Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

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Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943). 108 minutes. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Teresa Wright (as Charlotte “Young Charlie” Newton), Joseph Cotten (as Charles “Uncle Charlie” Oakley), Henry Travers (as Joseph Newton), Patricia Collinge (as Emma Newton), Macdonald Carey (as Detective Jack Graham), Wallace Ford (as Detective Fred Saunders), Hume Cronyn (as Herbie Hawkins), Edna May Wonacott (as Ann Newton), and Charles Bates (as Roger Newton).

Shadow of a Doubt is one of Hitchcock’s great triumphs, said to be his favorite of his films. It presents in many regards a very basic story about a small-town American family that is visited by an outsider, a relative from far away who brings with him danger and intrigue. But it manages to elevate this familiar narrative to the level of the exquisite through the artful creation of tension, through the beauty of its setting, and through its impressive writing and acting. Told through the experiences of Charlotte “Young Charlie” Newton (played by Teresa … Read the rest

Elstree Calling (1930)

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Ellstree Calling (1930)

Elstree Calling (1930). 86 minutes. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, André Charlot, Jack Hulbert, and Paul Murray. Starring Tommy Handley (as host), Gordon Harker (as man with faulty television), Will Fyffe, Lily Morris, Teddy Brown, The Three Eddies, Anna May Wong, Bobbie Comber, Hannah Jones, Cicely Courtneidge, Helen Burnell, and Donald Calthrop.

Elstree Calling is a 1930 musical variety film, designed by British International Pictures to show off Elstree Studios’ nascent sound technology and to compete with the opulent musical revues coming out of the United States at the time. (You can think of its title, Elstree Calling, as a version of the well-known “London Calling” that had been BBC radio’s signature call sign in London since 1922.) It is notable for being a an early British sound extravaganza, for the many musical artists who appear in it, for its use of the early tinting technique Pathécolor in select scenes, and for the involvement of Alfred Hitchcock as one of … Read the rest

Notorious (1946)

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Notorious (1946)

Notorious (1946). 102 minutes.  Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Starring Ingrid Bergman (as Alicia Huberman), Cary Grant (as T. R. Devlin), Claude Rains (as Alex Sebastian), and Leopoldine Konstantin (as Madame Anna Sebastian).

Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious is commonly described as an espionage thriller, but it is also a profound psychological drama and an ethical one, too—a movie that is not merely about notorious people but also about how we treat them.  It ranks with Vertigo and Rear Window as one of Hitchcock’s finest films.

At first we think we know who is notorious in this movie.  The film begins at the American trial of a famous Nazi spy.  We watch as his sentence is read, then see his daughter, Alicia Huberman (played by Ingrid Bergman) exit the courtroom. Surely the Nazi is the notorious one? But it turns out that the notorious person at the center of this story is not a Nazi: it is lovely Alicia Huberman.  We may come … Read the rest

Movies from the Trenches: SF Symphony’s “Vertigo”

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"Vertigo" featured image

On February 12, 2016, the San Francisco Symphony screened Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) at Davies Symphony Hall with live orchestral accompaniment.  Live accompaniment is a popular trend in vintage movie presentation: in similar fashion, a national tour of The Wizard of Oz with live orchestra made the rounds in the summer of 2015, and the San Francisco Symphony plans to perform the ET soundtrack in March of 2016.  It seems to me that Vertigo is probably one of the most desirable films to see and hear in this way.  Its astonishing score by Bernard Herrmann, Hitchcock’s frequent collaborator, is a symphonic landmark and Herrmann’s personal favorite of his many compositions.  Given the high quality of the music (let alone of the film itself, which was ranked number one on Sight and Sound’s 2015 poll of the greatest movies ever made), this seemed the perfect opportunity for me to explore the phenomenon of live soundtrack recreation.

Live accompaniment in the … Read the rest

Movies from the Trenches: The Screening That Wasn’t to Be

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I learned that Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) was coming to a theater near my Bay Area residence as part of a nationwide special screening of the film in digital format organized by Turner Classic Movies.  A friend and I made time to trek out to the matinee screening on March 25.  Oh, dear reader: that afternoon was such a sad commentary on the modern theater-going experience.  I distinctly got the feeling that no one was working hard to maintain the gargantuan multiplex that was showing the film.  The machine that printed the tickets necessary for admission broke as the clerk was attempting to use it.  The manager was called over but could not fix it.  It was determined that we would simply be let in to the multiplex and sent to our theater, ticketless, but the staff could not determine through the computer which theater Rear Window was playing in.  Phones were produced in an attempt to find the … Read the rest