My Rope essay, which is about to go up on Geoff Gardner's Film Alert 101 website, highlights another of the film's effects: the use of cloud and lighting effects to indicate the passage of time in a film which ostensibly was all shot in one continuous take. Also, the red, green and white alternating flashes at the end, coming from a nearby neon sign, was called by Hitchcock 'a musical effect'. (I interpret it in my Rope essay, btw.) Callahan has an interesting observation about Janet (Joan Chandler). He spots that she is what is called in gay circles a fag hag (Callahan, p. 152), meaning that she is a straight girl who likes to associate with gay men. I think of how Brandon is happy to direct her to the telephone in the bedroom, in which presumably she will see a double-bed! Yet it's instructive to learn that Hitchcock was worried about Constance Collier's portrayal of Mrs Atwater as possibly making her appear a lesbian. 'Easy does it!' you can practically hear him telling her. Finally, if I criticise Hitchcock in my Rope essay, it is qualified. I suggest that Hitchcock was prepared to 'cheat' on occasions. Early on, we cut to David Kentley's strangling by Phillip, while Brandon pins the victim's arms. When the view widens, we see that the curtains were drawn shut. A line of dialogue covers this, without really explaining it. We hear Brandon say, 'A pity we couldn't have done it with the curtains open ... In the bright sunlight.' But this only poses the awkward question: how did the two killers explain to their victim (whose death-scream we just heard) that for purposes of his murder the curtains would need to be closed?! Scarcely less unlikely, perhaps, is the moment near the end when Rupert holds out the incriminating piece of rope that was used for the strangulation. Until now, our most recent view of the rope has been when the audacious Brandon used it to tie a bundle of rare books that Mr Kentley (Cedric Hardwicke) takes away as a gift (see frame-capture below) from his dead son's two 'friends'. ('Such nice boys!', we had heard him tell Mrs Atwater.) Rather improbably, it looks like Rupert had chased after Mr Kentley and given him a reason why Rupert needed to take back the piece of rope - leaving the old man to manage the books untied! (Conceivably he had a car parked just downstairs.)

February 6 - 2021
I have been writing lately on Hitchcock's Rope (1948). A friend asked me what Hitchcock saw in the subject-matter that made him want to film it, and I observed that I regard the film as something of a testimony, and a mea culpa, by Hitchcock: the character of Brandon (John Dall) is a warning to the viewer (and to Hitchcock?) against hubris. (Not long before making Rope, Hitchcock had let drop that he saw most people as 'the moron millions'!) By the same token, Brandon is finally put in his place by his former housemaster, Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), who ringingly denounces Brandon and his submissive partner Phillip (Farley Granger) for sheer arrogance, for deciding of their own accord that they belonged to 'the superior few' - and that therefore they were entitled to kill another human being because such people 'merely occupy space'. That way of thinking is a trap and deluded, and Rope's critique of it powerful, as when Rupert asks at the end, 'Did you think you were God, Brandon?' In showing us Brandon's arrogance, Hitchcock is subtle as always. In his attitude to Phillip, Brandon clearly takes for granted that his partner will do his bidding. In the frame-capture below, he literally leads Phillip. We see Brandon elect to carry only one of two silver candle-holders himself, telling Phillip to follow him and bring the other. (Note Phillip's puzzled but unquestioning expression in the frame-capture below!) Brandon evidently takes pleasure in issuing orders. Characteristically, Hitchcock seems to give us reason for Brandon's attitude, allowing him to have visible, tangible reason which is actually on the screen. (All part of Hitchcock's celebrated 'identification technique'.) Most of the film's other characters are ordinary enough if measured by Brandon's yardstick of 'the superior few'. These characters are: Mrs Wilson (the hired housekeeper), Mr Kentley (the overly bookish father of the murdered boy), Mrs Atwater (his sister-in-law), Janet (the late David Kentley's girlfriend) and Kenneth (a self-admitted average student). Even Rupert is 'only' a housemaster at a prep-school, although he performed valiant war service, and knows his Nietzsche. Rupert effectively becomes the spokesperson for these people collectively, and for egalitarianism, when he persists in getting to the bottom of the 'strange' feeling (his word) that he has experienced during Brandon and Phillip's party, purportedly thrown to celebrate their shortly going to the country for a holiday. How we, the audience, have nonetheless felt uncomfortable and oppressed becomes most conscious only at the film's end, when Rupert throws open the apartment window and fires several gunshots from Brandon's pistol to attract attention and summon the police. A critic once commented: 'you can feel the fresh air'. Of course, Rope is remarkable technically. However, Hitchcock did not want his single-set film, and his use of the so-called 'ten-minute take', to infringe his rule against merely showing 'pictures of people talking'. Nor does it. It has its own dynamism which needs to be appreciated before any dismissal of it - which is sometimes heard - as 'a failed Hitchcock experiment'. Incidentally, Hitchcock took his experimenting further - especially some lighting and Technicolour effects - in his next film, Under Capricorn. Another of the experiments was with the minimal number of cuts required. These were there at all because the film had to be changed in the camera about every ten minutes (whereas on a commercial 35mm projector with its larger, more accommodating spools, reel-changes about every twenty minutes sufficed). In Rope the cuts are more or less 'invisible', or at least disguised, to suggest one continuous length of film and an unbroken continuity: a form of induced 'suspense'. The cuts themselves basically fall into two categories. Firstly, cuts which occur during a momentary blackness induced by the camera tracking into, say, a character's back and then out again. Secondly, cuts on a character's reaction or on a piece of action so that we hardly notice them. Hitchcock's experiments would prove useful in many of his subsequent films, although he soon came to realise that the ten-minute take, by itself, risked a certain cumbersomeness. He had chosen Rope as being more fitting than most movies for its use. Nonetheless, there is little sign of it just a few years later in Dial M for Murder (1954), which takes place largely in one room. A case of once bitten, twice shy, perhaps.

January 30 – 2021
Just a little more on I Confess. (My full-length essay on that film, incorporating much of what I've lately written here, is about to go up on the Film Alert 101 website.) Actually, I'll be doing a bit of quoting. According to American Cinematographer, December 1952, 'Hitchcock selected [Quebec City as the film's location] because of its quaint Old World quality and its architecture of mediaeval flavour.' Everything in I Confess is depicted in as authentic a manner as possible. 'No attempt was made to "dress up" the sets on ... location interiors. Doors and woodwork with shiny surfaces were allowed to remain that way and not dulled down as they would have been ordinarily ... Not only were the buildings authentic as named, so too, were the people ... For instance, the manager of the Château Frontenac was portrayed by the real manager of the Château Frontenac. Chefs and waiters in that world-famed hotel are the same men you would [have seen working there] ...' In the same vein of authenticity - if of a different order - Hitchcock isolates the transient details of everyday: a policeman poised awkwardly on a flight of steps; a snatch of parliamentary rhetoric heard through a half-open door; a romantic moment on a dance floor interrupted by an announcement of war; a juror blowing his nose in one corner of the screen while, not far away, another juror combs his hair. And as Father Logan's tribulation grows, the details become grimmer, or more earthy. Logan's alibi is effectively quashed by an autopsy report involving the econtents of the dead man's stomach; police stride grimly to their cars past a mounted black cannon; a girl on crutches passes Logan in the street; and a headless dummy taunts him from behind a harshly-lit store window. When Logan enters Inspector Larrue's office to give himself up, the policeman is seated at his desk preparing to eat a hurried meal, a napkin tucked into his collar. (That scene is a particularly involving one. Both men show an obvious respect for each other, yet the priest knows that he is bound - by the very precise rules of the confessional - to avoid any temptation to speak in his own defence, or to justify himself, however slightly, to this policeman who becomes increasingly irritated and puzzled by the other's non-cooperation.) Author Dan Callahan, in his recent book The Camera Lies: Acting for Hitchcock, has made a clever observation about the central performance of Clift. 'All of Clift's different emotions in I Confess are going on at once and clashing and so some of these emotions are getting cancelled out. Compare this let-'er-rip approach to Judith Anderson's super-controlled expression of conflicting emotions in Rebecca for contrast. Clift can't "do nothing well" [Hitchcock's generalisation for good acting in his pictures] because he is doing everything possible ... and often very well. He was a virtuoso, and he is not a Hitchcock actor. He acts with his cheeks, his mouth, his hands, his eyebrows, his forehead. Compare Father Logan's showy agony to the agony of Cary Grant's Devlin in Notorious, and again the difference is clear.' [For an apt illustration of what Dan Callahan means, apropos Montgomery Clift, see frame-capture below, showing Father Logan hearing Otto Keller's confession.]

January 23 - 2021
A lovely, multi-dimensional scene in I Confess is the one on the ferry, in which Madame Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter) confides - confesses - to Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift) that she has never stopped loving him ever since they were briefly lovers before the War, in which Michael enlisted and saw service, then returned to take Holy Orders. There's an implication that it was the War that changed Michael. Now, on the ferry, he must convince Ruth that he is a man of conviction: 'I chose to be what I am', i.e., a priest. But it is a difficult for him, given Ruth's stubbornness! If conflict is the stuff of good drama, then this is such a scene, dramatically satisfying. Of a different order, perhaps, is the duel between Michael and the policeman, Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden), who comes to suspect the priest of murder, not knowing that Michael is bound by the inviolability of the confessional from disclosing that he knows the real murderer, Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse) - and precisely for that reason finds his own life endangered. ('A priest must not hint at what he has heard in a confession, even under the threat of death' - Father George Leonard, Catholic Information Office, London.) As the water of the St Lawrence River slips past the sides of the ferry, Dimitri Tiomkin's music plays sweetly, perhaps to evoke the vanished days of Ruth and Michael's earlier relationship, to which Ruth is still clinging. She has sought out this assignation with Michael ostensibly to warn him that the police have seen him talk with her outside the house of the murdered man, and now want to know who she is. But what is also clear is that she still hopes to re-establish the relationship with Michael, a folly that is compounded by the fact that she is herself now married to the politician Pierre. Further, the scene on the ferry is typical of I Confess in highlighting one of the city's many attractions or landmarks, just as the later Vertigo does the same thing for San Francisco. The ferry in question (named the 'Louis Jolliet' after one of Canada's early explorers, born in Quebec) is the well-known one that crosses the St Lawrence to Lévis. Similarly, the film will show Pierre 'on the job', speaking before his peers in the Parliament Building (on 'Parliament Hill'). We see the forbidding walls of the Citadel de Québec and pass inside the Halls of Justice for Logan's trial. The final climax occurs in the city's dominating Château Frontenac, where Keller dies. And Logan's church, Sainte Marie, is in fact the Eglise Saint-Zépherin de Stadacona: Stadacona was the name of the native village which stood on the site that is now Quebec City - rather like how in Vertigo a key scene takes place in the Mission Dolores, the site around which the city of San Francisco grew. (Hitchcock's 'expressionist' inclinations never left him.) Further, in the ferry scene Hitchcock pulls one of his 'three-card tricks' on the audience. It is cleverly done. A concerned Logan mentions to Ruth that's it's quite possible that the police are watching them at this very moment. Ruth promptly eyes three different individuals nearby - two of whom are indeed watching them, seemingly with some interest. Another man leans on the rail, but appears preoccupied with (I think) rolling himself a cigarette. (See frame-capture below.) What now goes through the audience's mind is the question: could it be one of these men? Or are Michael and Ruth just being 'paranoid'? (The suspicions of a 1950s American audience may have been further fueled by how, at that time, anti-Communist propaganda films sometimes featured just this sort of moment, warning the audience against Communists 'in our midst'.) Well, in the very next scene, set in Inspector Larrue's office, the man with a cigarette is reporting to Larrue about how he had observed Michael and Ruth, and Larrue congratulates him for his work. Note that this seemingly trivial moment on the ferry effectively adds to the mounting tension that will accumulate during much of the second half of the film.

January 16 - 2021
Hitchcock's I Confess (1953), notes a friend of Montgomery Clift, actor Jack Larson, brought out the spirituality of its director. A viewing of the film suggests the rightness of that view. Hitchcock himself, sounding puzzled, afterwards told François Truffaut that he had been 'heavy-handed', but arguably that says something about the very nature of Christian faith. (Conceivably, a Buddhist might have treated the issue of faith rather differently, while still fully respecting the material, of course.) It's a topic that I'd like to talk about this week. Hitchcock biographers aren't always helpful, though. John Russell Taylor (I recall) tells how, allegedly, Hitchcock once leaned from a car and called out to a young boy walking in the street with a priest, 'Run, little boy! Run for your life!' I can't see it, somehow! Granted, we know that Hitchcock once turned down the offer of an audience with the Pope, and explained to Truffaut that he had feared the Pope might instruct him to give up his type of filmmaking! On the other hand, we know that both Hitch and Alma in their later years received weekly Mass at home. (That was reported a few years ago by one of the priests who had officiated.) Could anyone other than a Believer have directed Clift in the depiction of Father Michael Logan in I Confess? Of course, Hitchcock knew that the film's central situation was immensely affecting dramatically, at least for Believers, and had relished the cinematic power of seeing Logan (in the film's intended ending) stride to the gallows for a crime he didn't commit. (Patricia Bosworth, 'Montgomery Clift', pb., 1979, p. 240.) Also, there is such a thing as a universal 'compulsion to confess'. Eric Bentley ('The Life of the Drama', p. 188) puts this serious point amusingly after noting the far-reaching remarks of Freud on how people will betray themselves, give themselves away. (That's certainly a characteristic of the arrogant Brandon in Hitchcock's Rope, 1948, noted by his submissive partner, Phillip.) 'Though it lead to the gallows,' says Bentley, 'we will not deny ourselves the pleasure of saying, before the curtain is down, "Very well, inspector, yes: I am the demon barber of Fleet Street."' I once counted at least four 'unburdenings' or confessions in I Confess. Crucially, and centrally, Father Logan's, for all his suffering, is made entirely voluntarily - but only after the real killer, Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse) has received the last rites and has told all. In addition, Ruth Grandfort's flashback represents a confession of her relation to Michael before she married. (Did they make love in the summer house? Hitchcock leaves it up in the air!) Though this confession doesn't help Logan's alibi for the night of the murder - as Madame Grandfort had supposed it would - it does reconcile - unobtrusively - her relation with her husband. Meanwhile, timid Mrs Keller comes to see in Logan's suffering an image of her own; when, climactically, she can no longer bear her husband's guilt, she speaks out - and dies for her pains. A few weeks ago (December 26, above) I sought to illustrate how Hitchcock paid attention to how his characters walk. It's particularly interesting, then, to note how Montgomery Clift did exactly that in his elaborate preparation for the role of Logan. Patricia Bosworth gives a moving account of Clift's friendship with a young French monk, Brother Thomas, who had only recently taken his final vows in a cloistered monastery outside Quebec, the city where I Confess is set. Just before Clift went to Hollywood to begin filming with Hitchcock, he spent a week at Brother Thomas's monastery. There, he attended Mass each morning at four. He later told Patricia Collinge (the mother in Shadow of a Doubt) how moved he had been by the solemn dignity of the services 'in that great chapel'. He observed the monks at work and at prayer. 'Some of them, like Thomas, have a fundamental sense of reverence - of tenderness - seeming to believe like [the poet] Blake that "everything that [lives is] holy".' Clift also told Jeanne Green, 'Priests walk in a special way because they wear robes or habits. When they walk they push the material forward with their hands.' (Bosworth, p. 237.) Truffaut's book on Hitchcock notes that in I Confess, 'Clift is always seen walking; it's a forward motion that shapes the whole film. It also concretizes the concept of his integrity.' (Nonetheless, I've seen it said that some weaker individuals enter the cloistered life because they see it as providing a retreat from a world that is too hard for them. I suspect that Father Benoit in I Confess, with his 'collapsing' bicycle, is a gentle caricature of such a person!)

January 9 - 2021
Today some further general thoughts on Hitchcock that I've had lately. From a new biography of Cary Grant by Scott Eyman I note that Grant considered society in his day to be 'inhibited, critical and frightened'. Probably not much has changed, albeit we consider ourselves more sexually sophisticated. At any rate, I think it fair to say that Hitchcock's 'escapist' films both play to, and mock, such traits. I've often noted here that in North by Northwest the early New York scenes, showing streets and commuters, are photographed particularly drably - almost certainly deliberately although film 'restorers' have misunderstood and have 'over-compensated' for what they consider a fading of the image. From the implied general repression the story moves to more adventurous fields - including, literally, the prairie crossroads, on which the film pivots. That sequence is the lowest point of Roger Thornhill's itinerary before he moves symbolically to pine forests, as well as precipitous cliff-tops, on Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. Thornhill's character/personality is also crucial: initially seeming to be unadventurous, except doubtless in matters like preparing advertising copy, he suddenly finds himself kidnapped and plunged into the middle of an 'absurd' situation or 'joke'. (One of his armed kidnappers drily remarks, 'We will laugh in the car!') But, agreeably, Roger proves to have a well-developed reality-sense, and shows his quality by being able to grasp his plight while demonstarting his own dry wit. In the car, he makes an unsuccessful attempt to escape by diving for the door handle. 'Locked?', we hear him ask ruefully. The mocking quality of Ernest Lehmann's remarkable screenplay is further demonstrated by the succession of perilous situations he manufactures for Thornhill. Outlandish, and, again, 'absurd' (the Theatre of the Absurd was just getting underway at the time with a play like Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, featuring a crossroads scene of its own), these situations show us a fearless Thornhill, worthy after all of being 'our' hero! Nothing fazes him, whether that involves being shot at from an improbably low-flying bi-plane or clinging for his life (and that of Eve Kendall, played by Eva Marie Saint) from a rocky cliff. Now, I've also been thinking lately about the nature of Hitchcockian suspense. In his book Style (1955), F.L. Lucas defined literary style as simply 'how one personality moves others'. Well, Hitchcock knew exactly how to play up his public persona as 'Master of Suspense' in order to quickly bring the audience on-side. More broadly, that suspense is of various kinds. For example, there is suspense of character. We soon learn that the 'touchy' protagonist of Marnie is brittle beyond her cultivated, carefully-groomed 'front'. There is suspense of mood: the sinister green that opens North by Northwest sets such a mood (frame-capture below) - aided immeasurably by Bernard Herrmann's musical 'growl' and a stylised MGM lion. (This may have been the only MGM lion in decades that was allowed to depart from the customary logo!) There is suspense of situation, as in the essentially self-contained crossroads sequence of the same film: a tour-de-force in which a barren landscape suddenly becomes threatening, and every element plays a part before the end. (Hitchcock noted the rickety-looking crop-dusting bi-plane that, before crashing, uses its spray to smoke-out Thornhill hiding in crops that we hadn't initially noticed, or paid attention to!) The very name 'Hitchcock' became synonymous with 'suspense', and his cameo-appearance in each film served as a reminder that he was its principal 'author'. All of his technical skills and inventiveness served to streamline the effects he sought. When Thornhill is kidnapped from the Oak Bar, clever editing and changes of angle minimise lacunae, so that Roger is inside the kidnappers' car almost before we realise it! The whole thing is cleverly set up by Hitchcock and Lehman, from the moment that Roger snaps his fingers at the bellboy just as the latter is paging 'George Kaplan', the name of a non-existent American agent invented by the CIA (or whoever) as a foil.

January 2 - 2021
I did complete my "Vertigo considerations" essay which is now published on the remarkable Film Alert 101 website. Here's the URL: Filmalert Vertigo . Please note that I liberally quoted from the same essay in last week's "Editor's Week", so it won't all be fresh! (I apologise!) My next essay project, which I hope to start writing tomorrow, will be slightly broader in scope and will be called "Hitchcock considerations". I want to try and enumerate, and illustrate, some of the things that make a Hitchcock film so distinctive. (Suggestions welcome!) One Hitchcockian quality that seems to me definitely worth singling out is the assurance of each film's telling. This is related to what I have called the audacity of a film like Vertigo, and is a quality - assurance, I mean - which regular watchers of Hitchcock movies quickly grow to expect. I have lately been looking at Spellbound (1945) and within a very few minutes I was impressed as usual with the screenplay's economy in laying the foundation of the entire film that follows. For example, we learn that Dr Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is an outdoors-type of girl (whatever her inclination as a doctor to wear 'an icepack' on her head, as a colleague, Dr Fleurot, tells her) who is fond of winter sports - thus flagging the suspenseful scene on the ski slope at Gabriel Valley. (See frame-capture below.) And we are given a personified illustration of a 'guilt-complex' in the deluded patient Mr Garmes who thinks he killed his father ('I know what I know!') - which allows us to more readily accept the amnesiac condition of the false 'Dr Edwardes' (Gregory Peck) who spends much of the film convinced that he probably killed the real Dr Edwardes and then took his identity. (A complicating factor here is that the Peck character as a boy had accidentally killed his younger brother - which his Unconscious told him was a case of 'sibling rivalry' and consequently he has repressed it in his memory. Shades of the later Marnie (1964), which is equally able to pack a huge amount of material into a single storyline without spelling out exactly what it is doing, and achieving.) Which brings me to another Hitchcockian quality which is readily appreciated by audiences. In unfolding a 'hefty plot', with many bravura sequences, each Hitchcock film nonetheless never seems to be simply saying, in Hitchcock's voice, 'Look how clever I am!' Rather, everything in the film seems to have its place, to be required by the story or the genre itself. (I recall Hitchcock mentioning how, apropos North by Northwest, he had discarded a scene in a car factory despite the fact that he both liked it and that it was entertaining. Unfortunately, it simply didn't fit!) Next, my Vertigo essay refers to a 'Pirandellian' element in several Hitchcock films: playwright and novelist Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) specialised in showing the fluidity of identity, of how 'I am exactly whoever you think I am!' - hence the title of his most famous play, 'Six Characters in Search of an Author'! A play, a novel, a film - all create characters in a particular audience's mind and then are gone! How ghostly! (A bit like Madeleine-for-Scottie in Vertigo.) Theatre scholar and Pirandello authority, Eric Bentley, referred to a 'primitive Pirandellism' in the play 'The Bells' (1871), by Leopold Lewis, because 'the relationship with the audience becomes part of the play itself' ('The Life of the Drama', p. 177). I detect such an effect sought by Hitchcock going back at least as far as Sabotage (1936) - the scene in the cinema - and clearly informing Rear Window (1954), where Jeff is like a cinema spectator trapped in his seat, forced to watch the 'screens' (windows) over the way. (You feel that there's a little bit of Jeff in each of the characters he watches.) What I call Hitchcock's resort to 'Vague Symbolism' is a closely related matter - a 'dignity of significance' (Bentley's term, I believe from Goethe) which the spectator of Hitchcock's movies often senses but without being able to pin it down. But note that Hitchcock did tell François Truffaut that it was 'absolutely essential' that the apartments over the way gave Jeff and the cinema spectator 'a cross-section of humanity' to identify with. And of course the principle of identification is absolutely a Hitchcockian one, encouraged by Hitchcock because it brings us inside the action. Certain types of people - the cynic, the stoic, the know-it-all - may be admirable or clever in their way, but are not likely to be Hitchcock characters except, possibly, by way of comic counterpoint - and, even then, will be rendered by Hitchcock as sympathetically as possible, as with some of the East Germans in Torn Curtain (1966).