Archive for the ‘hitchcock’ Tag

The Casting Game No. 132

Harvey Keitel and Don Galloway (of ‘The Big Chill’ fame) take turns and tag one another as Joel McCrea in Hitchcock’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ (1940)

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Joel McCrea (centre) as John Jones aka Huntley Haverstock

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Harvey Keitel plays John Jones

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Don Galloway plays Huntley Haverstock

Coincidence No. 395 – Kilts

Saturday 1st April

I’m walking into Saracen’s stadium at Allianz Park, North London for the Sarries V Glasgow Warriors European rugby fixture. As we walk past a kilted Scotsman the Enfants Terribles are discussing the origins of Kilts and the younger one (who is always full of useless facts) talks about how it is actually an Irish invention.

The next evening I’m watching Hitchcock’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ with Enfant Terrible No. 1 when the main character grabs a military type at a drinks and asks him, as a distraction and to get rid of a fellow guest who is in his way, to explain the origins of the Kilt to this in-the-way Latvian.

So the question of the origin of the Kilt twice in two days.

– Excuse me. I beg your pardon, sir. I have a Latvian friend here… who’s particularly interested in the origin of the kilt. I wonder if you’d be interested in talking to him. He’s a lovely fellow.

– It’s a most amazing story. You see, the Greeks, in the early period, they used to wear a kilt…

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(1940)

Coincidences No.s 390, 391, 392: Someone up there

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No. 390

I’m sitting in – what turned out to be the very appropriately named – Spiritland in King’s Cross chewing the fat with fellow WordPress blogger Thom Hickey of The Immortal Jukebox when a voice comes from my right saying my name in a slightly uncertain way. That’s because we haven’t seen each other in over 20 years. K is the former girlfriend of my old friend S. It would have been S’s birthday on Monday just gone. The day before I went for a kind of memorial walk in honour of S with the third friend in the photo above. We talked about K. I hadn’t talked or even thought about K in a long time. So Sunday I unusually find myself talking about her. On Friday I bump into her. (Someone up there is pulling strings.)

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No. 391

I’m brushing my teeth this morning and (happily) hear my nephew from Dublin, Sean, downstairs playing ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis on the (blue) guitar. I’m on the tube back from dropping Sean at King’s Cross and meeting Thom [see No. 390 above] when I find myself in a carriage with a really good busker with a (red) guitar. He engages much of the carriage and gets people not only talking but singing along. He rounds off an enjoyable communal entertainment with Oasis’s ‘Wonderwall’. The Welsh woman in the headband has a brilliant voice and does all the response/echo lines (I know she’s Welsh because he’s got us all talking – he tells me I’m the only happy Londoner he’s met). So Oasis in the morning, Oasis in the afternoon – for a man who owns no Oasis records and never plays their music. To round it off, I came home to work on a documentary series entitled ‘What’s the Story?’ which involves Oasis.

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No. 392

I was reading an interview of Martin Scorsese by Paul Schrader (scriptwriter of ‘Taxi Driver’) yesterday morning at the front of the Faber book of the ‘Taxi Driver’ script which I picked up in the wake of the screening the other night. On the page I stopped at Schrader mentioned Kim Novak in ‘Vertigo’ when he’s listing his most memorable moments in cinema. I haven’t seen the film for years or thought about it for a good while.

I was reading ‘Mandy’ by Mandy Rice-Davies on the DLR on the way home from work yesterday afternoon. She mentioned meeting Kim Novak.

Not as Twilight Zone as No. 390 but still not a bad coincidence.

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A Hitch in time plays fine

As a fat man in ‘Hitchcock’

Good evening. I was first turned onto Hitch by the playwright David Rudkin. He was doing a residence at my alma mater (that’s a throw-away Hitchcock joke) and gave a talk called something like A Common or Garden Guide to Hitchcock’s Birds. He brought along his chum Alastair Reid who was starting work directing a new series called Morse. (Years later I’d work with Lewis). He also had a producer friend in the audience, Nigel Evans, who produced the movie Walter for the first night of Channel 4 (directed by Stephen Frears), 30 years ago this month. (A year later Nigel and his business partner Stephen Mellor gave me my first break with a runner job at AKA in Clerkenwell). Rudkin was an interesting character in his seaman’s knitted sweater reeking with tobaccy. I’d seen odds and ends of Hitchcock before then but fell in love in the wake of that literate, illuminating introduction.

Last night I went to a screening at Fox in Soho Square of the new movie Hitchcock about the making of Psycho. After the show Angie Errigo (a gentle reminder of my Empire-reading days) interviewed its stars Helen Mirren (Alma Reville/Mrs Hitchcock), Anthony Hopkins (Hitch) and James D’Arcy (Anthony Perkins). In the rather cosy viewing theatre I was four feet from Mirren, six from Hopkins, very much in the glow of British acting royalty.

Hopkins told how he saw Psycho when it first opened in Britain – he had the proverbial scared out of him in Piccadilly Manchester on arriving in the city one rainy night for a spell in rep. His anecdote ended with him climbing the stairs on this first night in his lodging house, run by some lone old lady, and the light clicks off as he’s half-way up.

In among the audience with me was a fella who had been in the publicity department at Paramount when Psycho was released. He described how Hitch conceived the whole promotional strategy (or exploitation as the department was charmingly named then), how this fella’s team made a How To Exploit Psycho film for exhibitors which Hitch had to approve personally, instructing cinema managers how to enforce the No Entry Once the Film has Started rule and generally dramatise the whole experience.

After the Q+A chat, I found myself in Fox reception staring into the strikingly pale blue eyes of one of the great British screen actors –  Hopkins has played everyone from Richard Nixon to Yitzhak Rabin, Hitler to Quasimodo, starring in all manner of wonders from A Bridge Too Far to Magic, The Bounty to Shadowlands, Hannibal to Dracula. As we chatted together he was gracious and warm, telling me more about Hitch’s relations with actors – from the ones he seemed to ignore (Doris Day who was anxious about lack of feedback) to the ones he gave too much unwanted attention to (Tippi Hedren).

I was asking him about whether he’d got the impression Hitch and Alma’s relationship was always so weird or dysfunctional and we discussed whether in effect the movies were their kids. The film argues that they were very much a double act from their early days on the movies together when Alma Reville was young Alfred’s boss. Mirren had used their daughter Patricia’s book about her mother as insight into her character.

I took the opportunity to thank Hopkins for QB VII, a 1974 TV mini-series which made a big impact on me when I was young. It was the thing, alongside a World at War episode, which first made me aware of the Holocaust (an episode produced by Jeremy Isaacs, first boss of Channel 4 – there was a facsimile of the Well Done Everybody memo he sent to “All at 4” the day after the launch night with Walter  [3 Nov 1982] left on our desk on the morning of 3rd November a couple of weeks ago. “The real work begins today” wrote the first Chief Exec. Paper memos – another world, more Paramount 1950s than Horseferry Road 2012).

Hopkins met Hitch once in a Hollywood restaurant with his agent. The Master of Suspense was very ill by then and trapped in his huge body, downing brandy in quantity. Nonetheless he pulled out the charm and greeted him with the familiar Good Evening.

To conclude, 4 reasons to go see Hitchcock directed by Sacha Gervasi (who also made the heavy metal feature documentary Anvil):

1) Hopkin’s Hitchcockian accent – he gets the Leytonstone in there under the elocution, always reminding us of Hitch’s London roots.

2) Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh – an uplifting portrayal to avoid the whole thing getting grimy.

3) A touch of humour – the film captures Hitch’s wry, filmic humour without becoming pastiche.

4) A well refined script tying together the story of the making of a movie (Psycho) with an eccentric love story (Hitch and Alma) and the portrait of a driven genius who was never more thrilled than when inventing the movies, techniques and ways of story-telling that no-one had thought to commit to celluloid before.

As a bad man in ‘QB VII’

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