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The Star (London) (14/Jul/1938) - Britain's Leading Film Director Gives Some Hints to the Film Stars of the Future



Britain's Leading Film Director Gives Some Hints to the Film Stars of the Future

Alfred Hitchcock, though still under 40, is Britain's foremost film director. Responsible in the silent film days for such pictures as The Lodger and The Ring, he won high praise for Blackmail, the first British all-talking film, and since then he has directed The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, and Young and Innocent, as well as a number of other films, all bearing the well-known "Hitchcock touch."

Mr. Hitchcock will direct Charles Laughton in the film version of Daphne du Maurier's novel, Jamaica Inn, but has first gone to Hollywood to make a film for David Selznick.

People who go to see films will always want to be entertained by them — forgetting all their own worries and sorrows. They are most entertained by fairy stories, for tradition holds good and everybody has been brought up on Cinderella.

They will still want their spies and villains to go through hair-raising adventures, and their heroines to take the town by storm.

This was the view of Alfred Hitchcock, who has done so much to advance the quality of British films.

"There is a general idea," he said, "that people now want much more original, highly sophisticated stories. But that is only one generation. The majority of the public want the same old stories told in a new way."

But in the making of pictures he foresaw some interesting changes and I followed that vivid practical imagination of his into a studio of the future.

"I would like to make pictures using just the ordinary lighting you would find in a room. We should have the camera and the microphone set up where we wanted them, but there would be no other apparatus necessary.

"Before we started, I might have to have a standard lamp changed to another position, or the armchair altered to a different angle. But we could go straight ahead then and shoot the whole scene without interrupting its emotional sequence.

"Lighting is the biggest drawback in present-day filming. Nowadays we have to use very bright lights, which take a lot of time to adjust. We have to spend perhaps an hour and a half lighting one single shot. During that time I have to be there to see they get the intended effect.

"The star has to be kept waiting and she has to have a 'stand-in' to take her positions while they are preparing the lighting. And all the actress has to do perhaps is to take the telephone and say, 'I'm sorry I can't come to dinner with you to-night after all.'

"But for that one line and that single action a number of people have to hang about for an hour and a half until the lighting is fixed, and it is all that time before I can begin the actual directing.

"Supposing I wanted the actress to stand near the fireplace, with her arms resting on the mantelpiece, and then stoop down and poke the fire. For lighting purposes I would have to think of that action as three separate still photographs.

"First when she was standing up against the mantelpiece — I would have to see that her profile was outlined becomingly, that lighting caught the back of her hair prettily and that there was firelight on her skirt.

"Then as she stooped down I would have to be careful to light her so that during the movement she was not plunged into darkness. Again, when she reached her stooping position, I would have to get the effect of the firelight full on her face. And for each of those still pictures it would take quite a while to set up the lighting.

"All this lighting difficulty is what spreads the making of a picture over such a length of time, and, since time costs money in filming, it is the chief cause of the expense. When we can make our pictures with the ordinary lighting you would have in a room we should not only save money on apparatus, but on the stars and directors as well by saving of their time."

I asked him how this step could be reached, and he suggested that it might be reached by improved camera lenses.

"Not so much through new lenses as there isn't very much scope left for improving them now," he said, "but by using 'faster,' that is, more sensitive film."

This he felt would be possible. He told me that there was plenty of experimenting going on with film "stock" (the unused film) to make it reach a greater degree of sensitiveness.

"When talkies came in," he said, "they had been accustomed to using arc lights. But then they had to stop using them because they made a noise, so they took to using lights that were not half so strong. These did not do, and they had to find other means. This led to the discovery of more sensitive film."

Mr. Hitchcock said that acting in the films would tend to grow more and more controlled.

"It is all the little nuances of expression that tell you what that character is feeling, without reminding you that he is just an actor playing a part. They must be ever so slight, but all in varying degrees according to the kind of character and the amount of upbringing and training they have had.

"For instance, if someone came into this room now, and said, 'Mr. Hitchcock, there's a policeman waiting for you outside,' my expression would change very slightly and become almost dead for a second."

He showed me, in a perfect example of controlled acting with his own face, how it would happen. "But if I were somebody who presumably would not be so trained to hide my feelings, then I would show more of my thoughts." And he showed me how the change of expression would be more marked and give him away more.

Most interesting of all were Hitchcock's ideas on the future possibilities of colour films, of which he is a keen advocate.

"To my mind," he said, "colour should be used not just to give pictorial effect, but as a means of expression. I would like to film London in a fog — London in the rain. A girl who is unhappy—her face is drab and colourless, in contrast to the people round her. Or a man who is pale, and starved — to see him have his first meal and a flush gradually mount into his cheeks."

What a wonderful way to add to those delicate touches which he already portrays so cleverly in black and white.