Sunday, May 13, 2012

For the Love of Hitchcock

For the Love of Hitchcock

Has there ever been a more riveting depiction of obsession than in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo? Are there any movie scenes more terrifying than those in The Birds? My son, who's all grown up and with adult children of his own, still feels frightened of birds as a result of watching that Hitchcock masterpiece. And, after seeing Psycho, I'm not the only one afraid of showering. But that's not all. The airplane-chasing sequence in North by Northwest continues to haunt my dreams; I harbor more suspicions of Cary Grant than Joan Fontaine does when I watch Suspicion; and every time I see Rebecca, it holds me spellbound from beginning to end.

Yes indeed, Hitchcock films almost always exceed my expectations for thrills, suspense and mystery. That's why it's my pleasure to participate in the 2012 Film Preservation Blogathon (May 13-18), designed to help raise funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation to stream The White Shadow (1923) on the NFPF site so that everyone with a computer can access it. This newly restored film just happens to be Hitchcock's first credited feature. Marilyn Ferdinand, one of the Blogathon founders, hasn't seen the movie yet -- but she calls it "a lurid melodrama" based on the stills she received. If the film showcases Hitchcock's budding talents back in 1923, that's enough for me! I understand Hitchcock served in various capacities on this movie, including assistant director, screenwriter, editor, and art director.

It's interesting to note that Hitchcock racked up a few early failures on his road to becoming the Master of Suspense. In their book "Alfred Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Years," Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol offer fascinating information about such unsuccessful efforts as Waltzes in Vienna (1933), Champagne (1928), and The Skin Game (1931). The first was a film version of a Johann Straus operetta, and by the second week of filming he knew the movie was dreadful.  Just as everyone was getting ready for the Big Ball scene, Hitchcock called them all together -- actors, crew and thousands of extras. Pointing to his empty director's chair, he said "I hate this film. I hate this kind of film, and I have no feeling for it. What I need is drama, adventures!" Naturally, the movie received scathing reviews -- as did Champagne ("a superficial satire filled with pathetic tricks"). Regarding The Skin Game, Hitchcock even put his hands over his ears when anyone mentioned it.  
Fortunately, The Lodger (1926) displayed Hitchcock's tremendous potential for building suspense on screen. And, as they say, the rest is history. During a career that lasted over six decades, Hitchcock directed more than 50 films. Movie Maker Magazine called him "the most influential filmmaker of all time." And, according to Britain's Daily Telegraph, Hitchcock "did more than any other director to shape modern cinema." Because Hitchcock movies boast twist endings plus thrilling plots filled with violence, murder and crime, most viewers were -- and still are -- captivated while watching them. Add compelling psychological and visual elements as well as stylistic presentation, mistaken identity, characters wrongfully accused -- and the wow factor definitely kicks in while viewing a Hitchcock film.        

No wonder Hitchcock fans like me are so excited to see The White Shadow! If you are also a fan, please make a donation during this important Film Preservation Blogathon (May 13-18) by Clicking here:

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  • Betty Jo: I'm happy you mentioned some of the lesser Hitchcock movies. I have not seen Champagne, Waltzes or The Skin Game. Perhaps I should continue to avoid them, although I like Galsworthy and love Edmund Gwenn, so I may be forced to seek out The Skin Game.

    By Blogger Joe Thompson, At 9:46 PM  

  • Hi, Joe! Thanks for reading my Blogathon article. I haven't seen these lesser Hitchcock films either, but I would like "to seek them out." I also love Edmund Gwenn. He's one of my all-time favorite character actors.

    By Blogger Betty Jo, At 4:50 PM  

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