Yesterday, the famous movie music composer Bernard Herrmann would have been 106 years old. He did not only share his brilliance in his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, but in all the movie scores he composed. It’s for that reason that he is a favourite among many cinephiles. He certainly was among those movie composers who perfectly knew how to musically illustrate the atmosphere of a film.
I didn’t have time to “celebrate” him yesterday as I was working, but I thought I should honour him today with one of my traditional top lists! So, let me introduce you my 10 most favourite Bernard Herrmann scores! Of course, that was a most difficult exercise as he was a master of music. I had to change the order of my top many times.
Before continuing, remember that these are my personal favourite ones, so it’s purely subjective. You obviously can’t contest my personal tastes. 😉
Ok, here we go!
10. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
Ah! How can we forget this haunting music regrouping strings only?! The shower scene is not the most “melodious” Bernard Hermann moment, but probably the one people will remember the most.
9. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
As much as I’m not THAT much a fan of this film (despite the fact that it is considered the best movie of all times and blablabla), there are TWO things that I love enormously about it, one of them being the music (the other one being Joseph Cotten). I love how it is at the time very sinister or very joyful. Typical Herrmann!
8.The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)
My favourite Hitchcock’s film! And certainly one of my favourite Bernard Herrmann scores! It’s so orchestral, I love it! You unfortunately won’t hear it in this clip, but, during the film, there are some notes that remind us a lot of Vertigo‘s score that Herrmann will compose two years later. Of course, we all remember Herrmann’s cameo in the film! 🙂
7. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)
Without being Hitchcock’s best film, one can’t deny that this is among Herrmann’s best scores! Actually, it might be the best thing about this film. I absolutely love it.
6. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
When those notes start, you know you are in for something special! Somehow, I can always see Carlotta Valdes’s portrait when I hear this music or the famous dream sequence. A team work between Hitchcock and Hermann always creates prodigies! Another film that is considered “the best of all times” and, once again, Bernard Herrmann had the chance to be part of the team!
5. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
As far as I can remember, North by Northwest has always been one of my very favourite music scores. It succeeds to so perfectly capture the attention of the viewers. Once again, one can perfectly visualize the film in his/her head while listening to this GREAT score!
4. Jane Eyre (Robert Stevenson, 1944)
I must be honest, I didn’t become familiar with that score until… well today. The reason is that I’ve seen the movie only once and quite a long time ago, so let’s say the music was not necessarily fresh in my memory! But when I was re-listening to some of the Herrmann scores, I discovered how great it was! I just can’t believe I haven’t took the time to listen to it more carefully before. It’s just ace! Somehow, I can visualize the movie in my head when I listen to it. It truly makes me want to watch it again! 4m14 – 4m30: this moment is absolutely terrifying, but great!
3. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951)
That is THE sound of science-fiction! My favourite sci-fi film and very probably my favourite music score for a sci-fi film. In this score, we can hear both acoustic and electronic instruments, including two Theremins, which create those typical sounds from outer space.
2. Obsession (Brian de Palma, 1976)
It goes without saying, I am obsessed with this film score (ouuuu!). It’s just spellbinding. I especially love the first minutes of it. I can always see the scene where Cliff Robertson throws the suitcase with the money on the street or that unforgettable final scene… For a movie that is very similar to Vertigo, Bernard Herrmann was of course the ultimate choice for the music!
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
Ah, the last and ultimate Bernard Herrman’s score! From Citizen Kane (his first movie music score) to Taxi Driver (his last), he proved to be an absolute musical master. Taxi Driver‘s music is so mesmerizing and fits perfectly the dark New-Yorkian atmosphere of the film. It sort of makes me want to take saxophone lessons!
Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed! Of course, don’t hesitate to share your personal favourites in the comment section!
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 instauration 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 second review was for the 1956’s classic The Man Who Knew Too Much directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Enjoy!
“A single crash of cymbals and how it rocked the lives of an American family.” That’s what it says at the beginning of The Man Who Knew Too Much. The question is: how can a crash of cymbals rock the lives of a family? That’s what you’ll discover when you watch this great 1956 Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece. This month it’s this film I’ll explore and try to convince our teens that this is a movie they should watch. This version of The Man Who Knew Too Much is a remake of the 1934 version, also directed by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. The 1934 version was one of his great British successes and, in my opinion; the remake is one of the rare good remakes that exist.
This Technicolor film, just like the black and white original, was based on a story written by D. B. Wyndham-Lewis and Charles Bennett. Bennett was a movie writer well known for his work with Hitchcock (Blackmail, The 39 Steps, Sabotage, Secret Agent, Young and Innocent, Foreign Correspondent and Saboteur). The plot goes like this: Dr. Benjamin McKenna (James Stewart), his wife Josephine “Jo” Conway McKenna (Doris Day), and their son Henry aka “Hawks” (Christopher Olsen) are taking a trip to Morocco. In a little bus taking them to Marrakech, they met French gentleman, Louis Bernard (Daniel Gelin). Bernard asks many questions to Ben, not answering Ben and Jo’s questions, irritating Jo. She thinks he’s a very mysterious man and suspects him of having something to hide. Ben tries to convince her that she worries too much. On the evening of the same day, Bernard is supposed to have supper with the McKennas, but he can’t make it because he has to go out for business.
So, Ben and Jo go to the restaurant without Louis. There, they meet an English couple: Lucy and Edward Drayton (Brenda de Banzie and Bernard Miles). Lucy is a great fan of Jo, who is a professional singer. They have supper together and become good friends. The following morning, the McKennas and Draytons go together to the market. Unfortunately, they are witness to a cruel murder. The victim is no one else than Louis Bernard. Before he dies, he whispers in Ben’s hear that a statesman is going to be killed in London. The police ask Ben and Jo to come to the police station to make a deposition. Lucy takes Hank back to the hotel and Edward comes with Ben and Jo. There, they learn Louis Bernard was a spy of the Deuxieme Bureau. Ben receives a phone call from a mysterious man who tells him not to reveal anything about Bernard’s last words or his son will be in danger. Back at the hotel, Ben tells the news to a devastated Jo and, the following day, they move to London to find their son and, if possible, stop the statesman’s murder.
The Man Who Knew Too Much is one of the most thrilling of Hitchcock’s films. In other words, watching this film won’t bore you. Just like North by Northwest or Saboteur, this film will make you travel from place to place; in this case, from Marrakech, Morocco to London, England. The Man Who Knew Too Much is brilliantly cast with big stars such as James Stewart as Ben McKenna and Doris Day as Jo. Louis Bernard is played by French actor Daniel Gelin, Edward Drayton by Bernard Miles, Lucy Drayton by Brenda De Banzie and little Hank by Christopher Olsen. Carolyn Jones also has a small part as Jo’s friend, Cindy Fontaine.
The Man Who Knew Too Much has everything you should like about Hitchcock’s films: a delicious suspense, humor, thrills, strong actors, a memorable scene (this one takes place during a concert at the Albert Hall) and great music. Composed by the magnificent Bernard Hermann, the score will put you in the mood of the film right at the beginning. The famous Doris Day song “Que Sera Sera” comes from this film. Written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, this beautiful tune won an Oscar in 1957. What’s interesting about it is that, in the story, Jo doesn’t just sing it to sing it; it becomes an important element in the story.
Teenagers will love this film for several reasons. Right at the beginning, they will be captivated by the story and Hitchcock’s humor. Also, knowing it’s a Hitchcock film, they’ll wonder: “What will happen to this little American family?” and want to know more, discovering the fantastic adventure they will be taken on. In my opinion, many Hitchcock films can interest teens. One we always think about is Psycho, but I wanted to be a little more original by choosing this film.
This is the Hitchcock film that made my little sister want to watch more Hitchcock. Before that, she wanted to know nothing about his films (I believe she was traumatized by The Birds). My sister said about this film: “There was good suspense,” watching it from beginning to end. Second, this is the first film of Hitchcock’s my best friend saw. (Of course, she watched it with me at my suggestion.) She loved it too and, for her, the most stressful scene was the Albert Hall sequence. She said her heart was beating very fast. I also suggested this film to another of my friends who wanted to see more Hitchcock and, one more time, it was a success. So, as you can see, it’s really the suspense and the action that catch teen’s attention.
The Man Who Knew Too Much is not Hitchcock’s most famous film, but I recommend it, without hesitation, even to those who have never heard of Hitchcock. As a matter of fact, I recommend it to everybody, hoping my review has convinced those who never saw it to give it a try.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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!
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.
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!
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…)
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?…
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!
Last Saturday, we celebrated what would have been Joan Fontaine’s 99th birthday. Unfortunately, as I was quite busy, I didn’t really have time to do anything to celebrate the event on my blog. Well, I’m back with a top from the top of the world and would like to introduce you my 10 most favourite Joan Fontaine’s films. Of course, these are my personal choices, so I simply ask you to respect them (I think you know the song now)!
Here we go:
10. The Affairs of Susan ( William A. Seiter, 1945)
I must be honest, I really hesitated between The Affairs of Susan and The Bigamist, because I’ve only seen them once and quite a long time ago, so I don’t really remember which one I preferred. I’ll go with The Affairs because of Edith Head’s gorgeous gown.
9. The Constant Nymph (Edmund Goulding, 1943)
But one of my very favourite Joan Fontaine’s performances
8. Jane Eyre (Robert Stevenson, 1944)
Once again, it’s one I’ve seen quite a long time ago. But I remember enjoying it. Must revisit it as soon as possible as it is one of Joan’s most iconographic films.
7. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948)
Joan is lovely in this film. I couldn’t think of someone better for the role.
6. The Emperor Waltz (Billy Wilder, 1948)
Yes, this probably comes as a surprise (even to me) that I like it better than Letter or Jane Eyre, but it’s just a film I enjoy so much, and even more than that I’ve been to Vienna! You can read my review here.
5. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Fritz Lang, 1956)
A very underrated one. I watched it for the first time Saturday and highly enjoyed it. Fritz Lang is always a winner for me.
4. Until they Sail (Robert Wise, 1957)
Because of the cast: Joan Fontaine, Jean Simmons, Piper Laurie, Paul Newman and Sandra Dee
3. September Affair (William Dieterle, 1950)
Joan and Joseph Cotten. Such a beautiful film.
2. Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)
Hitchcock! And she won the Oscar, you know!
1. Rebecca(Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)
Hitchcock again! I know, not a very original #1 choice, but it’s such a great film! What more can I say…
Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed. Don’t hesitate to share your personal top with me!
To accompany her Alfred Hitchcock blogathon (which ended yesterday), Eva from Coffee, Classics and Craziness created this little questionnaire to know better our Hitchcockian tastes! Here are my answers to it.
It’s always fun to discuss anything about Hitchcock! I have to say that it’s 2:15 am now, but I can’t go to bed because Hitchcock keeps me awake (in the good way)! 😀
What was the first Hitchcock film you ever watched?
It was The Birds, and I can remember my first viewing like if it was yesterday. My father often talked to me about this film so, one day, I finally decided to watch it. And I LOVED it. It was like nothing I had seen before. In the final scene of the film, I understood for the first time the importance of a great editing. I liked it so much that I watched it twice in the same weekend. You can read my post about it here:
The Man Who Knew Too Much (the 1956’s version). This film, I just love it! I know, it’s quite an unusual choice! I once wrote a review for it at ClassicFlix. It’s a movie that convinced many people I know to watch more Hitchcock’s films.
Euhm, I saw many Hitchcock’s films and there aren’t many that I don’t like. Maybe Number 17? It wasn’t very good and, quite frankly, I don’t really remember what it was about (and the sound of my dvd had such a poor quality that I couldn’t understand half of it, which didn’t really help). However, I must admit, the train scene at the end was visually quite impressive.
What’s your favorite Hitchcock cameo?
It’s the one in Young and Innocent! Hitchcock is just so funny in it. I also believe it’s one of his longest cameos. He tries to speak, but nobody lets him. Poor Hitch!
Who’s your favorite Hitchcock villain?
That would be Uncle Charlie from Shadow of a Doubt! One of the most interesting and complex villains ever. Plus, I LOVE Joseph Cotten.
Ah! Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave) in The Lady Vanishes. He makes me laugh so much!
D.r Constance Pertersen (Ingrid Bergman) in Spellbound. Because she is such a good person. I just love her.