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His most essential films, and a basic A-Z of what to look for. We all know Hitch, more or less. While quite familiar with his films generally i’m not a completist and certainly no expert.
Actors (to be treated like cattle): Leo G Carroll, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Joseph Cotten, Edmund Gwenn….
Alma: petite but “peppery” wife in long devoted marriage, 1926-80; editor/collaborator/assistant in career, with sharp eye for continuity flaws
Anglo-American: Hitch took American citizenship while keeping his British citizenship
Art: cinema as art deserving higher status as well as “piece of cake” entertainment. Hitch collected art.
Artificial Sets, e.g Rear Window, Rope, Marnie…. often rather than outdoor location realism, though memorable use of location in Vertigo
Audience: to be played with, 2 way process of projection, between film and spectator (projection of emotions by latter)
Bass, Saul: title sequences, North by Northwest
Battle of the sexes
Bon viveur; along with art collecting, Hitch enjoyed gourmet food, symphony halls.. and wrestling
Burks, Robert cinematographer
Cahiers du Cinéma French critics turned director, e.g Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, who successfully championed Hitch.
Cinemagoers’ habits; Hitch insisted on Psycho being viewed from the start, when viewing films at any point then again from the beginning was commonplace
Chaos v order, the struggle to overcome cruel haphazard fate, re-establish calm after being caught up in events often barely understood
Close ups, e.g shots of hands
Cold War eg North by Northwest, Torn Curtain, Topaz. Little doubt which side Hitch was on, as with Nazism
Colour scheme Vertigo, Marnie
Dolly Zoom Vertigo effect
Draughtsman-designer Hitch’s background to and prominent influence on his films
Emotion: not only audience involvement but real feelings and pain. Marnie’s heartfelt angst (her horse!), sympathy for Rains in Notorious
English Eccentricity: e.g The Lady Vanishes
Fragrance: the divine aroma of Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest
Free French: Bon Voyage, Aventure Malagache
Gothic: Rebecca, Psycho
Head, Edith, legend in costumes.
Heights and overhead shots
Herrmann, Bernd music, soundtracks- regular composer for Hitch from the mid 1950s
Hitchcock- as a brand, himself in cameos
Influence on many directors and films, e.g De Palma, Chabrol, Charade, Mirage, Frantic..
Innuendo e.g train enters tunnel in North by Northwest, purse in Marnie has been likened to a vagina!
Jaguarundi (and learning to trust, in Marnie)
Key in Notorious (most nail-biting, heart-pounding moments in cinema)
Kissing; Hitch knew how to bring out the erotic and get the most from restrictions
Lang, Fritz influence
The Last Laugh: Hitch observed Murnau’s film being made and admired it as pure cinema
Lightbulb illuminating the suspected milk in Suspicion
Location shooting; eg, unusually extensive in Saboteur for the time, memorable in Vertigo
London: birthplace, 1899
Loneliness as a child
Long Take in Rope
M is for Murder, Marnie, Madeleine, Melanie, Marion Crane, Madeleine Carroll..
MacGuffin Minor, largely irrelevant detail as central narrative device
Master of Suspense
Matte shots: The Birds
Montage- Psycho, influence of Eisenstein and Soviet silent cinema
O: number of best direction Oscars, Roger O Thornhill, David O Selznick
Patricia: Hitch’s only daughter, born 1928
Phobia: Vertigo, Marnie
Photography: an interest that led him into films, first as designer.
Police: fear of (Hich’s dad got the coppers to lock him up as a nipper)
Predator-Protector: Vertigo, Marnie..
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
“Queer” undercurrents: North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train, Rope- homophobia?
Real characters: the O in R.O.T may mean nothing, but these are no Tarantino-esque cardboard cut-outs.
Sexy Sensuality, Hitch’s sexual obsession with women.
Sound, effects and clever cuts: Blackmail, 39 Steps, The Man who Knew Too Much..
Storyboards, preparing the visuals for each scene, a process of careful planning and control by Hitchcock
Subjectivity; enabling audience involvement and emotional identification
Surrealism Hitch was not a surrealist but there are dream-like moments, plenty of comic absurdity and a Dali sequence in Spellbound
Trains: 39 Steps, Lady Vanishes, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest. Hitch loved trains and timetables when young
TV: Hitch was dismissive but his face and profile became even more famous through it
Umbrellas: Foreign Correspondent
Unity of Space (small spaces): Lifeboat, Rope, Rear Window
Uranium in Notorious, filmed before the Bomb
Visualising “a picture right down to the final cuts”
Wilde, Oscar; Picture of Dorian Grey was a favourite book of Hitch’s from youth, influence on films like Rope and Vertigo.
Writers admired by Hitch also included Nietzsche, Chesterton, Dickens, Poe, Flaubert
Wrong Man/ wrongfully accused
Young and Innocent’s overhead ballroom shot- “zeroing in on the..murderer like a Scud missile”
A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it
Actors should be treated like cattle
Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.
Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.
Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.
Drama is life with the dull bits cut out
Everything’s perverted, in different ways
Film your murders like love scenes, and film your love scenes like murders.
For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.
Give them pleasure – the same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.
I am a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach.
I am scared easily, here is a list of my adrenaline – production: 1: small children, 2: policemen, 3: high places, 4: that my next movie will not be as good as the last one.
I have a perfect cure for a sore throat: cut it.
I’m full of fears and I do my best to avoid difficulties and any kind of complications. I like everything around me to be clear as crystal and completely calm.
I’m not against the police; I’m just afraid of them.
If i hadn’t married Alma i could have been a poof
If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.
I like stories with lots of psychology
In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director.
In films murders are always very clean. I show how difficult it is and what a messy thing it is to kill a man.
Luck is everything… My good luck in life was to be a really frightened person. I’m fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn’t make a good suspense film.
Revenge is sweet and not fattening.
Self-plagiarism is style.
Television has brought back murder into the home – where it belongs.
Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.
Television is like the American toaster, you push the button and the same thing pops up everytime.
The early English pictures were instinctive. There was less calculation in terms of an audience. It’s when I came to America that I became more aware of audiences.
The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.
The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.
There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.
There is nothing quite so good as burial at sea. It is simple, tidy, and not very incriminating.
These are bagpipes. I understand the inventor of the bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the man-made sound never equalled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.
When an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ’It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?, ’ I say, ‘Your salary.’
Robin Wood: Hitchcock’s Films
Patrick McGilligan: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light.