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About tshawcross

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  1. This post is about the Fan Panel presentations that were made last Thursday. I really enjoyed them and am looking forward to the Monday Fan Panels. The presenters provided some very interesting insights, as did the audience members who made comments. ​I am still wondering what the "L. B." stood for on Jeff's cast. IMDB says the character played by Jimmy Stewart was named L. B. "Jeff" Jefferies, but it does not say what the initials stood for. In Cornell Woolrich's short story, the character was named Hal "Jeff" Jeffries. I suspect the "L. B." was one of Alfred Hitchcock's inside jokes - one which he did not share with us. The only moviedom L. B. I can think of is L. B. Mayer, the head of MGM, but it seems unlikely that this was whom Hitchcock had in mind. Speaking of inside jokes, I thought the "Miss Torso" thesis was interesting. She was not one of the characters in Woolrich's story, so Hitchcock certainly could have named her anything he wanted. I had not seen the possible inside joke connection to her name. I did see another joke, albeit not necessarily an "inside" one. At the conclusion of the short story, Jeff's doctor tells him “Guess we can take that cast off your leg now. You must be tired of sitting there all day doing nothing.” That in itself was a joke, considering all that Jeff had recently been through, but Hitchcock took it to another level by having Jeff fall from the window and break his other leg (Jeff did not fall out the window in the short story). I think the sight gag of Jeff's second leg cast was even funnier than the joke Cornell Woolrich wrote. By the way, the second leg cast at the end of the film is a good example of the trickiness of attributing meanings to what we see in Hitchcock's films. I suspect some analysts would say the two leg casts are another manifestation of Hitchcock's penchant for "doubling." Maybe so, maybe not?
  2. I do not see a message board topic for August 3, so I am posting about tonight's Fan Panel here: FAN PANEL #1: FRESH LOOKS AT REAR WINDOW DOUG LONG: Rear Window and Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 crime story “It Had to Be Murder” LESLEY M. SARGOY: Hitchcock's Uses Grace Kelly's Wardrobe in Rear Window to Visually Demonstrate the Lisa/Jeff Relationship CHRIS STURHANN: Inside Jokes in Rear Window ​I am looking forward to watching all three presentations, but particularly to Doug Long's presentation, as it appears to be about the differences between the story told in a film versus the story told in the book on which the film was allegedly based. ​I say allegedly based, because it seems that seems that many films are only loosely based on the books that inspired them. In Hitchcock's case, Rebecca very closely resembled the book, but only because David O. Selznick insisted upon it. When John Huston directed The Maltese Falcon, ​he kept the dialogue almost word for word identical to what Dashiell Hammett had written in his book. So, it sometimes happens that films do resemble the books that inspired them. However, when left to his own devices, Hitch deviated significantly from the original stories, as he did in ​Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, and The Birds. He is not the only director to do this. The film ​Deadline at Dawn versus the short story version is another example of how other Directors have also deviated widely from the book versions. What Hitchcock often did reminds me of an experience I had when my daughter was taking a writing course in college. The students were given prompts and asked to write a story based on the prompts. For one assignment, the prompt was "a man, a woman, and a cigarette." My daughter and I decided it would be fun for each of us to write a story based on that prompt and to compare the results. As you might guess, the resulting stories bore little resemblance to each other. For The Birds, ​it is as if Hitch had taken from the original story only the prompt of "birds attack and kill people." For Rear Window, he took only the prompt of "man with broken leg spies on neighbors and suspects a murder." Sometimes, this approach is necessary because the book version is not easily transferred to film, but sometimes, it seems as if the screenplay writer was just indulging his ego. I think the changes Hitch made were for the better.
  3. I suppose the first movies that we all think about when considering what Hitchcock might have made if he were alive today are the Sharknado series of films. Right? The horror sci-fi comedy disaster film genre so epitomized by the Sharknados seems to me to be where Hitchcock was going when he made the horror film Psycho in 1960 and sci-fi-ish disaster oeuvre The Birds in 1963. Both films included comedic touches. Last night, I watched Sharknado 2, and when the shark bit off Tara Reid's hand, I was immediately struck by how Hitchcockian that was (an innocent blonde attacked while in a place that was seemingly safe from horror). Then when the two shark-infested water spouts converged on Manhattan, that theme was raised a quantum level! When Judd Hirsch got up that morning to drive his cab, did he really expect that he would be eaten by a hammerhead on Broadway? I bet not.
  4. In my travels, I have noticed that people who live in the deep South tend to emphasize the first syllable in all polysyllabic words.
  5. 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. We see that Marnie, like most of us, has created multiple false identities for herself and disguises her appearance accordingly. Just kidding about the "like most of us." But Marnie does appear to have multiple identities, based on her collection of social security cards, and she does appear to change her look with each new identity (in this case, her hair color and her clothing). Her interaction with the clothing used in her old identity indicates it held no emotional attachment for her, as she callously kicks it to the curb when she no longer has a use for it (well, tosses it in a suitcase, as opposed to carefully packing it, as she does with the clothing for her new identity as Margaret Edgar). ​I was a bit puzzled by her social security cards. Certainly, the multiple cards were meant to inform us that she uses multiple aliases or identities, but if she wanted to be careful about concealing her ruses, why does she carry the cards with her? Yes, I understand that they were hidden in her compact, but they would not have been hard to find. Also, why was she using an older card (6-9-59) for her new identity as Margaret Edgar? The identity she was now discarding (Marion Holland) was issued on 4-5-60. Also, based on the area codes on her social security cards (the first three numbers), she applied for her first identity in California, her second in New York, her third in California again, and her fourth in Arkansas! In case, you are wondering by now, I am not obsessed with Social Security cards. I had to look up which area codes were assigned to which states. The point I am really trying to make is that I think we can over-analyze the "clues" that film Directors give us. In this case, I suspect Hitchcock was just trying to show us that Marion, or Margaret, or whatever her name was, was a criminal (based on the sheaves of money that she dumped from her old purse), who used multiple identities and disguises. To try to read more into this might be a fun exercise (such as trying to divine the meaning of his cameos), but we can never be certain what Hitchcock had in mind, can we? For example, we know that he used multiple recurring plot devices (such as a key in Notorious and Marnie, an item falling through a grate in Strangers on a Train and ​Marnie, water going down a drain in Psycho and Marnie​, etc.; even his recurring use of scenes on a train and icy blondes, but did Hitchcock ever discuss the personal meanings these things had for him? ​2. How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene? ​I could not possibly analyze this better than Chris Coombs did (see 8:54 in this thread). 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? ​This is the first cameo I have seen in which Hitchcock looks directly at the camera. I do not know what that means. Personally, I thought it was a bit distracting. I prefer his other cameos, which are so unobtrusive that they are easy to miss. I like the explanation offered that he was at this point aware that audiences were looking for his often difficult-to-spot cameos, so he put this one in early in the film and made it easy to spot, so that the audience could proceed with just watching the movie.
  6. Great analysis of the music, Chris. Thanks!
  7. Interesting point about the "people wrangler," Riffraf! I had not noticed that at all.
  8. Interesting point, Mandroid! If the wolf whistle were indeed an inside joke, then that would completely change how I interpret that scene. On a related note, on Sunday I watched Deadline at Dawn ​on Eddie Muller's Noir Alley segment on TCM, and I was completely in the dark about Susan Hayward asking "What did you want to be when you were 12 years old? Boob McNutt?" Eddie Muller was gracious enough to inform me that Boob McNutt was a comic strip character in the 1930's. Since I had not known that, I had no idea how to interpret Susan Hayward's question. Similarly, since I did not know that Tippi Hedren had been whistled at in a commercial, I did not interpret that scene as a bit of Hitchcock's dark humor coming to surface. I suspect that I do not detect many references to things that would have been understood by the audience who watched the movies when they first came out. One that I did catch was the "Not a hip in a carload" comment made by William Powell (to some women worried that they would gain weight if they ate from a box of chocolates) in one of the Thin Man movies. He was referring to a popular cigarette advertisement of the time in which a railroad car packed with cartons of cigarettes was captioned "Not a cough in a carload" (to indicate how smooth and healthful the cigarettes were). I think most contemporary viewers would miss that reference. I only caught it because I have done so much research on Robert Benchley and the time period in which he lived.
  9. 1. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) through their interactions in this scene? It was very illuminating for me to view the opening scene through the lens of Dr. Edwards' comment that the opening was a microcosm of the entire picture. I have not yet seen The Birds​, but now I am looking forward to it. I concur that the opening seems more like that of a romcom than of a horror film, and I suppose that was just Hitchcock being Hitchcock and setting us up for horror to pop up in seemingly everyday situations. ​Through their interactions, we learn that Melanie is plucky and interested in flirting with Mitch. We also learn that he is on to her, as it quickly becomes obvious that he knows much more about birds than she does. I particularly liked the humor that Hitchcock injected into their banter, such as when Melanie said that one can tell by their hangdog expressions that birds were molting. ​On a personal note, having been on vacation in San Francisco with my girlfriend two months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Hitchcock opened the scene with a shot of Union Square and a passing cable car. As if these clues alone were not enough to establish that the scene was taking place in San Francisco, he has Melanie walk past a poster that says "San Francisco." It seems it was important to Hitchcock that the viewer should know exactly where actions take place. I wish I had seen this movie prior to two months ago, when my girlfriend and I were there. I took a picture of her with a background shot of the Big Alma statue, and it would have been fun to know that Hitchcock had seagulls swarming above it in the opening scene of ​The Birds. 2. How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere? I suspect I would not have noticed that the opening did not include music if Dr. Edwards had not pointed this out. I think it was ingenious for Hitchcock to use bird sounds and ambient street noise for his sound design. The comparison of the cries of the angry sea gulls to the submissive chirping of the bird shop birds was an interesting microcosm and harbinger of the movie. Frankly, the ability to distinguish between actual bird sounds and simulated bird sounds made by a modified Trautonium is not one of my core skills, so I am wondering if both were included in this opening sequence. ​However, one particular part of the opening sound perplexes me. Just before Melanie enters the bird shop, she hears a wolf whistle and turns to see that it was made by a passing boy. It really seems to make Melanie's day that an apparently sub-teen-aged boy would display sexual attraction to her, and she breaks into a beaming and approving broad smile. Personally, I thought this was creepy. Did we really need a kid to inform us that Melanie was hot? I think we could have figured that out ourselves. 3. The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene. ​This is a great question! Knowing that Hitchcock frequently made cameo appearances in his films, many of which were so brief as to be nearly unnoticeable, I have often wondered what was he trying to accomplish with his cameos. Were they intended to convey meaning? It seems to me that his early cameo in The Lodger​, which I could not see until classmates indicated the precise seconds in which we saw the back of Hitchcock's head as he sat at a desk, may have been made simply because he wanted to save a little money by not paying an extra to play the scene. Maybe he just wanted to put his personal stamp into his movies, and his cameos did not necessarily "mean" anything? Frankly, I cannot divine any meanings to many of his cameos, such as the one we recently saw where he tries to get on a bus but cannot. As for his cameo in The Birds​, people say that his two dogs point to his love of the "Doubling" theme, and the same has been said of the double bass he carries in his cameo in ​Strangers on a Train." I suspect that Hitchcock put some careful thought into what he would do in his cameos, but if so, his effort was lost on me.
  10. 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? Last week, I learned the importance of watching the opening credits, so kudos to Dr. Edwards for providing another chance to watch opening credits in today's daily dose, along with his (Hitchcock-inspired?) use of doubling to include with the credits the opening scene showing Janet Leigh. I thought the Hermann score was fantastic, and it set the edgy mood that was perfect for this particular film. As for Bass' graphic design, I was not impressed at all. As I watched it, with its stripped-down graphics of fifteen horizontal and vertical lines opening and closing like elevator doors, I felt as if I were watching a prototype PowerPoint presentation. On the plus side, the graphic design did provide an unsettling effect, with its jerky and off-kilter displays of the text (the only text centered in the frame was the title of the movie and the names of the Director and his top stars), and I liked the read-between-the-lines shuffling of the text for "PSYCHO." However, for my taste, Saul Bass goes a step too far in his quest to strip down his graphics, as for me they are not visually interesting. I suppose the fifteen horizontal bars used in the opening credits might have been intended to represent venetian blinds and voyeurism, but when it comes to the use of interesting graphic design, I want to see more than a histogram. 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 the meaning of this shot remind of any other Daily Doses (and/or films) we have watched in the 1940s or 1950s? The mid-afternoon time on a workday establishes that we are seeing a tryst between two people who are playing hookey from their jobs (which is corroborated by the dialogue, when Janet speaks of needing to get back to work). Hitchcock would never have wanted to enter the hotel room in a conventional way, by opening a door and walking into the room. He would have considered that to be a cliché. Entering through the window provides us a Peeping Tom POV, which seems to have been one of his favorite POVs, which he so exploited in Rear Window. One could argue that the Peeping Tom POV is just one variation of the Spectator POV, which Hitchcock seems to have used in most of the films we have seen in this course, starting with the opening of the silent film ​The Pleasure Garden and continuing in The 39 Steps, The Lodger, Notorious, ​etc. 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. What a difference a year makes! In 1959, Eva Marie Saint was not allowed to say "make love," but in 1960 we no longer have to settle for seeing a train penetrate a tunnel. I suppose the scene with Janet Leigh in her bra was one of the raciest seen in movies since the glory days of the pre-Production Code era. But I am not a film historian, so I am only guessing here. I think it is difficult to appreciate the impact that a scene would have had on its audience at the time of its release versus how we might interpret the scene today. I suppose the Saul Bass design of the opening credits would not have seemed PowerPointy in an era before PowerPoint. The opening scene establishes Marion Crane as a main character in two ways. She is shown in the opening scene, and this is where Hitchcock traditionally introduced his main characters, and she is laying down the law to her boyfriend, thus establishing that she is a straw that stirs the drink.
  11. 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 Thornhill/Grant line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. I think this scene is an example of what is called "breaking the fourth wall," a theatrical convention in which an actor addresses the audience in order to heighten a dramatic or comedic effect. There are many ways of doing this, such as when Groucho Marx would turn from the other actors and speak directly to the audience, or indirectly, such as in this scene, where Cary Grant makes a self-referential comment about people thinking they have seen him somewhere before. ​Recently, my son and I watched a scene from How to Marry a Millionaire​, in which Fred Clark and Betty Grable were listening to music on a radio. Betty Grable, who at the time was married in real life to band leader Harry James, said that she would recognize that sound anywhere, and she attributed it to the Harry James Orchestra. When I heard her say that, I laughed, as I knew (as audiences at the time would have known) that Betty Grable and Harry James were married to each other. For me, this breaking of the fourth wall made me relate more to the character played Betty, as it prompted me to think about my pre-existing knowledge about Betty herself, and I enjoyed the experience of being able to recognize an "inside joke." On the other hand, my son, who did not know of the real-life relationship between Betty Grable and Harry James, did not notice any humor in Betty's comment or in the subsequent revelation by the radio announcer of the name of the band that had played the song (it was not by the Harry James Orchestra, ha ha). ​So, this comment by Cary Grant added humor to the scene and brought in my pre-existing knowledge of his persona, which added to how I saw the character he was playing. As for Eva Marie Saint, this is the first and only time I have seen her, and so I had no pre-existing knowledge of her that could have added meaning to her scene with Grant being one of two Hollywood stars flirting with each other, but I knew that she was flirting with one. 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. I am fascinated by Directors who are so obsessed with the characters in their movies that they come up with details such as the monogrammed matchbook (R.O.T.) which implies the jaded world view of the advertising executive being played by Cary Grant. When Cary reveals that the "O" doesn't stand for anything, it becomes even more obvious that Hitchcock really, really wanted us to have this association with Roger Thornhill. I suppose Hitchcock paid the same sort of attention to the details about his characters in many, if not all, of his movies. Recent examples include the Lobster tie that he designed for Bruno in Strangers on a Train ​(the lobster's strong claws were symbolic of Bruno's strong, strangling hands) and the shopping trip to Bergdorf Goodman that he made with Eva Marie Saint because he did not like the clothes designed for her by MGM. Another Director who gets into details like Hitchcock did is Quentin Tarantino, who has invented brands of cigarettes for his characters to smoke. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. ​Music is one of my many weak spots. I know very little about music, so I do not feel qualified to say how it was part of the sound design in this scene. The opening music seems to be of a romantic nature, in a light-hearted, flirty way, and then after Eva Marie Saint tells Cary Grant that she knows who he is, the music changes to something that is slightly edgy. But this is at best a simplistic analysis. I look forward to reading what some of my more perceptive classmates will have to say about the music. I have noticed that some of my cohort appear to be VERY knowledgeable about music, as several have gone so far as to include music note annotations in their comments. I wish I could understand what they meant. As for the other background sounds, I did not really notice any. I suppose there were the typical sounds one might hear in the dining car of a train, but they did not register for me. Other than the mood music, the only sound I noticed was when Eva blew out the flame of Cary's match. I thought that was a nice touch of flirting/intimacy.
  12. 1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," then the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. This course has taught me that I have been watching opening credits in the wrong way! Previously, I would tolerantly watch the opening credits, impatient for the movie to begin, and just look for new (to me) typefaces and to see if any of the actors listed in small font at the end of the credits later moved up the ranks and became stars. I had never looked at the opening credits hoping to find some clues as to what the movie story would be about or noting what mood they were setting. In this case, I watched Vertigo ​for the first time about two weeks ago. My memories of the opening credits are that I was surprised to see that Natalie Kalmus was not listed as the Technicolor Consultant (I had thought she was the consultant on ALL of the Technicolor films), and I wondered what the deaths would be, as one of the credits stated that the film was based on a French novel called Between the Deaths. But I had no expectations that the opening credits were there for any other reason than to credit the people involved in making the movie. I was not thinking about how opening credits might be used to establish a mood or to provide clues about the story. After reading the lecture notes about how Saul Bass created the title credits with an intent to convey the dizziness of vertigo, I saw the opening credits entirely differently. I focused on whether the Lissajous curves gave me a feeling of vertigo and on how the close-up views of parts of Kim Novak's face (and the music) generated an ominous mood. From now on, I will watch opening credits in an entirely different way, although I suspect I will continue to look in vain for credits to the unsung heroes of the movies (the Foley artists) who always seem to be relegated to the bottom of the credits totem pole, even lower than the catering companies that provided food service during production. 2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. I suspect that most people will focus on the eyes of Kim Novak and the spiral in them or even the blood red color used. However, I am color-challenged, so I tend to ignore colors (even the ones I can see), and the spiral in Kim's eyes did not disturb me in the least. For me, the most powerful image(s) were the gigantic Lissajous curves that were shown starting about 2:25 and ending about 2:42. These spirals best conveyed the feeling of vertigo to me, and kudos to Saul Bass (and Alfred Hitchcock) for that accomplishment. 3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? I tried imagining using the light-hearted music from the opening scenes of Rear Window ​in place of the score written by Bernard Hermann. That didn't work. Then I imagined the use of the Looney Tunes soundtrack. Ditto. Bass' images and Hermann's score work perfectly together to convey a sense of dizziness and an ominous foreboding mood.
  13. I read somewhere that Bruno's lobster tie was designed by Hitchcock himself. The powerful claws of the lobster symbolized the powerful hands that Bruno fantasized about using to strangle his mother (and did use to strangle Guy's wife).

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