Salvador Dali Questions Our Sanity in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945)

Dali Hitch

source: United Artists

When we think of Alfred Hitchcock, there are certain qualities and buzzwords that are synonymous with his name: brilliant, genius, crazy and a multitude of others.

What happens when you pair a crazy, pedantic genius, with a hairbrained painter with a mustache? A wildly fascinating dream sequence in 1945’s Spellbound.


In 1945, the acting talents of Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck joined forces with director Alfred Hitchcock to create a rather underrated movie in Hitchcock‘s filmography.

Spellbound is a peach of a movie, combining romance and psychology with the intrigue of forgotten memory.

Bergman and Peck play psychoanalysts Constance Peterson and Anthony Edwardes, respectively.

In classic Hollywood fashion, the pair ends up breaking every professional rule in the book and inevitably have an affair.

Naturally, when you fall in bed love with someone, especially as quickly and passionately as having an affair, you enter a “honeymoon phase” where you notice every single tiny detail of your object of affection.

spellbound 2

source: United Artists

This is where Constance picks up on Anthony’s strange habits. She finds out that not only does he have a fear of parallel lines on white backgrounds, he’s also not who he claims he is. Constance deduces that he might be an imposter, based on a number of things that Anthony has told her.

From killing the real Dr. Edwardes, having bouts of amnesia, to having a guilt complex, Constance overlooks these GLARING issue to get this poor man (one she doesn’t know very well, mind you) the help he needs.

When Edwardes sneaks away from Constance’s grasp, due to fear of, well, everything – she tracks him down and attempts to use her psychoanalytic techniques on him. These methods prove to be unsuccessful, and eventually, she takes him to upstate New York, where they meet two doctors who proceed to psychoanalyze his many stray thoughts.

DALI-SPELLBOUND2

source: United Artists

In steps Salvador Dali.

In 1945, Dail moved specifically to Hollywood to work on this film. Hitchcock wanted a scene that portrays the surrealness of Edwardes’ dreams and Dali was the only artist to bring Hitch‘s madcap imagination to life.

In order to capture this, accurately and as demented as possible, Hitchcock gave Dali free reign to shape, and mold this world to his liking. This is how we get a rather, disturbing, and incredibly unsettling dream scene smack dab in the middle of the film.

Dali and Hitchcock wanted us to feel that way, they wanted us to squirm in our seats and crane our necks away from the television (or movie screen in this case.) This 3-minute sequence, unfortunately, is probably the most memorable part of the film, however, it’s almost certainly the most important scene as well.

This dream sequence sets the tone for the rest of the movie. As an audience member, we get a feel for how “Edwardes” thinks, feels and acts. Thanks to the creativity and forward thinking of Hitchcock, and the expansive mind of Dali, we were blessed with perhaps the greatest dream sequence ever to be put on the silver screen.

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Hidden Gems: Yesterday, Today, and Tommorrow (1963)

YTT 1963

source: Embassy Pictures

When first getting into classic films, particularly as an American, you tend to stick with what you know: romantic comedies, slapsticks, westerns and those glorious MGM musicals etc.

Every once and a while you’ll stumble upon a film that features a “foreigner” for lack of a better word. From Brigitte Bardot to Gina Lollobrigida and even Yves Montand, we’ve all seen them costar alongside our favorite American stars, but there’s most certainly one actress that stands out from the rest.

Standing at 5’9″, blessed with sunkissed skin and with a personality as charming as a coffee date at 6 PM on a rainy day, Sophia Loren (whether you like it or not) is everyone’s classic Hollywood crush.

In no other movie is this best exemplified than in 1963’s Leri Oggi Domani, otherwise known in English as Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

YTT 1963 2

source: Embassy Pictures

A rather experimental three-part comedy, directed by none other than Vittorio de Sica, himself, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is a hidden classic film that most people aren’t too aware of.

Staring the Italian duo of Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, the movie tells three stories of various couples in several situations.

Starting with ‘Adelina of Naples’ progressing into ‘Anna of Milan’, then finally ending with ‘Mara of Rome’, as the movie continues you get a different feel for each couple and how the city they’re located in effects their relationship.

In Naples, we have Adelina.

Set against the backdrop of cobbled streets, beautiful architecture and relative poverty, Adelina helps out her struggling family and husband by selling black market cigarettes.

The entire sequence is quite hilarious, honestly. At one point she keeps forcing Mastroianni‘s character (her husband) to get her pregnant so she doesn’t have to go to jail for transgressions. Poor guy gets so exhausted he has to quit his job, it’s a very funny situation and a fantastic start to the picture.

yesterday_today_tomorrow photo 3

source: Embassy Pictures

The second story is fairly interesting, it tells the tale about a wealthy Milanista and her lover Renzo. They take a drive out into the countryside where they discuss a myriad of things, including their relationship, her marriage, and the Rolls- Royce they traveled in.

The woman, Anna, gets tired of Renzo not succumbing to every one of her whims, so he tells her off, which, understandably, upsets her a great deal.

She has two options in front of her: continue her wealthy lifestyle with her husband, or proceed with the affair she’s been having with Renzo.

The rest of the story sees he contemplate these choices as Renzo also reassess his life choices.

The third and final story is, perhaps, the one that most classic film lovers are familiar with.

YTT 1963 photo 4

source: Embassy Pictures

Mara is a prostitute who lives in a tiny one bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Rome. She has a proclivity to sleep with high profile clients, that’s how she met Augusto, a son of a wealthy Bologna industrialist.

To be quite honest with you, this is probably my favorite story out of all three of them, and I don’t want to particularly spoil it. That being said, the rest of it plays out very unexpectedly and if you ever get the chance to watch this, I can guarantee you’ll be just as shocked as I was.

In the end, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is a film ahead of its time. With de Sica‘s gorgeous shots of Italy, incredible acting by Mastroianni and Loren, and a coherent plot to keep the audience involved for hours, ‘YTandT‘ is a picture that deserves more praise that it has received.

 

 

The Best of M-G-M: North by Northwest (1959)

CARY RUNNING NBNW

source: MGM

North by Northwest has always been a strange film for me to watch.

I’ve seen it multiple times, but with each viewing, I can’t shake this nagging feeling of hate I have for a particular character. Of course, this is your typical Hitchcock where there’s a double meaning to everything, but, you’d think that if your son was being falsely accused of something he didn’t do, you would have a little bit more urgency in your step, right?

Right?

Wrong!

The person in question I’m talking about Jessie Royce Landis‘ character, Clara Thornhill.

NBNW JRL

source: MGM

Oh, boy. Where do I begin?

As you may know, NBNW is a story about a man who’s been falsely accused of being a government agent. Roger Thornhill played by Cary Grant, is your average New York City white-collar type of guy. Working in the advertising business, Roger is well versed in the topic of double meanings and false identities.

The story progress and he’s eventually framed for murder. Understandably panicked about the situation, Roger reaches out to anyone the could help with fix the predicament he’s found himself in – including his ‘uncaring’ mother Clara.

Here’s where my problem lies.

It was rather irritating to see her look very nonchalant about this entire ordeal. Even when there was a CLEAR look of panic on her son’s face, she scoffed and brushed him off. I understand this is purely a work of fiction, but it truly annoyed me that a mother would downplay her son’s life or death situation.

JRL NBNW 2

source: MGM

Maybe she was hesitant to believe in something as ‘absurd’ as this, but I don’t think she should’ve excused Roger’s legitimate concerns. Thankfully, she came around, and my complaints may have very well been in vain, but this is something that always stuck with me whenever I watched this film.

Fortunately, Alfred Hitchcock was a master of his craft.

What might’ve looked like a character flaw, could’ve been an important piece of the Hitchcockian puzzle; I suppose I should put aside my grievances and enjoy the movie for what it is: a rather underrated masterpiece in a long list of movies in Hitchcock‘s brilliant filmography.