Top of the World: My Hitchcock Day + Some Top Lists

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Well, yesterday was this time of the year where I do my usual Hitchcock movie marathon in honour of him. My favourite movie director would have been 118 years old! Even if he is no longer with us since a long time, many continue to celebrate his timeless work. I started my little marathon Saturday by watching one of his early British films, Murder! starring the great Herbert Marshall in one of his very first roles. I’ve always loved that film. It has all the ingredients of a perfect Hitchcock film, except maybe a cold blond! Well, there is a blond girl, but she isn’t exactly the Hitchcock-type. Then, yesterday morning I watched Family Plot, Hitchcock’s very last film. Without being a masterpiece, this film featuring a score by no one else than John Williams is a great entertainment. The cast composed of Barbara Harris, Bruce Dern, Karen Black and William Devane is one of the elements that make it worthy. They are all perfect in their respective roles. It’s fun to think, when you watch that film, that almost 50 years before he released The Lodger! Hitchcock considered this film to be his first one, although he directed a few before (unfortunately, most of them are now lost or partially lost).

After a little pause to do some exercise, I went back on the couch and watched Saboteur. This early 40s film is one where so much is going on! Have you ever thought of taking a trip to Soda City? Well, that ain’t much of a town, but it certainly leads our heroes, Barry Kane and Pat Martin, to some important elements of investigation.

Yesterday, I also made an exception and instead of listening some David Bowie music (like I usually do) I listened to some Alfred Hitchcock movie scores (sorry David!). It’s always great to listen to Miklós Rózsa‘s score for Spellbound while doing the dishes. It’s my favourite movie score of all time and being very dynamic it helps me do things faster.

I also spent some time outside painting 3 little paintings illustrating Alfred Hitchcock movies: The Trouble With Harry, Suspicion and The Birds. I can’t show them to you now as I have not scanned them, but I certainly hope to do so as soon as possible.

Finally, I ended my day by watching Lifeboat and Foreign Correspondent. I chose these two films as I had only seen them once. Both excellent of course.

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Because I watched all these films, I didn’t have time to write a long tribute to Hitchcock. I already did it as a matter of fact, but I think I’m due for some little top lists. I’m not ready yet for the ultimate Hitchcock top list (ranking all his films), but I’ll see you next year for that. You see, next winter I’ll be attending a seminar on Hitchcock and Welles and I intend to have seen all of the Master of Suspense’s films before the classes start! Be reassured, there isn’t many more left as I’ve already seen 47 of them. 🙂 Unfortunately, there are a few that I’m afraid will be difficult to find (anyone as ever seen Elstree Calling?), but I’ll try my best!

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to make it easier for me and present you a little top 5 for each decade where Hitch released movies, going from the 20s to the 70s.

I don’t like to repeat myself, but don’t forget that these lists are purely subjective and represent my own tastes so I only ask you to respect them. Thank you!

The 20s:

1- The Lodger: Story of the London Fog (1927)

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I put this one at the first place as I remember being very impressed by it the first time I saw it.

2- The Farmer’s Wife (1928)

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Not a typical Hitchcock’s film, but certainly a fun one. A bit long though.

3- Blackmail (1929)

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Hitchcock’s first talking picture and also England’s first talking picture! Just that priceless scene makes it worthy:

4- The Manxman (1929)

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Another Hitchcock film starring the beautiful Anny Ondra. Not an excellent film and I honestly don’t remember much of it, but there was some beautiful cinematography. I once made a joke with a shot from the film. What do you think of it?

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5- Downhill (1927)

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The two left for me were these ones and The Ring. I chose Downhill since it stars the great Ivor Novello. There’s a shot in this film that makes me think of The Graduate. See?

The 30s:

1- The Lady Vanishes (1938)

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Well, that was an easy-peasy first choice as it is one of my very favourite Hitchcock films and the funniest also (without neglecting the great suspense). I love everything about it, especially the colourful characters. Saw it too many, but still not enough times.

2- Young and Innocent (1937)

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This film made me discover Nova Pilbeam who was only 18, but brilliant when she starred in it. It’s the first British Hitchcock’s film I saw and I’ve always enjoyed it immensely. The scene where the spectators discover where the real murderer is hidden is one of my very favourite!

3- The 39 Steps (1935)

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Certainly considered a masterpiece, this film can be cited among the perfect Hitchcock’s films (and this time, the cold blond isn’t missing!).

4- Murder! (1930)

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Once again, Hitchcock combines suspense, tragedy, and humour brilliantly here.

5- Secret Agent (1936)

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I’ve always loved this film for its cast: John Gielgud, Madeleine Carroll, Peter Lorre, Robert Young, Percy Marmont and Lilli Palmer. Do you need more? Peter Lorre is unforgettable!

The 40s:

1- Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

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Another one of my very favourite Hitchcock’s films and I believe that Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) is one of Hitchcock’s best villains.

2- Rebecca (1940)

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I love both the book and the film. Perfect.

3- Spellbound (1945)

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I’ve always found this film highly fascinating. The dream sequence by Dalí was a great addition to this film and Dr. Constance Pertersen (Ingrid Bergman) is my favourite Hitchcock’s female character. And Gregory Peck is so handsome!

4- Lifeboat (1944)

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Hitchcock certainly knew how to develop a great story in such a small space!

5- Saboteur (1942)

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I hesitated between this one, Notorious and Suspicion (all excellent). I choose Saboteur because it’s a movie that never fails to grab my attention. It’s great to think that one of the members of its cast, Norma Lloyd, is still with us today!

The 50s:

1- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

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And this is my very favourite Hitchcock’s film and also my 4th favourite movie of all times behind Some Like It Hot, Bringing Up Baby and It’s a Wonderful Life. James Stewart and Doris Day form an excellent duo and I love how Hitchcock makes us travel from Marrakesh, Morroco to London, England. It’s an adventure full of delightful suspense!

2- Strangers on a Train (1951)

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Ok, that film is just… wow! Next to Charlie Oakley, Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) is the other very best Hitchcock villain. That carousel scene is unforgettable. Well, the whole movie is. Plus, I love its black and white cinematography and the shots of the railways (seen from a moving train point of view).

3- Rear Window (1954)

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James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter (at her best), Edith Head’s costumes, etc… And to me, this is the Hitchcock’s film with the best suspense. Never tired of watching it, even after 50 times.

4- To Catch a Thief (1955)

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I remember, this is the 2nd Hitchcock’s film I ever saw and I’ve always loved it. Last Friday, I saw it on big screen for the second time! It simply makes me want to travel the French Riviera!

5- North by Northwest (1959)

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This once was my favourite Hitchcock film. Not anymore, but I still love it very much. Worthy for that plane scene, and more of course!

The 60s and the 70s. I combined those two decades since he only made 2 movies in the 70s (so it would be difficult to do a top 5, you know…):

1- The Birds (1963)

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This is the first Hitchcock film I saw and it fascinated me the first time I watched it (so much that I decided to watch it a second time in the same weekend). It has its faults, but it certainly needs to be seen by all Hitchcock’s fans. Probably his most iconic one along with Psycho. And it’s not because of that film that I’m afraid of pigeons, ok? (There aren’t any pigeons in it anyway).

2- Frenzy (1972)

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Quite an overlooked Hitchcock’s film. Immensely thrilling.

3- Family Plot (1976)

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Hitchcock’s last film and a fun one, but I’ve already said a few words about it earlier!

4- Psycho (1960)

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It’s not my favourite Hitchcock film, but it certainly is a worthy one. That scene where Lila Crane (Vera Miles) “discovers” Mrs. Bates is priceless (along with the famous shower scene, of course).

5- Marnie (1964)

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I always tend to forget that Sean Connery starred in a Hitchcock’s film. Well, there was one and it is the underrated Marnie, the second Hitchcock film starring Tippi Hedren (the first one being The Birds). I think the main flaw of this film is being a bit long for what it is (I mean, it’s not Gone With the Wind after all), but overall it’s a good one.

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Well, if you haven’t seen many Hitchcock’s films, I hope these ones can be used as suggestions! If you did anything special on this Hitch day, please don’t hesitate to share it with me in the comments!

Happy heavenly birthday again Sir Alfred Hitchcock! And also, happy heavenly birthday to his wife Alma Reville! She was a screenwriter, editor, and co-director who had an important influence on his career. 🙂

By the way, if you want to read more of my Hitchcock’s related articles, I invite you to click on the links in orange!

BIO ALFRED HITCHCOCK

 

 

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #16: The Kid (1921)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My sixteenth review was for the 1921’s classic The Kid directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. Enjoy!

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Everybody has heard of Charlie Chaplin, and if you haven’t you’re probably living on another planet or you’re too young to read. Chaplin is known as the most famous entertainer of all time with a name celebrated by all generations. As for his films, the sad truth is not everybody who knows Chaplin, the actor, has necessarily seen his finished products.

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Everybody should see at least one Chaplin film before the age of 15, at least. Once you see one, you’ll be willing to watch all the rest because it’s hard not to fall in love with Chaplin’s filmography. But the question is “which one should I choose?” Well, Charlie Chaplin’s films are all great, so there isn’t a good or bad answer. However, it might be a good idea to start with a silent, as it is more representative of Chaplin’s career and Chaplin himself.

Chaplin’s films are probably the best introduction to silent cinema and to classic films altogether. Charlie Chaplin didn’t believe in talkies (despite the fact he directed great ones like The Great Dictator and Limelight), which is why his silent films became so important in cinematic history.

Let’s start though with an introduction to The Kid, Chaplin’s first feature film, released in 1921. This one has all the ingredients of a typical Chaplin: it’s funny, sad, touching, ingenious and brilliant. Indeed, the film is introduced to us with the following inter-title: “A picture with a smile — and perhaps, a tear.” On its release, the film was a commercial success; the second box office success of the year behind The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Like many of Chaplin’s films, The Kid tells a simple story full of meaning. A young woman (Edna Purviance) has had a child she can’t take care and abandons him in a car. The car is stolen by two thieves, who soon discover the baby. They get rid of the child by putting him in an alley. Not long after, a little tramp (Charlie Chaplin) passes by and discovers the baby. He tries to get rid of him too, but without any success. He takes him home to take care of him. Five years later, the little boy named John (Jackie Coogan) still lives with his adoptive father with whom he shares an adorable complicity. The boy’s biological mother has become a great and successful comedienne but is looking for the son she regrets abandoning, while John’s biological father (Carl Miller) has become a famous painter.

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One of the main reasons why Chaplin was such a legend is he didn’t only direct and acts in his films. He also produced, wrote, composed the music and, in some cases (for The Kid), did the editing on them. He was a man of multi-talents who succeeded at everything.

Chaplin the actor is the one we know in the film: the little tramp who is certainly not rich, but knows how to enjoy life. He is a character we would like to be friends with, who makes us laugh and reaches our heart in every possible way. Even while he amuses us with physical gags, there’s still a beautiful simplicity in his acting. Everything seems perfectly calculated because what we like about him is how ingenious he is. He doesn’t need to buy anything; he knows how to create gadgets to satisfy his needs like the blanket that becomes a dressing gown or the chair with a hole that becomes a toilet for the baby.

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The Kid was Jackie Coogan’s second film, but the one that made him a star. At the age of six, little Jackie started a career as a child actor thanks to Chaplin. In The Kid, Coogan plays one of the most adorable children of movie history. He is clever, hilarious, and will certainly make you cry or, at least, have a tear. He is a fast runner; he bakes crepes, and has such a cute face. Who wouldn’t want to adopt him?

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Chaplin and Coogan’s complicity in the film is contagious. They are not only a father and son, but the best friends and partner in crimes. For example, our little tramp is a glazier, but to makes sure he has work John breaks people’s window with a rock! They are each other’s favorite person and we don’t need much to know it.

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Edna Purviance, who plays the mother, was one of Chaplin’s most famous co-stars. Her acting in The Kid is a delight. She is able to transmit our emotions in an efficient way, without over-acting. Silent actors often exaggerated their facial expressions to transmit emotion, but it’s not the case with Purviance in The Kid.

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Interesting fact: the film also features Lita Grey, Chaplin’s second wife, in an uncredited role.

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The Kid allows you to see the problems and joys inherent in different societal classes. The Tramp and little John are poor but happy. As for John’s mother, she’s become rich but misses her son. The mother wants her son back, of course, but that doesn’t make her the villain of the story. On the contrary, she is full of tenderness and kindness. We discover there is good and bad everywhere. Even if Chaplin’s films tend to be sad, there is always hope somewhere. Chaplin rarely leaves us in misery.

The Kid is also a film about friendship that shows us even if you don’t have many people in your life, so long as you have one person who is important, you’ll be happy.

The Kid’s music is composed by Charlie Chaplin based on a theme from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony. However, like many films of the time the score varies depending on the versions. I had the pleasure to hear some popular Scott Joplin ragtime in my version, such as “The Cascades,” “The Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer.” However, Chaplin’s musical creation is more efficient for some scenes. It is a bit strange to hear the joyful “Maple Leaf Rag” during the saddest scene of the film.

There is far more to say about The Kid but I don’t want to reveal everything and spoil your fun. You’ll have to discover the rest by viewing and enjoying the film yourself.

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene)- Review #6: The Cameraman (1928)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My sixth review was for the 1928’s classic The Cameraman directed by Edward Sedgwick and starring Buster Keaton. Enjoy!

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It’s time for me to review a movie from the 1920s and, more precisely, a silent film, to prove to teens that they might like silent cinema despite their prejudices towards that it. Let’s face it, if you are interested by cinema or curious about it, you have to see some silent film. The first films, until 1927, were all silent. So, seeing them is nothing but beneficial to your general culture and, of course, even if they are silent, they can be very entertaining.

During the era of silent film, one of the most popular genres was the burlesque comedy. Since there was no sound to create jokes from dialogue, the comedies were more physical and inspired by vaudeville theatre. Of course, the most famous star of that genre was Charlie Chaplin, but he was not the only brilliant burlesque actor. Harold Lloyd, Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton were also part of the lot.

I remember the first time I saw a Buster Keaton film was in a museum in Shawinigan (Quebec). My parents, my sister, and I were visiting the exhibition. The artist decided to show us one of Keaton’s films on a little television. It was part of his exhibition because he was a fan of Keaton’s personality. Suddenly, our attention was grabbed by this funny little man trying to build a house (not without any difficulties). Of course, the film we were watching was the short One Week, one of Buster Keaton’s best short films. We watched it twice. We then got interested by the amusing actor and, despite not knowing much about him, we knew he was a genius. Not long after, my parents gave me a little DVD box set with three of his films for my birthday which is how I discovered The Cameraman.

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Buster Keaton wasn’t just an actor but also directed many of his own films. However, he co-directed The Cameraman with Edward Sedgwick (in 1928) and was uncredited as one of the directors. I chose to review this one instead of more popular titles like Steamboat Bill Jr. or The General (two very famous Buster Keaton films), not only because it’s my favorite of his, but also because it was his last success. Buster Keaton made one last silent film after this, Spite Marriage (which is good too) and then moved to the talkies, which was not a big success for him. He was quickly forgotten and appeared in more minor roles. That’s probably why he’s not as well known as Chaplin, who also starred in some noticeable talkies (The Great Dictator and Limelight). Nevertheless, he highly deserves the honor.

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What is nice about Buster Keaton’s films is the fact the stories are quite simple. They are not too long, so you don’t get lost watching them. The plot of The Cameraman goes like this: Buster (Buster Keaton) is a simple photographer who takes pictures of people on the street so they can buy them as souvenirs. During a celebration where he is invaded by a crowd and the MGM News team, he notices a beautiful girl (Marceline Day), proposing to take her picture. She accepts, but when he’s looking somewhere else, she goes away with a cameraman from MGM News. Buster wants to find her to give her the picture, so he goes to the MGM News office to see if they know her. Luckily, Sally (that’s her name) is working at there as a secretary. He gives her the photo and asks no charge. It’s a gift. We have no doubt he is in love with her.

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He then asks her boss (Sidney Bracey) if he has a job for him. He will have to buy a camera so he can film stuff and prove he’s a good cameraman. This should be easy, but Buster is quite clumsy. He is watched constantly by a cop (Harry Gribbon) who thinks he’s crazy. Concerning his love for Sally, he has to compete with another MGM cameraman, Harold (Harold Goodwin). Fortunately, despite his failures, Sally will always be there to support Buster.

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After seeing the film, teens will understand why Buster Keaton is a genius. The Cameraman is not only one of the most entertaining films of all time, but one of the funniest. Each time I watch it, I have a smile on my face. It is the kind of film that makes you feel good because of Keaton’s inventive gags, Keaton himself, the hilarious cop and boss’s facial expressions, the lovely Marceline Day, the little monkey, and the music! The Cameraman has very entertaining music that fits perfectly with the film. Too bad a soundtrack doesn’t exist!

The film begins in force with an interesting concept. We see some professional cameraman filming serious events, like a war. During this sequence, the music is quite stressful, adding excitement to the action. Then, the music changes, becoming sympathetic and innocent. We then meet another cameraman, a much more common and simple one. This is how we are first introduced to Buster. The opening catches the spectator’s attention in a great way, beginning with some very powerful and impressive images which make us think of Dziga Vertov’s The Man with a Movie Camera. Then, it slows down and we know we are about to watch something nice, not stressful. We are more ready than ever for a big laugh.

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This may be insignificant, but something that aids my enjoyment of the film is the little monkey. Seriously, how can you resist this adorable animal dressed up as a sailor, who claps hands when she (it’s a girl named Josephine) is happy? Josephine adds a lot to the film and is a much-appreciated character. It’s also because of her that we have a happy ending!

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If teens who watch this film after reading my review never saw a Buster Keaton film before, they will notice his trademark; he never smiles. Buster Keaton’s nickname was The Great Stone Face. However, he is capable of sharing many emotions, even happiness, through his gestures. That’s probably why he has such a great chemistry with the leading lady, Marceline Day and also makes an incredible duo with Harry Gribbon as the cop.

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The Cameraman has everything you can expect to have a good time, even a banana peel gag! Once you have seen a Buster Keaton’s film, you’ll be willing to see more. The Cameraman is definitely a good start.

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Hitchcock’s Dangerous Waters

Hitchcock’s films have been analyzed through various subjects. They are recognizable for having common points, both in their narrative and technical aspects. We know Hitchcock liked cool blondes, “wrong men”, murders, stairs, trains, cameos, etc. But a subject that isn’t talked much about is the importance of water in his films. I was thinking about this recently and, generally, water in Hitchcock’s film is associated with danger or, at least, to something not positive.

I had the idea of writing about this as, yesterday, in class, we were talking about two Lucia Puenzo’s movies, XXY and The Fish Child. In both movies, water is associated with something calm, something not menacing and beautiful. And then I thought, “Oh not like in Hitchcock’s films!” Because Hitchcock obviously always comes to my mind…

How is the element water used in Hitchcock’s films? That’s what I’ll explore today through 17 of his films. I might reveal some spoilers, so be careful. There are movies I might not be discussing if I haven’t seen them already.

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MURDER:

Generally, water is associated with murder in Hitchcock movies. What always first comes to our mind when we think about Hitchcock movies is the famous shower scene from Psycho. Here, we could also associate this shower to vulnerability. Marion Crane is trapped like a mouse. There’s no way she can get out and save herself.  Why did the murderer decide to kill her in the shower? Let’s precise that Hitchcock did not invent that original murder, but Robert Bloch in his book of the same name. But anyway, why the shower? My theories are that it is a place where the victim becomes highly vulnerable like I previously said, but also where the blood is easier to wash. I’ve always liked this scene when Norman Bates cleans the blood in the bathtub after the murder. It’s all washed very quickly and easily. He doesn’t have to scrub during hours.

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Psycho, yes, is the first film we’ll think about when we mention water and murder while discussing Hitchcock’s films, but it’s certainly not the only one. A movie where water is absolutely like hell is the not so often talked about Jamaica Inn. Based on the novel of the same name by Daphné Du Maurier, it takes place on the Cornwall coast. Without going into the whole movie plot, the main problematic involves a bunch of criminals who provoke shipwrecks by turning off the light of the lighthouse on the coast. As a result, the boats dart on the rocky coast and sink. The survivors are then killed by the men and are abandoned in the water like the boats and the rest of the already dead crew. The criminals then steal the boats from their possessions. Unlike Psycho, this involves mass murder. The concept is very interesting, although I’ve always thought those men were going through a lot to reach their goal… Jamaica Inn is a very dark film. Water here is not only associated with murder, but also to barbarism. Poor Mary Yellen’s uncle is one of them. He and the other men are people with no manners and no consideration. They are more like beasts than humans, unlike [spoiler] Norman Bates, who remains a someone with manners despite his wrong actions (of course, we only discover at the end that HE is the murderer). [end of spoiler]. But of course, here we’re comparing someone with a mental case to common thieves with no common sense.

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Then, there is Saboteur. Here, it’s not complicated, one of Frank Fry’s hideous sabotage plans consist in the explosion of a boat. The struggle between Fry and Kane in the truck where the detonator remains among the most stressful scenes in Hitchcock’s filmography. Will Kane succeed to stop Fry from pushing the detonator? Unfortunately, no. The boat explodes under the eyes of terrified people. Here, what we associate with water is simply the boat. No need to explain why. One of the most memorable shots of the film is when Fry, sat in a car, sees the boat lying on its side in the water, and does this creepy criminal smile. By the way, Norman Lloyd, the oldest Hollywood actor will turn 102 years old next November 8! Very soon! 🙂

The last movie we’ll talk about is Strangers on a Train. Here, it concerns Miriam’s murder. Remember, Bruno Anthony kills her on the Lovers Island at the amusement park. The island is obviously surrounded by water, which allows the murderer to escape in his boat and go back on the solid ground. Here, the victim is not directly killed in the water like in Jamaica Inn or Psycho, but her murder takes place next to a watercourse.

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AFTER THE MURDER…

Sometimes, the victim in Hitchcock’s film would not necessarily have been murdered in  the water, but would be found in a watercourse, simply because that’s where the murderer decided to get rid of her. This refers to the famous cliché that murderers get rid of their victims by throwing them in a lake, a river, the sea, etc. Once again, water is associated to something creepy. I mean, who would like to go swim in a bay where a corpse has been found?

The first film we’ll think about is Young and Innocent. It’s poor Robert who discovers the dead body of actress Christine Clay while he’s walking on the beach. First, we see a hand appearing among the waves (kind of creepy) and then the whole corpse. But the presence of a belt as well let us know that she didn’t drown, but had been murdered by strangulation.

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Then there is Rebecca. During the whole movie, we think Rebecca died in a boat accident until we learn that she, in fact, died in her little house by the sea. [spoiler] In the novel she is killed by her husband Max the Winter, but in the film, she dies by falling and hurting her head (always in the presence of Max). But in both cases, Max decides to get rid of the corpse by putting it in the sailing ship and arranges for it to sink, so people would believe in an accident.[end of spoiler]. The ocean is menacing in Rebecca. This one seems always in movement, never calm and highly impressive. [spoiler] Rebecca’s boat and the corpse are found in the stressful climax of the film. [end of spoiler] If you have read Daphné du Maurier’s novel, it describes how, even if the west wing’s rooms give a beautiful view of the sea, the east wing’s rooms are more peaceful having a view on the garden. Precisely because there’s something, yes, beautiful, but also menacing and violent about the ocean, especially on windy nights.

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In To Catch a Thief, water is first associated with something casual and pleasant when France and John swim in the Mediterranean on a sunny day, until [spoiler] Foussard is killed. He is knocked out on the head and falls into the sea from a high cliff. We remember his inert face, with the eyes open, when he is found. Quite a shock for the poor guy…[end of spoiler]

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We then get back to Psycho, where water becomes important, not only during the shower scene, but also in those sequences where Norman Bates gets rid of the victim’s cars. And where does he put them? In the dirty pond! Clever. Here, water is used to hide something. Marion Crane’s car is fished out at the end of the film. We know her body is in the trunk of the car, but we’re thankful those details are not shown to us. Hugh!

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To wrap up on this category, the last film we should mention in Frenzy. At the beginning, one of the victims of the “necktie murderer” is found in the Thames under the terrified reactions of the Londoners. Mind the river.

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Murderers seem not to have understood something: even if you throw a body in the water, it will always come back to the surface… Better bury him!

***

SUICIDE

A delicate subject, suicide has not been as much present as murder in Hitchcock movies, but it’s there. The first film that comes to our mind when we think about suicide in Hitchcock films is Vertigo. Remember, Scottie follows Madeleine (well, that’s what he thinks…) and, when they arrived next to the Golden Gate (the story takes place in San Francisco), she throws herself in the San Francisco Bay. Ironically, the Golden Gate is known as the bridge where the biggest amount of suicides was committed in North America. The second one is the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal where I live (…). Anyway, Madeleine creates an association between her and water by choosing this way of killing herself. Luckily, Scottie manages to rescue her. Poor Kim Novak, she really couldn’t swim. Hitchcock could be harsh on his actresses…

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Chloé from the mediocre film The Skin Game does the same and kill herself by falling into a pool. To be honest, I don’t really know why. It’s not a very good film, so I kind of forgot about it.

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Finally, Hitchcock’s early silent film The Manxman also contains a suicide scene when Kate elegantly throws herself in the water. Her wedding life was not going too well…

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A beautiful dramatical shot

***

BOATS

Water also becomes dangerous when you are on a boat and this one sinks… This was used at its full potential in Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. After a boat as been sunk by the German army, its survivors find themselves surviving on a lifeboat, for an undetermined period. What will happen to them? They are lost, forever alone in this huge ocean. But “water” here is also a synonym of “hope”. They hope for rain, as they practically have nothing to drink. This Hitchcock’s film, where all the action takes place on the ocean is one of his most thrilling.

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There’s also an important scene in Rich and Strange that involves a boat sinking. That’s what happens to Emily and Fred at the end of their cruise. The poor ones think they are at the end of their life, but, luckily, they are saved by another boat. We remember when they are locked up in their room and the water starts coming through the door. It seems to be the end, but, when they wake up, Fred and Emily realizes they are not dead. That would have been too dramatic for such a film.

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***

OTHER

There are four more films I briefly want to mention that are also related to water in Hitchcock’s films.

First, there’s Sabotage. In this film, the two saboteurs have a secret meeting in an aquarium. It’s indeed a very special place to have a meeting. Of course, it’s a calm place, there are not too many people and the fish cannot really hear them… This is a very special scene in the film. Shot in an interesting visual way.

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Second, The Birds takes place in Bodega Bay. The bay is part of the pacific ocean and it’s in this little Californian town that aggressive birds will attack people. Once again, the menace is happening next to a watercourse. We see a lot of seagulls in The Birds, which birds that NORMALLY live by the sea (if there’s not a McDonald around…)

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Third, Roger Thornhill almost falls from a cliff when he is driving his car, drunk. Vandamm and his gang hoped to kill him this way, but, obviously, Thornhill manages to save his skin. Well, it would have been too weird if Cary Grant would have died in the first minutes of the film, no?…

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Finally, water becomes associated with danger at the end of Number 17, when the train, that goes at a very high speed, falls into the sea. The film is not a very good one, but that’s a moment we don’t forget. And, as much as the water is menacing for the train, by falling into it, the train also becomes a menace for the water as it pollutes it. Yes, we must have an environmental conscience, even when we watch Hitchcock’s movies! 😉

***

There are some movies that I might not have mentioned that also use water as an object of fear and danger. I think there’s a plane that crashes in the ocean in Foreign Correspondent, no? But I preferred not to develop on the subject as I haven’t seen the film yet and didn’t want to say anything that could be wrong.

Well,  as always, there’s always so much to say about one specific subject in a Hitchcock film! I hope this was interesting!

See you! 🙂

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Silent Cinema Blogathon: The Farmer’s Wife

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This article is part of the Silent Cinema Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Lauren Champkin.

Silent films tend to be forgotten nowadays, probably due to the fact that they were made a long time ago (with the exception of The Artist, which is a great film by the way). People will mostly remember Charlie Chaplin’s ones, but there’s much more to discover. There’s something magical about those. They were very inventive and actors had to express themselves only with their facial expressions and body language. Ok, I must admit, I prefer silent comedy, but there are some good silent dramas too. The thing with silent film is that something has to happen. It can’t be just people sitting at a table and talking, otherwise people will lose interest and get bored. Recently, I’ve seen a 2 hours Russian silent fiction film in class and well…slept over it. Same story with this silent documentary about the Russian revolution. These films have a certain potential, but many faults too, and they were NOT made for a large public. Anyway, I’m not here to talk about movies I don’t like, but about good silent films, those we have the pleasure to watch and that glorify the world of silent films. Just to continue with the Russian cinema, back in the 20s, it certainly was one of the most glorious cinematic industry, if we think of Sergei Einsenstein’s and Dziga Vertov’s films. My personal favourite is The Movie with a Movie Camera. In a way, this film, even if it’s just contemplative, makes me think of Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman. I also love the music. Well, the one in the version I’ve seen.

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My friends Crystal and Lauren Champkin today give the chance, to all those who want to participate to their new blogathon, to talk about something connected to the world of silent cinema: movies, movie stars, directors, etc. On my side, I’ve decided to go with The Farmer’s Wife, a 1928’s British film directed by the one and only Alfred Hitchcock . This is not my favourite silent film, I don’t LOVE it, I LIKE it, but there’s interesting stuff to talk about. I also wanted to go with something else than a Chaplin or Buster Keaton’s film, because I wanted people to discover a lesser known film. Indeed, The Farmer’s Wife is rarely the first film that comes to your mind when you think about Alfred Hitchcock. I own this movie, thanks to this nice dvd box set that my cousins (girls) gave to me for my birthday some years ago (three maybe). From The Lodger to Jamaica Inn, this box set contains  a great deal of early British Hitchcock’s films.

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What I first like about The Farmer’s Wife is the fact that the story is very simple so it will be easy for me to tell you, in two or three sentences, what it’s all about. You know, I’m not good at resuming films. So, the story is about Samuel Sweetland (Jameson Thomas) a farmer who, after his wife’s death, desperately wants to get remarried. With the help of his young housekeeper, Araminta, says “Minta” (Lillian Hall-Davis), he makes a list of potential future wives. When he goes visiting them, the result is not the one he would have hoped for, until he realizes that the wisest solution was much more simple.

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The Farmer’s Wife was based on a play (itself based on a novel) that was staged no less than 1 400 times in London! In its interview with Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut notices that, even if it was based on a play, it’s a very cinematic film. Hitchcock agrees with him. Like they say, this is due to the very active role of the camera. This one really participates to the story. Unfortunately, Hitchcock was not very pleased with this film. He thought that he’d DONE the job, but not necessarily done it well.

The cast and crew
The cast and crew

If we compare it to another of his silent films (The Lodger), The Farmer’s Wife is not Hitchcock’s most innovator film. It doesn’t have particular camera movements or things like that. However, in the same interview, Truffaut says to Hitchcock that the cinematography of this film makes him think of the one in F.W Murnau’s films and compares it to Sunrise’s cinematography. That’s a good observation from Mr. Truffaut. I had never thought about it, but I’ve re-watched Sunrise not a long time ago and then The Farmer’s Wife and I agree with him. I perfectly know what he means. The fact that it also takes place in the country can make us think of this Murnau’s film. However, the stories are completely different. There’s something very poetic about this cinematographic style. The use of the light adds a certain softness to the film.

Hitchcock's The Farmer's Wife
Hitchcock’s The Farmer’s Wife
Murnau's Sunrise
Murnau’s Sunrise

The main force of the film, and what makes it most appealing to me, is the cast. The two main actors are brilliant, just like the numerous supporting character actors. Lillian Hall Davis who plays Minta gives us what might be my favourite actress performance in a silent film. Her acting is very simple. She doesn’t exaggerate her emotions, but these are all perfectly transmitted to us. She gives a touching a sweet performance. If you’ve never seen this film, you’ll agree with me that she’s quite marvellous. Previously, Lillian Hall Davis had appeared in Hitchcock’s The Ring, which was a success on its release. Sadly, Davis’ career decreased with the coming of the talkies and, suffering of a depression, she killed herself in 1938 at the age of 35. When you’ll see her performance in The Farmer’s Wife you’ll feel very sad that such a lovely lady made an end to her life so abruptly.

Lilian Hall-Davis - The Farmer's Wife (1928) paper

Jameson Thomas, who plays the farmer, is very convincing too. What I especially liked about his acting were its several reactions. For example, when he’s upset, it’s quite funny. After all, this is a comedy. Lillian Hall Davis and Jameson Thomas’ chemistry in this film is a delight to watch. They make a real team a brilliantly complete each other.

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Finally, let’s take a look at the supporting cast. The first actor we’ll notice among it is Gordon Harker who is cast as Churdles Ash, the Handyman. Ok, for those who have an interest for character actor, this one certainly has to be discovered. The comic side of this film is mainly embodied by him. He plays a grumpy man who turned out to be very funny despite him. Just look at the moment when he wears classy clothes. A real hilarious disaster! The potential future wives are played by Maud Gill, Louis Pounds, Olga Slade and Ruth Maitland. They all did a great job, but the most memorable one certainly is Maud Gill who perfectly performed her role of a tin, shy and frigid woman. She’s very convincing and her reaction when Jameson Thomas asks her to marry her worth a million.

Gordon Harker
Gordon Harker
 Maud Gill
Maud Gill

As I’ve studied screen writing, this is always an aspect I pay attention to in a film. As I’ve said in the beginning, this one is well structured and there’s a good evolution. Some scene might be a little long, but I’ve seen worst, believe me. As strange as it may seems, this film also contains some of my favourite inter titles, so very amusing lines. Here are some examples:

  1. Minta and Samuel are making the future wives’ list. He asks her to add Mary Hearn (Olga Slade) on the list. Minta makes him notice that she’s a little fat. To what he answers:

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… And she answers back:Capture d’écran 2015-10-20 à 14.11.272. Having finishing the list, Samuel says:

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3. Thirza Tapper’s housekeeper, Susan (Antonia Brough) comes in the living room, crying like a baby. Like this (poor girl):

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Because the ices she was preparing has melt. Her only argument is this:

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4. During an argument with Mary Hearn, this one asks to Samuel:

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To what he answers:

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5. And later, being very mad at her, he tells her:

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So you can see, many humour in these dialogues.

I’ll finish this review by discussing the strangest element of this film: the music. Ok, the music itself is not strange, it’s a typical orchestral classical music, a style that was often used in silent films. However, it doesn’t fit the movie AT ALL. As a matter of fact, this music is kind of dramatic and doesn’t reflect well the comic ambiance of the film. So, it’s kind of weird and somehow a little annoying. It fits for certain scenes, but for the major film, it doesn’t. We expect a more happy music in a comedy.

Well, The Famer’s Wife is one of those underrated and un-well known Hitchcock’s films that certainly deserves to be discovered. It’s a movie with qualities and faults. It’s not a masterpiece, but it certainly is a nice entertainment. There’s nothing boring with this film and it’s a good one to watch when you’re not too much into deep psychological films. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, I hope I convinced you to watch it.

I want to thank Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Lauren Champkin for hosting this event. It certainly was a great idea and a real fun to participate to it. Of course, I invite you to take a look a the other entries! Just click on the link below:

Silent Cinema Blogathon

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