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Miss Wallace

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  1. I love The Birds. There's so much going on in this movie, each episode with Mitch and Melanie, or the unrequited love story of Annie Hayworth, or the tragic fears of Mitch's mother....could be a story in itself. And then we're suddenly brought back to the idea of...oh yes, the world is going crazy and life as we know it is ending. (Actually a little too close to the atmosphere today.) And I love Tippi Hedren - she is so incredibly self-possessed in this movie. Who else could calmly travel up the coast, rent and drive a motor boat to a remote location, all while wearing a pencil skirt, an upswept hairdo and carrying a bird cage? And by the way, I really do think someone should mention the serious claims Tippi Hendren has made about the sexual harassment she received from Hitchcock during the making of The Birds. She says Hitch put her in harms way and she was injured during the making of this film because she wouldn't submit to him. It is a sad part of the Hitchcock character, but it seems to be true.
  2. So glad Professor Edwards brought up the question of what LIsa sees in Jeff. That's been the one wrong note for me of an otherwise marvelous movie. Why would this incredible woman exert so much effort on this not so attractive or attentive man? I came to think that Jeff became something of a "cause" for Lisa....her chance to get the guy who didn't want to be gotten. The only problem for her is, it's not working. So she's got to go to great lengths and even put her life in danger to impress him. Now why Jeff isn't crazy about Lisa....that's just inexplicable.
  3. It’s so interesting to learn that Hitchcock and Wilder modeled this opening scene on The Killers. But there’s more than a subtle difference between the two openings. Burt Lancaster, in The Killers, is a rather normal guy who put himself in an impossible situation and now has to pay. Uncle Charlie is not a normal guy and we see that right from the start. He’s lying on the bed in a buttoned-up suit and tie, vaguely conducting a tune with his cigar. He seems lost in his own world even while listening to the landlady. And then there’s the pile of money thrown haphazardly on the table. We get the impression he’s done something odd to get that money but we’re almost afraid to ask. Then, he throws the glass, pulls himself together. He’s ready for the game to begin again. This opening is less ominous than The Killers, but it’s a lot creepier.
  4. QUESTION 2: Does anyone know if Peter Bogdanovich was riffing on this film in What’s Up, Doc? when he chose to make his main character (played by Ryan O’Neal) a musicologist? He also got mixed up in a mess with a girl. WHAT'S UP DOC? is a remake of 1938's Bringing Up Baby, the screwball comedy with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. I think that The Lady Vanishes is now one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I saw snippits of it before on TV, but this is the first time I've really seen it. It's amazingly smart and fun.
  5. It's really amazing that this is Hitchcock's first scene in his first film. It looks like it was created by a much more experienced director. Hitchcock always enjoys poking fun at his peripheral characters....you see that here, along with his attraction to the stage (39 steps, Stagefright, etc.). I can't say that I would see this scene and automatically say it was a Hitchcock film...but maybe that's because I'm not good enough at spotting his work yet. One thing would be interesting to find out....Hitchcock had the famous habit of appearing briefly in each of his films. Does that trademark begin with his first film? If not, when did it start?
  6. A lot of traditional expectations were completely overthrown because of World War Two and the Cold War. Americans never expected to bury their children or become widows in their 20s. They never expected to face a threat to their nation's existence...from Hitler and then the atom bomb. They never expected that their government would tell them they couldn't trust their neighbors, in the form of the Japanese internment and the Communist hysteria of the 50s.So a movie genre that overthrows traditional expectations - that allows anything to happen to anybody at any time whether they deserve it or not - confirmed the anxieties of the time. These "by-chance" plots also expose the thin veneer of normalcy that shields ordinary people from chaos. Jane is chafing against her mundane existence even before the accidental money drop. But when she sees the cash, she sees her power. Alex says at the end of the clip "Slow down. I'll take the wheel." I don't think Alex is ever really going to take the wheel again.
  7. I've seen Strangers on a Train about 3 or 4 times, but I've never noticed the opening before. Seeing the two pairs of shoes and trying to figure out the different impressions I was getting from them made me do some research.The type of shoe Bruno is wearing is called a black and white spectator shoe, popular in Britain around the 1920s and 30s. It was considered a style too tasteless for gentlemen, preferred by loungers and "spectators." The fact that Guy Haines is a tennis player and Bruno is wearing spectator shoes is an additional (and delicious) criss-cross in this opening scene. I've never thought of Alfred Hitchcock as a film noir director, even though his choice of subject matter is often "noirish." His films are too idiosyncratic and not dark enough to really feel like noir. And his most subversive film - Pyscho- was made after the classic film noir timeline.
  8. The dark wet streets; cobblestones; shadows canted in all directions; Orson Welles face bathed in a sudden light; ...this is so quintessentially film noir. Welles' expression, or rather expressions are priceless. He emerges from the shadows not like a vision, a la Kathy Moffat, but like an apparition. And indeed he is a ghost, he's not supposed to be alive. And he smiles that knowing smile...a post-war Mona Lisa. I agree with another student who says Welles must have had a hand in making this movie. It's so much like his work. (And how could he resist giving a little advice?) But I have to disagree about the soundtrack. I find it incredibly intrusive and really annoying. I think this movie is a classic, but I wish I could see it without having to listen to this endless zither music.
  9. With the voice-over narration and the DA saying they may meet again, the sunny entrance of John Garfield is full of foreshadowing and foreboding. He tells us he's rootless, not lucky but optimistic and searching for something. Moments later, he finds it. Lana Turner's entrance in this hole-in-the-wall burger joint is like a vision from another world. I like the way Garfield gasps, just a little when he first sees her. She's gorgeous and expects to be adored. He sees that immediately and refuses to take the bait. The game is on. I'm not a real student of MGM noir, but this film (and let's say Johnny Eager too) almost feel like they don't want to be "noirs." MGM is doing it beautifully, but it's not buying into the "noir" esthetic like Warner's or RKO. The deep shadows never seem quite as deep at MGM.
  10. The travelogue shots that begin this sequence show us that we are in the real world. But in typical noir-style, we leave the real, daylight world to enter a subjective, shadow world. That contrast is seen most clearly in Kathy Moffat's entrance into La Mar Azul. Out of that real world, she enters into a darker, cooler world of secrets and shady motives. Jeff uses every opportunity he can, from the dropped coin to the tour guide's assumption they're a couple, to ingratiate himself into Kathy's world. He'd doing it for business, but Mitchum does a good job of letting us know he's attracted to this woman he's been hired to find. Kathy is polite but unintersted -- until the end of the conversation. She's giving the impression of a well-bred, sophisticate. Until she lowers her voice at the end and says pointedly "I go there sometime," Kathy reveals herself as a study in contradictions. Who ever heard of a femme-fatale named Kathy Moffat? And yet, she's one of the most lethal ladies in Film Noir.
  11. The opening of Border Incident introduces us to a landscape created by humans to "improve" on nature. We can divert torrents of water and make the desert bloom. We can grow tons of produce and have our "neighbors to the South" do the heavy lifting. But, despite the "march of time" narration, what the musical score indicates is that there's something not quite right in this setup. Some consequences we still can't control. We see the fence obscure the faces of the migrant workers in almost the same grid patterns that formed the farms and canals. And then the sky darkens, we see the desert at dusk and those signs warning "prohibited," "forbidden." I'm not a big fan of documentary-style noir, but this clip showed me what a shock a movie like this must have been to an audience who started out seeing that elegant "Silver Anniversary" engraving from MGM!
  12. I've had trouble figuring out this movie before and now I think I know why. The switch between the realistic scenes and the formalized scenes were hard for me to make sense of. Sometimes The Killers looks like a slice-of-life detective story and I start relating to it like I would to The Naked City or another realistic Noir film. Then, as in this scene, it switches to a world of shadows and stylized images. I didn't notice what was happening before, but I know I've felt unsettled by this movie. It's as if no one is safe, not even if most of your life is spent in the sunlight, from a devouring darkness.
  13. This scene doesn't utilize the type of music you generally associate with Film Noir. It's not moody, or sinister, or even especially memorable (like the theme of Laura.) But the song and the performance by Rita Hayworth is a pivotal part of the plot of Gilda. I think Hayworth does play this scene as if she's tipsy. Gilda is tired of being falsely accused of being promiscuous and unfaithful and after a few drinks decides to show the world just how a promiscuous floozy would behave. But she's just so overwhemingly sexy and gorgeous in this scene, we can almost understand why Johnny acts like a psychotic maniac when he's around her. I agree with my fellow students who say the plot of "Gilda" is a bit repulsive. I think it's also deeply misogynistic.But I've only seen it once, and look forward to watching it again through the lense of the "film noir" investigator.
  14. This scene shows why Mildred Pierce is a '40's "woman's film" with a difference. Veda's character is not just over-the-top - she's positively poisonous. I don't think there are many film moments more jaw-dropping than when Joan Crawford shouts out "Veda!" in this scene. When both actresses are arguing on the staircase, we see them in a physically awkward, potentially dangerous position. And this is the most awkward, dangerous conversation they've ever had. The emotional intensity is enhanced by the railings that encase them. It's almost as if they're in a cage ready to do battle. On a lighter note, is anyone old enough to remember Carol Burnett's hilarious take-off on Mildred Pierce...a skit called Mildred Fierce? She wore shoulder pads big enough for a line-backer and ran a restaurant called "Fatburgers." Brilliant!
  15. Anyone else get the distinct feeling this is not the first night Ray Milland has watched that clock as he sat alone in the dark? The pendulum makes us wonder: how many nights have gone by and just what has he been thinking about? Although there are similarities between the opening of "M" and "Ministry of Fear" ( very well pointed out by fellow students!) I think Lang has matured in the years between the films. Although classic and memorable, I think "M" seems a little obvious and overdone in comparison. "Ministry of Fear" is more subtle. It makes us feel anxious and on-edge but we don't know why. And overhead camera angle behind Milland's head is sophisticated and effective.
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