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.

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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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Thank You, TCM

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source: Turner Broadcasting Company

It’s been awhile.

Life continues on, whether you like it or not. Despite that, I want to take the time out to write about something that’s changed my life – for the better.

In 2013, I was fairly young, high school aged to be exact. I had no clue what I wanted to do with myself.

I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer like my fellow classmates, I just wanted to coast through and enjoy life. I had no plans, I liked living, I liked watching soccer and generally being a nuisance.

This all changed when I was required to take a high school elective on cinema appreciation


It was in this class that I was exposed to numerous films that would influence me for the foreseeable future:

and yes…

LoA

source: Columbia Pictures

There were others, of course, but these were the ones that stood out in my mind the most. They formed me, they helped me understand that there’s more depth to movies that I had originally expected.

So, I started digging.

Thanks to TCM, I found a treasure trove of classic pictures that shaped who I am. From Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant to James Cagney and Ginger Rogers, I was absolutely enthralled with what I was seeing.

I discovered the magic of classic films, I immersed myself in this world. I loved them, breathed them, and dreamt of them.

Because of this, I started to carry myself with a lot more confidence, I dug into the past of these actors and actresses. I learned about the backgrounds of these people and I lived through them. It affected the way I looked at life.

I thought to myself, “if the glitz and glamour of Hollywood could cover up some of the trials and tribulations that these actors and actresses were going through why can’t I keep my chin up during hard times?”

In summation, my love for history and classic films had a direct correlation to how I saw myself.

Isn’t that what movies are about?

Whisking you away for a couple of hours to forget about life?

Thank you, TCM, I really mean it.

 

 

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.

Hitchcock’s Masterful Use of Colors in 1958’s Vertigo

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source: Paramount Pictures

Vertigo is one of the best films ever to be put on the silver screen.

Directed by the incomparable Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo is a movie unlike anything I’ve ever seen. With its compelling storyline, fantastic acting and incredible location shots, it’s hard to label this film with anything other than the word “perfection.”

An underrated aspect of this movie, however, is the way Hitchcock uses color. There are multiple scenes in the film where color is (in some shape or form) used as a part of the story. For example, the color green is used to symbolize Scottie’s feelings of uneasiness, or more specifically – a dreamlike state. It’s no coincidence that every scene involving Judy or Madeliene the color green in somehow squeezed into the frame.

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source: Paramount Pictures

Even when green isn’t the focal point, Hitchcock‘s liberal use of color touches every single fiber of this movie.

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source: Paramount Pictures

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source: Paramount Pictures

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source: Paramount Pictures

The next time you have the luxury of watching Vertigo, look of for these intriguing tidbits of cinematic genius. It’s most certainly the least appreciated part of such a legendary movie.

Thank you, Alfred, we greatly appreciate it.

 

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon…

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source: Paramount Pictures

I have a bone to pick with this movie.

Sure, it’s Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in the French Riviera.

Yeah, it’s Alfred Hitchcock in his prime, but, the movie lacks…..something.

Released in 1955, To Catch a Thief stars Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Jessie Royce Landis in what could be the worst of the three films Kelly did with Hitchcock. I don’t mean that in a malicious way; I believe, objectively, that the plot in this film compared to Dial M for Murder and Rear Window is hands down the weakest of the Kelly/Hitchcock films.

My main gripe?

The plot

The Story

Cary Grant plays John “The Cat” Robie, a retired cat burglar who now lives a secluded life on the French Riviera.

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source: Paramount Pictures

After a string robberies that were made to imitate his style, Robie immediately returns to being public enemy number one. The police show up to his seaside villa to arrest him, but Robie manages to escape out the back.

Naturally, running away from police builds up an appetite, so, John visits a restaurant.

He walks into the kitchen and instantly recognizes the staff. The cooks, busboys, and sous chefs are all old buddies from John’s French Resistance days.

They harbor a bit of resentment towards John because they were granted parole based on how patriotic they were. Because of John’s new ‘adventure,’ they’re all under suspicion of colluding as long as ‘The Cat’ is still active. Things get hostile for a minute, then calm down when the police see Robie and he makes a run for it.

Conveniently enough, the restaurant’s owner’s teenaged daughter named Danielle (played by Brigitte Auber) shuttles him away to safety.

Grace and Cary in TCAT

source: Paramount Pictures

Robie desperately wants to clear his name.

In order to do that, he seeks the help of a man named H.H Hughson (played by John Williams.) Hughson is an insurance man who gives Robie a list of, as he puts it, the “most expensive jewelry owners currently on the Riviera.”

First on that list? A woman named Jessie Stevens (played by Jessie Royce Landis) and her very charming daughter Frances (played by Grace Kelly.)  John, posing as an Oregon lumber magnate, strikes up a conversation with them later that night at dinner.

So the trio and John start a dialogue about a multitude of different subjects. The discussion, embarrassingly, culminates in Jessie Stevens asking John why he hasn’t made a move on her daughter.

Oh, Lord..

Frances, or “Francie” as her mother calls her, originally shows no interest. However, that all changes when John walks her back to her hotel room and Francie proceeds to give him a good night kiss.

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source: Paramount Pictures

The next morning, Robie receives a note claiming that his life in danger as he’s tanning on the beach with Frances. Danielle walks by with an inquisitive look on her face as she dives into the water. John, not one to miss out, follows her.

Danielle goes on to tell Robie that there are a group of ex-convicts that are out to kill him.

Later that day on a picnic, Frances tells John that she knows he isn’t an American businessman. In fact, not only does she know that he’s John Robie “The Cat”, she also begs him to be his accomplice. Robie, bending but not breaking, maintains his innocence and agrees to meet Frances in her hotel room later that night.

If you’ve seen this movie, then you know that this next scene is THE scene.

Robie shows up to Frances’ hotel room and Frances tries to tempt him with the jewels she’s wearing. Jokes on her though, John quickly recognizes that her necklace is fake. As the moment progresses and the fireworks build up behind them, the pair shares a very passionate kiss as the screen fades to black.

TCaT

source: Paramount Pictures

This quiet moment lasted for about 8 hours.

The morning after Frances and John’s rendezvous, she storms his hotel room asking where her mother’s jewels were. Robie admits that he’s “The Cat” but, he didn’t steal the jewelry. Francie doesn’t care, she calls the police anyway. But, before they got there, John has already slipped out of the window.

Sick and tired of being accused of a crime, John decides to surveil the area for that night. In case something goes wrong, Robie calls the police as a preventative measure.

Well, what do you know, something does happen.

John struggles with an attacker and accidentally shoves him off the building.

Oops.

Cary Grant in TCaT

source: Paramount Pictures

The next scene we see is everyone gathered around a casket. The man inside is Danielle’s father, Foussard. While walking out of the cathedral, a policeman tells John that they’ve identified the body and that he’s cleared of all suspicion.

“Oh, no!” says John.

Robie claims it couldn’t have been Foussard because he had a peg leg. Understandably, the police let him go to find the real ‘Cat’ later that night at a masquerade party.

It turns out that at the gathering, everything falls into to place for John.

In the end, John catches the woman *gasp* that was posing as him (it was Danielle), clears his name, and starts a long-term relationship with Frances.

How perfect is that?

The Bone I Have To Pick With This Movie

TCAT

source: Paramount Pictures

Where do I begin? I love Cary Grant and Grace Kelly equally. I love their movies. I love them in this movie together, but, this film lacks something.

I know, I know, there are A LOT of folks who adore this movie. I don’t want to take that away from anybody, but, there are some glaring issues in this movie for me.

The plot.

My main issue with it is that it’s non-existent. It’s very compelling for the first 20 or so minutes and then it sort of….drops off. There were a lot of ‘lull’ moments in the film. At times, I didn’t really care about the side stories, I just wanted to know who stole the darn jewels.

Heck, even Hitchcock called this picture a “lightweight” story.

I never felt that anyone was in real danger in this movie. In Dial M, and Rear Window I was genuinely afraid for certain characters. Not once did I believe that Cary Grant was going to get harmed in any way in this film.

The moments between Cary and Grace, however, were excellent and dripping with innuendo, as only Hitchcock can do. But, other than that, it didn’t give that same thrill that I got from other films from Hitch.

Conclusion

In the end, my opinion is just an opinion. I may not enjoy this movie as much as other Hitchcock features, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. The shooting locations are gorgeous and the coincidence of Grace Kelly shooting one of her last movies in Monaco isn’t lost on me.

I do enjoy the film, I truly do. Sometimes, movies you think you were going to like don’t always go the way you plan, and that’s okay.

If you would like to read more entries in this blogathon click: here.

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!