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Everything posted by tigorprod

  1. The women characters in Hitchcock films (and television shows) were mostly portrayed as weaker physically and emotionally than the men characters although a female might be more cunning than the male counterpart. Even in an argument between a Hitchcock male and female (Grace Kelly and James Steward in Rear Window), the man almost always has the last word. This was the societal view of women through the 1960s and early 1970s. Would Hitchcock have ever considered a strong female character such as Ripley in the Alien franchise? Are there any Hitchcock female characters that might be considered pre-Ripley?
  2. Hitchcock once defined the MacGuffin as “the thing that the spies are after but the audience don’t care about.” Is there a MacGuffin in every Hitchcock film? For example, does Marnie have a MacGuffin?
  3. 1. How does the opening of Frenzy differ from the opening of The Lodger? Feel free to re-watch the clip from The Lodger (Daily Dose #2) for comparison. Aside from the obvious technical differences, Frenzy opens with a friendly, almost soothing travelogue aerial shot of London that glides through London Bridge under the beginning titles. Ron Goodwin’s score is all strings and happy horns as though referencing the traditions of the British Empire musically. The titles are clean and elegant against the London backdrop. Only the movie title, Frenzy, is designed using white and blood red vertical bars that signifies that the content is a psychological thriller. (No shrieking musical score here!) All of the beginning images and sounds is a set-up, a “calm before the storm” moment, for the surprise floating in the Thames that spectators at Parliament discover one by one. In contrast to Frenzy, The Lodger injects the viewer immediately into chaos when a woman screams after finding a body. We see reaction shots of the bystanders, policemen and the woman who finds the body that propels the narrative forward with scenes of the media becoming involved. While Hitchcock liked to use the buildup of suspense to enthrall his audience, he was not against the occasional surprise moment as we see with the floating nude body of the woman in Frenzy. 2. What are some of the common Hitchcock touches that you see in this opening scene? Be specific. Hitchcock presents London as a character with his love of famous locales. (He even uses the coat of arms insignia with “The City of London” before the beginning film titles.) The aerial shot looking down at the proceedings with a bird’s eye view (or eye of God) is a way for Hitchcock to begin to focus on more specific subjects. He first shows us the general environment. This is reminiscent of the opening shots of Psycho using the Phoenix, Arizona cityscapes or the opening courtyard shots in Rear Window. Except for the member of Parliament giving a speech, the crowd members are typical, middleclass Londoners, a common-man characterization that Hitchcock liked to use in his films. Plus, Hitchcock liked to show crowd scenes before highlighting his main characters. Cinematically, the camera work is clean but unremarkable until a man shouts “Look!”. At this point, Hitchcock presents quick cuts of the shocked expressions of four people viewing the floating nude woman’s body framed with one person, then two people, then three people and finally four people. Except for perhaps an imitator, this is a special series of shots that would only have been done by Hitchcock. 3. Using Frenzy as an example, what thoughts do you have about the various purposes Hitchcock had in mind when he created his opening scenes? In the Daily Doses, we have focused on opening scenes, so there should be patterns or strategies you have noticed over the course of opening scenes spanning Hitchcock's 50-year career. Hitchcock realizes early in his career starting with The Pleasure Garden that he must immediately engage his audience in his films. In The Lodger, the film begins with a woman’s scream presented as a close-up shot that moves to the chaos of bystanders, police and reporters that follow. In The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hitchcock presents a ski location where an accident nearly occurs between a skier and a little girl who crosses his path. In Strangers on A Train, Hitchcock intrigues the audience with the literal crisscross paths of the two lead actors in a cinematic buildup that opens the film. In Psycho, the opening titles set the bizarre tone of the film through the kinetic graphic lines that seem to slice the screen into pieces. Hitchcock knew the importance of immediate engagement lest he lose his audience who may simply walk out of the film. Today when we lose patience with a program on our HDTVs, we simply change to one of the assortment of channels in our media system. Hitchcock knew, perhaps based on his early advertising background, that attention span is very limited in human beings. The opening to Frenzy seems to be a slight deviation in the way he normally grabs his audience with a much more leisurely, almost travelogue approach to setting the mood by making the discovery of the nude body a surprise 3 minutes 26 seconds into the film. Hitchcock knew that his reputation as Master of Suspense would probably guarantee that his audience would patiently wait a few minutes for him to set the mood before getting into the theme of the film. However, he returns to form in his last film, Family Plot, that launches into an opening shot of a mysterious crystal ball with the titles “Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot” that dissolves into a close-up of Madame Blanche, a phony psychic giving a deep gravelly-voiced reading with a mysterious score by John Williams. Hitchcock was a master of many things including the opening set-up.
  4. 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. Hitchcock has selected the purse as an object that represents and contains the complete counterfeit identity of Marnie. Hitchcock’s camera focuses in close up on this purse that is a canary yellow color that stands in contrast to the near colorless hallway where we see Marie walking from behind. Even her brown suit and her dark hair contribute to the production design. We see by the various bogus social security cards and stacks of money that she tosses into a suitcase that she has likely stolen money from a business or individual. With her bags packed, she is ready to move on to her next crime. 2. How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene? Bernard Herrmann had written many iconic scores long before he worked with Hitchcock including scores for Citizen Cane and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. This six-note refrain that crosses into various keys used at the beginning of this clip is signatory to Herrmann’s repertoire as a composer. I’ve heard this familiar musical refrain in other films and even television shows such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. As an underscore, the music signifies feelings of anxiety, detachment and loss. The music begins to shift from melancholy to a more uplifting sensibility as the camera reveals Marnie's true personage with blond hair that she triumphantly sweeps back after purging the black dye. The visuals and the lush score let us know that this is the actual Marnie. So, if this is the real Marnie, what is she doing? What is she hiding? Who is she hiding from? 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 that Hitchcock makes eye contact with the camera. Hitchcock is not trying to be comical here. His intent is slightly more serious. He seems to be breaking the fourth wall as though he slyly knows a secret about the woman with dark hair walking down the hallway that will be revealed to us as the audience.
  5. 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) in this scene? The basic opening after Melanie strides into the pet shop could certainly play as a scene from a Ross Hunter-produced movie such as Pillow Talk or Lover Come Back with Doris Day and Rock Hudson as the principal actors. Hitchcock sets the first meeting of Melanie and Mitch as a verbal, thinly veiled sexually-infused joust. We think that Melanie is fooling Mitch into believing that she’s a sales assistant but find out that she is being conned by Mitch who knows her exact identity. The comeuppance that she receives from Mitch drives the plot to the next level in which Melanie is both intrigued and piqued by her curiosity about meeting this attractive man. For the 1960s, this was a table-turning event in which a female initiates the courtship. However, in Hitchcock’s chauvinistic view, a woman is still weaker but generally more cunning than a man. 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? Hitchcock uses the sound of birds to set the mood of the audience to follow the opening credits with a visual and aural crescendo of birds flashing under the titles. Visually, Hitchcock’s camera shows an overcast day of the streets of San Francisco as Melanie strides towards the pet shop. Interestingly enough, when Melanie reaches the front entrance of the pet shop, the studio lighting has brightened everything in the frame. (Did Hitchcock use special lighting equipment to enhance the street entrance to make it seem that we are at the beginning of a wild comedy while Hitchcock makes his guest appearance walking two dogs? Or, was the storefront actually a studio set that was cut-to from the San Francisco street locale?) 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. As I mentioned is my #2 response, the Hitchcock cameo with the two dogs sets the light comedic tone that is about to unfold between the two leads. The bright studio lighting in the storefront is emblematic of film comedies of the day and a contrast to the overcast, slightly depressing view of the San Francisco locale at the beginning of the scene. Before Melanie walks into the shop, she turns briefly to view the swarming birds overhead. As we view the medium shots and close-ups of Melanie, the frame is brightly lit which lends a happy aura about her. However, her POV is a dark gray, overcast sky with the silhouettes of birds circling ominously. Hitchcock visually cues the audience to this contrast in tone and mood.
  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? (I wonder how this extraordinary collaboration came off? Hitchcock, Herrmann and Bass had to communicate in some form. Which came first, the development of the titles or the music? Of course, the final draft titles and music had to be fully synched and approved by Hitchcock.) Psycho is a complex psychological thriller that again plays with dualities or doubles. In this film, the major theme involves the split personality disorder of Norman Bates. However, it also involves a split in Marion Crane’s personality as someone who becomes desperate to be with and help her lover Sam Loomis and does something that she never would have imagined herself capable by stealing $ 40,000. It is this theme of duality in the nature of people and situations that must have inspired Bass to produce the almost deceptively simple bands of gray against black that seem to chase the white titles on and off the screen. There is no escaping the feeling that these bands slice the screen with clinical precision in vertical and horizontal directions as a surgeon’s scalpel. The credit titles, like shards of glass, come together and split back apart with surgical precision. The Psycho title actually splits momentarily into three pieces moving back and forth on top of each other. Herrmann’s score made up entirely of string instruments compliments the graphics but can actually stand on its own with its furious, totally original rhythms. 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? The Arizona cityscapes, dull and dry like cheap postcards, are used by Hitchcock to indicate a rather humdrum, ordinary existence of the inhabitants of the city including the people in this hotel. One camera shot is positioned at a very high angle looking down at the hotel windows which seems to be a position of judgement like God. Of course, Hitchcock uses the day, date and time to establish the time frame of the story which is the end of a work day and the beginning of a weekend. The day, date and time credits sweep on and off the screen with the same surgical precision as the opening titles that is the sort of information that might appear in a very unemotional straightforward police report. (This is the first time that I’ve thought about the story occurring in the month of December, very close to Christmas. That’s interesting because I don’t remember seeing any Christmas decorations at the real estate office, Marion’s little apartment or on the streets.) Hitchcock’s camera approaches the hotel as a voyeur peeping through the window of a young couple who have just made love. Of course, this same cinematic approach was used to enter Uncle Charlie’s seedy room in Shadow of a Doubt. 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. Based on simply this bit of the hotel scene, I don’t know that the audience could be absolutely sure that Marion would be the central character. We see that Marion seems uncomfortable, perhaps even guilt-ridden over this slightly elicit romance with a soon-to-be-divorced but still married man, a theme of repression that Hitchcock fans likely knew that the Master of Suspense liked to explore in a main character. However, the film might have wandered off with Sam Loomis or some other character by the end of this scene. The audience is set up to expect see Marion quite a bit since her credit in Bass’ title sequence is singled out with “Janet Leigh as Marion Crane”. Anthony Perkins is not given the same kind of credit even though he is listed at the top of the billing. We also know that Marion will be the featured character from the movie poster with Janet Leigh posing in a bra that is the largest figure in the ad. Leigh will obviously play the most important central role, at least in the movie-goer’s mind up to the point that she is murdered a third of the way into the film.
  7. 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? Hitchcock is not only the master of suspense but a master of casting. One of the most interesting things to learn about Hitchcock is the importance of finding the right stars for the success of his films. In this case, Cary Grant had been a big international star for two decades. Eve Marie Saint, who had won a supporting academy award for On the Waterfront, was not as big a star as Ingrid Bergman but certainly had a fresh sexy quality that movie-goers recognized. Hitchcock was certainly able to mold Saint into the icy blonde type that he liked to use. However, Bergman was roughly the same age as Grant when they worked on Notorious. The casting that worked for Notorious would not have worked well for North by Northwest. The main casting for North by Northwest seems to revolve around the older attractive man/young attractive woman mold. Grant was in his late 50s while Saint was in her 20s at the time of filming. There were other films coming out at the time that explored this slightly forbidden idea of the romantic pairing of older man/younger woman such as Love in the Afternoon with Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper and Middle of the Night with Kim Novak and Fredrick March. Grant could be considered a surrogate for Hitchcock’s fantasy of older man/younger woman relationships. 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 presentation of the matchbook with his initials, R.O.T., is a shift to an implied sexual intimacy with the lingering shot as Eve pulls Roger’s hand back to blow out the match. Before this moment, Hitchcock has framed the stars in a standard shot-reverse shot order that goes from medium shots to close-ups as the pair become more acquainted. The R.O.T. matchbook is a bit of business that is used in the third act of the film that allows Eve to know of Roger’s presence in a moment of impending danger. However, in the dining car scene, the matchbook acts as a comic expression of Roger’s somewhat frivolous personality as a seemingly shallow advertising man with two ex-wives and doting but critical mother. 3. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The sound design establishes a backdrop of tranquility to the scene. Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) has a seemingly temporary reprieve from capture after he is seated in the dining car with Eve Kendal (Eva Marie Saint.) The clattering of the train tracks along with the train whistles create a peaceful almost white noise restful tempo to the scene. Visually, there is even a slight rocking motion in the camera shots. The audience can concentrate on the flirtatious dialogue without fear of interruption by the police or the bad guys.
  8. 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," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. If I had never seen a Hitchcock film before or if I knew nothing about his reputation, I would know that a great mystery, perhaps in the supernatural realm, was about to be presented to me even before the Vistavision credit is displayed with Bernard Herrmann’s mesmerizing score. Herrmann’s strings are a collective ebb and flow of notes that seem as big as an ocean, perhaps as big as the universe. The music engrosses the viewer even before the opening image of Saul Bass’ animated titles. Bass opens with the stark close-up of the lower quarter of a woman’s face. The circumspect use of color or absence of color immediately imparts a newspaper print quality with the overall sepia tone that gives a sense of the past, perhaps even a bit film noir. (Even the Paramount logo with its usual blue sky with white floating clouds and blue-green mountain are in black and white to allow Bass’s color design to work most effectively.) The woman’s face is photographed against a black background so that nothing else seems to exist in this universe except this person. Hitchcock centers the woman’s mouth to present James Stewart’s credit. The camera pans up to an extreme close-up of the woman’s eyes where Kim Novak’s credit is displayed. As her credit displays, the woman’s eyes shift back and forth momentarily. (I think that the woman in the titles may be Kim Novak.) It is interesting that the Stewart credit appears over the mouth while the Novak credit appears over the eyes. This may be indicative of the upcoming teacher/student or transformer/transformed relationship in the story. Hitchcock’s camera moves to an extreme close-up on the woman’s right eye to present his director’s credit. And, finally the camera shifts to an even more extreme close-up of the eye to present the film’s title. During the shift to a tighter close-up, the frame goes from sepia to blood red, a color that signifies violence and death. At this moment, Bass introduces his graphic spinning animated spirals, the first that begins in the woman’s iris. The frame fades out with the woman’s face and blood red tone into the eternally spinning graphics. (These figures must have been jolting to see for the first time since this was many decades before computer graphics.) The color design for the graphics are mostly light blues, purples and greens that signify peace and stillness. As the graphics spin transitioning over each other, Herrmann’s score strikes a sense of eternity and the vastness of the universe. The title sequence ends on the close-up of the woman’s eye tinted in red with Hitchcock’s “directed by” credit. The font used for the main actors and the director credits with its white stroke on the outer edge and transparent on the inside give a sense of doubles that we will see in the film. 2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. The extreme close-up of the woman’s right eye is the single most powerful image. Even without the red tint, the eye is, as it has been called before, the window to the soul. It is though we are going to be presented with the most naked of truths. 3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? The tempo of Bass’s title design matches the ebb and flow quality of Herrmann’s score. It would be interesting to know how Bass and Herrmann worked together. Which came first? Did one artist adjust his work to conform with the other artist’s work?
  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? Hitchcock allows the audience to discover the apartment courtyard setting along with some of the inhabitants. The initial panning shots that showcase the physical dimensions of the courtyard before returning to the sweating brow of James Stewart lasts 30 seconds or so. The next close-up confirms the sweltering heat by showing a thermometer hitting 95 degrees. Hitchcock gives us a glimpse of some of the inhabitants: an unmarried musician, a husband and wife waking up from sleeping all night on their balcony to escape the heat and a beautiful half-naked dancer putting on her top. Hitchcock then pans the camera back to a wide shot of a sleeping James Stewart. Hitchcock shows Stewart’s cast indicating his broken leg along with a written inscription. From that wide shot, Hitchcock’s camera pans to Stewart’s photographic equipment, including a smashed camera and photographs showing us Stewart’s profession. This is the subjective vantage point of the audience (or perhaps the eye of God) in which Hitchcock supplies information about the main character and the initial situation. 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? Simply from the cinematography and production design, we see that Jeff lives a rather middle-class existence from these ordinary, drab surroundings. We see that Jeff is a photographer, probably successful in his field but not a rich guy. We see by his smashed camera and a photo of a car racing accident that he probably received his broken leg courtesy of a dangerous assignment. 3. Does this opening scene make you feel like a voyeur or, at a minimum, remind you of being an immobile spectator? What feelings does Hitchcock elicit from you as his camera peers into these other people’s apartments? I don’t feel like a voyeur initially. The camera operates almost from “God’s point-of-view” in a non-judgmental manner. 4. Bonus question: if you have seen the entire film before, do you agree with Hitchcock that this film is his most cinematic? Possibly. Hitchcock’s use of Jeff’s camera telephoto lens to spy on the murder’s apartment lends to an enhanced subjectivity of his characters, particularly Jeff. If we think of Jeff’s camera as a surrogate for Hitchcock’s camera, it is almost like a film within a film.
  10. You have reached your quota of positive votes for the day

  11. 1. In how many ways does Hitchcock play with or visually manifest the metaphor of “crisscross” or “crisscrossing” in this introductory sequence. [For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the idea of “crisscross” is central idea in this film, a theme Hitch sets up from the opening frames of this film.] Be specific. Hitchcock sets up the “crisscross” motif using “doubles”. For example, the camera pans left on an approaching cab coming into the train station entry. In a low shot, the camera shows a male passenger wearing spats exiting the cab and walking screen left. In another low angle shot, another cab arrives with a male passenger wearing regular black shoes who exits screen right. Camera shots of the first passenger continuing to walk screen left are intercut with the second passenger walking screen right. Finally, a wide shot of people walking toward the train show a sort of crisscrossing as the first passenger enters soon followed by the second passenger. That scene dissolves into a low angle traveling shot of train tracks intersecting, perhaps the most prominent visualization of the crisscross motif. The shots continue the use of doubles as two men finally get seated across from each other to finally intersect or “crisscross” as their shoes accidently bump. 2. Even in this brief scene, how does Hitchcock create a sense of contrast between Guy (Farley Granger) and Bruno (Robert Walker)? Consider everything from camera work, to clothing and shoes, to dialogue and speech, for example. The costume design, particularly the shoes, is the first tool that differentiates the two men. Guy wears a stylish dark suit with a vest and dark shoes while Bruno wears a tweed suit with a loud tie with a stickpin with “Bruno” on the front and the outlandish black and white spats. Bruno walks with a slight swagger whereas Guy walks in a normal way. Hitchcock indicates that Bruno is a rather bon vivant, independently wealthy type of person to the sort of working-class, industrious, goal-driven person that Guy is. One of the most telling bits of dialogue from Bruno is, “I certainly admire people who do things”, perhaps an indication that his life is a waste to a certain extent. 3. While the visual design gets the most attention typically, how does the Dimitri Tiomkin score function as part of the mood and atmosphere of this opening sequence? Tiomkin’s score seems constructed like a score for a war film. It is playful and bombastic at the same time. A musical theme is repeated to emphasize the doubles in place such as the two passengers exits their cabs and their walks into the station. The score gives the sense of a great adventure and conflict that is about to unfold.
  12. 1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this early scene from the movie? The Hitchcock Touch is immediately apparent in the selection of shots including extreme close-ups, dollies, expressionist angles, etc. The most prominent “touch” is Hitchcock’s presentation of a beginning attraction between Grant and Bergman that will later involve a third party, Claude Rains. Hitchcock crosses the spectrum of love, betrayal, mistrust, jealousy and sex. 2. How does Hitchcock choose to light, frame, and photograph his two stars in this scene? What are some of the contrasts that Hitchcock trying to set up between these two characters through art direction, costume, and cinematography? Anyone who has ever watched more than one film becomes accustomed to “film language.” The use of wide shots, medium shots, close-ups, extreme close-ups, high shots looking down, low shots looking up, etc. represent an inherent understanding for the viewer. Generally, the closer one gets to a subject (person, place or thing), the more important the information is to the story. Hitchcock uses close-ups and extreme close-ups to convey the angst of these characters, particularly the Bergman character, Alicia. Alicia is in great turmoil about her father and Hitchcock uses the full force of close-ups so that we plainly see the heartbreak in this broken person. Hitchcock keeps Grant somewhat at a distance. We don’t know what his intentions are. The tilting of the camera as he walks towards Alicia from her point of view signals a bit of uncertainty about Grant’s character for the viewer although, based on his screen/public persona, we are probably not concerned that he is a bad person. We have probably also concluded that Bergman is not a bad person in her character based on her screen/public persona. But, there is something vaguely anti-heroic about these characters who wind up acting as patriots for the U.S. Therefore, Hitchcock has cast Grant and Bergman slightly against type. The costumes certainly contribute. Audiences of that time and now would expect for Grant to be beautifully dressed in a perfectly tailored suit. However, there is a stiffness with his coat buttoned in front that implies the no-nonsense stiffness of his character. Bergman is dressed in a striped dress representing perhaps a “party girl” image. At the same time, the stripes appear almost like a flag (U.S.?) that may imply Alicia’s basic decency and patriotism (I know, that’s kind of a stretch.) These are the most the most fundamental Hitchcock “touches” that begin to take on more prominence in Hitchcock 1940s and later films. 3. Based on this scene (or the entire film if you have seen it already), reflect on the casting of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Does this scene conform to or challenge their well-known star personas? The casting of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman is as near perfect casting that I’ve ever seen for a film in terms of raw chemistry. However, the characters that these actors play somewhat deviate from their screen personas. Bergman has shown vulnerability in previous films but even more so in this film. The treatment that Alicia receives from Grant is heartbreaking considering the circumstances of her assignment. Grant bends his persona slightly to accommodate a certainly cruelty and heartlessness that he shows Bergman midway through the film when she accepts the assignment. He feels betrayed and jealous of the Claude Rains character. Grant redeems himself at the end when he rescues Bergman after learning that she has been slowly poisoned. In other words, his screen persona is sort of bent back into shape by the end of the film.
  13. 1. What Hitchcock "touches" do you see in this opening sequence? Moreover, what do we learn about or know about the couple through the scene's visual design: the props, the set design or dressing, the decor, the camera angles, the lighting, etc.? Hitchcock begins with the establishment of characters, a married couple played by Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard, by allowing the audience to discover their personalities with certain visual cues before any dialogue begins. The first dissolve opens to a pan-dolly shot of plates of half-eaten food. The shot lands on a disheveled, unshaven Robert Montgomery smoking a cigarette playing solitaire. He eyes a space in another part of the room. The shot switches to a wide shoot of a figure occasionally tossing on a bed. Hitchcock dollies from a wide shot to a close-up that shows the upper half of a beautiful woman’s face as she awakens from a knock at the door. Hitchcock’s opening shots are completely devoted to discovery of the character’s personalities and situation. The production design is built around a sense of the prestigious, upper-class lives of the husband and wife characters. The brightly lit set of the couple’s home shows an elegant décor to suit the upper-class tastes of its inhabitants. Even the bedclothes of the couple are elegant. These are people whose problems certainly have nothing to do with the lack of money. 2. 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? The opening for Mr. and Mrs. Smith is certainly not typical for Hitchcock. He still engages his tools of discovery with selection of camera shots including dolly shots as he has in previous films. His use of bright, full lighting is a scheme used by many directors of the era that direct comedy. Obviously, dark, moody cinematography would not be appropriate to the lightness of comedy. His selection of a light, silly music score further carries out the intention of the story linked to the production design. 3. 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 is a solid bit of casting in my view. Both Lombard and Montgomery were well-known, well-liked stars of the period. However, there is also a chemistry between them that is hard to define. For example, Montgomery starred with Bette Davis in June Bride in which the chemistry seems strong as well. No doubt, the casting of the principal characters is first based on potential box office draw but the chemistry is very important in the decision-making of the director and producers as well.
  14. 1. As mentioned in the curator's note, this scene operates as a prelude to the main story. What do learn about the character of Uncle Charlie in this prelude? Be specific. Hitchcock uses this initial scene to delineate Uncle Charlie’s sociopathic personality primarily though the visuals aided to a great degree by the dialogue with his landlady. The scene begins with a wide shot of children playing ball in the streets below a seedy apartment building. As the camera moves towards the building, Hitchcock shows tilted-angle shots of the window outside of Uncle Charlie’s room. These angled shots show that we are entering a situation that is not normal to the world we just saw on the street below. Hitchcock’s camera dissolves into a dolly shot of a seedy room with a rather dapperly-dressed man (Joseph Cotton) lying on a bed smoking a cigar. Uncle Charlie seems in a trance singing to himself. The camera dollies and pans to the left to show a pile of money on the night stand and below it. Hitchcock has visually summed up Uncle Charlie’s character beyond the fact that this is probably murderous blood money. The fact that the money is carelessly strewn about shows that there is something eviler afoot than mere greed. (This point is made at his exit from the room.) Hitchcock continues the visual cues of Uncle Charlie’s psyche with the use of deep shadows created by the lighting of the room. What is very interesting is the way that Hitchcock uses the very minor supporting character of the landlady to further etch Uncle Charlie’s personality traits. The landlady’s fawning, motherly attitude represents some level of ignorance, even stupidity, about this evil presence that seems to elude her. She personifies Hitchcock’s now familiar theme that there is evil lurking among us, not necessarily in the shadows but in broad daylight. However, she is not in danger of being one of his victims since she seems to have only his interests at heart as she scoops the money off the floor and returns it to the bedside table. And, as Hitchcock shows, Uncle Charlie has very little interest in the money as well since he makes a final exit from this room without taking the money with him. 2. 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? (Note: If you haven't seen The Killers, it is fine to answer this question in general terms about your own personal expectations.) First, I consider film noir as a genre, style and movement. If we could not see the rest of this story, we might imagine that Joseph Cotton is a seedy underworld guy who will take us further into a crime story with other seedy characters. The visuals and dialogue all point to a film noir genre as he walks down the street to finally escape the federal agents in pursuit. Instead, Hitchcock closes the initial scene by dissolving into a wide shot of the streets of a happy and bright little rural town. Hitchcock uses film noir elements as a style to contrast life in the most normal of circumstances. 3. As we move into Hitchcock's Hollywood years, his scores will take on more importance than they did during the British years. Music will play a big role in Shadow of a Doubt. The film's score is by Dimitri Tiomkin, the first of four film scores that the composer will create for Hitchcock. What effect does the Tiomkin score have on the mood, atmosphere, and even the pace of this opening scene? Tiomkin’s waltz at the beginning of the film becomes a template for Uncle Charlie’s righteous but distorted feelings that are often repeated at certain moments in the film. No evil person feels that they are bad and, in fact, feel justified in their acts. The churning waltz at the beginning as the children play in the streets dissolve into a more somber mood as we enter Uncle Charlie’s dark room. Tiomkin does a great job of accentuating the mood of the scene and the inner workings of Uncle Charlie’s mind without anticipating it. The music becomes more dissonant in the scenes that are dark or film noir.
  15. 1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? Most of Hitchcock’s openings in previous films have denoted some public chaos such as the busy theatre in The Pleasure Garden or the bustling crowds in The Lodger and The Man Who Knew Too Much. The opening scene of Rebecca quickly sweeps the viewer into a romantic, mystical state with the dolly shots into Manderley. Joan Fontaine’s poetic narration and the hauntingly beautiful music along with the stunning cinematography is the calm before the storm that begins with Laurence Olivier’s preparation to take a leap from a cliff into the ocean. The scene may have some slight similarity to the opening of The Lady Vanishes that begins on a calm, happy tone before erupting into chaos. 2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? Hitchcock begins with the surreal atmosphere of the moody cinematography, music and narration. His use of dolly shots from the gate to the Manderley house carries a sense of German Expressionism, especially with the use of the miniature of the estate. Although it is not a familiar location such as Albert Hall or Mount Rushmore, the house becomes special as a unique character of the story. There’s also the Hitchcock touch in the special treatment that he gives his stars. We are first introduced to Fontaine though her narrator’s voice. Next, we see Olivier standing near the precipice of a cliff in a powerful introduction as he seems prepared to leap to his death. Olivier got top billing in the credits but Fontaine came first in her narration in the film. Perhaps one particular interest that has not been discussed (as far as I can remember) is Hitchcock’s dramatic use of perspective and heights as a method to manipulate the audience’s fears in the opening scene. 3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley -- the house itself -- as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? Hitchcock imbues the house with a mystical personality and a mind filled with the memories of everyone that has lived there before. The house as a character or personality affects the lives of those who encounter it. The combined scenes of the house with Fontaine’s narration followed by Olivier’s and Fontaine’s first meeting makes the audience apprehensive about how the story is about to unfold. Will there be a happy ending to this story?
  16. 1. Using specific examples, describe how Hitchcock opens The Lady Vanishes. What tone, mood, or atmosphere is Hitchcock establishing for the audience very early on in this picture? Pay particular attention to the music. As in his earlier pictures, Hitchcock opens the scene in a public setting in The Lady Vanishes. This time, it’s a hotel lobby in some unnamed foreign locale where German is spoken. Everything seems peaceful as people wait patiently seated enhanced by a deliriously happy music score. An older woman makes pleasantries with hotel manager as she pays her bill. As she exits through the front door, she gives a tiny wave to the manager as she walks into the windy outdoors. Two very dapper gentlemen open and close the door for her. This is the end of the most peaceful, seemly uneventful moments in the film. And then, all hell breaks loose as two men with traveling gear virtually explode into the room. The miniature wooden man with a trumpet that pops out of the clock seems to formally announce the chaos. We find out through the manager’s translations into various languages that an avalanche has occurred which will force the people in the room to miss their train. The manager announces that if they want a room in his hotel, they must line up to register. Hitchcock took the atmosphere from peaceful to chaotic to set the plot in motion. He begins to introduce the various characters such as the two gentlemen, Caldicott and Charters, and the dancers, one who is one of the stars of this picture. 2. Discuss the characters of Caldicott and Charters in this scene. What do the performances of Caldicott and Charters add to this scene. Caldicott and Charters represent an upper-middle class view in which manners and rules must apply in a British sort of way. They are astounded when they are pushed out of way by the three American dancers who immediately gain the attention of the fawning hotel manager. The free-wheeling Americans stand in stark contrast to the mannerly British gentlemen. Hitchcock holds this behavior as part of a clash of civilizations. 3. From their doorway entrance to their staircase exit, describe how Hitchcock uses dialogue, camera movement, and the placement of characters in the frame to establish Iris (Margaret Lockwood) as the star of this scene. Hitchcock slyly sets up the entrance of Margret Lockwood’s movie star entrance when the manager spies a person of importance. Caldicott and Charters think that the manager has come to help them. Instead, the manager sweeps by them to greet the three young women. We view the stunned looks on the gentlemen’s faces as the manager walks out of the shot. Two of the young women are framed standing together with the manager standing in profile to the left of the frame and Margret Lockwood standing in profile to the right. Although everyone has a bit of dialogue initially, Hitchcock continues with a dolly shot of Iris and the manager in an involved exchange walking in front of the other two girls towards the stairs. By this framing of the shot and the extensive dialogue between Iris and the manager, Hitchcock indicates the importance of Iris to the storyline as well as the star power of his star.
  17. 1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? Hitchcock follows the familiar pattern of setting the opening scene in a public forum. In this case, he opens by following a patron into the theatre shortly to be revealed as the main protagonist and leading man. As in previous films, the theatre audience, mostly common, working people, is rather unsympathetic to the performer, “Mr. Memory.” That callas tone is struck in the opening scenes in The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger and even in The Man Who Knew Too Much. No doubt, audiences knew that Robert Donat was the good guy and the lead in the film since he was the star of the picture. Only by his soft-spoken voice do we find out that his character is interested in traveling by his question to the performer that might stand as a prediction for the upcoming double chase in the film. The one item that deviates from previous films is that no villain or antagonist is immediately apparent in this opening scene unlike Hitchcock’s previous films although there is a general sense of menace from the audience members. 2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? I agree with Rothman’s assessment. Hitchcock seems to go out of his way to show the innocence of this humble, soft-spoken and attractive character that Robert Donat plays. His shy character seems very comfortable to be around. His character contrasts the loud, obnoxious and rude audience members that one could count as Hitchcock’s view of a cold, cruel but truly ordinary world. 3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? Hitchcock casts the audience members, mostly common folk, as antagonistic. Hitchcock seems to reflect on a certain villainy that can make up a crowd or mob against someone with unknown or unproven personality and skills such as “Mr. Memory”. In some ways, “Mr. Memory” is an innocent in this disapproving-at-first crowd. The treatment that “Mr. Memory” receives is reflective of what will happen to Robert Donat’s character. “Mr. Memory” ultimately wins over his audience with his almost too amazing answers to a variety of difficult questions. “Mr. Memory”’s performance seems predictive of Robert Donat’s situation as he will have to rise to the occasion through his own skills and resources which is certainly part of the Hitchcock Touch.
  18. Daily Dose #6 1. Based on these opening scene, what do you anticipate is going to be more important in this film--the characters or the plot? (It is fine to make an informed guess about the 2nd question if you haven't seen the film yet.) The characters are more important and will drive the plot. We are introduced to the protagonists, the father, his daughter and his wife (unseen at this point) and the antagonists, the Peter Lorre character and henchmen. The skier is an interesting character because we don’t know whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy. There is a brief nasty exchange of looks between Lorre and the skier that cause immediate curiosity. However, it is a fleeting detail that might be immediately forgotten as the film advances to other scenes. 2. What do you learn about Abbott (Peter Lorre) in his brief scene? How might this introduction affect your view of the character Abbott later in the film? Abbott seems to be a decent, patient person totally un-phased after falling into the snow during the skiing debacle. In fact, the incident makes for a very interesting entrance for the villain of the film. 3. We saw two opening scenes from Hitchcock's silent films in the Daily Doses last week (The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger). How is this opening both similar and different from those two films' opening scenes. All three films depend on a certain amount of chaotic energy that sweeps the audience and the characters into the story. (The viewer becomes one of the characters which is part of Hitchcock’s strategy to involve the audience in the same emotions as the screen characters.) The most striking difference with the two previous films is the appearance of normalcy with a family on holiday at a skiing resort. The other films focus on the seedy surroundings of a night club and a crime scene. But in The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hitchcock experiments with the theme that there may be a monster living quietly among us. Like other Hitchcock villains, Abbott is a refined, friendly chap with whom one might have a drink but also keep a certain distance.
  19. 1. In this sequence, describe how Hitchcock uses sound design to put you into the subjective "mind of Alice"? Be specific. Hitchcock begins the scene on an objective wide shot as Alice enters her father’s store. Everything seems peaceful up to the moment she opens the door to find her family and a rather annoying neighbor discussing a murder in the news that, unknown to everyone in the room, involves Alice. This wall of noise, especially from the neighbor, seems burdensome to Alice. When Alice escapes to make a call in a phone booth, things are suddenly peaceful again. Hitchcock uses the absence of her family and neighbor’s voices to represent the temporarily calm in Alice’s mind. However, as soon as Alice returns, she is bombarded with the neighbor’s continued discussion of the murder. The constant barrage of words becomes unsettling to Alice and the audience as a kind of weaponized speech that seems accusatory. As the neighbor’s tirade expands, Hitchcock intercuts close-ups of Alice’s guilt-ridden face until the final moment when Alice throws up the knife. At that moment, the shot immediately returns to an objective point of view. 2. Describe the different ways that the sound design of this scene operates in counterpoint to the visual track. For example, how does Hitchcock set up the shot where the knife flies out of Alice's hand so that it registers a shock in his audience? Pay attention to both what is happening visually and aurally. Be specific. Hitchcock designs the sound to show Alice’s subjective frame of mind in much the same way that one might visually show a person’s subjective POV by going in and out of focus with the camera lens. As the annoying neighbor rattles on about the previous night’s murder in the news, her speech becomes indistinct for everything she says except for the word “knife”. In this way, the word “knife” becomes the audible equivalent of a slashing motion of an actual knife with its constant repetition. The effect of moving between the inaudible portion of the dialogue to the single distinct word “knife” is akin to going in and out of focus with the camera lens, except with sound. This blurring of sound seems to indicate that Alice is trying hard to ignore the neighbor’s rant. The final piercing utterance of the word “knife” is like the final deathly slash of the knife in which Alice remembers delivering and she therefore reacts. 3. Why do you think this particular use of subjective sound is not used frequently in cinema? I think that there are many examples in film that uses the blurring and focus of sound as a method to indicate a subjective state of mind. I think that the major reason that Hitchcock’s technique to show Alice’s state of mind is not used is because it’s not completely successful. The blurring of the annoying neighbor’s dialogue except for the word “knife” is a little distracting in presentation. I think that the sequence would work better had the audience been able to hear all of the dialogue with an emphasis on the word “knife” instead. But, this was an experiment in sound by the newly initiated Hitchcock.
  20. There is some sense in many of Hitchcock female characters that they cannot be completely trusted and even outright distrusted particularly in matters of the world. It's part of the "Eve" Syndrome. This may have been Hitchcock's personal view of women although he obviously depended a great deal on the power of his wife Alma's intellect. One could say that it was part of the thinking of the time but it obviously still exists in 2017.
  21. 1. In your own words, please describe the effect of watching the POV dolly shots / POV tracking shots in this scene? The first dolly shot that shows the POV of the young men walking towards the Dean of the school makes me feel as though I’m walking into a lion’s den. The slow, deliberate pace is ominous enough to jolt one’s survival instincts. The 2nd series of dolly shots shows both the woman’s POV and the young men’s POV as the woman approaches. She appears as a stalking animal coming in for the kill. 2. Why do you think Hitchcock uses the technique of a POV tracking shot? What does it add to his visual storytelling? There is a sense of discovery of certain details such as the fury of the woman against the fear of these young men by using a slow, deliberate tracking shot. 3. What connections (visual techniques, images, motifs, themes) do you notice between films that came before this (The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger) and a film that came after it (The Ring)? Please cite specific examples. I don’t know if many of Hitchcock’s films are considered by film historians and critics as part of film noir. Certainly, for me, some of the visual and thematic aspects of these four films fit that classification. For example, all four film clips use dark and moody cinematography where not a wisp of sunlight enters. The dark cinematography advances the even darker major theme of all his films: the world is cruel and one must take special care to survive. In Downhill, the school exhibits a gloomy, foreboding atmosphere in which the future hopes of one of the innocent boys may be dashed forever by a cruel lie at the hands of a treacherous woman and the decision by the unfeeling headmaster. In The Pleasure Garden, an innocent young woman who wants a job as a dancer in a theater is pickpocketed by thugs who steal her letter of introduction. She immediately meets two shifty men obviously up to no good after that incident. Hitchcock sets up the notion that her innocence is going to be taken away in short order. (Part of dealing with a cruel world is that reality sometimes takes time for some people to understand.) In The Lodger, the circus atmosphere that surrounds the murder of a young woman is shown in the uncaring faces of the crowd who have come to witness this incident as a spectator sport followed by the sterile but professional news media reporting with shots of newsrooms, presses and teletypes. In The Ring, the young boxer fights off demons real and imagined in the scenes with the party revelers and his boss. Much of the cruelty of the world comes from our own imagination perhaps more so than the actual world. It is this counterbalance of reality and fantasy that Hitchcock so deftly plays.
  22. The vitality and rhythm of this scene from The Ring seems to come from the escalating anxiety of the young boxer (the protagonist.) He fears losing his wife as well as his upcoming fight to his competition. The young man’s anxiety begins to grow as he spies his wife sitting of the arm of a chair where his fight opponent is sitting in the next room. That action is framed in a mirror that allows him to see around the corner into the other room. (Hitchcock often used devices or objects that allowed a character to magnify the view of a situation such as the hole in the wall that Anthony Perkins used to spy on Janet Leigh in Psycho or the binoculars that James Stewart used in Rear Window to watch his neighbors.) His wife is also able to see the reverse view of her husband in the same mirror (or another mirror) on the wall. Hitchcock momentarily displays her subjective view that indicates an unease in her mental state that show her intensions to be somewhat veiled and suspicious. The montage shots of the party revelers along with the distorted piano keys are cut at an increasing pace that reveals the young fighter’s mounting discomfort. Perhaps the most interesting sequence that Hitchcock creates is the young fighter’s subjective view of the boss talking to him as he imagines his wife kissing his competitor in a superimposition that shows his distraction from the present conversation. Finally, he explodes in an emotional outburst overlaid with sexual tension in which he must decide to stay or leave the situation. It is an almost complete visualization (beyond the Roaring 20’s piano music that most certainly was not originally part of this film) of this young man’s turbulent psychological state.
  23. tigorprod

    Year end memorium

    I would also like to see the "In Memoriam" short in a downloaded or streaming video file on this website. I have not been able to catch it during the times that I watch TCM. This seems to have been an especially eventful year with the passing of many great stars.

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