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.

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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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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.

 

 

 

Late Nights, Early Flights, Green Tea, and Lisa Carol Fremont

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esource: Paramount Pictures

I adore TCM.

Thanks to Ted Turner‘s genius, thousands of tasty morsels from the wonderful world of classic cinema are merely a couple of remote clicks away. Despite the abundance of good that TCM provides to the starving film fan, there is a downside to having only a handful of movies stored in their archive. Usually, this means that the network has the tendency to replay a lot of movies.

This would irritate me, normally, but there’s always an actor (or director in this case) that’s an exception to this phenomenon.

In this case, it’s Alfred Hitchcock.


A couple of months ago, I was on my way to visit some family members in the northern part of the United States.

I’m an anxious flyer so, naturally, to calm my pre-flight jitters, I turned on TCM just a few hours before my flight left the following morning. Fortunately, all throughout that month, the network decided to sporadically play Hitchcock‘s voyeuristic masterpiece Rear Window in celebration of what would have been Grace Kelly‘s 88th birthday.

Grace's Window
sources: Paramount Pictures

I’ve seen Rear Window about a dozen times on several different occasions (I even own it on Blu-ray) but, for some reason, this viewing felt very unusual.

Instead of enjoying the cheeky humor, incredible sets, and the brilliant screenwriting, I took an active effort at trying to understand the intricate fusion between the character of Lisa Carol Fremont and Grace Kelly – the actress.

As you may know, it has often been said that Grace Kelly had a ‘dual persona.’

This is in reference to the “ice queen” image that plagued her throughout her career. There’s no denying that Kelly was a pretty reserved person in her personal life – depending on which biography you read, but what about her movies?

This is where my re-viewing of Rear Window helped me to understand that this dichotomy that followed her career (and to a lesser extent her private life) wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.


Lisa Carol Fremont as a character was at times rather selfish, stubborn, and oftentimes just plain rude. That’s understandable, of course, when you realize she’s dealing with a man with a proclivity for adventure and a fear of commitment (played to perfection by James Stewart), yet as I was re-watching Grace as Lisa with a different set of eyes, I quickly recognized, “well, of course, she would act this way.”

Alfred Hitchcock specifically picked Grace for this role due to this persona. Lisa was a fashionista, she loves clothing and even would forgo going on a trip with her boyfriend because she didn’t have the “proper attire” for the environment she’d be traveling in.

Who in their right mind would do something like that?

Right! An “ice queen” who gives off an air of entitlement and impenetrability.

Late Night Grace
source: Paramount Pictures

There are some moments in the film where Lisa could be extraordinarily cold and distant, but it only ever happened when she was in crisis or when Jeff wasn’t conforming to her standards of what their relationship should look like.

Grace’s “ice queen persona” helps a lot in this aspect; she was the only actress that could’ve taken this role. Hitchcock deliberately crafted the role of Lisa Carol Fremont for Grace, he knew that if any other woman stepped into that role, the entire tone of the film could have been something that he didn’t intend to mean.

Hitch’ has always carefully crafted his pictures this way, it doesn’t surprise me that he chose Grace for this role. This same sentiment could be applied to her role in 1955’s To Catch a Thief as well.

If it wasn’t for Hitchcock‘s cinema IQ and Grace’s typecast, I don’t believe Rear Window would’ve been as good as it is.

It’s funny, all it took for me to understand this was my fear of flying and my love for overanalyzing movies.

Go figure.

My Apologies, Mr. Hitchcock

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source: Gaumont-British Picture Corporation

I feel slightly embarrassed.

When I plan on watching a film, I usually pick an actor (or actress) that I fancy, then scroll through a list their films until there’s movie of theirs that I haven’t yet seen. Naturally, I tend to gravitate to the actors and actresses that helped me form my love of classic movies. I’m used to them, and watching their films is the equivalent of eating comfort food for me.

One of the actresses whose films I was enthralled with was Grace Kelly, particularly Rear Window.

As a freshman in Highschool, I took a cinema appreciation class where Rear Window was one of the films being shown. I quickly realized that I could watch more films in that style when my young, feeble, mind discovered the glorious filmography of Alfred Hitchcock.

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source: Gaumont-British Picture Corporation

I watched every Hitchcock film that invoked that same feeling I had when watching Rear Window, whether it was Spellbound, North By Northwest, Notorious, Dial M for Murder, Rebecca, Suspicion, you name it. It didn’t matter, I just wanted to experience that ‘Hitchcock touch’ again.

But, there’s a problem.

Notice a pattern? Every film that I listed came from Hitchcock‘s career in the 1940s and 50s America. Although I absolutely that era of his career, there’s another side of Hitch that I had no clue existed.

If you watch TCM (and let’s be honest, we all do) then you might’ve heard about their Hitchcock 50 celebration.

Not too sure what that is?

Then let me quickly explain.

Basically, TCM and Ball State University teamed up to create a course where us movie fans able to learn and dissect Hitchcock‘s career.

Lead by Dr. Richard L. Edwards (seriously, this guy has a Ph.D. in Critical Studies from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, it’s incredible,) the course has been live for about 3 weeks and I’ve already learned so much more than I thought I would.

This is where my embarrassment kicks in.

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Enter a caption: Gaumont-British Picture Corporation

I was your ‘basic’ classic movie fan. I only had interest in watching Hitchcock‘s American films, you know exactly the ones I’m talking about. I had absolutely no interest beyond that- until I took TCM’s Hitchcock 50 course.

The course opened my eyes to a different side of Hitch, and I’m ashamed to admit, but it also introduced me to films that I haven’t even heard of. For example: Hitchcock‘s Thriller Sextet.

From 1934 to 1938 Hitchcock made his mark on cinema history by releasing 6 films that would come to shape his entire career. The Man Who Knew Too MuchSabotage, Secret Agent, Young and Innocent, The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps are the movies that changed my outlook of Hitch.

I realize that these were the movies where he honed his skills as a director. This is where he developed that ‘Hitchcock‘ touch that we all know and love. It took TCM, Ball State University, and some common sense to finally appreciate the genius of this man. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know sooner, and for that, I apologize Mr. Hitchcock.

So, if you can, don’t limit your movie watching to one area of Hitchcock‘s career. Look at his earlier movies, I guarantee you won’t regret it!