Friday, October 16, 2020

Don’t talk to “Strangers on a Train”

Strangers on a Train (1951) is a psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, and Robert Walker. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley), with cinematography by long-time Hitchcock collaborator Robert Burks and music by Dimitri Tiomkin.

The fateful moment that starts the action

The plot concerns two strangers who meet on a train: a young tennis player Guy Haines (Granger) and a somewhat charming psychopath named Bruno Antony (Walker). Bruno suggests that they should exchange murders, but Guy really doesn’t take Bruno seriously. When Bruno commits the first murder and tries to convince Guy to complete their “bargain,” the plot takes a series of strange and exciting twists and turns.

Strangers on a Train ushered in a golden period for director Hitchcock. He would go on to make some of the most memorable and successful films of the 1950s including, Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959).

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films, many are classics that have been honored and studied for years. Some of Hitchcock’s classic films include The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

Robert Burks (1909 – 1968) was an American cinematographer. He was adept at both color and black and white photography. In 1928, Burks got his start in film at Warner Bros. He eventually worked his way up to Director of Photography in 1944. The first feature that he worked on as a cinematographer was The Fountainhead (1949) starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. Burks is closely associated with Hitchock. He was the cinematographer on some of the directors most famous works from the 1950s and 1960s including Strangers on a Train (1951), I Confess (1952), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Wrong Man (1956), Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959).

Dimitri Tiomkin (1894 – 1979) was a Russian-born American film composer. He received 22 Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars. Tiomkin got his big break working with director Frank Capra on the classic Lost Horizon (1937). He also collaborated with Capra on You Can’t Take it With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Tiomkin was famous for scoring western films including Duel in the Sun (1946), High Noon (1952), Giant (1956), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), and Rio Bravo (1959). Tiomkin also wrote the scores for three other Hitchcock films: Shadow of  Doubt (1943), I Confess (1953), and Dial M for Murder (1954).

Farley Granger and Ruth Roman

Farley Granger (1925 – 2011) was an American actor best known for his two films with Alfred Hitchcock: Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train (19510). Signed to a long-term contract by Samuel Goldwyn. He made two films: The North Star (1943) and The Purple Heart (1944) before joining the United States Navy. When he returned to Hollywood he starred in They Live by Night (1948) which brought him to the attention of Hitchcock. Granger went on to star in other Goldwyn films including Enchantment (1948), Roseanna McCoy (1949), Edge of Doom (1950), and Our Very Own (1950). Granger worked in films, stage, and television, including work in several soap operas into the early 2000s.

Ruth Roman (1922 – 1989) was an American film, stage, and television actress. Roman got her start in the movies starring in the Jungle Queen (1945) film serial. She had a notable role in The Window (1949) which lead to her being cast in Champion (1949) co-starring Kirk Douglas. These successes earned her a contract with Warner Bros. During her years under contract, she costarred with some of Hollywood’s top leading men including Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn, Glenn Ford, and James Stewart. Roman also worked steadily on television during the 1950s and beyond, appearing on such popular shows as Mannix, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Mod Squad, The FBI, and The Outer Limits.

Robert Walker and Donna Reed in See Here, Private Hargrove

Robert Walker (1918 – 1951) was an American actor who was to the first husband of film actress Jennifer Jones. In 1943, he was signed to a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he had supporting roles in Bataan (1943) and Madame Curie (1943). The studio started grooming him for stardom with the starring role in See Here, Private Hargrove (1944). Other starring roles followed in films like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), The Clock (1945) co-starring Judy Garland, Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945) with Hedy Lamarr and June Allyson, and Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) where he portrayed composer Jerome Kern. Walker’s last film, My Son John (1952) used footage from Strangers on a Train when Walker died before production ended.

Strangers on a Train also features Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock (the director’s daughter), and Laura Elliot (later known as Kasey Rogers).


Strangers on a Train trivia:

  • Hitchcock bought the rights to the novel for a mere $7,500.
  • Robert Walker was Hitchcock’s only choice to play Bruno Antony.
  • Hitchcock had wanted William Holden to play Guy Haines, but he was unavailable.
  • Patricia Hitchcock is the last surviving member of the cast.
  • Farley Granger said that Hitchcock didn’t like Ruth Roman and treated her badly in front of everyone.
  • Tennis pro Jack Cunningham coached Farley Granger for the tennis scenes and played his opponent in the movie.


To watch the film, click on the link below.



To join the discussion on Zoom on October 20, 2020, at 6 p.m. Central Time, click the link to the Chicago Film Club Meetup Group.


Questions for discussion:

  1. What did you think of the opening scenes of the movie?
  2. What clues do we have that Bruno may be “trouble?”
  3. How do the tennis match and Bruno’s struggle to retrieve Guy’s lighter add to the film’s suspense?
  4. The film develops the idea of the double: Bruno Guy, Miriam, Ann. Can you find any other pairs?


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes (1938) is a British thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave. The success of this film caught the attention of producer David O. Selznick. Selznick signed Hitchcock to a long-term contract and brought him to Hollywood in 1940.

Michael Redgrave, Dame May Whitty, and Margaret Lockwood

The plot involves Iris Henderson (Lockwood), a young woman returning home to get married after a European vacation with two girlfriends. An avalanche blocks the train so she ends up staying an extra night where she meets a kindly old governess and music teacher named Mrs. Froy (Dame May Whitty). When Iris finally gets on the train home, she ends up sharing a compartment with Mrs. Froy. Sometime during her journey, Mrs. Froy disappears and no one in her compartment remembers the old woman, making Iris wonder if she dreamed up their meeting or if her fellow passengers are lying. She enlists the help of Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave), a young ethnomusicologist who is somewhat skeptical of her claims.

Will they find Mrs. Froy or did Iris dream up the whole thing, the result of an accident before boarding the train.

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films, many are classics that have been honored and studied for years. Some of Hitchcock’s classic films include The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

Alfred Hitchcock and Margaret Lockwood on the set of The Lady Vanishes

Margaret Lockwood (1916 – 1990) was an English actress who began her career on the stage but gained fame as one of Britain’s most popular movie stars during the 1930s and 1940s. She had a starring role in Bank Holiday (1938), directed by Carol Reed. The movie was a huge success and made Lockwood a star. Next up would be The Lady Vanishes (1938), which brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Lockwood didn’t take to Hollywood and soon returned to England where she made a series of popular costume dramas including The Wicked Lady (1945) co-starring James Mason.

Michael Redgrave (1909 – 1985) was an English stage and film actor and a director. He worked primarily on the British stage but had some significant film roles. He made his American film debut in Mourning Becomes Electra (1947) co-starring Rosalind Russell. For his performance, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Other notable film roles include The Stars Look Down (1940), Dead of Night (1945), and The Browning Version (1951). He is the father of actresses Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave.

Dame May Whitty (1865 – 1948) was an English stage and film actress. Whitty made her Hollywood debut at age 72 in Night Must Fall (1937) co-starring Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell. For her performance, Whitty was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. After her role for Hitchcock in The Lady Vanishes, Whitty moved permanently to Hollywood where she appeared in many classic films including Suspicion (1941), Mrs. Miniver (1942), Gaslinght (1944), and Green Dolphin Street (1947).

The Lady Vanishes trivia

  • There is no background music, except for the beginning and end of the film
  • Motion picture debut of Michael Redgrave
  • The movie begins in the fictional European country of Bandrinka
  • Charters and Caldicott were created for the movie; they don’t appear in the novel
  • Vivien Leigh screen tested for the role of Iris Henderson


To watch the film, click on the link below.


https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x239ehl


After you watch the film, join us for a discussion on Zoom, October 13 at 6 p.m. Central Time. For links to the Zoom meeting click the Meetup link.


Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the Macguffin in this film? A Macguffin “is an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters, but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself.”
  2. The French film director Francois Truffaut said The Lady Vanishes was his favorite Hitchcock film and was the best representation of his work. What do you think he meant? Do you agree?
  3. What did you think of the chemistry between Lockwood and Redgrave?
  4. What did you make of the characters Charters and Caldicott?


Saturday, October 3, 2020

Robert Donat and Madeleine Carrol navigate “The 39 Steps”

The 39 Steps (1935) is a British thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. The Screenplay was by Charles Bennett and Ian Hay. It was based on the novel of the same name by John Buchan.

Madeleine Carroll and Robert Donat

The plot centers on a man, Richard Hannay (Donat) who meets Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim) at a London music hall after three shots are fired. She tells Richard that she is a spy and is being chased by two men who want to kill her. She has uncovered a plot to steal information that is critical to the British army’s defense. She brings up “The 39 Steps,” but doesn’t explain its significance. Later that evening, Annabella is fatally stabbed and tells Richard to flee because they’ll be after him next. He finds a map of the Scottish Highlands in her dead hands and sees the town of Killin where a house named “Alt-na-Shellach” is circled. Thus begins his journey to escape from the assassins and a murder rap for killing Annabella. Along the way he meets Pamela (Carroll) who flees with Richard most reluctantly.

The 39 Steps was an enormous hit in Britain and the United States. Both Donat and Carroll had made films in Hollywood and were a known quantity there. Both would go on to have successful careers in Hollywood and Europe.

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films, many are classics that have been honored and studied for years. Some of Hitchcock’s classic films include The Lady Vanishes (1938) (1935), Sabotage )1936), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

Robert Donat (1905 – 1958) was an English stage and film star. During the 1930s, he was one of Britain’s top male stars. He is perhaps best remembered for his roles in The 39 Steps and Goodbye Mr, Chips (1939), winning the Best Actor Academy Award for the latter. Hitchcock wanted Donat for the role of Detective Ted Spencer in Sabotage (1936) and Secret Agent (1936), the latter role would have reunited him with Carroll. Donat suffered from severe and chronic asthma which affected his film career. He only made a total of 20 films.

Madeleine Carroll (1906 – 1987) was an English film and stage actress who was a star in both Britain and America. In 1938 she was the world’s top-paid actress. In The 39 Steps, Carroll was the prototypical cool, blonde. The film boosted Carroll’s film profile and brought her to Hollywood and was offered a lucrative contract with Paramount Pictures. Some of her popular American films include The General Died at Dawn (1936) co-starring Gary Cooper, Lloyd’s of London (1936) which made a star of Tyrone Power, The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) costarring Ronald Colman, Honeymoon in Bali (1939) with frequent costar Fred MacMurray, Northwest Mounted Police (1940), again costarring Cooper with direction by Cecil B. DeMille. In 1942, Carroll was cast as Bob Hope’s leading lady in My Favorite Blonde. After World War II, Carroll returned to Britain. She was back in the US to costar once again with Fred MacMurray in An Innocent Affair (1948). Her last film was The Fan (1949) where she played the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne.


Madeleine Carroll Humanitarian

When Carroll’s only sister, Marguerite, was killed during World War II’s London Blitz, Carroll gave up her film career to work in field hospitals as a Red Cross nurse. She was a naturalized US citizen in 1943 so she served at the American Army Air Force’s 61st Station Hospital in Foggia, Italy the next year.

Carroll donated her chateau outside of Paris to house more than 150 orphans. She organized young people in California to make clothing for the orphans. For her work, she was awarded the Legion d’honeur by the French government. Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower allegedly said that of all the movie stars he met in Europe during the war, he was most impressed with Carroll and Herbert Marshall. Marshall helped military amputees gain confidence and independence. Marshall was an amputee himself. After the war, Carroll stayed in Europe where she helped in the rehabilitation of concentration camp victims.

Part of what makes this turn in Carroll’s life worth noting is that she left Hollywood at the very height of her career, something that few people in her situation would have done.

A young Peggy Ashcroft (1907 – 1991) has a small, but important role as Margaret, a young married woman who helps Richard escape from the assassins. Ashcroft would go on to have a successful stage and film career. In 1984, she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Mrs. Moore in A Passage to India.


The 39 Steps Trivia

  • It was a follow-up to his first international success, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934).
  • Robert Donat’s illness made it difficult to do long takes.
  • Gaumont British Picture Corporation wanted to crack the U.S. market so they invested more money in the picture than they typically would any other production and they signed Donat and Carroll, both familiar to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • J.D. Salinger in The Catcher in the Rye mentions that The 39 Steps is the favorite film of his younger sister Phoebe and that “She knows all the talk by heart.” 
  • Carroll and Donat met on her first day of filming.


To watch the film on YouTube, use the link below


To join our discussion on Zoom, October 6, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time, click on the link below for links and information.


https://www.meetup.com/Chicago-Film-Club-Meetup-Group/


Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the Macguffin in this film? A Macguffin “is an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters, but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself.”
  2. What did you think of the chemistry between Donat and Carroll?
  3. What future Hitchcock film(s) do The 39 Steps foreshadow?
  4. Orson Welles considered this film a “masterpiece.” Would you go so far as to say the same?
  5. Did you have any favorite supporting characters?


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck are “Spellbound” by Alfred Hitchcock

Spellbound (1945) is a film noir with a psychological twist directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It stars Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck with a screenplay by Ben Hecht, based on the novel The House of Dr. Edwardes (1927) by Hilary Saint George Saunders and John Palmer writing under the pseudonym Francis Beeding.

Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman

Dr. Constance Peterson (Bergman) is a psychoanalyst at Green Manors, a mental hospital in Vermont where she is perceived to be somewhat cold and aloof. Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll) is forced to retire due to nervous exhaustion. When his replacement shows up in the form of Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Peck), Constance and the rest of the staff are amazed by that the hospital hired such a young director. Dr. Peterson is drawn to Dr. Edwardes, but she notices that things may not be quite right with him.

The film also features a dream sequence designed by artist Salvador Dali. William Cameron Menzies who also did the set design for the movie directed the sequence.


Bergman and Peck in part of the dream sequence deleted from the final cut. 

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films, many are classics that have been honored and studied for years. Some of Hitchcock’s classic films include The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

Ingrid Bergman (1915 – 1982) was a Swedish actress who became an international star upon her Hollywood debut in Intermezzo (1939). Few actresses were as popular as Bergman during the 1940s. In fact, she was the number two box office draw (after Bing Crosby) in 1946. She starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) opposite Gary Cooper, Gaslight (1944) for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award. She starred opposite newcomer Gregory Peck in Spellbound (1945) which was her first collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock. Bergman would go on to win another Best Actress Academy Award for Anastasia (1956) and a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

Gregory Peck (1916 – 2002) was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. He had three Best Actor nominations early in his career for The Keys to the Kingdom (1944), The Yearling (1946), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), and Twelve O’Clock High (1949). He had non-exclusive contracts with David O. Selznick and Twentieth Century-Fox, which gave him great flexibility in the roles he chose to play. Other classic Peck film roles include Roman Holiday (1953), The Big Country (1958), The Guns of Navarone (1961). He finally won a Best Actor Academy Award for his iconic portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

The film features an excellent supporting cast including Michael Chekhov as Dr. Brulov in a Best Supporting Oscar-nominated performance, Rhonda Fleming in her film debut, and Norman Lloyd (still with us at 105!).

Theatre marquee when Spellbound was first released

Spellbound Trivia:

  • One of the first movies to deal with psychoanalysis
  • Miklos Rosza’s score won an Academy Award
  • Producer David O. Selznick wanted Dorothy McGuire and Joseph Cotton for the Bergman and Peck roles. All the actors were under contract to Selznick.
  • Hitchcock’s first choice to play Dr. Edwardes was Cary Grant. His second choice was Joseph Cotton


To watch the film, click on the YouTube link below. Be sure to use this link because there are several prints of this film on the channel. This is by far the best.


After you watch the film, join us for a discussion on Zoom, September 29, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. The invitation and Zoom links are below.

Stephen Reginald is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.


Topic: Discussion of "Spellbound"

Time: Sep 29, 2020, 06:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/75223813893?pwd=Z3BiU2VFbVk4VVZTendjV01wektKUT09

Meeting ID: 752 2381 3893

Passcode: su4yZR



Discussion Questions:

  1. Hitchcock uses a lot of visual imagery in Spellbound. Did anyone visual (or series of visuals) stand out to you?
  2. What did you make of the psychological backstory?
  3. The Dream sequence was originally 20 minutes long but was cut down to about two minutes. Does it work and fit the narrative?
  4. Did the score of the film help or hurt it?


Friday, September 18, 2020

Grace Kelly tries to expose Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief”

To Catch a Thief (1955) is a romantic thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. John Michael Hayes wrote the screenplay and the cinematography was by long-time Hitchcock associate, Robert Burks.

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly

On the French Riviera, there is a rash of jewel robberies that have all the earmarks of former jewel thief John “The Cat” Robie (Grant). Robie has remained straight since his parole following his work in the French Resistance during World War II. Parole was contingent on Robie staying clean, but these new robberies have put his freedom in jeopardy.

Enter Jessie and Frances (Francie) Stevens, a nouveau riche widow (Jesse Royce Landis) traveling with her daughter (Kelly). Robie believes that he can clear himself if he can find the real thief, pretending to be a businessman. Francie sees through Robie’s cover. When her mother’s jewels are stolen, Francie is determined to expose Robie as “The Cat.”

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films, many are classics that have been honored and studied for years. Some of Hitchcock’s classic films include The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage )1936), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

John Michael Hayes (1919 – 2008) was an American screenwriter who wrote four screenplays for Hitchcock: Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Trouble with Harry (1955), and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). Hayes was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. As a boy, he missed a lot of school because of ear infections. During his time at home, he acquired a love of reading and writing. As a young adult, he got jobs writing for local periodicals. He eventually got a job with the Associated Press and attended Massachusetts State College. After serving in the US Army during World War II, Hayes moved to California and began writing scripts for the radio. Hayes parlayed his radio scripting into a job writing screenplays in Hollywood. He worked on the scripts for big-budget films like Peyton Place (1957), BUtterfield 8 (1960), The Carpetbaggers (1964), and Nevada Smith (1966).

Robert Burks (1909 – 1968) was an American cinematographer. He was adept at both color and black and white photography. In 1928, Burks got his start in film at Warner Bros. He eventually worked his way up to Director of Photography in 1944. The first feature that he worked as a cinematographer was The Fountainhead (1949) starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. Burks is closely associated with Hitchock. He was the cinematographer on some of the directors most famous works from the 1950s and 1960s including Strangers on a Train (1951), I Confess (1952), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Wrong Man (1956), Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959).

Cary Grant (1904 – 1986) was an English-born American actor who became one of the most popular leading men in film history. Grant started his career in vaudeville before heading to Hollywood. He became a superstar in the late 1930s in a series of screwball comedies including The Awful Truth (1937) with Irene Dunne. He was a memorable C. K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story (1940) opposite Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. He received two Best Actor nominations: Penny Serenade (1941) and None but the Lonely Hearts (1944). Other classic Grant films include Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), and Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). He made for popular films with Alfred Hitchcock: Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959). He was presented with an Honorary Oscar at the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970.

Grace Kelly (1929 – 1982) was an American film actress who after a fairly brief Hollywood career became the Princess of Monaco by marrying Prince Rainier III in 1956. Kelly appeared in theater productions in New York City and on live television during the early 1950s. For her role in Mogambo (1953), Kelly was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She lost the Oscar but became a major star with lead roles in five films released in 1954: Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, The Country Girl, Green Fire, and The Bridges of Toko-Ri. She would make only three more movies—To Catch a ThiefThe Swan (1955), and High Society (1956)—before retiring from films.



To Catch a Thief Trivia:

  • Cary Grant announced his retirement in 1953 but was lured by Hitchcock to take the role of John Robie which resulted in Grant working in Hollywood for another 11 years.
  • Grace Kelly was killed in an automobile accident on the same road as her famous chase scene. She was 52 years old.
  • Jesse Royce Landis played Kelly’s mother in two films: To Catch a Thief and The Swan. She also is famous for playing Grant’s mother in North by Northwest, even though she was just barely eight years older than he.
  • Actress Brigitte Auber is considered “the teenage” when compared to Kelly’s character in the film when in fact Auber was 4 ½ years older than Kelly.
  • The film’s landmark cinematography won an Academy Award for Robert Burks.


To watch the film, click on the YouTube link below. Be sure to use this link because it is the best print on the channel.


After you’ve watched the movie, join us for a discussion on Zoom, September 21, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time.

Stephen Reginald is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Discussion of "To Catch a Thief"

Time: Sep 22, 2020, 06:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/74456059761?pwd=Vlh3SzJlaGxpRzZla3oxcTRWVGEzZz09

Meeting ID: 744 5605 9761

Passcode: qVR5zh


Discussion Questions:

  1. What did you make of the relationship between Grant and Kelly’s characters? Was it a believable relationship?
  2. The movie is visually stunning. Would the film be as entertaining if it was set in another location?
  3. The dialogue is filled with double-entendres. Do you have any favorites?
  4. How is this like other Hitchcock films? How is it different?


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are "Notorious!"

Notorious (1946) is a film noir/spy thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Raines. The film’s screenplay was written by Ben Hecht (Nothing Sacred) with cinematography by Ted Tetzlaff (My Man Godfrey).

Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant
Alicia Huberman (Bergman) is recruited by the American government to infiltrate a group of Nazis hiding out in Brazil after World War II. Alicia’s father was a convicted Nazi spy who committed suicide in prison. Government agent T. R. Devlin (Grant) recruits Alicia and informs her of her assignment. Part of her assignment is romancing the head of the Nazi group in Brazil, Alexander Sebastian (Raines), a man she had a relationship with in the past.

Things get complicated when Devlin and Alicia fall in love and the Nazi plot becomes more elusive. Will Devlin and Alicia be successful in exposing the Nazis? Will they be able to find happiness once their assignment is over?

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films, many are classics that have been honored and studied for years. Some of Hitchcock’s classic films include The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

Ben Hecht (1894 – 1964) was an American screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist, and novelist! Hecht was born in New York City but went to Chicago at age 16. He became a journalist of some note and in 1920 he co-wrote The Front Page which became a huge Broadway hit. In the 1930s and 1940s, Hecht was one of the most popular and prolific screenwriters in Hollywood. He often acted as a “script doctor” for many screenplays, often without credit. Some of Hecht’s famous screenplays include Spellbound (1945), Kiss of Death (1947), Design for Living (1933), Wuthering Heights (1939), and Gunga Din (1939). Hecht was one of the dozens of writers who had a hand in the Gone With the Wind (1939) screenplay. Supposedly, Hecht never worked more than eight weeks on a screenplay.

Ted Tetzlaff (1903 – 1995) was an Academy Award-nominated cinematographer in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s. He was a favorite of Carole Lombard—he photographed her in 10 movies. Some of the movies he photographed include Hands Across the Table (1935), Remember the Night (1940), The Road to Zanzibar (1941), I Married a Witch (1942), The Talk of the Town (1942), and The More the Merrier (1943).

Cary Grant (1904 – 1986) was an English-born American actor who became one of the most popular leading men in film history. Grant started his career in vaudeville before heading to Hollywood. He became a superstar in the late 1930s in a series of screwball comedies including The Awful Truth (1937) with Irene Dunne. He was a memorable C. K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story (1940) opposite Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. He received two Best Actor nominations: Penny Serenade (1941) and None but the Lonely Hearts (1944). Other classic Grant films include Gunga Din (1939), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), and Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). He made for popular films with Alfred Hitchcock: Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959). He was presented with an Honorary Oscar at the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970.

Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock and Ingrid Bergman celebrate Cary Grant’s birthday on the set of Notorious

Ingrid Bergman (1915 – 1982) was a Swedish actress who became an international star upon her Hollywood debut in Intermezzo (1939). Few actresses were as popular as Bergman during the 1940s. In fact, she was the number two box office draw (after Bing Crosby) in 1946. She starred opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) opposite Gary Cooper, Gaslight (1944) for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award. She starred opposite newcomer Gregory Peck in Spellbound (1945) which was her first collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock. Bergman would go on to win another Best Actress Academy Award for Anastasia (1956) and a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

Claude Raines (1889 – 1967) was a British-American film and stage actor. He was one of the most popular character actors working in Hollywood during the 1930s and 1940s. He was a favorite of actress Bette Davis; they worked together in four films including Now, Voyager (1942). Other classic Raines films include The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Kings Row (1942), Casablanca (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), and Deception (1946).

To watch the film, click on the YouTube link below. Be sure to use this link because there are many versions of this film on the channel. None are as good as this print.



Once you’ve watched the film, please join our Zoom discussion on September 15, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. The invitation and link to the meeting are below.

Stephen Reginald is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Discussion of "Notorious"
Time: Sep 15, 2020, 06:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/77326363144?pwd=anZ5S2VmcVFPWlpFcjBRY1dmZGpOZz09

Meeting ID: 773 2636 3144
Passcode: Yn7HLW



Discussion questions:
1. One of the major themes of the film is trust. Trust withheld or given too freely. What did you make of it all?
2. Some critics consider this one of Hitchcock’s most complicated romances. Do you agree with that assessment?
3. Hitchcock is known for the “mothers” in his films. Madame Anna Sebastian is a major character in Notorious. What did you make of her character?
4. There’s a lot of drinking going on in this film. What do you think all that drinking was about?


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Sylvia Sidney and Oskar Homolka star in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Sabotage”

Sabotage (1936) is a British espionage thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Sylvia Sidney, Oskar Homolka, and John Loder. The film is loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent (1907).

John Loder and Sylvia Sidney
Mr. and Mrs. Verloc (Oskar Homolka and Sylvia Sidney) own a movie theater in London. During the showing of a movie one evening, all the lights go out in the city, forcing Mrs. Verlog to refund her customers.

The power outage was caused by sand in the bearings of a generator, causing the blackout. When an undercover detective (John Loder) spots Mr. Verloc entering the theater after the blackout, he suspects foul play. Could Mr. Verloc be guilty of sabotage?

Hitchcock was still four years from coming to Hollywood, but his reputation in Europe was well known. So well known that American actress Sylvia Sydney was more than willing to work with the director in the U.K.

The film was praised in the American press and is considered one of Hitchcock’s great films from his British period.

Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films, many are classics that have been honored and studied for years. Some of Hitchcock’s classic films include The 39 Steps (1939), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).

Sylvia Sydney (1910 – 1999) was an American stage and film actress. Sydney was a major movie star during the depression with starring roles in An American Tragedy (1931), Fury (1936), Dead End (1937). In 1936, she starred in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, an early three-strip Technicolor film. When Sydney made Sabotage, she was the highest-paid actress in movies, earning $10,000 per week. She made a total of $80,000 for that film. Later in her career, she appeared in supporting roles in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973), Beetlejuice (1998), Used People (1992), and Mars Attacks! (1996) which was her final film role.

Oskar Homolka (1898 – 1978) was an Austrian film and theater actor. Homolka performed on the stage in Austria, Germany, and London. He starred in silent films in Germany but left that country with the rise of National Socialism. He eventually found his way to the United States where he had a successful career as a character actor in Hollywood. Some of his popular Hollywood films include Comrade X (1940), Ball of Fire (1941), and I Remember Mama (1948) for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Other films include The Seven Year Itch (1955), War and Peace (1956), and The Tamarind Seed (1974).

John Loder (1898 – 1988) was a British film actor who had a successful career in British films before immigrating to Hollywood where he became a leading man opposite some of the top actresses of the day like Ruth Chatterton. Some of his famous Hollywood films include How Green Was My Valley (1941), Now, Voyager (1942), and Old Acquaintance (1943). Loder was married to Hedy Lamarr (1943 – 1947); they co-starred together in the film Dishonored Lady (1947).

Filming a crowd scene in Sabotage

Sabotage trivia:

  • Robert Donat was Hitchcock’s first choice to play Ted, but he was under contract to Alexander Korda who refused to release him.
  • Mrs. Verloc’s first name is never mentioned in the film.
  • Simpson’s was a real restaurant in London and Hitchcock’s favorite.
  • Director Quentin Tarantino gave the film a nod in a scene from Inglourious Bastards (2009).


To watch the film on YouTube, click on the link below. This is by far the best version of the film on the channel.



After you’ve viewed the film, please join us for a discussion on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time on Zoom. The Zoom invitation and link are below.

Stephen Reginald is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Discussion of "Sabotage"
Time: Sep 8, 2020, 06:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/78478046762?pwd=L2h2bEZaMm1aRmFvbC8wVFNNTmRrUT09

Meeting ID: 784 7804 6762
Passcode: jhKZ7z


Questions for discussion:
1. Does this film feel like a Hitchcock film to you?
2. Do you see any of the “typical” Hitchcock touches?
3. Do you think there is a difference between Hitchcock’s English and American films?
4. What do you suspect was the nature of Mr. and Mrs. Verloc’s relationship.
5. Does this film remind you of any other Hitchcock?



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