Monday, March 24, 2014

Alfred and Alma and Hitchcock, The Movie

Good Evening Lovelies!

Bates Motel returned for its second on March 3rd and while we've only had four episodes thus far, this season is already A-Mazing!  I cannot express how excited I was for this show to return!  Or how excited I am with where it's going!

At the end of 2012, there were two Hitchcock films that came out.  The first was the HBO Original Movie, The Girl.  This is the story about the relationship between Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren while making the film The Birds.  The second was a studio film that came out in major release and was simply called Hitchcock and was billed as the making of Psycho.  Since I hadn't seen either (I'm not quite sure how that happened since I was really excited about both), I thought Bates Motel returning to my Monday nights would serve as a perfect tie-in to watch Hitchcock.

Watch the trailer.  I'll wait.

The film is brilliantly written and brilliantly cast.  Sir Anthony Hopkins as Sir Alfred Hitchock is inspired, Dame Helen Mirren as Alma Reville is magical, and Scarlett Johansson is perfect as Janet Leigh!  I highly suggest you check it out if you have not already done so.  

I've heard differing accounts as to the accuracy of the screenplay, but what no one is disputing is the dynamic between Alfred and his wife Alma Reville.  She played an integral part in not only his choice of scripts, but the casting, screenwriting, direction, and editing as well.  And she was his rock as well as his sounding board.  Without Alma, we would have no Alfred Hitchcock.  That statement may sound a bit dramatic, but I honestly believe his projects alone would not have been able to hold a candle to what they were able to produce together.

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Alma may have faded into the background of the Sir Alfred Hitchcock story, but there are many accounts of just how much she meant to him and how much he relied on her.  I'm so happy that these stories are finally coming out and she is finally getting her due.  Exactly WHY her contributions seem to have been forgotten is a mystery to me - especially when Hitchcock himself sang her praises.  While he, shamefully, never never won a Best Director Oscar, he was honored by the American Film Institute in 1979 with their Lifetime Achievement Award.  In his acceptance speech he said, "I beg to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation, encouragement, and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter, Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen. And their names are Alma Reville."  How amazing is he?  

In hearing that story, I have no doubt that the following exchange from the film Hitchcock actually happened:  Alma says to Alfred, "You might not be the easiest man to live with, but you do know how to cut a picture better than anyone else."  To which he replies, "Except for you."

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While the passion of their love story may not be one for the books (Hitchcock was quite open about his impotence), the respect that they held for one another and the way in which they trusted each other's judgement has most definitely gone down in Hollywood history.  Originally Alma was not completely on board with Hitchcock's choice of material, but she ended up responsible for some of Psycho's most important cinematic decisions.  It may have been Hitchcock's idea to buck cinematic convention and kill his heroine off half-way through the movie, but it was Alma's idea to up the ante and kill her off after only a half hour.  That had never before been attempted. She was the only person who noticed that during the shot of Janet Leigh lying dead on the bathroom floor, that she was swallowing and thus needed to be re-edited, and it was Alma who convinced Hitchcock that there needed to be music during the murder.  She found a composer, Bernard Hermann, and presented Hitchcock with the piercing string composition that is perhaps the most iconic sound in all of cinematic death scenes.

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Alma Reville was credited in 19 films over the course of her lifetime for everything from screenwriting to assistant-directing for Hitchcock and non-Hitchcock films, though I suspect that she had a hand in every one of his films.  By all accounts, Alma was diplomatic, charming, and incredibly smart.  She was also the one in charge.  Donald Spoto, a Hitchcock biographer, tells a story of Hitchcock being in a screening when the telephone rang.  The call lasted only a few seconds and he then got up and left, telling the room, "I have to go home immediately. Madame wants me at home."  Spoto says, "He left at once.  You see, when she said 'Come home', he went home."  While Hitchcock may not have feared the woman, "he feared her opinion because he respected it. If she said, 'I don't like it,' that was the worst thing he could hear."

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From everything I've read, Alma strikes me as quite a contradiction.  While she was a small, somewhat timid looking woman, she was truly a firecracker.  A smart, intuitive woman, she allowed Hitchcock to bask in the spotlight while she focused more on things behind the scenes.  But even a woman behind the scenes needs to look her best, and for Alma, that meant a custom wardrobe from Edith Head!

Originally this post was going to be about Hitchcock, and while I LOVED it, I couldn't NOT give Alma the recognition that she so rightfully deserves.  As the poster says, 'Behind every Psycho is a great woman.'  Such a brilliant line!  Bravo!!

Good Evening Lovelies, I wish you all a wonderful week!

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