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Author Topic: The Alfred Hitchcock Discussion Thread  (Read 87297 times)
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« Reply #480 on: July 26, 2016, 10:10:36 AM »

BTW, I don't think that a big and fat man like Slezak could ever have made it in a U-Boot, where space was limited.

In the special features of the double dvd there's an excellent, thorough 1963 interview with Hitchcock (and some of his collaborators, Hermann among them) made for a canadian series called Telescope conducted by an interviewer (Fletcher Markle) who never asks stupid questions and seems to know the matter. Hitch's answers are always serious, though sometimes tinged with humour. 10/10

Here's an excerpt:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJQE7Kv-9JU

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« Reply #481 on: July 29, 2016, 05:17:30 PM »

The Met's 2016-2017 HD Cinema Schedule is up. The first performance is of Tristan und Isolde, which, as all good Hitchcockians know, provided plenty of melody for Bernie's Love Theme in Vertigo. OK, the opera is 5 hours long--maybe you just want to go for the overture and then split?

http://www.metopera.org/Season/In-Cinemas/

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« Reply #482 on: October 01, 2016, 04:28:24 PM »

The Alfred Hitchcock Encyclopedia (2016) by Stephen Whitty. https://www.amazon.com/Alfred-Hitchcock-Encyclopedia-Stephen-Whitty/dp/144225159X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475358780&sr=8-1&keywords=the+alfred+hitchcock+encyclopedia

My copy just arrived. The entries run to 518 pages, and Whitty seems to have done a thorough job. Opening the book in the middle I get the beginning of the Ms: "MACGUFFIN". I read, "The thing that the characters--chiefly the antagonists--care deeply about in a thriller and for which the audience does not give a damn. Whether it's jewels, evidence of a murder, or the "secret clause" to a peace treaty is utterly unimportant; it is merely the spark that sets the story in motion. MacGuffins in Hitchcock films probably begin with the glove in BLACKMAIL. . . . " and then Whitty goes on to list the usual suspects, and a few I'd never considered before. He surely goes wrong by including "the house key in DIAL M FOR MURDER", which the audience DOES give a damn about. Without thoroughly understanding the role of that key in the film the audience can't make sense of the plot. And even "evidence of a murder" isn't ever probably a MacGuffin: in Rear Window, for example, the evidence is necessary to prove both the crime and Jeffries' sanity, neither of which can be matters of indifference to the audience. Whitty's definition is too broad; it should not be synonymous with "inciting action." (Is it, btw, necessary to find a MacGuffin in every Hitchcock film? What's the MacGuffin in Lifeboat, WWII?).

Nonetheless, the entry has lots of helpful info. "Hitchcock's earliest public mention of it seemed to come in 1939, when he described it in a lecture at Columbia University." "IVOR MONTAGU credits screenwriter ANGUS MACPHAIL with the term." As in other reference books, names given in all-caps indicate that there are separate entries for those.

The entry for Leopold and Loeb is informative. Loeb was killed by a cellmate in prison, but Leopold got out (on a 99-year-for-kidnapping charge plus a life-for-murder charge) "moved to Puerto Rico, married, worked for various charities, and wrote a book about birds." Of course ROPE, the play, the radio play, and the film are mentioned, but the entry also indicates other works derived from the case: Compulsion, which I knew about, and Swoon, which I didn't.

The book should provide endless hours of fascinating reading, as well as a model to which The SL Encyclopedia can aspire.

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« Reply #483 on: October 01, 2016, 06:07:49 PM »

Is MacGaufin necessarily something the audience doesn't care about? I thought it was just something that was an excuse for the movie to happen - to have the situations, characters, and dialogues that we enjoy while watching the movie; the plot device allows the movie to happen so that we can pretend there is a plot, though the real enjoyment comes not from the plot but from all the other elements. The plot is just an excuse for the other elements we enjoy to be there. The audience may think it is important and not realize till the end of the movie that it's really not an important element of the movie.That's sort of how I understood what the MacGauffin is all about, though I certainly can't say I ever understood it that well. Am I wrong?

In the Billy Wilder movie FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO, Groggy said the whole business about the five graves was a MacGauffin. Do you agree with that?

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« Reply #484 on: October 02, 2016, 02:52:19 AM »

That McGuffin thing has gone meanwhile completely out of control. It was not much more than a little joke played against critics who blamed Hitchcock's thrillers for not having enough substance. It was a kind of offensive defence by saying "look, you did not even understand what the films are about, you criticised them for the most unimportant things". Truffaut formulated this even better when he wrote: "Hitchcock has long been judged by the flowers he places in the vase, but it was in fact the modelling of the vase which got all his attention".

The MacGuffin was nothing more than an absurd story to describe that the story motivating background of some of Hitchcock's spy thrillers was unimportant and interchangeable. The story needed this plot device, without it there wouldn't be a story, but for the film's protagonist and for the film's audience it is rather unimportant what it really is. Cause Hitchcock was interested to have Robert Donat being on the run in the Scottish highlands handcuffed to a beautiful woman or Cary Grant being mistaken for a dangerous spy.
But for being a MacGuffin it is important that this story device does not appear in the film itself, does not really become a part of the film. Like The Guns of Navarone without the guns or Treasure Island without ever reaching the island.

But meanwhile everything which motivates a film in the background seems to be a MacGuffin. Rosebud in Citzen Kane, the falcon statuette in The Maltese Falcon, the money bag in No Country for Old Men are no MagGs, but the Rabbit's Foot in MI III is one. If e.g. the stolen money at the beginning of Psycho is a MacG, then every film about money, gold, jewels, treasures etc has a MacG, but when every film has one it is nothing special, and then the whole MacG thing has turned itself into some kind of MacGuffin.

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« Reply #485 on: October 02, 2016, 03:46:49 AM »

DJ, that book sure looks cool as hell.
Also I cannot wait for the moment you'll publish the SLE.

That McGuffin thing has gone meanwhile completely out of control. It was not much more than a little joke played against critics who blamed Hitchcock's thrillers for not having enough substance. It was a kind of offensive defence by saying "look, you did not even understand what the films are about, you criticised them for the most unimportant things". Truffaut formulated this even better when he wrote: "Hitchcock has long been judged by the flowers he places in the vase, but it was in fact the modelling of the vase which got all his attention".

The MacGuffin was nothing more than an absurd story to describe that the story motivating background of some of Hitchcock's spy thrillers was unimportant and interchangeable. The story needed this plot device, without it there wouldn't be a story, but for the film's protagonist and for the film's audience it is rather unimportant what it really is. Cause Hitchcock was interested to have Robert Donat being on the run in the Scottish highlands handcuffed to a beautiful woman or Cary Grant being mistaken for a dangerous spy.
But for being a MacGuffin it is important that this story device does not appear in the film itself, does not really become a part oft he film. Like The Guns of Navarone without the guns or Treasure Island without ever reaching the island.

But meanwhile everything which motivates a film in the background seems to be a MacGuffin. Rosebud in Citzen Kane, the falcon statuette in The Maltese Falcon, the money bag in No Country for Old Men are no MagGs, but the Rabbit's Foot in MI III is one. If e.g. the stolen money at the beginning of Psycho is a MacG, then every film about money, gold, jewels, treasures etc has a MacG, but when every film has one it is nothing special, and then the whole MacG thing has turned itself into some kind of MacGuffin.

 Afro Afro Afro

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« Reply #486 on: October 02, 2016, 11:06:06 AM »

Stanton, very good points.  Afro Afro Afro

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« Reply #487 on: October 02, 2016, 12:57:22 PM »

Yes, thanks, but how comes that meanwhile the whole world spots MacGuffins in every possible film?

It seems that this idea blessed by the inerrable Hitchcock has now such an universally attractive dimension, that the more inventive question should be now if there is any film without a MacGuffin out there?

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« Reply #488 on: October 02, 2016, 01:01:40 PM »

Like the whole noir thing - are there any crime films that are not noirs?  Wink

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« Reply #489 on: October 02, 2016, 02:33:59 PM »

Like the whole noir thing - are there any crime films that are not noirs?  Wink

By all means. And for some sticklers, not being in b&w nor made between the 1940s and 1950s calls for automatic disqualification regardless of the narrative.

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« Reply #490 on: October 03, 2016, 03:06:03 AM »

But Chinatown is a "real" noir.

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« Reply #491 on: October 03, 2016, 11:11:47 AM »

Yes it is and stylistically it is a far better example than say "L.A. Confidential" which is another oft-mentioned "neo-noir".

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« Reply #492 on: October 09, 2016, 01:33:59 PM »

Continuing through The Hitchcock Encyclopedia again. The work has great breadth, but when it occasionally reaches for depth it isn’t always successful. Sometimes it gets things completely wrong.

As an example, there is this excerpt for the entry on Coppel, Alec (1907 – 1972):

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After several story credits for ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, the director brought Coppel back for VERTIGO, where he was one of at least three writers to take a crack at the tricky PIERRE BOILEAU and THOMAS NARCEJAC novel; whatever his approach, his script was discarded, and a new writer, SAMUEL A. TAYLOR, was brought in to start from scratch.

This is patently untrue. We know from Dan Auiler’s Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic that Coppel’s screenplay provided the structure and many of the important scenes in the film. Coppel in fact has an onscreen credit, which he would not have been entitled to if Taylor had had “to start from scratch.” Actually, Coppel had to fight for credit as Hitchcock wasn’t going to bother to give it to him. The fact that Coppel prevailed shows that he had conclusive evidence to lay before the WGA.

Taylor’s contribution was essentially the creation of the character Midge. All the scenes she appears in were therefore written by Taylor. It was also, I believe, Taylor’s idea to give the game away with the Judy letter-writing scene. The “freedom-and-power” meme, which appears 3 times in the film, may have been his also.

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« Reply #493 on: October 09, 2016, 02:52:26 PM »

I don't want to just spot errors, I want to praise good work when I see it. I appreciated this observation in the entry for NxNW:
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He [Thornhill] is a man who figuratively isn't there--until he's confused with George Kaplan, a man who literally isn't there, a fictional construct who is (in actual truth) an empty suit, moved around from vacant room to vacant room. And the curious thing is that, by being confused with Kaplan, Thornhill, who isn't really present for anyone or anything in his life, suddenly becomes real and of vital importance. He is pursued by villains, he pursues a lovely woman, he takes action. He is alive, and he has an identity at last--and only because his own identity was MISTAKEN for someone else's and his own life was taken over by a man who never lived.
This is good but doesn't go far enough. Once the adventure is over--once Kaplan has gone back to being Thornhill--his life remains forever changed. He has Eve, and she will be the making of him. The adventure, which he did not seek, which instead reached out to him and pulled him in, was ultimately his salvation.

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« Reply #494 on: October 09, 2016, 04:42:39 PM »

The entry for Alfred Hitchcock Presents leaves the impression that AH wrote all the intros himself. He certainly did not; they were all scripted for him by James B. Allardice. This seems like an odd oversight for an Encyclopedia. Neither is there an entry for Allardice.

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