Jimmy L.

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About Jimmy L.

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  • Birthday December 16

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  1. One of the lecture videos ended with a clip from that AFI ceremony, when Hitchcock made that speech about Alma, and the camera cut to Alma's face, tears in her eyes. Great clip, and a great quote. Re: women in Hollywood, a while back I caught a documentary on TCM about female screenwriter Frances Marion. It seemed like back in the carefree early days, when Hollywood was a little movie-making colony out in sunny California, women were more visible in the various production roles. But as Hollywood became a big business, the culture changed and women were mostly employed as secretaries and such. (Or something like that.) But for some examples of women in Hollywood, check out Oscar-winning screenwriter Frances Marion, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Dorothy Parker (who worked on Hitchcock's Saboteur), and rare Golden Age female director Dorothy Arzner. That's just off the top of my head. It would seem that women directors were few and far between, but there were some writers floating around. More screenwriters I've found: Claudine West, Frances Goodrich, Sarah Y. Mason, Helen Deutsch, Dorothy Kingsley, and Hitchcock collaborator Joan Harrison (who became a producer, apparently).
  2. The TCM airing last week was the second time I'd seen Frenzy, and I think I liked it more, especially with some added appreciation from this course. (I've since seen it again!) To me, it's Hitchcock entering into the modern era, playing by the new rules of 1970s cinema (i.e., no rules). No more censorship, etc. Movies were shocking and graphic, and Hitchcock joined the party. That said, I agree that the rape/murder scene is disturbing, and intentionally so. But I don't know if that's a reason to criticize the film or filmmaker. (It's an R-rated movie, after all.) The scene is very effective in what it sets out to do. It is disturbing. It is shocking. It provides a vivid picture of who this murderer is and what his crimes are like. It's serious stuff. Shocking stuff. We feel for the victim, but cannot aid her as we watch her horrible fate unfold. It's a heart-breaking scene, but I think that's the whole point. We're dealing with a psychopathic sex murderer, and it's terrifying. (In an earlier era, Hitchcock would've needed to be more artful or subtle in bringing such crimes to the screen, and the effect would not be the same, for better or worse.) The movie is actually pretty good, in a "modern cinema" vein (with occasional nudity and curse words and violence). Most of the film is easier to watch than the rape/murder scene, and I think the scene's impact stays with viewers whenever they see the murderer character out and about as his affable public self. You never know about people. It is a brutal scene, but there are some brutal scenes in plenty of other movies. I can't speak to Hitchcock's misogyny, but I don't think he delighted in the woman's rape or murder. I think it's just a brutal scene. * * * * * As to my own least-favorite Hitchcock films (excluding those I haven't seen, like Juno and the Paycock and Waltzes from Vienna), my picks would probably be: Under Capricorn The Paradine Case Marnie The Pleasure Garden Downhill Easy Virtue The Wrong Man Jamaica Inn Stage Fright I Confess Or something like that. There are a handful of movies I've seen once, but don't remember much about, and there are some others that I should maybe give another try. I'd need to rewatch Murder!, Number Seventeen, Torn Curtain, and Family Plot before deciding how I felt about them. Also, while I might find Stage Fright disappointing (for example), it scratches that Hitchcockian itch better than Hitch's earlier silent-era films (like The Farmer's Wife, which I enjoyed). So in some ways it's hard to compare all his films.
  3. As for the lecture videos, like others on this board, I thought they were great. I prefer sitting in on a thoughtful lecture to reading a bunch of text in a book or something. The conversation approach, I think, worked really well. (I don't know how lecture videos were in past courses.) Dr. Edwards and Dr. Gehring each know a lot about movies and film history, which is a good start, but they bring their own perspectives to the table, which I think adds a lot to the learning experience. A lot about movies is subjective, and it's nice to have different viewpoints presented and encouraged, so it's not like students are being forced to interpret something one "right" way (which can be off-putting). I didn't always see things the way the professors did, and that's great. I thought both professors did a nice job making the topics accessible to the students in the course. Also, the film clips really add to the discussion, which is why I think these video lessons are more fun than reading a textbook. I like learning things through manageably-sized videos. But I suppose there are many types of learners. Kudos to the production team, especially for those cool title designs in the later weeks. I wish I could get a job doing that kind of thing. The videos worked fine for me, watching them mostly on my iPod. Normal buffering issues with my lackluster wi-fi, but the videos all played through rather smoothly once they got going. Thanks again to Dr. Edwards, Dr. Gehring, and the team for their time and effort. I thought this course was a lot of fun.
  4. Great observation! When people think of Alfred Hitchcock, they think "Master of Suspense", and I think Hitchcock newbies (who might be most familiar with Psycho or The Birds, for whatever reason) expect Hitchcock movies to be horror thrillers, spooky movies full of gruesome murders and diabolical deeds. (Not that that's totally off the mark...) They'd be surprised at how funny his films can be. There's a lot more humor than people might expect, given the Master's reputation. Great movies often strike a satisfying balance of different emotions, and Hitchcock's humor plays well with his suspense. It's a combination that is, indeed, a big part of Hitch's signature style. He tells stories in his peculiar way, and audiences can sense when they're viewing a Hitchcock story. I have only seen a few episodes from Hitchcock's popular TV series, but Hitch's on-screen scenes (at commercial breaks, etc.) are really hilarious, in his patented drolly macabre way. I know a lot of people grew up with the series, or got to know Hitch from TV before seeing his films. The guy had a great knack for humor. I've got to try to watch more of his show.
  5. A few more have come to mind. The "drinking the milk" POV shot in Spellbound (1945) (viewed through the glass) reminds me of the POV shots in Champagne (1928), viewed through the bottom of a champagne glass. And the stylized trial montage in Spellbound, which focuses solely on Ingrid Bergman, is kind of like the expressionistic trial montage in Dial M for Murder (1954), which uses colored lighting and Grace Kelly's face to condense a long legal proceeding into a couple of minutes.
  6. Thanks, James, for the analysis! Very interesting stuff. I find music theory fascinating, but the language is way over my head. I used to play an instrument in my school band, but I don't know much about chords and things. It's tough for me to make sense of musical analysis without being walked through the terms from the beginning, with audio examples along the way. I envy people who've studied music enough to discuss it in technical terms, but I don't suppose I'll ever get around to taking courses in music theory any time soon. You seem very knowledgeable about both composition and Bernard Herrmann. It's good of you to make these little lessons for the Hitchcock class and share your expertise. I've really been digging Herrmann's music lately, watching the Hitchcock films from the 1950s-'60s. Psycho is great, and I really enjoyed his work on The Trouble With Harry, too (it's kind of light and mischievous). Herrmann's scores played a big role in the films he worked on, propelling the action forward rather than settling into the background. I wonder if there are any good CDs out there with Herrmann's film scores...
  7. I can't say what was meant, specifically, about "Hitchcock guilt", but it got me thinking about how the theme of guilt is explored over and over in Hitchcock's films. What I find interesting about Strangers on a Train is that Farley Granger and later Ruth Roman are not guilty of the murder, but they know who is, they withold this information from the authorities, and they sneak around "acting guilty". It's like someone else's actions have made them guilty somehow, in their own minds, when really they had nothing to do with the crime. Like guilt can be a state of mind as much as a simple matter of cause and effect. This also ties in with the concept of the "wrongfully accused", or the victim of circumstantial evidence and suspicion. Hitchcock's films examine the perception of guilt, where guilt is not something tangible or true, but rather a matter of public opinion, which can be easily influenced or misled. The "truth" of guilt or innocence is irrelevant in the structure of society. It all comes down to swaying opinion, often in court. In I Confess, the priest is not the murderer, but he knows who is, he witholds this information from the authorities, and by trying to keep private matters private, he acts suspicious and is presumed by all around him to be guilty. In Downhill, Ivor Novello is innocent, knows who is guilty, witholds this information, and is thus presumed guilty by those who knew him. The 39 Steps, Young and Innocent, Saboteur, and North by Northwest all deal with wrongfully accused men, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course, in The Wrong Man Hitchcock examines how easy it can be, in our own world, for an innocent man to be found guilty, just by a quirk of circumstance. In Dial M for Murder, too, Hitchcock shows how easily an innocent person can be convicted. Spellbound is about a man with a guilt complex, who believes himself to be guilty of murder, even though that may not be the case in reality. (And even in that film, an innocent man is found guilty in a court of law.) The Paradine Case is about legal guilt, and how perceived guilt can be shifted from one person to another by manipulating the facts. Stage Fright shows how easy it can be for people to believe a guilty person is innocent (or, again, how easy it can be to frame someone for a crime). In Suspicion, Cary Grant is suspected, and even presumed, to be guilty without any hard evidence. Likewise, Ivor Novello in The Lodger is suspected of guilt without any hard proof. In Easy Virtue, the woman cannot escape the shame of her scandalous past, which is kinda like guilt (a guilt cast upon her by everyone else). There's external guilt, then there's internal guilt. In Rebecca, Laurence Olivier feels guilty for what happened to his wife. In The Trouble with Harry, numerous characters feel guilty for the death of Harry Worp, without any real proof. In Vertigo, James Stewart feels guilty, first for the cop's death, and then for what happens to Kim Novak. It's interesting to think of the different ways Hitchcock studies the theme of guilt throughout his career. Maybe someone else has a clearer idea of how it relates to Strangers on a Train, particularly regarding the differences from the novel. (SPOILERS: I heard in the book Guy does kill Bruno's father. Criss-cross.)
  8. I'm not an insider or anything, but I've always assumed that "Costumes by" meant all the costumes (clothing) for the cast, whether it's a period piece or a contemporary setting. That person decides what outfits the characters should wear (like the knd of suit -- material, color, fashion -- the lead actor would wear, etc.). "Dresses by" or "Gowns by" is a more specialized credit, where a costumer extraordinaire is brought in just to design the leading lady's elegant attire, while the rest of the clothing/costume decisions are left to somebody else. For example, in Notorious, Edith Head was brought to RKO from her home studio of Paramount specifically to dress star Ingrid Bergman, and she designed Bergman's custom wardrobe, but didn't work on the costuming for the rest of the cast (at least that's my understanding of it). I assume films with special "Gowns by" credits also have a plain old costume designer. Often films will have separate designers for the leading stars' wardrobes, especially when it comes to fancy gowns and things that are out of the everyday hum-drum. Filmmakers want their movie stars to look good, after all. I think a fashion specialist might be brought in to design the dresses and such, but such a specialist wouldn't want to be bothered with more mundane costume needs. Often, these designers were well-known names, even outside the film business, so in some ways it could be like adding more "star power" to the production.
  9. One of the lecture videos last week brought up the similar use of upside-down POV shots in Notorious (1946) and Downhill (1927), which I found very interesting. Watching so many of these films in such a short time makes it easy to spot similarities like this. What other examples can people come up with of shots or particular techniques that Hitchcock re-used or re-applied or tinkered with in different films? For me, having just seen Rope (1948) on TCM, I thought the shot of the camera moving around the empty furniture, as if following an invisible character, while Jimmy Stewart explained how David could have been murdered, was reminiscent of the scene in Rebecca (1940) where Laurence Olivier recounts the events of that fateful night in the cabin (the camera "following" Rebecca's movement around the room). And the climax on the train in Shadow of a Doubt (1943), specifically the rear-projection work when Uncle Charlie...disembarks, is like some shots in The Lady Vanishes (1938), with Paul Lukas looking out from the window and then with Michael Redgrave hanging outside the train as another one passes. And there may have been similar rear-projection train shots in The 39 Steps (1935), but I can't remember definitively. In Stage Fright (1950), there's a scene where a fugitive escapes by car, with the pursuing vehicle cut off from the chase by another vehicle (a truck or something) that crosses in front of it from the side. This bit of business reminded me of the rail yard scene in Young and Innocent (1937), when the cops are blocked (twice) from giving pursuit by conveniently-timed passing trains. The POV dolly shot near the end of I Confess (1953), with Father Logan (Montgomery Cliff) approaching Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse), is similar to the POV shot of the students approaching the dean early in Downhill (1927) (as seen in one of the Daily Doses). It may be a stretch, but an early shot in Lifeboat (1944), which shows various items of flotsam to give a sense of the victims of the U-boat attack, is a similar use of purely visual storytelling as the opening scene of Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), which shows plates and things strewn about the bedroom floor. I guess the Statue of Liberty scene in Saboteur (1942) is similar to the Mt. Rushmore scene in North by Northwest (1959) (hanging on for dear life), but with a different outcome. And, of course, the Royal Albert Hall sequences in both versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 & 1956) are quite similar, particularly with that shot of the gun barrel peeking out from the curtain. What else? I'm sure there are many more.
  10. I don't see Betty (Nova Pilbeam) as the insufferable brat that Prof. Gehring mentions in the lecture video. She's actually very good a few years later as a young woman in Young and Innocent (1937). Kind of reminds me of Emma Watson from the Harry Potter films. I like Joan Fontaine in Rebecca, but Pilbeam would've been twenty or so by then, and I don't think her 1934 performance should be any indication of her potential for later adult roles. It would have been interesting to see Pilbeam in Rebecca or some other Selznick feature, but she never became a big movie star. Also, I caught Jamaica Inn on TCM. It had been ages since I'd seen it, and I didn't remember much about it. But I enjoyed it more than I expected. There were twists and turns and sequences of suspense. A rare period piece from Hitchcock, and the first of three Daphne Du Maurier adaptations (followed by Rebecca and The Birds). Several Hitchcock veterans show up in the cast (even Mr. Memory from The 39 Steps), and Maureen O'Hara is great in her first major role. (She was under contract to Charles Laughton, who also brought her to Hollywood for The Hunchback of Notre Dame.)
  11. Rebecca opens its gothic romance with the dreamy narration about Manderley. By introducing the current state of Manderley, burned and deserted, reclaimed by nature, the scene sets up a mystery that will be solved over the course of the film. The viewers know how Manderley ended up, and the film will explain how it got there. This is a cool way to set up the gothic tale, so viewers watching the romantic scenes between Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier will know, in the back of their minds, that some tragedy lies ahead. This opening narration could have been accompanied by still shots of burned-out ruins, but Hitchcock creates a vivid, cinematic scene by taking the viewer on a trip down the winding driveway and up to the mansion using elaborate miniatures, evocative lighting, and a traveling subjective camera. The viewer floats through the property like a ghost, even floating through the main gate (in a cool scene that reminds me of a similar camera move in Fritz Lang's M, where two pieces of the set are slid apart at the last moment to allow the camera to seemingly move through a narrow space). Hitchcock brings the viewer right inside the set. Once Manderley is in view, Hitchcock superimposes an image of the house in its previous splendor, with the lights on, giving the viewer a sense of the before/after (another cinematic trick Hitchcock uses to help bring the scene to life on the screen). An opening narration scene like that could have been handled in a much more boring way, but Hitchcock keeps it visually engaging.
  12. The Academy did not completely ignore Hitchcock's films. Hitch himself was nominated five times for Best Director (Rebecca, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window, Psycho), though famously never won. Rebecca, Foreign Correspondent, Suspicion, and Spellbound were all nominated for Best Picture in the 1940s (with Rebecca winning over Foreign Correspondent in 1941). Besides Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, Judith Anderson was nominated for Rebecca, Albert Bassermann was nominated for Foreign Correspondent, Michael Chekhov was nominated for Spellbound, Claude Rains was nominated for Notorious, Ethel Barrymore was nominated for The Paradine Case, and Janet Leigh was nominated for Psycho (all in the supporting categories). And several films were recognized for their writing, cinematography, music scores, art direction, special effects, etc. Very few winners, it seems, but in my mind the honor is to be recognized with a nomination (how many deserving people don't even make that list?). Winning the award has to do with the competition in a given year, as well as studio politics and prejudices and all of that. And hindsight, many years afterward, sometimes exposes "losers" as better-revered than "winners". But just making the short list with so many films, and in so many categories, seems to show that Hitchcock was taken seriously by the folks at the Academy. (A real "snub" would be left off the ballot completely, I'd think. At least Hitch's films were in the running.) Post-Rebecca/Suspicion Oscar wins: Miklós Rózsa for the music on Spellbound Robert Burks, color cinematography on To Catch a Thief Jay Livingston and Ray Evans for the song "Que Sera, Sera" from The Man Who Knew Too Much
  13. Diabolique is excellent (as are other films by Henri-Georges Clouzot, like Le Corbeau and The Wages of Fear). I believe the story I heard was that Hitchcock was interested in adapting the novel of Diabolique, but Clouzot beat him to it. So, as a consolation prize, the authors of that story wrote Vertigo for Hitchcock.
  14. I'm a big proponent of the lesser-known Young and Innocent, although I might not call that my top underrated pick. But I like to spread the word. Young and Innocent is a lot of fun, from Hitchcock's 1930s "thriller sextet" period. It's not as dire as other thrillers. There are no bombs or wars or evil organizations. Nobody's trying to shoot the protagonist. It's about a man wrongly arrested for murder, who escapes to try to clear his name and is pursued by the police. But the great thing about the film is its lighter tone, and the movie is really more of a romance between the man and a young woman (who happens to be the daughter of the police constable). It's cute and fun and exciting and full of Hitchcock's unique sensibilities. But I guess my favorite lesser-known Hitchcock film is the awesome (and Oscar-nominated) Foreign Correspondent. I love classic Hollywood, and Foreign Correspondent's got Joel McCrea (one of my faves from the 1930s-'40s) and Laraine Day, not to mention Robert Benchley as solid comedic support. (I think Benchley is credited with the film's dialogue, as well.) Plus you've got international intrigue, unforgettable set pieces (the assassination, the windmill, the hotel escape, the plane), a great romance plot, and a youngish George Sanders. The cast is charismatic and the script is fun as well as thrilling, and the black and white photography is top-notch. (I'm sure Hitch fans know Foreign Correspondent, but it may fall under the radar for more mainstream folks.) There's a lot of love for Shadow of a Doubt. I'm looking forward to rewatching it next week. What I remember about it is the great ensemble cast of Hollywood character actors (in addition to the leads). And I for one am a big Teresa Wright fan.
  15. Jimmy L.

    The Rest of Hitchcock

    Last week I saw Easy Virtue and Champagne for the first time (the online versions), and rewatched The Farmer's Wife on TCM. I like them all. The Farmer's Wife is pretty solid as a silent comedy with a bit of its own style. Champagne is a straight-up, high society comedy, which was interesting to see from Hitchcock. Very light. The kind of madcap heiress comedy that would pop up out of Hollywood throughout the 1920s-1930s. Easy Virtue, on the other hand, is a drama, and I really dug that one, too. I especially love the beginning courtroom sequence, which shows Hitchcock's visual creativity on display as he keeps lively what could easily have been a boring expositionary slogfest. He dances between the courtroom and testimonial flashbacks and brings the heated trial to life without bothering with the details of what it is the lawyer or the witness is saying. Hitch shows the back-and-forth and we get the general idea. No need for extra intertitles recounting the whole thing. We're not reading a book, after all. And the telephone operator scene later on is pure genius. No words needed there, either. I really wish I had access to the latest restorations of the "Hitchcock Nine", so I could see the most complete versions of films like The Pleasure Garden. But I also wish a more complete version of Easy Virtue would turn up somewhere, as I understand the only version known to exist is edited down and from a 16mm copy. So even the new restoration is lacking maybe twenty minutes of film (or whatever). And I think I read that the only known copies of Champagne originated from back-up reels containing alternate footage (the second-best takes). Not sure how much of a difference it would be, but it would be nice to see the film as it was originally shown.

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