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The World of Alfred Hitchcock


MissGoddess
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Jack Favell and I didn't say Notorious is a bad film. In my opinion, Notorious is a good film. But not great. But I consider Alfred Hitchcock as the greatest director.

 

I love Under Capricorn. But many people dislike it. Only few people goes forward to defend Under Capricorn.

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Under Capricorn is the only drama Hitchcock made in U.S. It isn't a thriller. Under Capricorn (1949) is available to watch on youtube. I hate the American version, because the visual effects are all washed out. Under Capricorn (1949) on youtube is a good version. But its not restored. I hope someone will restore the film someday.

 

Under Capricorn was a box office failure, because the publicity department of Warner Bros did everything the wrong way. The posters showed like the film was going to be a Horror/Thriller. When the audience went to the theatre, they saw a drama. So they were disappointed. I think the screenplay by James Bridie is absolutely brilliant. I find his dialogue to be very effective. Maybe its just me. The film moves slowly in first 10 to 15 minutes.

 

I have seen the film several times. And it only gets better by each viewing. You may like the film after the first viewing. But you will like the film even more better after the second viewing. Have you seen Stage Fright (1950)?

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With Hitchcock, James Bridie wrote the Original Hitchcock Script for The Paradine Case. And Ben Hecht contributed additional dialogue on it. But it was never used, because of the changes in the casting. James Bridie was a scottish playwright. He is famous for plays with biblical elements in it.

 

James Bridie wrote mainly comedies, but comedies that dealt with oftentimes fearsome themes. His play "The Sunlight Sonata", for example was subtitled The Seven deadly sins, and the plays that followed it focused on such harsh realities as death, damnation, disease, and drunkenness. James Bridie's famous biblical plays are Tobias and the angel, Susanna and the Elders, and Jonah and the Whale.

 

Hitchcock made Stage Fright (1950) after the big failure of Under Capricorn. Hitchcock's studio Transatlantic Pictures got closed, because of the box office failure of Under Capricorn. After that, Hitchcock's career was in trouble. Warner Bros gave him a low budget for his next film. And he made Stage Fright (1950) based on a novel called "Outrun the Constable." Hitchcock called Stage Fright "A small picture." But I like it because of Hitchcock's simple ideas, humor, and the music score by Leighton Lucas.

 

James Bridie suggested Hitchcock to cast Alastair Sim in the film. And he wrote the additional dialogue on Stage Fright.

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What do you think about Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew too Much (1956) and 1934 version? I like both versions. But I like original version a little better. I think this is because the villain played by Peter Lorre is much more interesting.

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UNDER CAPRICORN was a big favorite of the French Hitchcockians, which makes perfectly good sense if you've read any of the plays of the seventheenth-century dramatist Pierre Corneille, which the French would have studied in school. Corneille's plays often deal with characters choosing to sacrifice their own wants and needs out of a sense of honor. The development of the Cotten/Bergman/Wilding triangle is very much along these lines.

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Very interesting post, kingrat. Someone posted an interesting subject about Under Capricorn. It was like this "there is a strict and mirror-like duality among the characters, everybody seems to be the exact counterpart of the other (something like a photograph and the negative)."

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I really liked Under Capricorn, and found myself crying at the end when Michael Wilding was so gracious. The pace was slow, but it was not necessarily a detriment to the movie, in fact it fit the torturous pace of Sam and Hattie's life. The only thing I can say that I didn't like was that

 

1. I pretty much knew what was going to happen all the way through.

 

2. It was terribly un-Hitchcockian.

 

However, the shrunken head made me jump up and gasp out loud!

 

Edited by: JackFavell on May 20, 2010 9:31 PM

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I am glad you liked the film. Alfred Hitchcock made this movie, because he wanted his Transatlantic Pictures to become a financially successful studio. But the publicity of Warner Bros messed everything up. They gave the impression that the film was going to be a Horror/Thriller.

 

One of the things I liked about the film was visual symbolisms throughout the picture. As you know, James Bridie was a playwright who was famous for plays with Biblical elements in it. Ingrid Bergman's character Lady Henrietta is a penitent sinner. You see her with bare feet and we see clothes/jewels cast down to the floor when she walks .

 

St. Mary Magdalene (the patron saint of penitent sinners) in religious iconography: the bare feet, skull, the flail, the looking glass in which beholder?s is not always reflected, the jewels cast down to floor. All of these images are in the film. Sources for the imagery that Hitchcock might have had in mind are the paintings St. Mary Magdalene With a Candle (1630-1635) and St. Mary Magdalene With a Mirror (1635-1645), both by Georges de la Tour. This info came from Ed Gallafent's article about Under Capricorn.

 

Through these symbolisms, we see the forms in which character inhabit their past.

 

Alexandre Astruc acclaimed Under Capricorn as giving an intelligent and restrained treatment to its theme, which he believed to be "the mystery of the human personality".

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That's very interesting, konway. I had no idea about the symbolism - but I do love it when directors use art or paintings as inspiration.

 

I found the acting to be uniformly excellent, each character displayed their personality to nth degree - and although it was frustrating to see Hattie wavering between the two men, and Sam willing to listen to , I do believe that she made the only choice she could make. Everyone was trying to help Hattie see that she was a worthwhile human being, but no one was there to do the same thing for Sam. In many ways, he was just as lost as she. Only Hattie was able to know Sam thoroughly, to know what would unlock "the curse" for him.

 

Because we are discussing *The Shepherd of the Hills* elsewhere, I found some comparisons between the Margaret Leighton character and the Beulah Bondi character in SOTH, who each end up destroying through their "love" or protection of others. Their names are even similar - Milly in Under Capricorn and Mollie in SOTH. Each played on their loved ones deepest fears and angers in order to get what they wanted, which was someone to wallow in their misery with them. They also were both rooted in the superstition and folklore of their respective environments, though Milly merely used the aboriginal folk customs to get her way. Unfortunately she overplayed her hand, not realizing that Sam would leave to be with Hattie. Their past life and love was too strong for her, even if they couldn't manage to work out their problems.

 

One could make a case for the movie being a little like Rebecca, but I think I will just mention it and drop it - there really is not much similarity except for the fact that the two housekeepers are obsessed.

 

I really, really enjoyed Michael Wilding's character - his useless, silly **** "gentleman" was spot on. He brought loads of life and entertainment to the film which it needed since the two main characters were so dark, morbid and shut down. His scenes with Cecil Parker, (king of the fearful society fussbudgets) were great. As a romantic lead Wilding was quite good too. Lending dash where he could, and finding some character along the way. In fact, I have never seen him better than in this movie. Of course, it was a gift from Hitchcock to him, since he got the most fun role in the whole thing.

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I really need to watch Under Capricorn again. I've held off because I haven't been in the mood to watch a movie on the computer, I'd rather see it on TV. I'll see about getting a hold of a copy. You and Konway have made me want to see it. I tend to like when Hitch wandered away from his "suspense" genre/style, so it may be I will like it more than I remember. I really have no recall of what the story is about.

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Good thread.

 

These characters are intriguing. I am glad, JF you put "love" in quotes. I most heartily agree! The women mentioned have control issues, clearly. Not so much love, but what they claim as theirs.

 

That's what I love about Hitch's work. Maybe it's his "Actors are cattle" statement that I always think about when watching his movies. His actors hit their marks in blocking, but it's their expression and delivery that always impresses me. Jimmy Stewart's acting in Hitch's work is some of his best.. In fact, he always captures the right close up-- kudos to the film editor on that one too.

 

Symbolism.. that could be it's own ramble!

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Goddess, it reminded me of a pretty bad movie I saw years ago which took the viewpoint of Bertha in Jane Eyre. Rochester was painted as weakly evil due to his imperialistic background .

 

Not that I am saying this one was a bad movie at all, but it reminded me in tone of that other film. They both start out with a character in a foreign, rather lush, warm setting, who is seen as insane by the upper echelons of society. Then the story turns upside down when we realize that the character was not mad at all but a victim of the very society we saw originally as good. It's rather interesting that Hitch was so much on the side of the outcasts, since I think most films of the time were rather more about society folk within their own milieu. You could sort of see a fight within him between the British and the American (read Australian) ways of life.

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It's funny that this one line is brought up so much with Hitch - "Actor's should be treated as cattle" - when I can't think of another director who loves his actors so much, and allows them such great leeway, character wise. His characters are some of the most well thought out and acted in cinema, and his camera adores them.

 

Edited by: JackFavell on May 21, 2010 9:31 AM

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Ah, again we concur. We are of the same mind on this one.

 

Maybe the comment alone is what tunes up my observations of Hitch's work. The characters bring so much depth (gushing here-sorry) and subtle expression onscreen. The actors are well aware they are in close-up; they add something more to the performance. And again, the camera work and editing are amazing to me. You want to learn how to write great characters? Study some of Hitch's and Wilder's work.. I find Vertigo Scotty and Shadow of a Doubt Charlie particularly fascinating, Not the antagonists-- that would be too easy.

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Very interesting post, JackFavell. One thing that interested me is "how the characters (Charles Adare, Sam, Henrietta, and Milly) are so alike. "

 

Charles Adare and Lady Henrietta belong to the higher class. While Sam and Milly belong to the lower class. The mind of Charles Adare is filled with shameful emptiness. Charles Adare says to Henrietta "I spent most of my life warding off boredom." Charles Adare wanting to recreate Hattie as if she were still young Hattie Considine, he desires his own form of second chance, to return to the point in the past where he might start afresh, without the shameful emptiness of his adventures so far. So he is looking for redemption just like Henrietta and Sam. Alcoholism represents the shame of Lady Henrietta.

 

Charles Adare is also like Milly. Charles Adare loves Henrietta. And he tries to take her away from Sam. Milly loves Sam. And she tries to take away Sam from Lady Henrietta. As for Milly and Lady Henrietta, they both love Sam. They are willing to do anything for Sam. Lady Henrietta killed Dermot to save Sam's life. Milly tries to kill Lady Henrietta, because she thinks Lady Henrietta is only making Sam's life miserable.

 

I found this info about Sam from an Imdb post. I thought it was very interesting.

 

"Sam's crippling inferiority complex dictates everything he does, and it's where the film gleans much of its drama. In his own way he's equally as pathetic as Henrietta; trapped in a different kind of mental prison. Sometimes he's unaware of his cruelty, believing himself to be doing the right thing; at others it's as if he can't help himself. He's a man who constantly tries to do good things, yet at every turn he's thwarted either by his own secret past, or his fear of that past. For a man so ostensibly powerful he's easy to knock down, and his reaction to these setbacks just reinforces his own negative perception of himself. This conflict is written on his every gesture and expression."

 

This is very similar to Milly's situation. Milly says to Sam at the end "Oh no, Mr. Flusky. I know I am not good enough for you. I know that. I am only good enough to work for you. And slave for you. And look after your drunken.."

 

I also like to point out another Mary Magdalene reference - Minyago Yugilla means Why weepest thou? Jesus asks St. Mary Magdalene "Why Weepest Thou?" in the Gospel Of John.

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I am so glad you wrote this, konway! That's brilliant - each is like the other at any given instance, and this is what made the movie most fascinating for me, that and also the redemption of all but Millie.

 

I instinctively felt that the characters were in kind of a rondelay, with each taking the other's place at different times, but I could not at all put it into words.... yes, I totally see that! So Charles effects his own redemption, as well as Henrietta's, and by doing so, he also helps Sam get back to the strong man he once fwas with Henrietta's love to propel him.

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