In 1946 Alfred Hitchcock was still under contract to David O. Selznick and they still hated one another. But Selznick realized a scheme to make a little more money out of the star director: instead of producing Notorious himself, he sold it off to RKO just before shooting started. Of course he still tried to exert a bit of control, attempting to get Joseph Cotten in the lead instead of Cary Grant. Oh that David O. Selznick! This is the last in our short run of Hitchcock/Selznick pictures, and the best of the bunch.
The second of Alfred Hitchcock's films made directly under David O. Selznick, 1945's Spellbound is markedly more Hitchcockian than Rebecca, though honestly not as Hitchcockian as George Sluizer's The Vanishing. It also seems to be out to prove Haxan right about the contemporary state of psychology. But there is a dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali which is a total treat.
When he first started working in America, Alfred Hitchcock was under contract to legendary producer David O. Selznick and by most accounts they hated each other. Perhaps no clearer is that tense relationship more clear in the results of a film project than in their first: Rebecca (1940). We'll be talking about a few other films made under this contract in the next few weeks, but here we start with a film that feels a lot more like the Hollywood dramas Selznick was known for than the Hitchcock we're used to, even the Hitchcock we've seen already. Plus, and I mean this as kindly as possible, the first hour is boring. So boring. So intensely boring.
In 1935 Alfred Hitchcock took the Scot John Buchan's adventure story The Thirty-Nine Steps, fixed a good number of Buchan's plot-holes, added a few of his own, and produced what is largely considered one of the best British films and best book-to-film adaptations of all time. I'm not sure it quite deserves those accolades, but it had some pretty inventive and innovative story elements. Also, an autogyro.
It's certainly the best film I've seen that features an autogyro (sorry The Rocketeer, not sorry The Road Warrior).
Anyway, despite one of the stupidest resolutions in film history -- but still not as stupid as the novel's titular "steps" being an actual staircase -- The 39 Steps still manages to be a suspenseful and exciting film. Though it's not often that Hitchcock failed to make a film that was exciting or suspenseful.
Personally, I think we finally start hitting our stride on this one.
In this weeks Lost in Criterion we discuss Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 comedic mystery The Lady Vanishes and we surprise ourselves with just how long we can discuss a movie that is not nearly as heavy as the first two we watched. We also write off everything Hitchcock did prior to this, which I'd like to apologize for. While his pre-1940's British period is not fillled with as many classics as the rest of his career, the movies prior to The Lady Vanishes (which include the classics The 39 Steps and the original The Man Who Knew Too Much) are nothing to shake a stick at, no matter how large the stick may be.