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What were the artistic influences on what some critics have called Hitchcock's most personal film: Vertigo? "The real reason was that I wanted to convey the dreams with great visual sharpness and clarity, sharper than the film itself. I wanted Dali because of the architectural sharpness of his work. Chirico has the same quality, you know, the long shadows, the infinity of distance and the converging lines of perspective." --Alfred Hitchcock, from his 1962 interview with François Truffaut Hitchcock was a collector of modern art and his private collection included several paintings by the German Expressionist Paul Klee, as well as a drawing by the Surrealist painter Salvador Dali. It was Dali, of course, whom Hitchcock commissioned in 1945 to create the dream sequence for his psychological thriller Spellbound. So Hitchcock was no stranger to Surrealism and Expression, and the influence of both artistic movements can be seen in what is arguably his most visually stunning psychological thriller. Two of de Chirico's works, "The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street" (1914) and "Big Tower or Nostalgia for the Infinite" (1913-14), bare a remarkable resemblance to scenes in Hitchcock's Vertigo. The Greco-Roman arcades and towers that de Chirico depicts in these paintings look like stylized storyboards for the San Juan Bautista Spanish mission building and bell tower. In fact, Hitchcock had a bell tower painted into the set of the San Juan Bautista mission (the original had burned down long ago) when he decided to change a key scene location from the Pigeon Point Lighthouse to the church bell tower. Yet the one painting in particular that provided the greatest impetus for the visual mood of Vertigo was Salvador Dali's painting by the same name, "Vertigo" (or "The Tower of Pleasure", 1930), that shows a couple in a struggle on top of a decaying high-rise. The two sexually engaged figures are dwarfed by the towering structure, and appear almost indistinguishable. Freud had observed in his essay on "Mourning and Melancholia" that the loss of a beloved object can cause its "shadow" to fall across the suffering mourner's ego, engendering a pathological love/hate relationship to subsequent objects of desire. This seems to define Scottie's relationship to Judy Barton. From the Surrealists, Hitchcock borrows dehumanizing urban architecture and haunting, desolate streets. These elements, as Freud suggested in Civilization and Its Discontents, contribute to the feeling of alienation in modern man. Expressionist painter Vasily Kandinsky's manifesto, On the Spiritual in Art, a book Hitchcock most likely read prior to 1946, credited the new expressiveness of color in art as the next step in an evolving global consciousness that tended toward the abstract and spiritual, over the concrete and material, as the ultimate good. Another Expressionist painter, Franz Marc, emphasized gender associations with certain colors. To Marc, yellow represented the extroverted female and blue the introverted male. Yellow he saw as earthy while blue had spiritual connotations. Kandinsky, however, thought a mixture of yellow and blue suggests madness, and he associated dark blue with grief. This explains the yellow motif of Midge Wood's (Barbara Bel Geddes') apartment. The walls and her hair and sweater are all varying shades of yellow. Even her step stool, which Scottie uses in an attempt to overcome his vertigo, is chrome yellow. Midge's unrequited love for Scottie turns her into a maternal figure that represents another aspect of the feminine yellow. Early the film, Scottie calls Midge "motherly" and later, Midge whispers in his ear: "Mother is here." It is in that scene that Midge (while comforting Scottie) is wearing a light blue sweater, and Scottie, a navy blue cardigan. On the curtains behind them are yellow and blue flowers which, on an Expressionist's palette, intimate both male and female and, when mixed together, madness. Some critics have also noted that Hitchcock was heavily influenced by the early Technicolor productions of Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies and Victor Fleming's The Wizard of Oz. Not only is Scottie's dream sequence animated but it begins with a dancing swirl of flowers (a la Fantasia) and, as critics have rarely noted, is a nightmare saturated by flashing neon. The enormous green neon sign of the Empire Hotel is clearly linked to the ghostly shade of green that appears throughout the picture, but here it represents the shift from natural to mechanical. In the same way that the Emerald City rises out of the poppy fields of Oz, the green neon is symbolic of the mechanized big city. If comparisons between The Wizard of Oz and Vertigo seem far-fetched, then consider that "Judy" is also from Kansas, and is now in a big city undergoing a major transformation. When she appears for the first time, fully transformed into the girl of Scottie's dreams, she is bathed in the glow of green neon. Additionally, the spiral dreamscape that dominates Vertigo also appears in the "dream" that is Oz: Starting with Judy Garland's (Dorothy Gale's) first steps on the yellow brick road, which begins in an outwardly expanding spiral. “Spiral: The path of a point (generally plane) which moves round an axis while continually approaching it or receding from it; also often used for a helix, which is generated by compounding a circular motion with one in a straight line. The spiral form is an apt illustration of the course of evolution, which brings motion round towards the same point, yet without repetition.” -The Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary (The definition would likely have been known to the author of The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, as he was a practicing Theosophist.) Also, the mention of the helix puts one in mind of the artwork used in the opening title sequence of Vertigo. In a final comparison to Oz: When Jimmy Stewart follows Kim Novak down a dark alley, she disappears into a doorway. When Scottie opens the door, we see from his perspective the intense colors of the Podesta Baldocchi flower shop. Similarly, in Oz, Judy Garland opens the door to her Kansas home to reveal the flower-filled Technicolor spectacle of Munchkinland. Even without the parallels to The Wizard of Oz, it is difficult to regard the image of Kim Novak, portrayed as a tiny, melancholy figure in the shadow of the towering, sun-lit Golden gate bridge, a structure which seemingly tapers off into infinity, as anything other than a true work of Expressionism.
Doing things a little differently this time. My previous Shorties Checklists were done alphabetically. These covered: Paramount http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/78341-a-shortie-checklist-paramount/ MGM http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/81165-a-shortie-checklist-mgm/ ...and Warner Brothers http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/81033-a-shortie-checklist-warner-bros/ This one will be arranged by SERIES. Might save some space and reading here. If you struggle finding a title, you could try a “find” search with the “Ctrl” and “F” keys together... maybe? Huh? Maybe? Depends on your keyboard. Also I am combining three film companies for the price of one. In (), I have listed how the company was showcased on the title cards. RKO Radio, a studio that needs no introduction to a classic movie fan Film Booking Offices of America or FBO, a short-lived outflt that was absorbed by RKO in 1929 Pathé Exchange, which merged with RKO in 1931. Series initially started by these rival distributors continued uninterrupted as RKO-Pathé productions. Although RKO sold the Pathé newsreel to Warner Brothers in 1947, RKO-Pathé short-subjects continued on through the fifties. Pathé Frères, perhaps the biggest name in French (and world) cinema in the silent era (and still a distributor mostly in Europe today, although it co-owned MGM in the 1990s for a while), dabbled a bit as a distributor for US-made series like Richard L. Ditmars' animal reels and then launch an American production company at Fort Lee, New Jersey to film Perils of Pauline (1914). This was a very popular multi-chapter movie serial, a genre that... ooooh.... sorry, I am not covering here. Soon, reorganized as the Pathé Exchange, the company was distributing Hal Roach's comedies made in California with Harold Lloyd as the star and, later, would be Mack Sennett's top distributor in the 1920s... in addition to blockbuster features like Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North and Cecil B. De Mille's The King of Kings. Joseph P. Kennedy, daddy to a future president, invested in this company in 1927 along with the Keith-Albee-Orpheum theaters. Gradually they merged with a new power-studio called RKO Radio Pictures, started in 1928. RKO-Pathé officially completed their merge in the spring of 1931, with the former company focusing on entertainment shorts and the latter on documentaries, sports-reels and travelogues. When most movie historians actually bother to “think about” RKO shorties, it is usually the Clark & McCullough, Edgar Kennedy and Leon Errol Comedies that enjoyed considerable TV exposure in the 1950s and '60s, along with the “March of Time” and Walt Disney films distributed by them. Of course, there was so much more to their shorties program, but many of their films have been forgotten in more recent decades because many of the Pathé co-productions, in particular, have been scattered all over the place in various vaults, sometimes with copyright issues and other legal “red tape”. McGraw-Hill distributed much of the “This Is America” series and assorted “Sportscopes” to schools on 16mm for a period, but color was always favored in classroom instruction by the 1960s and these became harder to view in later years. One other factor that may have kept many of RKO's non-Disney films out of circulation is that very few were, in fact, made in color in comparison to rival studios (particularly Warner Bros. and MGM which made many more shorts than features in the process during the thirties and forties), despite earning an Oscar for the pioneering La Cucaracha (see RKO Specials below). Today TCM mostly airs the 1955-57 post-General Tire & Rubber Company shorts that are part of their library. A vast variety of shorties are covered here, but I only list the LIVE-ACTION material (as in the other Checklists posted on this forum). Yet these companies backed animated cartoons of importance as well. Before being absorbed by RKO, FBO handled distribution of the “Dinky Doodles” series produced by John R. Bray and directed by Walter Lantz of future Woody Woodpecker fame, along side some “Krazy Kat” made by William Nolan. These were done mostly in the middle '20s, about the same time the company also aided a young Walt Disney and his distributor Margaret Winkler with some “Alice in Wonderland” part-animated/part live-action comedies. A bit earlier, in early 1921, Paul Terry launched his “Aesop's Fables” for Pathé, starring Farmer Al Falfa and an assortment of mice, cats, dogs, fowl, etc.. Co-producer on these was Amadee J. Van Beuren, who handled many documentaries and occasional live-action comedies for Pathé as well and would take full control of the animated cartoons by the time Paul Terry decided to leave and form his Terrytoons for Educational Pictures (later distributing for 20th Century Fox). These incorporated sound by 1928 with the title Dinner Time, released just before Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie... and Disney apparently wasn't impressed at a screening and made sure his Mickey Mouse scored a much bigger impact. Before merging with Pathé, RKO set up its own animation studio in 1930, featuring a character named Toby the Pup and animators Sid Marcus, Art Davis and Dick Huemer. Charles Mintz, who also handled Columbia's Krazy Kat (post-FBO), served as producer. However poor Toby suffered early retirement when RKO decided to make Van Beuren its official animation studio. Van Beuran continued on in the thirties with a human (pre-cat & mouse) version of Tom & Jerry, Amos & Andy in cartoon form, Little King, Cubby Bear, and Felix the Cat (revived in glorious color) as part of a “Rainbow Parade” series. Then... like Toby the Pup... all of Van Buren's cartoon characters suffered their own untimely fate in 1936 when RKO announced it had signed on the animation king himself, Walt Disney. Curiously, RKO had no cartoons to release during the fall 1936 through summer '37 season on account of Disney being required to complete his contract with United Artists first and RKO's previous factory having shut down a bit early. Yet RKO made up for lost time when it gained Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, the Silly Symphonies and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Disney distributed most of his product through RKO until the 1955-56 season, even after he established his own Buena Vista company for 1953's The Living Desert. Included in these lists are his True-Life Adventures and People & Places series done in live-action. On occasion, RKO-Pathé would distribute an independently produced cartoon. The one notable stand-out was a stop-motion 3-D color film initially shown at the New York World's Fair in 1940 in which an automobile literally “puts itself together”. This was reissued at the height of the 3-D craze (1953) as Motor Rhythm, interchanging with Walt Disney's Adventures In Music: Melody as a supplement to RKO's feature 3-D programs. Pathé by itself was a distributor of 3-D films back in 1925 (see Stereoscopiks). Key references used are the same as with the other lists: BoxOffice, Film Daily and Motion Picture Herald Magazine back issues (latter two found on the Internet Archive), the IMDb.com site, Motion Pictures 1912-1939 (1951), Motion Pictures 1940-1949 (1953) and Motion Pictures 1950-1959 (1960). Then there’s Leonard Maltin’s The Great Movie Shorts (a.k.a. Selected Short Subjects, Crown, 1972) which has a particular focus on RKO's Edgar Kennedy and Leon Errol. Now... with the Mack Sennett and Hal Roach comedies, I am keeping credits and plots VERY simple. Seek out the following for more detailed work: Mack Sennett's Fun Factory (2 Volume Set) by Brent E. Walker and http://www.theluckycorner.com/ This is FAR from a complete “information guide”, but hopefully it will perk some interest among my fellow movie geeks to “dig for more”. I particularly dedicate this series of posts to the long-running Pathé Review, which provided the movie screens of 1919-1930 with the best alternative to the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, the Learning Channel, the Nat Geo Channel and every other cable “educational” network of today... and trying to gather enough (but still incomplete) information on THAT series was a labor of love. Believe me.