LRH

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  1. Another thought -- how about directors? I'm just starting to read Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris. [i have no business interest in the book, just linking for convenience]. About 5 directors who served in the war and how that influenced their work, etc. Anyway, it got me thinking that you could do a 6-9 week course on some of the classic directors of the Golden Age: John Ford, William Wyler, Frank Capra, Ida Lupino, Billy Wilder, Elia Kazan, Vincente Minnelli, etc. I'd really like to see Ida Lupino in there -- she directed some really swell films. Here's an article with Illiana Douglas talking about Lupino's films: http://www.tiff.net/the-review/illeana-loves-ida/ Minnelli would get us some musicals; Ford westerns, of course.... Lots of possibilities. One director a week with 4 representative films (which could include films their style influenced, etc.). I'd LOVE a course on film scores, but I have a feeling that would be too narrow for what TCM would like to market.
  2. If anyone is interested in following up on Westerns, I found this course by poking around on Canvas. It's completed, but all the materials are still there to read and watch: https://learn.canvas.net/courses/1689. It looks very thorough and easy to navigate (not sure how long it will be available). The interface for the course will be very familiar for those of us in the TCM Hitchcock#50 class. Westerns are pretty far down on my preferred genres, but this course looks so well-done, I may work through it to get up to speed on this important genre.
  3. OH, I just remembered! Duh - it was on TCM last night! Manhattan Murder Mystery. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. It's a riff on Rear Window. Really terrific mystery with an all-star cast (Anjelica Huston and Alan Alda) and a lot of neurotic Woody Allen humor. Highly recommend! And I just heard an ad on TCM for an upcoming showing of The Night of the Hunter. The stolen money that is hidden (I won't say where) seems a bit of a MacGuffin. Instead, the film is really about good and evil - with Robert Mitchum in just about his most evil role. Children on the run from danger. Fantasy-like sequences (that river scene with the kids!!!). The unrelenting dread. The oddball humor of the older couple in the first part of the film. It's a brilliant film!
  4. The 1948 British film, The Fallen Idol, has a kind of Hitchcock flavor. A butler who looks after a rich diplomat's son is accused of murder (SPOILER: he's innocent). The little boy thinks he saw the murder happen, but lies to protect him. The lies get the butler further in trouble. There's real suspense here, and it's a psychological drama. There's also a good bit of dark humor, particularly the very last line. Check it out. TCM shows it off and on.
  5. Like many other folks, I too would like to know why Hitchcock pulled the rights to Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and Vertigo. Thanks for a great class! --Lydia
  6. 1. Psycho opens with title design by Saul Bass and music by Bernard Herrmann. This is their third collaboration for Hitchcock, including Vertigo and North by Northwest. How does the graphic design and the score introduce the main themes of this film? The graphic design is about fragmentation. And there are many fragments or cuts in the film: Good Marion vs Bad Marion (see comment in #3 below) Norman’s split personality The cuts of the shower scene The two-part movie – before and after Marion is killed The score follows this idea of fragmentation. The opening music is made up of melodic fragments that reappear in various orders, mixed and matched. Check out the terrific analysis along these lines in the following article: Tom Schneller, “Easy to Cut: Modular Form in the Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann,” Journal of Film Music 5.1-2 (2012): 127-51. You can see a preview of the article here: https://www.scribd.com/document/289706917/Easy-to-Cut-Modular-Form-in-the-Film-Scores-of-Bernard-Herrmann A couple of things about the strings-only score. First, by having only strings, the color of the orchestra is limited. Rather than featuring the full range of colors and timbres (woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings), we get only the sound of strings. The mono-chromatic orchestra matches the black and white. Second, the violin is an instrument that closely matches the sound of the human voice. And it is usually such a lush, romantic, sweet kind of sound. So to use the violins here, in Psycho, in the high range is very unnerving. It sounds like screams (like in the shower scene), and it also is a kind of perversion of the normal, warm, “humanity” of the violin. Here the violin is twisted, like Norman Bates. 2. As the titles end, we have three shots of Phoenix, Arizona, and a very specific day, date, and time: “FRIDAY, DECEMBER THE ELEVENTH” and “TWO FORTY-THREE P.M.” What is Hitchcock seeking to establish with such specificity? Also, why do you think Hitchcock elects to enter the hotel room through the semi-closed blinds from the outside? Does this shot remind of any other Daily Doses we have watched? First off, all of this specificity if McGuffin-esque. None of these details matter. I think Hitchcock used this technique to invoke a sense of “reality” in that police procedural shows, like Dragnet (which began on TV in 1951), often had this level of detail. It’s a documentary type approach that makes the viewer feel like these crimes and people are real. So that’s what I think Hitchcock is working off of here. And that sense of “reality” makes the shower scene and Norman even more disturbing. Hitchcock has set this up from the beginning to be a “true” story. This reminds me also of the Coen Brothers’ opening of the movie Fargo from 1996 (and the recent FX series on TV continues this opening). There they also say they are showing a true story: “THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.” Having this opening also makes the audience assume that these gruesome events really happened. And even if you know that the opening line here is just a gesture and is not true, it still colors the way you experience the film. In both Psycho and Fargo, the horror is greater because is could be true. As far as the blinds go – first they’re drawn during the day to hide what’s happening behind them. But we peek through the bottom of them (it’s a hot day so they’re left open a bit for air), and we go right through to enter the scene. This is very much like Rear Window. We are voyeurs again on a hot day, looking through windows and finding sex and murder. 3. In the remainder of this sequence, we are introduced to Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin). The scene pushed the boundaries of censorship, especially considering our last Daily Dose for North by Northwest was edited for a line of risqué dialogue. Since this is the opening scene of Psycho, how does the hotel room scene function as a way to establish Marion Crane as a main character? Defend your answer. We know she’s in love with Sam but unhappy that they have to meet in a tawdry hotel. She wants respectability and marriage. This sets up the motive for this good girl to steal money, which seems out of character. Notice her bra and slip are white in this scene. Even though she’s having illicit sex, she’s a “good” girl. But in the scene in her bedroom after she’s stolen the money, she is in a black bra and slip. She’s transgressed now, having stolen the money. And Norman sees her in this black underwear when he spies on her. Remember, “Mother” assumed all girls were bad, and she’s dressed this way (in black, like a “bad” girl) when Norman sees her through the hole in the wall, continuing also the voyeurism the film started with. And again, Marion is in a tawdry, down-scale hotel/motel.
  7. When I clicked on the link in the quoted material above, it didn't work. But this one did -- I found it by searching youtube with Vertigo alternate ending.
  8. 1. Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. Cary Grant is always the suave, debonair type. I think it’s funny that he says he looks familiar. Billy Wilder and Tony Curtis used this ironically in Some Like It Hot. When Curtis was pretending to be a millionaire, he modeled his speech and voice patterns on Grant. And when Jack Lemmon calls him out on it, he quips, “no one sounds like that!” Well, how funny and how wrong. He didn’t recognize the familiar voice. Eva Marie Saint is a little unnerving if one recalls her from On the Waterfront. It’s like Edie has grown up, dumped Terry (Marlon Brando) and is making it on her own. She, unlike Grant, is playing against type. 2. There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. The matchbook (and the cigarettes) allows the sexual tension to rise. I hate smoking, but it sure is sexy when she brings his hand back with the lit match so that she can blow it out. Hitchcock needed the matchbook to show up and be clearly identified so that it could be used later in the film when Thornhill uses it to warn her that they’re on to her. But he gives it a double meaning by having it linked with their flirting and love making. Question: when did “make love” become censorable. In early films, they use that phrase all the time – and it simply means something like flirting or letting someone know you like them. And then eventually it comes to mean having sex. Clearly by this time, it’s taken on that later meaning since it had to be censored. Anyone know when this shift happened? 3. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The music is inobtrusive. It sounds like it could be Muzak playing in the dining car - diegetic. It’s vaguely sweet, calm, and cool. So it matches their reserved, restrained flirtations. And the noise of the railway isn’t jarring (like that line up the Hudson is – I’ve been on it many times). Instead, it is present enough to be realistic for the scene, but it too stays out of the way of the flirty dialogue. However, everything changes once she has made it clear that she wants to spend the night with him. “Know what I mean?” she says. And Thornhill says something like, “hmm, let me think.” He knows what she means, and we know he knows and will oblige when the music changes significantly. Herrmann’s score comes to the forefront – that sexy main love theme (reminiscent of some of the music of Vertigo in its longing and languidness). As soon as we hear this music, we know that that they will act on their sexual desire.
  9. 1. How would you describe the opening camera shot of this film? What is Hitchcock seeking to establish in this single shot that opens the film? Whose vantage point is being expressed in this shot, given that Jeff has his back to the window? 2. What do we learn about Jeff in this scene without any pertinent lines of dialogue (other than what is written on Jeff’s leg cast)? How does Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory simply through visual design? Just before the clip we watched starts, we have the opening credits as the three window shades are slowly drawn up. This is a raising of the curtain on the show. So at this point, WE, the viewers, are doing the looking – we not only look out on the courtyard and windows, but we also observe Jeff himself and we see his back story. Once all of this is established, Jeff joins us as observers, and of course, he takes the lead in that. There are only a few times (when Thorwald leaves the apt with his girlfriend while Jeff is asleep; when Thorwald leaves the apt after Lisa is arrested while Jeff is on the phone with Doyle) that we see something that Jeff doesn’t. 3. Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being a an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments? One thing that struck me. These three mundane window scenarios (the composer, the sleeping couple, and Miss Torso) all feature a little humorous surprise. The composer reacts to the radio ad about being over 40. And when he abruptly changes the dial, we realize that all the music we’ve heard thus far was also coming from the radio. This sets up that all of the music we will hear in the film is diegetic. The sleeping couple are funny in that we don’t expect them to be sleeping at opposite ends of the balcony. Finally, Miss Torso. We are titillated by the straight-leg bend over that she does when she drops her bra. It’s sexy but seems awkward. But then we understand why that was when she, out of the blue, raises her leg up to the countertop to stretch as she prepares breakfast. All three of these little touches add humor to the scenes and add so much about the characters. 4. Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? Yep. There are all the little movie screens out there that he is watching. And he definitely highlights the director/camera in Jeff. It’s funny though that he portrays Jeff (Hitchcock’s stand-in) as impotent. Locked in that cast which comes up to his waist, he is, at least temporarily, impotent. Remember his answer to Lisa about his love life: “not too active.” And, of course, he can only sit and watch, and uselessly phone the police, when Thorwald is knocking Lisa around. A real sense of helplessness there. And then finally at the end, he can only sit and wait for Thorwald to come and attack him. He fights back in the only way he can, with camera equipment. But ultimately, that won’t save him. He simply needs to stall Thorwald long enough for the police to arrive. I find it interesting, too, that Hitchcock has Jeff use a GIANT zoom lens to spy. Talk about a phallic symbol…. And he even rolls around in his wheelchair with it lying in his lap, emerging from his crotch! It’s his camera, not his “manhood” that is his power. I remember reading something once about Hitchcock’s own sexual frustration. That he felt he had a great amount of sexual passion to share, but he was burdened by his appearance. He had all that libido in a body that few would find sexy. But he gained access to many beautiful women through his camera…..
  10. I’d like to comment on the music the accompanies the opening of Frenzy. The sweeping camera work, expansively taking in the Thames and London is matched by the grand orchestral score. And the melody of the opening is quite majestic. It has a sense of the regal and the uplifting (with a very British flair). But its beauty and dignity are incongruous with the rest of the film. But for the name “Hitchcock” as the director, this opening would not portend a film of such violence and brutality. This grand, dignified music also reflects the raising of the Tower Bridge. The awesome machinery of that bridge – as it opens up the scene to the rest of the river – is mirrored in the music. And yet, once we begin to pass through this opening, we get the filthy smoke of that tugboat crossing our downriver motion. The blackness that spews from its smokestack casts a pall on the regality of the scene. And in the politician’s speech we then focus on pollution. He is saying this river will be cleaned up, and yet the river also now yields up a corpse. Had the music been more ominous, I think this juxtaposition of an idyllic London (and the Tower Bridge’s grandeur) with the pollution of smoke and dead bodies would not have been as jarring.
  11. 1. Based on the opening sequence alone, what do you feel you already know about Marnie as a character? In what ways does Hitchcock visually reveal her character through her interaction with objects. The thing that struck me the most was that the name we think is hers is on the first social security card. And it’s Marion: the previous blonde woman who stole money in Psycho. Then, of course, we see that she has many identities, and she just thumbs through, choosing the one that suits her at this time. 2. How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene? Herrmann always sounds like Herrmann to me – the lush, Wagnerian quality of the harmony, etc. (Psycho is a different story, of course). But the Herrmann of Vertigo is very obvious in this opening scene. I was particularly struck by the music when Marnie is washing out the hair dye. The music gets sort of “watery” with harp touches. It then begins to build in intensity (harmony and rhythm, as well as dynamics), and the climax of the music hits just as the reveal of Marnie as a blonde occurs – at the moment she raises her head and we see her face and her blonde hair. As the Prof. pointed out in the video, there are many call-backs in this film (the hair dye down the drain, the key down the grate, the money in the purse, etc.). But to me, this reveal moment combined with the music is also a huge call-back to Vertigo. In the final transformation scene when Madeleine/Judy emerges from the bathroom finally completely re-made as Madeleine, including the upswept hair, the music reaches a huge climax there. It begins with a shimmeringness of expectation and then crashes open as Scottie sees “Madeleine” again. The reveal of the blonde Marnie is similar. However, there are differences, of course. In Vertigo, we’ve been teased with this musical climax several times, and we and Scottie “earn” this moment after a long wait. And for Scottie, the reveal is about seeing a woman again – the woman he desires. And her re-appearance is like an apotheosis. But in Marnie, we haven’t earned this musical climax (and, to be fair, the music isn’t as big a moment here as in Vertigo). Also, in Marnie, the reveal isn’t for someone we’ve seen before. Now it’s for someone we’re just meeting. But in both cases, similar musical gestures appear just as the audience sees an archetypal Hitchcock blonde. 3. Did you see any variation in what Hitchcock is doing with his cameo in this film, and what do you think that variation means? First, it’s very early in the film (which I think he started doing to keep the audience from being distracted in the films by looking for him). But the main thing is that he glances directly at the camera. It almost feels like an outtake – like Hitchcock the director enters the scene to direct, give notes, etc. And his look at the camera seems to identify him as the director, not a random guy in a hotel. And he just looks like Hitchcock so openly – he’s not at all disguised, so we totally see Hitchcock the director. Also, it’s like he’s looking at us watching the film, and he implicates us in the voyeurism. It’s another call-back, in that way, to Rear Window. He goes meta here, making the act of directing and watching obvious rather than masking it. It’s a bit creepy as well – like we’ve been caught spying on someone. He doesn’t look sheepish at all, but more just a bit defiant, like he’s saying to us with that glance, “yes, I see you seeing this.”
  12. Herrmann matches the graphics in that his music spirals as well. There are two musical lines at the beginning. The upper line starts high and moves low and back again. The lower line uses the same chord notes (with one exception), and it starts low and moves high and back again. These lines happen simultaneously and together create a spiral that repeats many times. This musical motive also is a great way to depict obsession as well as vertigo. These repeating melodic patterns (ostinato) mirror the kind of circular, repetitive, relentless thoughts that you can't get out of your head when you are obsessing over something. Your mind goes over the same patterns and seems to be just doing circular thinking. So the visual images of swirls, spirals, and circles are also very present in the score.
  13. LRH

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  14. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple? The thing that struck me immediately was the first shot of Carole Lombard. Only her eye peeked out from the covers, and the camera focused and moved right in on that and held as she looked out. Precursor to the end of the shower scene in Psycho? The two shots are so similar, and yet for such different types of stories. They seem to live the lifestyle of Nick and Nora Charles. Swanky house, servants, meals delivered. As he says, he can afford to take days off at the office. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: the opening sequence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a typical "Hitchcock opening" based on openings you have seen so far in the other Daily Doses? Why or why not? Rather than beginning with people moving around chaotically, here he sets the scene with two fairly static people among the chaos of the opening set. Montgomery is sitting among the huge mess of dishes, and Lombard is in the very rumpled chaos of the unmade bed. So here he shows us two people who are pretty single mindedly doing what they will, even as the world moves on, somewhat chaotically, around them. What do think about the casting of and chemistry between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery? Do you think both are well cast for this "comedy of remarriage?" Why or why not? It works for me. When Montgomery flops on to the bed and cradles Lombard in his arms, I buy it that they are in love. So in love, that it’s hard to believe they’re quarreling. It’s a rather tender moment I think. This opening makes me want to see this film, which I haven’t before. As to the comments in the Video Lecture about the couples at the ends of screwball comedies not staying together…., hmm. I’m not so sure. I can totally see K. Hepburn and Cary Grant staying together in Bringing Up Baby. And as to the X of the skis at the end. Yes, it’s ambiguous. It shows the “intersection” of the two people. Perhaps the X as in, watch out, this won’t work. But I saw it as the X of xxoo (kisses and hugs – when did x become a sign for a kiss)? So that doesn’t discount the X of warning, but I do think it adds another layer of meaning to this ending. All this talk of Hitchcock working out the idea of marriage in his films – which I totally agree with – brings up the question. Are we suggesting anything about Hitchcock’s own marriage which seems to have worked, at least professionally? I have no clue if they were happy at home. One last thought: I’ve never thought of The Thin Man movies as screwball comedies, mostly because Nora is NOT at all screwy, and the films are so much a detective/mystery story on the surface. But underneath there’s great commentary about this very happy marriage. But, just like there’s a continuum with film noir (style, genre, etc.), perhaps there is with screwball comedy. There are tons of drop dead funny moments in all of The Thin Man films, and mostly it’s the antics between Nick and Nora (tweaking each other, teasing, pretending not to care, I could go on and on). And the vibe I got from this opening of Mr. and Mrs. Smith was way more Nick and Nora than, say, Bringing Up Baby. (Lombard just isn’t wacky enough – at least, not yet….) Of course, these two here are no Nick and Nora! But I feel like, just seeing these opening scenes, that we’re closer on the continuum to Nick and Nora.
  15. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific. We learn he has a secret that is dangerous and probably related to where he got his money. But we also learn that he has the ability to completely mask his emotions – to remain impassive even as he feels danger. In what ways does this opening remind you of watching a film noir? If it doesn't remind you of a film noir, what makes the opening here different from the opening of a noir film like Siodmak's The Killers? Like the Swede in The Killers, Uncle Charlie seems resigned to his circumstances. There is a strong dose of fatalism in both scenes of men waiting on a bed to be hunted down and killed. Neither one seems particularly scared, though Charlie, more than Swede, to me at least, shows a bit more resolve to try to escape the situation. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene? Tiomkin does several terrific things in this opening to give us emotional cues, plot hints, and overall pacing. Right from the beginning he gives us somewhat energetic music to depict a city scene, but the music doesn’t necessarily give away what kind of film this will be. That is, it doesn’t sound ominous. It could be a kind of human interest inner city film (like Marty, for instance). But there’s one little hint of what is to come in this opening. Right away, at :04 seconds in, we hear a short snippet (only about 2 seconds) of the opening of the “Merry Widow Waltz” which will be a leitmotif throughout the film. Here’s a youtube of it. Ignore the opening fanfare. The theme starts at :09. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELufSzviGoU By giving us this little hint of the theme (varied slightly) he begins to construct his score in a very organic way in that the theme will be woven in and out of the score and not always played full out. We dissolve into more placid music to reflect the scene setting of Charlie’s room. As he talks with the boarding house landlady, we get no underscoring, as that might give away too much emotion – Charlie is clearly trying to be emotionless. But as she lowers the blind @1:59, and we see the shadow cover Charlie’s face, the music begins in a more ominous way in the lower instruments. Clearly things are descending on and around Charlie. Tiomkin is a bit heavy-handed, to my ear, when he next brings in the violin and allows it to crescendo into Charlie throwing the glass (starts @2:14). I could predict the glass crash just by the music that led up to it. Nevertheless, this moment shows Charlie inner turmoil and rising panic, even as he has been hiding it under his cool exterior. The neatest moment, I think, is when Charlie looks out the window at the two men and says to himself “What do you know? You’re bluffing. You’ve nothing on me.” At that moment @2:37, the score answers his question. High in the orchestra we get other-worldly sounding chimes/xylophone – something shimmery and metallic – as they play the opening motif of the “Merry Widow Waltz.” That tells us what the two men “have on him” and what he knows is his crime – the murders he’s committed. Then he starts to panic again as the music gets insistent and dissonant at @2:44. The music rises in pitch and dynamics as he makes his way to the front door. But when he exits the building, the music comes back down in intensity. Again, inside he was agitated; on the street he needs to appear calm. As Charlie leaves the boarding house, the music rises again as he passes the men, @3:20 it starts. It raises the tension – will he be spotted? Do we want him to escape? The tension dissipates @3:37 as he passes them, seemingly getting away. But then, no. They begin to follow him, and @3:42 we hear piano and percussion in a rhythm pattern that matches exactly the footsteps of the two men (a technique known as “mickey mousing”). This ominous rhythm sets up the idea that they will be dogging his steps the rest of the film. And he seems to know it. Overall, Tiomkin goes between indicating Charlie’s inner calm with his rising tension in the way the orchestra moves between serene and agitated music. A terrific opening!

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