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Bartlett Tribune and News (23/Mar/1945) - Looking at Hollywood




Looking at Hollywood

"Let's go in and watch him work." That's what Ingrid Bergman said to me one day outside the sound stage at Selznick's studio while Alfred Hitchcock was filming "Spellbound."

The actors in his pictures will always tell you that Hitch gives the best performance of any one on the set, just like Lubitsch. And the "Hitch-cock touch" or the "Lubitsch touch" has made their pictures a "must see" with millions. Hitchie's quips and drolleries make smart dinner conversation for Hollywood's duller souls.

And yet he told me the other day there was nothing extraordinary about the suspense-packed pictures he makes. What passed for inspiration with him was observation — watching what actually happens, filming only what could happen.

We were in the living room of his Bel-Air home, looking through the window at golfers passing on the course a hundred yards distant. I'd gone up to welcome him back from England. I wanted to hear how the Hitchcock technique had been applied to propaganda pictures he directed over there.

He started right off by saying that one of these pictures wasn't propaganda at all. "'Bon Voyage,'" he explained, "was just a way of saying thanks to the French people and the underground for all they'd risked in helping so many of our boys escape during the occupation. It's a three-reel feature that tells the true story of the escape of an English flier and assistance given him."

"'Bon Voyage,'" he said pridefully, "was well received."

The English government did a mighty intelligent thing getting this "master of suspense" over to direct it.

Just Can't Miss

Hitch's new picture is the much-talked-of "Spellbound," with Gregory Peck making love to Ingrid Bergman, mystery, suspense, psychiatry, fantastic sets by Salvador Dali, and music by the symphony composer and conductor Miklos Rozsa.

Hitch has his own theory about music. He gets a celebrated composer to write music for him just so he can stop it. But just why, sir, do you get all that expensive music just to stop it?

"You've seen people in danger?" asks Hitch. "People at some high point of tension? Let's do a scene: We're sitting in this room talking, when bang! just like that a burglar enters and points a gun at us.

"We freeze. We don't move or breathe. Certainly we don't talk. At any dramatic moment like this there comes a hush. When the danger is over everybody starts jabbering. It's a release to talk, they talk louder, laugh louder.

"So in a psychological mystery there are appropriate intervals at which I want the music dramatically stopped— — with a hush!

"Only 'Spellbound' isn't just a mystery story. It's a love story. There's nothing unusual about it. It's based on truth, psychiatric truth."

"What about 'Foreign Correspondent' and 'Lifeboat'?" I asked.

"Same thing. In 'Foreign Correspondent' it was a man hammering away at events, and the woman didn't help things. There isn't anything in there that couldn't happen. 'Lifeboat' is the same way."

Some More Plans

"After 'Spellbound,' what?" I wanted to know.

"'Notorious,'" he said. "Just finished working on the script with Ben Hecht."

Then he went on to tell what a great guy Ben is. Says they collaborate so well that dialog becomes a kind of verbal shorthand, almost mental telepathy.

Hitch feels his pictures are finished the day shooting begins. He says from then on it's a matter of interpreting what has been created, and that it's possible to get into the finished film only about 75 per cent of what the mind has pictured.

In a world where 6 foot invisible rabbits can star in Broadway shows and in which the true story of an English flier's escape from occupied France furnishes material for a Hitchcock chiller I can believe that there is nothing unusual in a Hitchcock picture — nothing, that is, except the flair of the man who makes 'em.