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About SallyRenne

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  • Birthday 11/24/1950

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    Bloomington, Indiana

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  1. By this time in his career, Hitchcock could access the most glamorous and sophisticated movie stars. Audiences knew these actors. Cary Grant epitomized suave and debonair, clever and amusing. Eva Marie Saint was known through television and for her Best Supporting Actress award for On the Waterfront. She was a Broadway actor and she was smart and beautiful. I don’t remember when I first saw North by Northwest on the big screen. Maybe at IU when James Naremore and Harry Geduld were Comparative Lit professors; where I attended the film portion of their classes. I sat in a hard, wooden chair in Woodburn Hall transported to Hitchcock’s universe. And, I knew his actors. When Cary Grant delivers that line “I look vaguely familiar” Hitchcock gave me permission to juxtapose Roger Thornhill with Cary Grant. It didn’t take me out of the film, but added this other layer of realism where Cary Grant was talking to me. I don’t know about anyone else in that darkened theatre, but that’s what happened to me. The subtle sound under the dialogue consists of the occasional clacking of the train wheels and the soothing, almost inaudible, orchestral track of Bernard Herrmann’s score that rises into the melancholy theme when Eve takes Roger’s hand to blow out the match. Then there is the business with the matchbook. The first view is a quick cut, just a glance, the gentlemanly behavior of lighting a lady’s cigarette. She sees his monogram. Cut to extreme close-up. She asks, “What does the ‘O’ stand for?” He answers dismissively, giving it a glance. “Nothing.” Then just before she sensuously draws his hand toward her, we, once more, see him holding the matchbook with his monogram prominently displayed. We dismissed it, because Roger told us it was nothing, and that business got lost in all the other business and misdirection until, like Chekhov’s gun (or Hitchcock’s crop duster), Hitchcock brings it gloriously and perfectly back into play, because everything has a purpose.
  2. Thank you for this information. I was so trying to make the negative and the magazine cover look like Lisa Carol Fremont! Kissing scenes? Roger Thornhill and Eve Kendall. "It's such a nice face, too." http://tinyurl.com/ybrqq8ja
  3. The camera pulls the black and white face that fills half the screen to center; focus on the mouth; pan to eyes, and hold on anxious glances to screen left then right; extreme close-up of her eye. Red wash of color, then a sudden discordant low brass blast as her eye widens alarmingly while the title moves out and up. From her pupil, the spirals begin. The ten-second sequence from the red wash to the first magenta spiral pushed me back in my seat. We are given no comfort by a screen divided into thirds. The spirals move unrelentingly from center; they loom and push, the music climaxing with the spirals’ widest apertures. There is something almost hypnotic in the combination of music and images. Almost. Because there is nothing soothing or calming. Rather, the incessant low brass, flutes, and strings heighten anxiety. The repetition of the dissonant musical theme intensifies the feeling of vertigo. With three minutes of opening credits, Hitchcock leaves us feeling anxious and uncomfortable from the barrage of Saul Bass’ images spinning the wrong way. Add Bernard Herrmann’s score and we are reeling.
  4. Behind the opening credits accompanied by Franz Waxman’s driving jazz, three sets of window blinds rise, theatre fashion, to reveal urban apartments and their inhabitants. Hitchcock’s Robert Burk is filming from my point of view, audience center. He takes me through the fourth wall to numerous vignettes that act as teasers for the films within the film. 1. Cat, easy up 2. Pan, counterclockwise to father, mother, daughter on balcony; sleeper w/arm hanging through the balcony rails; blonde at bathroom window; milkman, heading back to delivery truck; past towel-covered birdcage; extreme close-up of a sleeping Jimmy Stewart, in our apartment 3. Quick cut to close-up of thermometer, reading 94 degrees 4. Cut to closer view of musician’s apartment where the Waxman’s score segues into morning radio announcement; then all the sound comes from within the world of the film 5. Cut to alarm clock; discover woman sleeping on balcony, too 6. Pan to the dancer and her little striptease with the dropped bra and ballet stretches 7. Pan to narrow view of the street with the water truck followed by children; dog tied to rain spout and storefront window cleaner 8. Pan to disembodied arm removing the cover from a window sill birdcage 9. Pan to sleeping Jimmy Stewart, track to hip cast, wheelchair reveal 10. Quick track to zoom in on shattered camera then up to action photograph of race car accident that broke the camera and the leg 11. Further tracking shots that establish his photojournalism profession 12. Track past paraphernalia of his profession to framed negative glamour shot that got him the cover of a “Life”-like magazine Hitchcock gives us Jeff’s backstory through and around these teasers. The first pass of glimpses into the apartments evokes curiosity. The second pass is a little slower and closer, revealing that there is a woman waking up on the balcony and that the dancer bends over to pick up her dropped bra; that second pass piques my curiosity, but does not arouse any uncomfortable voyeuristic feelings. The helicopter hovering over the topless sunbathers triggers the first sense of discomfort, actually, irritation. Jefferies’ cynicism and arrogance foster that irritation. However, that feeling changes when Jefferies moves me into Miss Lonelyhearts’ world with its non-existent suitor with Bing Crosby’s singing “To See You Is to Love You.” Within twenty minutes, Hitchcock has run me through a gamut of emotions and pulled me into a world within a world. I am complicit in his voyeuristic universe.
  5. 1. Under the opening credits the vehicular traffic crosses the space of the archway. 2. Bruno exits a black and white Diamond cab wearing flashy black and white wing tips and pin-striped trousers; he crosses from screen right to left. 3. Guy exits a black and white Diamond cab wearing sensible brown wing tips and wool slacks; he crosses from screen left to right. 4. Bruno crosses the diamond-patterned station floor from right to down left, a hard down. 5. Guy crosses the diamond-patterned station floor from left to down right, an easy down. 6. Numerous travelers’ paths crisscross the parallel lines of the station floor. 7. Bruno crosses hard up across the parallel lines of the station floor then through the barred entry to the trains 8. Guy crosses easy up across the parallel lines of the station floor then through the barred entry to the trains 9. The train crosses the parallel cross ties of the tracks; the tracks cross other tracks forming diamond images. 10. Bruno crosses right to left on the train, passing travelers whose legs are crossed; he sits, crossing his right leg over his left 11. Guy crosses left to right on train, passing travelers whose legs are crossed except for the last woman he passes; he sits to her screen right, crossing his left leg over his right. 12. The lighting in the lounge car mirrors the parallel train tracks leading toward a vanishing point. 13. The Venetian blinds further the parallel motif. 14. Bruno crosses from right to left to capture Guy’s hand with both of his in greeting, then seats himself screen right, shoulder to shoulder on the banquette. We are trained to read from left to right, an example of natural order. Right to left movement is contrary; it feels wrong and makes us feel uncomfortable. It is no accident that Hitchcock moves Bruno from screen right to sinister left. Our good Guy moves from screen left to right. Without a word spoken, we sense wrongness about Bruno. Their movements are mirror images. However, Bruno wears flashy black and white wing tips with a light-colored, pin-striped suit. The fabric moves sensuously. His shirt has a collar bar; he sports a flamboyant lobster tie with ominous claws. His tie tack is a gift from Mother -- his name written in cursive. He checked his case. Guy, on the other hand, wears sensible brown wing tips, dark flannel trousers, a V-necked sweater or vest under a wool sports coat. His clothes have substance. He wears a white shirt with a diamond-patterned tie. He carries his own case and tennis rackets. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score repeats the parallel motif. It is the same music for Bruno’s and Guy’s exits from the cabs. The same theme is repeated again as the camera follows each of their crosses of the station floor. Again, the same movement is heard during the shot of the railroad tracks. There is also a hint of the sound of a moving train that doesn’t stop until their shoes bump. Their paths have crossed.
  6. Notorious (1946), open scene with establishing low-key lighting shot of an opulent bedroom. Dissolve to soft focus close-up of light-filled glass of juice in the forefront of a disheveled Alicia Huberman’s face smashed in a pillow, light reflecting off her curls. Cut to Dutch angle shot with set lines and shadows centering a dark-suited Devlin in the doorway. Camera pivots to cant Devlin’s horizon as he crosses to Alicia’s bed. Cut to extreme close-up of Alicia, back to Devlin, dizzyingly tilted. Touch of humor when Alicia discovers she’s sharing a bed with her detached chignon postiche. Devlin is a controlling, state department handler; Alicia, a vulnerable, tough-talking party girl, daughter of a Nazi collaborator. In addition to how Hitchcock’s lights and frames them, he also costumes them to reflect and contrast their characters. Devlin is dark lines and angles and immaculate; Alicia is light curves and contours and unkempt. Grant’s screen persona of a handsome, debonair man who was also funny appealed to all audiences. But there is nothing funny about Hitchcock’s Devlin. Devlin is not who the audience expects from Cary Grant. Bergman’s natural beauty contrasted with the Hollywood look of the time; audiences loved this sophisticated ingénue. However, Hitchcock’s Alicia is unexpected; she is an undiscriminating party girl. Hitchcock’s actor choices and casting them against type, Grant’s seeming heartlessness and Bergman’s promiscuity, further manipulate the emotions of his viewers in a film fraught with anxious moments.
  7. Typically, Hitchcock provides his audiences with information about the story that is about to unfold. From the opening credits we learn that this is the residence of David Smith. Hitchcock gives us an opening shot that tracks through the elegant detritus of breakfast, lunch, and dinner bone china, cut glass, and .925 sterling silver inhabiting the floor space in the bedroom. From the hand playing a card on the solitaire game, the camera tracks to Robert Montgomery’s whisker-stubbled chin and tousled hair. Then, directed as much by Montgomery’s glance, the tracking continues to the bed with its silk-padded headboard, satin sheets, and Carole Lombard’s face smashed into a pillow. Edward Ward’s score, almost carnivalesque, adds to the light-hearted tone. Hitchcock introduces the house and office staffs, establishing David Smith’s social status and profession. Back to the bed where the besotted Smiths melt into each other, Mr. Smith’s feet firmly planted on the floor, where we learn why they are ensconced in the luxury of their bedroom suite. Rule number seven. “You’re not allowed to leave the bedroom after a quarrel unless you make up.” In addition to camera movements, angles, shot composition, sound design, and lighting design that impart a backstory and an emotional attachment, “part of the Hitchcock ‘touch’ was a very clear set of instructions to the various heads and directors of the film’s visual design team.” [Lecture Notes, Daily Dose #11] Hitchcock’s vision for the opening scene of Mr. and Mrs. Smith is enabled by the minute details created by an assemblage of incredibly talented collaborators. As a viewer, without input into the casting process, it is whether or not the chemistry between the leads works. There has to be electricity between them on the big screen that connects to me in a darkened theatre. Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable have it. Carole Lombard and William Powell have it. Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant have it. And, Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery, in their dishabille in the opening scene of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, have it. The juxtaposition of their goofy grins and messy hair with the opulence of the setting further endears them to me and sparks that chemistry. They draw me in. Hook, line, and sinker. And, isn’t that exactly what Hitchcock wants?
  8. The Killers’ director, Robert Siodmak (a German émigré director), was a product of UFA and German Expressionism’s chiaroscuro lighting, extreme camera angles, emphasis on the psychology of characters, and fatalism. Siodmak brings these characteristics to the opening scene of his 1946 noir film, The Killers, closely based on a Hemingway short story of the same name. As the door slams on the killers’ exit from a Hopper-like diner, Miklós Rózsa’s score begins. The dark driving low brass and discordant strings accompany Nick Adams as he leaps a succession of iconic white picket fences on his race to warn the Swede of the assassins. The Swede, cast in shadow, responds impassively to Nick’s warnings of his fate. The audience never sees the Swede’s face, and the door closes on this tarnished hero who fell under the spell of a femme fatale who led him to his doom. We learn his story in flashback as he fatalistically awaits the killers. Three years earlier than Siodmak’s The Killers, Hitchcock’s screenplay writer for Shadow of a Doubt, Thornton Wilder, suggested that Hitchcock take a page out of Hemingway’s short story “The Killers” for the opening scene. [Curator’s Note, Daily Dose #10] Hitchcock did. The scene opens with an establishing shot of a city street with boys playing stickball; dissolve to a rooming house of connected brownstones; dissolve to a window of the brownstone; dissolve through the window, then track to a pinstripe-suited man lying on a bed. Three dissolves underscored in three-four time by Dimitri Tiompkin’s waltz music instills a light-hearted mood and cheerful atmosphere. The room is full of light; however, the window grilles and blowing curtains cast shadows and Tiompkin’s music changes to a minor key and the mood changes. The swirling lines of the headboard, the vertical shadows of the curtains, the wallpaper design, the pinstripes of the man’s suit, the blocks on the quilt, the chair spindles in the light-filled room grate on the eye. All of the patterns taken together irritate. Tiompkin’s subtle score with minor keys reinforces that discordance. In a similar fashion to the Swede is Mr. Spencer’s response to his landlady’s announcement about the two men looking for him. However, his toneless responses, delivered prone from his bed, smack of disdain and misogyny for this woman who he deems faded, fat, and greedy. [Lecture Video, Daily Dose #10] When the landlady pulls down the blind and casts Mr. Spencer in shadow, Tiompkin’s music darkens, the pace picks up, and an ominous tone develops. Suddenly, Spencer sits up, contemptuously giving us only his back. He tosses back a drink. His anxiety explodes with the thrown glass. His disdain and arrogance resurface, though, as he looks down at the two men waiting for him, and just there, Tiompkin inserts a few music box-like bars of Franz Lehár’s “The Merry Widow Waltz.” The score rises and drives the scene as Spencer gathers his possessions and strides out to confront the two strangers, leaving the door to a light-filled room of shadows wide open behind him.
  9. The very beginning of the opening scene of Rebecca lacks the frenetic quality of his British period films. The slow, controlled tracking shot with Joan Fontaine’s hypnotic voiceover introduces us to a ruined Manderley. The shot, her voice, and the musical score, imbue sadness and mystery. Furthermore, the scene anthropomorphizes Manderley. In typical Hitchcockian fashion, the opening scene guides our emotions. Segue from the dream sequence to the camera’s panning across waves crashing on a rocky shore; up to a figure poised on the precipice, dwarfed by the scale of the cliff; close up of an expressionless face; over-the-shoulder to a vertiginous view of waves crashing on a rocky shore; cut to just the feet moving closer and closer to the edge while the score ramps up the mood of anxiety. A woman’s voice shouts, “No! Stop!” And, boom, Hitchcock’s touches invest us emotionally, just like always. We’re caught up with this man, the young woman, and a place that sounds like a magic word -- Manderley. Ensnared by Hitchcock’s genius.
  10. Silence, except for the light-hearted musical score featuring a flute, as Miss Froy, all eyes on her, crosses to pick up her key from Boris the concierge. She completes her wind-blown exit with the assistance of Caldicott and Charters. A beat later the flute music stops as the camera follows two blustering Germans blowing in from the same door, crossing right. Then it’s a quick cut to an exasperated Boris on the phone, cut to the cuckoo clock trumpeting the time, back to Boris, cuckoo clock still trumpeting. It’s a cacophony of sound that envelops us, creating a mood of fun and madcap mayhem. Boris speaks to his audience of stranded guests first in Italian, rush of Italians to desk; then in French, rush of French to desk; then in German, rush of Germans to the desk. It’s a vaudeville shtick. Finally in English, “If you wish to stay in my hotel, you must register immediately.” Caldicott and Charters believe Bruno is making a bee-line to them, and we buy into the bit of misdirection. He crosses, instead, to the trio of beautiful American women who have entered from the whirlwind door. And, all eyes follow Boris, as he draws our attention to the female star of the film. From the opening moment of The Lady Vanishes, Hitchcock gives us a scene within a scene as we watch the crowd watch the action. As Iris, Bruno, and her friends go up the stairs, all eyes follow the star and her entourage up and out. I expected applause. Cut back to C & C and their patter act regarding Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody” misconstrued as the Hungarian national anthem. They are scene stealers of the first magnitude, adding to the comedic tone. Hitchcock is brilliant.
  11. The opening of The 39 Steps (1935) incorporates familiar Hitchcockian tropes: a public place, an audience or crowd, movement, scrolling text. The influence of German expressionism is evident in the contrast between light and dark, shadows, and acute angles. What differs is the tone, accomplished by sound -- laughter, light-hearted ribaldry, a crying baby, a heckling crowd, and Mr. Memory’s musical theme. The anxiety that the opening sequence of The 39 Steps instills is lifted when we see Richard Hannay’s ingenuous face. He is a normal guy, enjoying the crowd and the show. And, it is a very handsome face. Sigh with relief. Catch your breath. Rothman is correct that we identify and empathize with Robert Donat’s character, more innocent than the characters we have seen in previous Hitchcock opening scenes. And, we can begin to check off some of the items in Phillips' list of the elements that comprise the Hitchcock touch. Hannay is in a very public place, surrounded by a rather raucous fish-and-chips crowd. He is a regular guy who shouts out his trivia just like the other blokes who welcome the Canadian into their midst. Sigh with relief. Catch your breath. Then get ready, because from here on out it’s Mr. Toad’s wild ride.
  12. 1) Character or plot? Plot is the sequence of events that make up a story. Plot is going to be more important than character in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934); that is a Hitchcock signature. 2) Abbott/Lorre, what do we learn? LAWRENCE: You all right, sir? ABBOTT: I don’t know, my English is not good enough for me to know! LAWRENCE: That daughter of mine’s knocking ’em cold before her time! ABBOTT: Knocking them cold? What does it mean? LAWRENCE: Just an expression. After being knocked down with the rest of the immediate crowd, Abbott displays a sense of humor. He is laughing as he stands up, brushing snow from his coat. He jokes with Lawrence. His tone contrasts with that of his curmudgeonly nurse. Then, Abbott’s jocularity is interrupted briefly when he and Louis exchange glances, foreshadowing something darker. Lawrence is oblivious. Right off the bat, Abbott is likeable, and we are not supposed to like the bad guy. Abbott’s line is also an inside joke, as Lorre was learning English and, supposedly, reading his lines phonetically. 3) Opening scenes of The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger, and the 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much, similarities and differences? The openings of The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger, and the 1934 The Man Who Knew Too Much share signature Hitchcockian techniques. The overall impression is movement accomplished by quick cuts, tight frames, close-ups, and crowd panorama shots. In The Man Who Knew Too Much, the images are brighter and less claustrophobic. The tone is lighter.
  13. The characters in the scene hear the jangle of the bell over the shop door; they engage in conversations that a murder generates; they exchange pleasantries and gossip. However, Alice’s reality is far different, and the audience is privy to her world through her reactions to the way she perceives what we hear. Hitchcock then gives us what she hears. Alice is destroyed, and the judgmental, strident-voiced busy body will not shut up. Alice reacts to that onslaught by escaping briefly into the silence of the phone booth while looking for Frank’s number. The police listing offers no solace; it heightens her distress. She cannot get help from Frank. Alice’s reaction to the customers’ comments about the murder and the murder weapon is silence. She cannot escape into silence, though. Doors opening and closing bring her back to her desperate reality. The annoying customer intrudes on Alice and her parents even as they gather for breakfast. Alice’s reaction to each repetition of “knife” is a subtle lift of her eyebrows. This and her trembling hand are the only indications that she is barely hanging on. The audience becomes accustomed to the counterpoint of that woman’s voice and is further lulled by the ordinariness of the breakfast table. The viewer is so infuriated by the sound of that woman’s voice that he is completely startled when Alice loses control and flings the knife. Alice reacts to the shop bell as if it were the bell that ends a bout in a boxing ring. Or, the sound of a knife on fine crystal. It would seem that today’s technology would make this technique easier to do; so I don’t know why it isn’t used more frequently in cinema. Unless it boils down to being about the almighty dollar and movies having to appeal to fourteen-year old boys. Subjective sound might be too cerebral. My abject apologies to cerebral fourteen-year old boys. And, I mean that with all sincerity, because I have known some.
  14. In Downfall, the constant, fluid movement of the tracking shot captures the boys; it holds them in the frame; there is no escape. Using this technique, Hitchcock builds the tension and anxiety that the audience experiences on behalf of the boys. As Mabel moves toward the boys, only her face framed, we see the lie in her eyes as they move from one boy to fix on the other, the innocent one. By controlling the sets, Hitchcock controls the scenes. In The Pleasure Garden, the girls spiral down the staircase. In The Lodger, the tea stand curbs the crowd. In Downhill, the girl is confined to one corner of the extensive room. In The Ring, the room, with a fireplace, chair, and fight bill on the wall, sets the boundaries, not unlike a fight ring. On the big screen, subtle nuances of expression are larger than life. The chorus girl’s disdainful look at the ogler with opera glasses in The Pleasure Garden, the blonde’s dying scream in The Lodger, the innocent boy’s expression when he realizes he is being accused in Downhill, and the young boxer’s glower when he imagines his wife kissing another man in The Ring engage the audience. Hitchcock’s close-ups are never gratuitous. The emotion the audience sees further draws the viewers into the story. And, through no fault of their own, innocent characters find themselves in situations over which they have no control -- the ingénue whose letter is stolen in The Pleasure Garden, the character trying to establish his innocence in The Lodger, the innocent student in Downhill. The obstacles they encounter drive the action, which further ensures that Hitchcock’s audience is fully invested in the stories he tells.
  15. Flapping flag-sized handkerchiefs, a spinning phonograph record, frenetic dancers whose upraised arms morph into an anthropomorphic keyboard accompanied by discordant piano music move the scene in a jarring fashion. Hitchcock’s montage in this scene from The Ring is disturbingly alive. Hitchcock uses doorframes and mirrors to control the audience’s and the young boxer’s points of view of the wife’s behavior. A further example of this subjectivity is the carousel movement that brings the wife and the gentleman, on whose armchair she perches, into the same plane as the promoter and the trainer. They are very much in the room, embracing and kissing, but only in the young fighter’s eye and mind. We know exactly how he thinks and feels. The action moves between the debauchery of the party-goers in the fancy clothes and the starkness of the room where the trainer and promoter talk to the young fighter, the fight bill behind them on the fireplace wall. The young wife and fighter see each other in the reflection of the mirror. Hitchcock deliberately removes them from their immediate environments through their physical actions. Their faces fall, their eyes turn to the mirror, and their smiles disappear. Trouble in paradise. A very ordinary love triangle set in a very disturbing world of distorted perspectives.
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