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Madcap Heiress

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  1. This scene contrasts significantly with the others we have spotlighted so far, mainly because of the stillness of the actors and the achievement of intensity through close-ups and a moving camera rather than through fast-paced editing and dizzying effects. The use of the moving POV shots allows surmise to grow, allows us to put the pieces together of what's coming and why along with Novello's main character. It's interesting, too, the way in which the boys move freely into the lavishly appointed room, while the waitress first waits seated in a corner and then comes in again only barely, staying against the wall. They move through a space to which they are accustomed, which is going to betray Novello, while she knows she doesn't really belong and is visually treated in just that way. Her acting, by the way--the somewhat twitchy, eye-darting quality of her false accusation--is really well-done. Those dolly POV shots create rising tension, rising dread--a kind of ominous inevitability.
  2. This great clip illustrates Hitchcock's inventiveness with visual narration and use of the possibilities of shots and editing. One thing I notice about his use of the set to create the sense of rivalry is the frames within the frame. The doorway between the two rooms, the mirror each one sees the other reflected in, the poster on the wall and the photograph on the mantel representing a world of fame that lies just ahead for the fighter--all of these things separate the people and elements from each other while also presenting them as things to admire, to be longed for. The superimposition shot of what the fighter fears--the seduction of his wife--reminds us of such superimposition shots in other films, notably Joe's "vision" of the clues in The Lodger and Hannay's memory of Miss Smith's warnings in The 39 Steps. I was also very taken with the contrast between the wildly rhythmic dancing of the two girls and the other partygoers with the stillness of the fighter in one room and his wife and his rival in the other. The blurring of the dancers into distorted piano keys is also a bravura moment--it's one of those moments in Hitchcock's silent films when you would swear there is sound.
  3. There are obvious echoes of the opening of The Pleasure Garden, with the flashing lights advertising a theatrical revue and the emphasis on blonde women. Several things strike me in this opening. One is that the opening shot of the girls screaming (presumably as she is about to be murdered) is taken from the killer's POV. This choice implicates the audience immediately in their "unseemly" interest in the dark goings-on. Same with the sequence of how the news spreads, although this clip stops short of the "hot over the aerial" scene, in which listeners of various kinds listen with dread and relish to the description of the murders. That's AH with his back to us, sitting at a desk with a telephone. The interesting thing that I notice this time is that he seems to be giving direction with his hand gestures, and the window toward which he is turned, and which we see from the same POV as he does, is shaped very much like a movie screen with "action" going on on the other side. This is an early evocation of the window/movie frames in Rear Window and the framing devices he uses at crucial points in 39 Steps, Notorious, etc. And it certainly marks his cameo as a kind of director/artist's signature to his work.
  4. Hitchcock touch? Yes, definitely. The theatrical setting, the dynamic spiral staircase, the blonde chorus girls, the blending of raciness, humor, and an edge of unsettling "ownership" from the impresario all lend Hitchcockian energy to this introductory scene. Themes, motifs, etc. This question in some ways repeats the first. I would add the tracking shot across the audience (very reminiscent of The 39 Steps), the frizzy blonde wigs on the chorus girls (The Lodger), the frankness about the artificiality of the theater in the removable curl (also The Lodger, and even an audacious 1920s riff on Pope's The Rape of the Lock). The fascination (and sexual symbolism) of women's purses (Notorious, Marnie). Monocles, POV shots. Miss the sound? No. In a good silent movie, I am in the world of the story, especially in a movie by someone as skilled in "pure cinema" as AH.
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